Pixel Scroll 10/2/21 Pixel Down, Scrollsocki, Pixel Down

(1) STOP THAT IMMEDIATELY! Richard Marpole writes one of those delectably sweeping accusations with the got-to-click-on-it title of “You Are Writing Medieval Fantasy Wrong” at Fantasy-Faction. Here is one segment:

TRAVEL WAS RELATIVELY COMMON

It’s quite possible that many Medieval people spent most of their lives in or near the place where they were born. But travel was far from unknown. Going back at least as far as the Celts, Europe was part of a vast trading network which could bring people from Africa to Asia to the British Isles and back.

Some countries specialised in particular kinds of warfare such as artillery or the use of crossbows. Regiments of mercenaries from these lands could see service all over the continent. Then there were the pilgrimages. Medieval Europeans of all social classes travelled hundreds or thousands of miles to the supposed resting places of saints all over the continent, and beyond, to Jerusalem, for example. They shared stories, made business deals, and brought back souvenirs. Some stuck to the Church-approved pilgrim badges, others stole stones, bits of fabric and entire bones from the shrines of saints.

(The alleged skeleton of one saint, Alban, was supposedly taken from its original resting place in England and placed in a monastery in Denmark. Years later, the story goes, a Saxon monk infiltrated the Danish order, gained enough trust to be given custody of its relics, secretly cut a hole in Alban’s coffin, stole his bones, hid them in a chest, and gave the chest to a merchant who was headed to England, ultimately sending them back home.)

So, your protagonist grew up in an isolated village. But an elder of the village could have travelled across the continent and beyond on a religious pilgrimage or to fight in a war, bringing back stories of wonders and monsters, and even artefacts that could help your hero in their own journeys. (Or perhaps the skeleton of a saint, which now longs to go home and may even return of its own accord.)

(2) SWEET FIFTEEN. Congratulations to Neil Clarke and staff on Clarkesworld’s fifteenth anniversary. Clarke looks back on the magazine’s history in his editorial for the October 2021 issue:

We were told we wouldn’t last a year, but here we are at our fifteenth anniversary issue and I have to say that it feels really good. To be fair to our early critics, the landscape for online fiction was more like a slaughterhouse back in 2006. While a lot of that was simply poor planning, a significant part of the problem was the lack of infrastructure to support such activities. Digital subscriptions, Patreon, Kickstarter, membership software, and most of the mechanisms that fund online fiction today simply didn’t exist and there were far fewer people reading online. Advertising? You’d be lucky to get pennies. That’s not to say that no one succeeded. Corporate funding, wealthy patrons (sometimes the editor/publisher), and other charity models existed, but had problems of their own. In fact, if it were not for the collapse of one corporate-funded publication, SciFictionClarkesworld may never have existed.

At the time, I ran Clarkesworld Books, an online bookstore. My passion for short fiction manifested itself there as a very large magazine section of over a hundred titles. Sometime in 2005, I started offering publishers the opportunity to include free sample stories on our website as a means of promoting magazines to our customers. In July 2006, I met up with Sean Wallace (then editor of Fantasy Magazine, one of the publications I was working with) at Readercon and we started discussing the impact of that experiment, the recent demise of SciFiction, and a post-mortem on several of the other recent losses in online publishing. A few hours later and sleep-deprived, we had a business model in mind and we decided to go for it…. 

Our in-house anniversary was in July and I thanked our staff in that issue, but I’m compelled to acknowledge their work once again. I’d also like to call out the two people who have been with me the longest: Sean Wallace and Kate Baker. They are like brother and sister to me and have been there for me through the best and worst. I am truly surrounded by amazing people.

(3) JUANITA COULSON Q&A. Fanac.org’s Fan History Zoom session with Juanita Coulson is now available to watch on YouTube.

PART 1 – Juanita Coulson has been an active science fiction fan for 70 years. She’s a marathon fanzine publisher, a mainstay of the filk community and a professional writer. Among her honors: Hugo winner (Yandro, 1965), Worldcon Fan Guest of Honor (1972), Filk Hall of Fame inductee (1998) and she famously outsang a steamboat whistle (NASFiC, 1979).

In this fascinating interview, Juanita provides personal recollections of some of the legendary fans of science fiction, of whom she is one. Juanita starts with her entry into fandom, her experiences at Chicon II (1952 Worldcon) and recalls how racism affected her friend Bev Bowles as she tried to check into a convention hotel. Juanita tells of her first meeting with Harlan Ellison, the origin of Bob Tucker’s “smooth” gesture, the first all night filksing and how she lost her job during the McCarthy era for being “different”. This interview is a rare and enlightening look into science fiction fandom in 50s, 60s and onward. Part 1 ends with Juanita’s rendition of one of the filksongs she made famous, Reminder, written by husband Buck Coulson.

IN PART 2, Juanita talks more about fandom in the 60s and beyond There are stories of filk and its evolution, Filthy Pierre, her appearance as General Jinjur of Oz, and the quirky story of Gene Wolfe and the jacket shot. She recounts the start of her professional writing career, with the mentorship and encouragement of Marion Zimmer Bradley. On breaking into the ranks as a professional writer, Juanita received this note from first reader Terry Carr: “In the immortal words of Lee Hoffman, you have lost your return postage” – meaning that a contract was coming. She speaks about women in science fiction fandom, the difference that Star Trek made, and tells the story of Harlan Ellison and the movie screen at St. Louiscon (1969). After 70 years, she’s still a fan, and why? “It’s home.” Fandom is home.

(4) KINKY BOOTS. “Elijah Wood: ‘I still have a pair of Hobbit feet in my house’” – so he told The Guardian.

…Nothing can prepare you for the magnitude of what the Lord of the Rings films became, and the world stage that it propelled all of us on to virtually overnight. I’d been acting for 10 years by then, and we collectively helped each other deal with the attention, which was intense. I remember the day that I saw us all plastered over the side of plane. At that point I compartmentalised it. I put it in its own universe.

I’ve had encounters with people who are a little unsettling. There was a woman who flew to Wellington airport in New Zealand to declare her love for me. It was clear her sense of reality may not have been intact. I’ve also had people show up at my door who weren’t entirely stable.

I try to be kind and listen, then move on.

I still have a pair of Hobbit feet in my house, but I don’t wear them any more. They’re made of latex. They were given to me by the makeup department. I did wear them at one stage. Now they’re in a box, tucked away. And, no, I don’t recreate Frodo at fancy dress parties.///

(5) PASSING FANCY. The European Space Agency shared a fly-by photo of the craters of Mercury: “Hello Mercury”.

The joint European-Japanese BepiColombo mission captured this view of Mercury on 1 October 2021 as the spacecraft flew past the planet for a gravity assist manoeuvre.

The image was taken at 23:44:12 UTC by the Mercury Transfer Module’s Monitoring Camera 2, when the spacecraft was about 2418 km from Mercury. Closest approach of about 199 km took place shortly before, at 23:34 UTC. In this view, north is towards the lower right.

(6) MEMORY LANE

  • 1959 – Sixty-two years this evening on CBS, the Twilight Zone as created, largely written by and presented by Rod Serling, premiered on CBS with the “Where is Everybody?” episode. An earlier pilot was developed but it ended up airing on a different show, Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, and was later adapted as a radio play. Serling served as executive producer and head writer; he wrote or co-wrote ninety two of the show’s one hundred fifty-six episodes. The series would run four seasons in total. It would win the Hugo at Pittcon and then again the next year at Seacon for Best Dramatic Presentation repeating that for a third year straight at Chicon III. It didn’t do that for a fourth year running at DisCon I as no Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo was awarded. 

There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call The Twilight Zone. —?Rod Serling

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 2, 1909 Alex Raymond. Cartoonist who was best remembered for creating the Flash Gordon strip for King Features Syndicate in 1934.  He actually started for them by illustrating Secret Agent X-9 scripted by Dashiell Hammett. George Lucas has often cited Raymond as a strong influence on the look and feel of Star Wars. (Died 1956.)
  • Born October 2, 1911 Jack Finney. Author of many novels but only a limited number of them genre, to wit The Body SnatchersTime and Again and From Time to Time. He would publish About Time, a short story collection which has the time stories, “The Third Level” and “I Love Galesburg in the Springtime”. The film version of The Body Snatchers was nominated for a Hugo at Seacon ‘79. He has a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. (Died 1995.)
  • Born October 2, 1944 Vernor Vinge, 77. Winner of five Hugo Awards, though what I consider his best series, the Realtime/Bobble series, was not one of them. I’m also very fond of his short fiction, much of which is collected in The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge, though the last eighteen years worth of his work remain uncollected as far as I can tell. 
  • Born October 2, 1948 Avery Brooks, 73. Obviously he’s got his Birthday write-up for being Benjamin Sisko on Deep Space Nine, but I’m going to note his superb work also as Hawk on Spenser: For Hire and its spinoff A Man Called Hawk which are aren’t even tangentially genre adjacent. He retired from acting after DS9 but is an active tenured theater professor at Rutgers. 
  • Born October 2, 1950 Ian McNeice, 71. Prime Minister Churchill / Emperor Winston Churchill on Doctor Who in “The Beast Below”, “Victory of the Daleks”,  “The Pandorica Opens” and “The Wedding of River Song”, all Eleventh Doctor stories. He was an absolutely perfect Baron Vladimir Harkonnen in Frank Herbert’s Dune and Frank Herbert’s Children of Dune series which is far better than the original Dune film ever was. And he voiced Kwaltz in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. 
  • Born October 2, 1953 Walter Jon Williams, 68. The last thing I read by him was his most excellent Dagmar Shaw series which I highly recommend. I also like his Metropolitan novels, be that SF or fantasy, as well as his Hardwired series. I’m surprised how few Awards that he’s won, just three with two Nebulas, both for shorter works, “Daddy’s World” and “The Green Leopard Plaque”, plus a Sidewise Award for “Foreign Devils”.  
  • Born October 2, 1972 Graham Sleight, 49. He’s The Managing Editor of the third edition of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction which won the Hugo for Best Related Work at Chicon 7. He’s also a critic whose work can be found in LocusStrange HorizonsThe New York Review Of Science Fiction, and Vector. And he’s a Whovian who edited The Unsilent Library, a book of writings about the Russell Davies era of the show, and The Doctor’s Monsters: Meanings of the Monstrous in Doctor Who.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows why slow downloads are a crime.

(9) HARI HARI SELDON SELDON. Camestros Felapton has a good discussion of the third episode of Foundation, but no excerpt here because I don’t want to spoil his spoilers. “Review: Foundation Episode 3”. But did I make that clear enough? Spoiler Warning.

(10) SMOOTH SEGUE. Paul Weimer finds a lot to like about this sequel: “Microreview [book]: In the Deep by Kelly Jennings” at Nerds of a Feather.

… One thing I did appreciate right from the get go is the synopsis of the previous book, Fault Lines. While I personally had read the book not long before picking up this second volume, it was good to have this here for those readers who want to start with this novel to start here. For readers who have read Fault lines, the key takeaway is that this tells the reader right off that this new novel is set three years later. The glossary at the beginning of the book also helps the reader get grounded in what is definitely a complex and complicated space opera universe.

That complex and complicated space opera universe seen here, with the aid of the Glossary, does not prevent new readers to Jennings’ verse from picking it up, because we are in a new and different area than the previous novel. The ground rules are different, both the planet Durbin as well as the Pirian ship Sungai…. 

(11) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. WIRED is concerned that “As SpaceX’s Starlink Ramps Up, So Could Light Pollution”. It’s a specific problem for astronomers.

WITH SOME 1,800 satellites already orbiting Earth, providing internet access to about 100,000 households, SpaceX’s Starlink broadband service is poised to emerge from the beta testing phase this month, according to a recent tweet from Elon Musk, the company’s founder and CEO.

Just a decade ago, there were only a few thousand spacecraft orbiting Earth. Now Starlink engineers aim to build up to 12,000 satellites, and SpaceX launches scores more on its Falcon 9 rockets almost every month. (A recent FCC report states that the company applied for authorization for 30,000 more.) The massive network of satellites, known as a “mega-constellation,” currently dominates the satellite internet industry, but other players, like Amazon and OneWeb, have plans to launch thousands of satellites of their own.

As the Starlink fleet grows, SpaceX and its competitors will have to address some potential problems. One is that more orbiting bodies means that, eventually, there will be more space junk, creating more chances for collisions. And astronomers, environmentalists, and indigenous groups, among others, express concern that Starlink will irrevocably light up the night sky, thanks to the sunlight reflected off its satellites….

(12) KEEP THEM DOGGIES ROLLING. “It’s man’s best friend’s worst enemy.” From The Late Show With Stephen Colbert: “Amazon Astro Wants To Haunt Your Dog’s Dreams”.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bruce Arthurs.]

28 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 10/2/21 Pixel Down, Scrollsocki, Pixel Down

  1. (8) Walter Jon Williams kind of ruined cyberpunk for me. Hardwired was the first cyberpunk novel I read and after that nothing else measured up. May he have many more happy birthdays.

  2. We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the pixels began to get scrolled.

    (7) Alex Raymond started Flash Gordon on Jan 7, 1937 (as a Sunday strip, along with Jungle Jim), and started Secret Agent X-9 as a daily, on Jan 22.

    Raymond’s strips, along with Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant and Burne Hogarth’s Tarzan made for a golden age of Sunday adventure comics in the 1930s.

  3. 7) Without a doubt, my favorite Vernor Vinge novel is Deepness In The Sky and, despite Voice Of The Whirlwind, I would definitely say that Aristoi is WJW’s best novel—so much great SF weirdness that works flawlessly in my mind.

  4. I recommend Walter Jon Williams’ Praxis series as well as those listed. Also the Quillifer books. Actually, just about anything WJW has written, because he’s that good.

    I thought today’s scroll title sounded familiar, but it was a bit of a surprise to see it came from me. Thanks!

  5. Mike Glyer on October 2, 2021 at 9:45 pm said:

    Does he run a toy shop in a train station?

    No, he’s a discount Hugh Jackman…so people go “Is that Hugh…no, it’s a younger guy”

  6. 1) I mean, I don’t see a problem with people writing based on a more storified version of medieval times assuming they’re either aware that’s what they’re doing or consciously going “It is fiction; screw historical accuracy,” although you can often find interesting bits of story inspiration in the real things. (One of these days I am going to write the “And they had the same confessor!” romance all the medievalists on Tumblr were sighing wishfully about the idea of a while back.)

    It’s when you get “NO THERE MUST BE LOTS OF MURDER AND RAPE BECAUSE REALISM” that I take issue with it, because that’s… significantly less realism than people seem to assume. Though really it could be anything that you claim must be in the story Because Realism that isn’t real; it’s just grimdark violence tends to be what gets that label. But if people are openly being like “It’s fantasy; I’m not trying for realism” I’m not sure “wrong” applies.

  7. Kit Harding: I agree with much of what you say, though I find it intriguing that I did in fact read a historical novel by Jason Vail this week in which (1) two noblewomen have the same confessor, and one is pregant by him; and (2) there is lots of murder, and characters who have suffered rape (prior to the events in the book).

  8. Andrew (not Werdna),

    I just started listening to Stross’ Invisible Sun this morning post move. It’s every bit as superb as I expected it to be. Kate Reading is the narrator as she was for the last two novels and she’s absolutely perfect.

  9. (7) Lots of good birthdays today – Walter Jon Williams (Metropolitan and so much more), Vinge (Deepness and True Names and more) and Finney (my favorite is probably “I’m Scared”).

    I’m almost done with “Invisible Sun” (I think I saw a “Spinal Tap” reference!) – I kept slipping my ebook out to read more while enjoying my first in-person con in 2 days (Capclave, where among other things, I chatted with Michael Walsh).

  10. I find it fascinating that people think Metropolitan might be science fiction! It’s like the idea of medieval stasis is so inherently tied to high fantasy in people’s minds that if you leave it out, people can’t even see the result as fantasy at all!

    In general, I love Walter Jon Williams, and agree that he deserves far more awards than he has. A couple of my favorites that haven’t been mentioned yet are Angel Station, a disturbing but frequently amusing first-contact novel that reminds me of Delany, and Implied Spaces, an amazing edge-of-the-(delayed)-singularity story that’s just crackling with brilliant ideas! And, of course, his Space Opera Comedy-of-Manners, the Drake Maijstral series, which is more popcorn than his usual fare, but is very good popcorn!

  11. Xftir: For me, Metropolitan lands somewhere between Science Fiction and Fantasy. Maybe Science Fantasy? It does treat magic (to some extent) as a scientific phenomenon. But there’s also a whole lot of unstated things round plasm that never gets discussed.

    Nancy Saur: If I remember correctly, Hardwired ended up not selling in the first few rounds of submissions, because there was nothing like it, then got push-back because it was too close to this new book called Neuromancer. But, of course, now that I am trying to find a reference…

  12. @Ingvar–Metropolitan is straight fantasy–their “technology” is geomancy–that only looks and feels like sf if you don’t notice how they’re doing it.

    I once gave a copy to a former friend who Hates All Fantasy and insists his dislike is grounded in fantasy being inherently low quality and foolish. He loved it. I laughed.

  13. 8) Let’s hear it for WJW! Hardwired is one of those gateway books. I do feel like he cheated a little with the ending. I keep forgetting about Metropolitan. I think it, City on Fire and the Craft Sequence deserve a reread.

  14. @Lis Carey

    I once gave a copy to a former friend who Hates All Fantasy and insists his dislike is grounded in fantasy being inherently low quality and foolish. He loved it. I laughed.

    Sounds like a win-win!

  15. @Lis Carey: Metropolitan is straight fantasy–their “technology” is geomancy–that only looks and feels like sf if you don’t notice how they’re doing it.

    Oddly, that’s my impression of nearly all SF: The difference is in look and feel.

    I’m currently in a project to change the SF game Traveller to a fantasy, with the starships propelled by incantations and sympathetic magic. I’m not actually having to change any of th rules, and surprisingly little of the setting.

  16. @ Lis Carey:

    Yes, it is straight-up magic, but in pseudo-scientific drag. And they do some amount of reasoning with it. And it’s an externally-sourced power, limited, metered and clearly not just inherent to individuals (even if manipulative ability is). None of these makes it science-science, but it drags it closer to (well, for me, anyway), the fiction-science line.

    If we take “SF is science, with one impossible thing”, I’d say that Metropolitan definitely qualifies. It has plasm as the one impossible thing, and everything else that diverges falls out of plasm. I don’t actually think that’s true, I just think that it creeps closer to the “SF” line than, say, The Hobbit does.

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