Pixel Scroll 10/17/16 Scrolls From Topographic Pixels

(1) TAKE NO PRISONERS OF ZENDA. Ian Sales’ title “When I read a story I skip the explanations” introduces an extremely skillful dissection of a certain approach to science fictional worldbuilding that Sales compares to Ruritanian romance.

That’s the essence of Ruritanian science fiction. It is genre fiction which builds an invented setting out of elements which might as well not be invented. The labels are different but the objects are the same, or fulfil the same function. It’s not a failure of imagination, because imagination doesn’t feature in the process. And it’s only a failure of craft if the author is attempting something more than Ruritanian sf. If all they want is a science-fictional setting the reader can parse, one that’s uncoupled from the real world but close enough to it that few explanations are required, then if they’ve produced Ruritanian sf they’ve succeeded. Info-dumps are a given, but they’re usually “historical”, inasmuch as they attempt to give the invented world solidity and depth through exposition – but shifting the burden of exposition onto the setting’s own narrative only demonstrates how little exposition the tropes in the story actually need.

Needless to say, I think such forms of science fiction are low on invention and make poor use of the tools at the genre’s disposal. They can be entertaining, there’s no doubt about that; but their uncritical use of tropes, and their failure to interrogate the form, means they have little or nothing to add to the genre conversation.

(2) KEEP TRACK OF YOUR SPOONS. Andrea seeks the reasons she’s not writing more reviews in “Anger, Anxiety, and Art” at the Little Red Reviewer.

I know what I write on this blog doesn’t matter. I know none of this counts as “writing” or as anything, really.  But in my mind, I put a lot of energy into this.  I like pretty metaphors, ornamented sentences. I like to write book reviews and other articles that I am proud of.  It’s not art, by a long shot, but I am creating something out of nothing. for the purposes of this particular blog post, let’s call what I do here art.  And art requires mental energy. or at least it does for me.

So, where were all my spoons going?  And was there any way to get them back? And thus, we get to the why.

(3) ONE MORE THAN FIVE. Nerds of a Feather has the perfect pairing of feature concept with an interesting author: “6 Books with Julie Czerneda”.

  1. What upcoming book you are really excited about? The next one Ben Aaronovitch writes in his Rivers of London series. Our travelling offspring lent me the existing books and I gobbled them up, despite trying to ration myself. They are fun, original, and yes, feel a bit Pratchett (wistful sigh) in the best way. Can’t wait to dive back in!

(4) VANISHING POINT. Camestros Felapton is keeping an eye on the internet’s newest knowledge source: “Voxopedia: where information about women goes to be erased”.

The erasure of women’s achievements in science is a known phenomenon, but it is rare that you get to see it happen in such a simple and direct way. Over at our new favourite train-wreck, Vox Day had been busy quite literally erasing women’s contribution to science….

(5)  A MONTH WITH NO FIVES. Rocket Stack Rank’s ”October 2016 Ratings” covers 51 stories, but none of them warranted the highest score of 5, which means ‘Hugo worthy.”

(6) BINARY CHOICE. Matthew B.J. Delaney says characters count in “Characters or Plot, Which Is More Important?” at Fantasy Book Critic.

The 5 highest grossing films of all time are heavy plot, light character:
Avatar 
– Titanic 
– Star Wars: The Force Awakens 
– Jurassic World 
– The Avengers.

These are all entertaining movies dominated by things happening. The characters are interchangeable pieces to throw explosions or dinosaurs, or sinking ships at. They don’t really matter. People don’t walk around reciting quotes from any of these films, because characters are made memorable by the things they say. And there are no truly memorable characters in any of these movies.

Memorable scenes, yes, memorable quotes, no.

On the other hand, character movies are filled with amazing lines.

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.

I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.

Here’s looking at you kid.

These are the kind of things that characters who really blow your hair back say. The cool comebacks and one liners you wish you could have used on anyone who pushed you around or made you fall in love. These are character driven quotes, and the top IMDB highest rated films of all time are filled with them…

(7) NO FEAR. I would need to excerpt about eight paragraphs of Ann Leckie’s “On Blacklisting” to convey how many aspects of this topic she deals with. That’s why you should just click through and read it, eh?

I’ll be honest, I am not down for calls to close anyone out of the field for bad behavior. I mean, for myself, bad enough, or bad in specific ways, and yeah, I don’t want to work with you. Maybe quite a few people don’t. But it’s not my call to make for anyone but me, nor should it be. No one should have that power, to shut anyone out of SFF. Behave badly enough and quite a few editors will prefer not to work with you–but that’s not the same as a field-wide blacklist, and I don’t think there should be one. Ever. Each editor gets to make the call for their venue, end of story. And yes, there will be editors who are all about the purity of art apart from artist, editors who don’t care one way or the other about kittens. You may disagree with those editors’ decisions, but they get to make that choice. You may prefer on balance not to work with such editors–again, that’s your call. You choose where to submit, and you get to have whatever reasons you want for that choice.

I am down for being open about serious problems, though. Someone who’s a really bad actor, who’s strewn destruction in their wake? Yeah, let’s know about that. We can all make our decisions about how to react to that, going forward. Concealing things to whisper networks and private chats just lets the bad actor continue to harm the unwarned.

(8) BELLY UP. This weekend Utah regional publisher Jolly Fish Press announced they are going out of business.

Our Journey Has Come to a Close

It is with deep sadness that we are announcing the closing of Jolly Fish Press (JFP). For nearly five years, JFP has been a beacon of inspiration to many in the publishing industry; we’ve opened up doors to authors, editors, designers, publicists, and illustrators alike, providing them with a platform on which their dreams of establishing themselves in the industry could be realized….

After a long process of seeking investors who believe in our company and what we aim to achieve, we have, unfortunately, failed to secure the funds necessary to grow and move the company forward. While JFP has great propensity to becoming a serious competitor in the industry, the lack of financial investment prohibits us from reaching our potential. We have approached the point where we can no longer sustain our business.

JFP is ceasing business effective October 31, 2016. All rights to our titles will be reverted by October 31, 2016. Book production will stop effective immediately.

JFP’s authors included Johnny Worthen and Jenniffer Wardell.

(9) STUART OBIT. TheRecord.com profiled the late Ruth Ann Stuart (1964-2016), who died of brain cancer on August 12, in “Lifetimes: By day an insurance worker, by night a fantasy fiction writer”.

Ruth Stuart worked in insurance, the past 10 years as quality assurance auditor for Manulife Financial. Her job required a no-nonsense approach in the anything but lighthearted world of insurance. By night, Ruth cast off her serious side and delved into the world of fantasy writing as an author, mentor, editor and inspiration to everyone in the speculative fiction community. She even dabbled in writing eroticism according to her friend and editor, Julie Czerneda.

These were two very different sides to a woman who had so many friends that while in hospital suffering through the final stages of brain cancer, Ruth’s room was constantly jammed packed with visitors, not to mention the steady stream of phone calls and text messages. Nurses suggested they install a revolving door in her room.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born October 17, 1948  — Margot Kidder

(11) APPLYING CODES OF CONDUCT AT CONS. Alexandra Erin suggests where to strike the balance, in “Priorities: Justice vs. Safety in Convention Culture”.

One comment I made in one of my recent posts that has attracted a certain amount of skepticism was my endorsement of a con culture that focuses on safety rather than justice in conflict resolutions. “How can you have safety without justice?” is one typical response. “So justice is a bad thing now?” is another.

Well, justice is most assuredly not a bad thing.

But justice in the sense of criminal justice or what we might call retributive justice is not the most pressing concern of a convention’s code of conduct, nor should it be the focus of a convention’s safety or security team.

Let me put it to you this way: how many comic, literary, or media conventions have you been to or heard of, that you would trust with the weighty responsibility of meting out justice? How many of them do you think have the people, expertise, or time and resources to serve out justice in a meaningful sense?

(12) BURTON BEFORE BEETHOVEN. The Los Angeles Times says symphony-goers have something to look forward to: “’A Freak in Burbank’: Alex Theater Concert to Feature Composer’s Paean to Tim Burton”.

The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and guest conductor Thomas Dausgaard are looking to start off an upcoming concert on a more eccentric note.

One of Beethoven’s most celebrated works, Symphony No. 3, “Eroica,” will be the headlining piece at the chamber’s concert at the Alex Theatre in Glendale on Oct. 29. However, the night will open with a roughly 10-minute work called “A Freak in Burbank,” a composition making its West Coast debut and dedicated to the legendary and eccentric filmmaker Tim Burton.

(13) SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT. Crooked Timber recommends “A Science Fiction Tasting Menu For The As Yet Uninitiated”.

Hors d’oeuvre—short stories available for free or cheap download

If you don’t like any of these, you won’t appreciate anything that follows

E.M. Forster, The Machine Stops – Dystopia perfectly imagined, in 1909.

William Tenn, The Liberation of Earth – All you need know about war

James Blish, Surface Tension – What imagination can do

Frederik Pohl, The tunnel under the world – Life inside Facebook

(14) TREEHOUSE OF HORROR. A.V. Club got an advance peek — The Simpson’s evil scheme to reach 600 episodes lands in the Treehouse of Horror”.

The promotional materials, including the usually amusing snarky screener announcement sent to critics (or “critics” as such people are called within), hyped the return of still-hotly-debated Homer nemesis Frank Grimes, or at least the poor guy’s ghost. And the opening segment sees the Simpsons in costume, buying Christmas trees on Halloween, as Homer says, “Because in America, everything’s way too early.” (He’s wearing an “Ivanka 2028” campaign button, because nothing matters in America at this point.) There, they’re confronted not only by the ghost of Grimes (“Who?,” asks Homer, to the ghostly Grimes’ chagrin), Sideshow Bob, Kang (or Kodos), and that leprechaun who tells Ralph to burn things, who proclaim themselves the family’s four evil nemeses before being immediately slaughtered by Maggie. (What looked like her Chaplin costume turns out to be her old Alex DeLarge costume, complete with sword cane.) Adios, Frank Grimes—you were used for a throwaway gag, as is your destiny.

The pieces that follow all partake of the same strengths and weaknesses.

(15) GORMAN OBIT. Todd Mason wrote an appreciation of the late writer, “Ed Gorman (1941-2016)”, who died October 14.

The first fanzine I read was an issue of Science Fiction Review, a magazine edited and published by the late Richard (Dick) Geis, and that issue included among much else a bit of autobiography by Algis Budrys, a fiction-writer, editor and critic who has had rather a large influence on me; along with that essay, an interview, conducted by an impressed fan of his (and of other contributors to the literary legacy of the Fawcett Gold Medal paperback line), Edward Gorman. So that’s how I was introduced to Ed, in 1978.

Like Budrys, or Geis, only perhaps even more so, Ed went ahead and did things that he clearly thought needed doing, not only establishing himself as a freelance writer, but launching the magazine Mystery Scene and engaged in the launch of the book-publishing house, Five Star, which have both done notable service to the field of crime fiction and beyond. He co-edited two (or, arguably, three) best crime fiction of the year annual series, and wrote well and often brilliantly in at least the fields of crime fiction, fantastic fiction (particularly horror), western fiction, and historical fiction. His editorial work has been impressive, beyond the magazine and annuals, often assembling key anthologies of crime fiction and more, not least with The Black Lizard Anthology of Crime Fiction and The Second Black Lizard Anthology of Crime Fiction, and such notable compilations as the nonfiction collection The Big Book of Noir and the interview collections Speaking of Murder and Speaking of Murder 2. 

(16) DO WE BLAME ASIMOV? In a video at Business Insider, “Neil deGrasse Tyson explains why killer robots don’t scare him”.

Movies would have you believe that killer robots  are the inevitable future of technology gone awry — but Neil deGrasse Tyson isn’t afraid, here’s why.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Bonnie McDaniel, Mackenzie, Martin Morse Wooster, James Davis Nicoll, and Dave Doering for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editors of the day Jim Henley and Simon Bisson.]

93 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 10/17/16 Scrolls From Topographic Pixels

  1. Cat Eldridge: Not a single female author?

    If you click through, there are female authors on the rest of the list.

  2. (7) I think Ann Leckie’s advice “It’s rare that a story can’t possibly sell to anyplace but Grandiose Editor’s Power Trip Quarterly.” is something every aspiring author should have as a needlepoint sampler above their writing desk.

    (11) More quotable quoteage!

    “In the media convention circuit, people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the Public Safety Team who investigate crime and the ConCom who prosecute the offenders.” Is that what we want our conventions to spend their time on?

    *DONK DONK*

  3. (1) TAKE NO PRISONERS OF ZENDA.

    This is a really bizarre piece. It ends:

    Needless to say, I think such forms of science fiction are low on invention and make poor use of the tools at the genre’s disposal. They can be entertaining, there’s no doubt about that; but their uncritical use of tropes, and their failure to interrogate the form, means they have little or nothing to add to the genre conversation. This doesn’t mean they can’t be commercially successful – because, after all, their chief characteristic is that they confirm readers’ prejudices (even when they seem to be challenging them – or rather, it’s the challenge itself that the reader wants). Ruritanian sf is comfort reading, it is unadventurous and unlikely to promote critical discussion.

    In other words, Sales is completely ignoring the power of “Ruritanian SF” to expend the bulk of its energies on character development and/or plot development rather than on infodumping the technological aspects.

    The claim that all such stories are “unadventurous and unlikely to promote critical discussion” is pretty ridiculous.

  4. Re 14) 27 Treehouses of Terror. Good grief. I remember when the Simpsons’ were just shorts on the Tracey Ullman show…

  5. 11) Sorry, but if I’m reading Erin’s piece (and I did go read the whole thing) correctly, she seems to be advocating for no investigation/consideration of complaints other than “does the complainer feel unsafe?”. And that frankly worries the hell out of me.

    There was a relatively recent incident in the computer science community where a significant figure in a subfield was disinvited from giving a keynote at a conference because 2 people complained that he made them uncomfortable. Not in a harassment way as far as anyone can tell; the worst things that seem to have been said are that he’s a bit cranky, and made a single sentence comment to one of the complainers about his low opinion of the talks/speakers at a pet conference of theirs (and not after any sort of “don’t talk to me” statement). As it happens, a while back I worked with/for the disinvited person at a <10 person startup, and have no grounds for complaint (i.e. this is not someone who is generally someone you just don't want to be around). If the sole criteria for doing something is that someone "felt unsafe" at any level, without consideration, I'm not fond of that policy.

    On the other hand, I also understand and agree with the points about how cons shouldn't recreate the formal justice system as most are not equipped to do so. The key problem seems to me that we're dealing with the high social activity level of our conventions, and having to figure out what the middle ground is between ignoring any complaints less than "and then they pulled out a machine gun and shot up the lobby" and instabanning anyone who gets any sort of complaint by someone else.

  6. @Cora

    He doesn’t ignore it. He dismisses it:

    after all, their chief characteristic is that they confirm readers’ prejudices (even when they seem to be challenging them – or rather, it’s the challenge itself that the reader wants).

    So, even if they do seem to make social or political commentary, that commentary isn’t anything really significant.

    Shrug. He’s entitled to his opinion, of course.

  7. (11) I really liked Alexandra Erin’s article. It is a con, after all, NOT a court of law. As a private entity, they do not have to adhere to any “presumption of innocence,” and they have the perfect right to censure or kick out whomever they wish to keep their attendees safe.

    I mean, if you don’t like that, follow the principle of the free market and attend another convention or start your own. It’s that simple.

  8. Tom Galloway on October 17, 2016 at 6:36 pm said:
    11) Sorry, but if I’m reading Erin’s piece (and I did go read the whole thing) correctly, she seems to be advocating for no investigation/consideration of complaints other than “does the complainer feel unsafe?”. And that frankly worries the hell out of me.

    I don’t think that is exactly what she is saying – for example if X says they feel unsafe then yes, that implies there is an issue to be dealt with but that still leaves a very wide spectrum of actions that can be taken. What action to take will involve other considerations that may include the who and why and pragmatic practicalities.

  9. @Ann Leckie
    You’re right, he dismisses anything that’s not big scientific idea SF.

    In many ways, that post is also a counterpoint to your post about “real science fiction” from some time ago. Only that instead of dismissing anything that does not match his definition of big idea SF as a western in space, he calls it Ruritanian SF.

  10. @Bonnie McDaniel As a private entity, they do not have to adhere to any “presumption of innocence,” and they have the perfect right to censure or kick out whomever they wish to keep their attendees safe.

    Within limits. There is a common law expectation of good faith. If a convention accepts a con-goer’s money, the con-goer has a right to be treated with some level of fairness.

  11. (5) Generally about 4% of all stories get 5 stars from RSR, and out of 51 stories, that would just be 2, so zero is well within the range of random chance. There were lots of 4-stars, and those are good stories, well-told; they just lack the extra qualities I want from a 5. (E.g. plot sophistication and emotional involvement.)

    Has anyone read The Witch’s Knives, by Margaret Ronald from today’s Strange Horizons? In my review of it, I speculate on what I think the ending means, but I’d love to hear other opinions. It’s not very long (just 2,864 words).

  12. Cora: Ruritanian SF is also useful for social and political commentary, another aspect Ian Sales ignores.

    That’s part of what I was getting at — but thank you for saying it outright.

    When an author is able to do extensive character development and/or plot development, they can produce some pretty deep, thought-provoking ideas and conflicts.

    Recent stories which I would say fit Sales’ definition of “Ruritanian SF”, but nevertheless packed a punch, include Scholz’ Gypsy, Rusch’s Inhuman Garbage, and Valentine’s Dream Houses.

  13. I have to say, I do not want to attend any con in which Alexandra Erin has a say now, because safety before justice is just what the TSA is all about, and everybody can see how well THAT works.

    Granted, I live thousands of miles from shore, out in mid-pacific, so con attendance isn’t really my THING, anyway, but I still wanted to voice my objection in the strongest possible terms.

  14. As for Mister Sales, I can’t even.

    All I can do is wonder exactly how sour he finds the grapes… because he sure seems bitter that trope-using stores can be commercially successful. I wonder what his own sales numbers are like?

  15. @13: as noted, the full list does have a few female authors — but IMO not nearly enough for a contemporary introduction (even allowing for its being limited to ostensible science fiction, which seems to me to still have a higher fraction of male authors than fantasy); if he’s going to include ancient rodomontade like Stapledon and density like Aldiss there’s no excuse for omitting Cherryh (to put one favorite non-easy name). I also have some trouble with a reviewer who can’t tell the difference between a game show and a Roman circus (which is what’s actually in Gladiator at Law, but is also so minor that it shouldn’t be mentioned in the capsule). Or is it now the collective wisdom that American Gladiator is a game show?

  16. Chip Hitchcock: Gladiator-at-Law seemed to me more in line with the competitions on today’s reality TV shows — so not a game show, but not a mere recreation of the Roman arena.

  17. @Al–

    because I safety before justice is just what the TSA is all about, and everybody can see how well THAT works.

    Huh? That seems like a false equivalence to me. You’re really comparing the TSA, which is many ways is a massive bureaucratic nightmare that often doesn’t pay its employees enough or doesn’t hire good employees to start with, with a con staffed by volunteers? And a private enterprise, to boot? One of these things is not like the other.

    Also, now that I think about it, you’re comparing efforts to combat terrorists (and admittedly the TSA has gone overboard on this in a lot of ways) with trying to keep a convention safe from creepers and harassers? That is REALLY not the same.

  18. Bonnie McDaniel:

    Also, that bit you quoted? is pretty clearly the words of someone who’s never had reason to fear for their safety at a con.

    Being followed around, or being subjected to unwanted advances (just to name a couple of examples), are not criminal acts — but they can sure as hell make the recipient fearful for their safety, and they are certainly not behaviors which should be tolerated at a con just because they’re not prosecutable crimes.

    Would I care whether the person following me around did not think it was “justice” that they were told to stay away from me or face expulsion from the con? HELL NO.

  19. I’m saying that to choose, first and foremost, before any other consideration, safety over justice, well… that’s how we got no-fly lists. I WANT the con to have to think HARD about bans and other such actions. I want ALL the parties to have to make hard choices, not pawn them off in favor of some odd zero-tolerance safety-first policy.

  20. I’m saying that to choose, first and foremost, before any other consideration, safety over justice, well… that’s how we got no-fly lists.

    You’re conflating the government refusing to allow someone to access a primary means of transportation with a private organization telling someone they can’t stay at a party. I think you’re a little bit hyperbolic here.

  21. Aaron: You’re conflating the government refusing to allow someone to access a primary means of transportation with a private organization telling someone they can’t stay at a party. I think you’re a little bit hyperbolic here.

    Not to mention which, AI is assuming that the automatic response to any complaint will be pulling the badge of the subject and ejecting them from the con… which just isn’t so.

  22. @All the great and Powerful: Usually what happens is that the “hard choice” is the target of harassment decides to leave the con or fandom, and the harasser merrily goes on his way to target someone else..

    What Alexanra Erin is addressing, and this is a problem I’ve seen time and time again, is the notion that the most important thing in dealing with an offender is justice. That is: determining if someone is guilty (nearly always a process that’s so slow the con is lon over by the time a result is handed out), handing out an appropriate punishment (usually provisional, or apologetic), and then rehabilitating the offender. Usually in the past this has involved skipping as quickly a possible to the “rehabilitation” section, so the unfortunate incident can be brushed under the rug and everyone can return to fannish harmony. And then when the offender repeats the behavior, there’s all kinds of astonishment that the process hasn’t worked, and it’s back to the start. It’s a process tailor made for serial abuse.

    It’s a unique level of privilege and blinkered experience that regards the right to a pseudo- justice system more important than guest’s safety. Disneyland does not subject it’s patrons to trials, nightclubs do not subscribe to a “guilty until proven innocent” policy. The LEAST customers of a convention should expect is the same level of safety.

  23. (1) I like the label/category, though the description could be a bit more nuanced at times. It might even help me understand why long sf series often feel stale and not rewarding to me.

    But Ruritarian sf can be done well as well, and that is perhaps the biggest piece missing from the article, and what makes it read complainy. The most shining example is I can think of is ruritanian fantasy rather than sf: Discworld, and then especially the Watch and Moist von Lipwig books.

    (6) Probably the first time I’ve seen Avatar to be accused of having a plot. I also don’t like the way he talks about this as some sort of binary choice, and how plot gets reduced to “things happening” and characters to “memorable quotes”. (Can there be such a thing as ruritanian literary advice, and would this be a good example?)

    (12) Good analysis. I wish we could get more articles on applying code of conducts well. (I remember a great article with three or four hypothetical examples of the same events, and how the author would handle them.)

  24. Aaron said:
    “You’re conflating the government refusing to allow someone to access a primary means of transportation with a private organization telling someone they can’t stay at a party. I think you’re a little bit hyperbolic here.”

    To always choose safety of persons over justice (which is what she said she supported) is hyperbolic, don’t you think? I can’t read her mind and figure out what incidents she’s talking about, I can ONLY judge her statement based on what she said.

    JJ on October 17, 2016 at 10:12 pm said:
    Not to mention which, AI is assuming that the automatic response to any complaint will be pulling the badge of the subject and ejecting them from the con… which just isn’t so.

    Now that is a fair argument, I certainly can’t tell what cons are gonna do from my perch out here in the middle of the ocean. But I’m still opposed to knee-jerk decisions about one side (safety) or the other (justice)… I would prefer that every case is decided on its merits. So I still oppose the thrust of her argument, but I’ll also support a more thorough discussion if it will clarify what she means.

  25. Perhaps my problem is that since I live far away from most conventions, you folks are seeing context that I don’t, based on your con experiences. I really can only judge her comments on what she says, the last SF con i attended (other than shopping) was some time in the 90s…

    So I will argue versus what she said until you can tell me what she meant.

  26. (11) APPLYING CODES OF CONDUCT AT CONS.

    I remember an event I was hosting. You bought ticket at the door. When one guy entered, one of our members had a panic attack and I mean for real a panic attack. Turned out they had a very, very bad experience of the non-consensual kind. She was a member of the club, he was not.

    After talking to her for a long time about her experience, we took the unanimous decision to not ban him from events for as long time as she was a member and we removed the ban when she stopped coming(note that this was a club for NSFW activities where consent is the most important thing). Was it justice? No. It was all about protection. Because there was no possibility whatsoever to investigate what had happened in a private location with only to persons there.

    I’ve been part of many different actions during the years. Sometimes we’ve only put persons on an observation list. Sometimes we have done an investigation. But sometimes there have been about actions that we have no way to verify, but clearly would effect our visitors. We have then decided for their safety.

    It is not easy decisions. You want to be fair, but as much as you want to be fair, you don’t want to get a reputation for letting harassers in and even more, you never ever want to any of your own visitors be abused either on your premise or afterwards by someone they met there.

    So yes. Fairness and justice is good. But you will make decisions that are based on safety alone if you are an organizer. At least you should. Organizers that don’t tend to go down in flames regularly.

    Also, all choices about this are hard unless you catch someone in flagrante. There was a case discussed here just a week ago. People were reacting to how long time it took between answers to emails (1 – 2 weeks). That is because the decision on how to act is hard and takes long time. You ask other people. You schedule a meeting with everyone involved. You try to get an agreement. You send the answering email back and forth until everyone is satisfied with how it is worded. It takes an enormous amount of time and energy. It is an emotional drain. And every mistake will blow up in your face in an enormous way with the potential to spread like a wildfire. I have been in the middle of that wildfire.

    So. Safety is the thing you’ll go for. And if possible, you try to make adjustments according to some kind of fairness, but as we can see, that also blew up in an example from just a week ago or so.

    (note that my experience as an organizer is from a different community)

  27. (1) Yeah, I didn’t get that either. I suppose if all you want out of your SF is new and exciting and exhaustive descriptions of vehicles and weapons, fine — but most of us outgrew that and are looking for, y’know, characters and plot. Someone spending three pages explaining how a new gadget works to get us from Planet A to Planet B is boring. Just turn on the warp drive or hyperdrive and let’s get to Planet B and see what’s going on there.

    Plus, the highly techie stories tend to date very, very badly as RL science and technology march on. Nobody reads Doc Smith nowadays for the exciting descriptions of how the engines were powered by copper; we read them for the Kinnisons and DuQuesnes.

    (6) I agree with Karl-Johan that good characters do not equal memorable lines. I mean, everyone remembers “I’m King of the World” and “Draw me like one of your French girls”, to quote just one of this guy’s unfavorite movies. I’m not sure I could quote any of Rey’s lines from TFA, but she’s a good character, same with Finn.

    (7) It’s rare that a story can’t possibly sell to anyplace but Grandiose Editor’s Power Trip Quarterly.
    I dunno, @Ann Leckie, I can think of some. 😉 But just a few. And the rest of your article deals with that.

    @Al: Holes, First rule of. Ms. Erin is talking about conventions with people who go to conventions and care about them. It’d be like me arguing with men about the best thing to do after getting kicked in the nuts, or men arguing with me about the best treatment for cramps and PMS. (And if you live anywhere where the TSA has regular influence upon your travels, there ARE cons near you.)

  28. (6) @Karl-Johan Norén: It’s definitely not a binary choice. “Gone With the Wind”, which of course is the source of the first offered quote for a “character movie”. is the top grossing film of all time adjusted for inflation. It wasn’t even that long ago that it was in the top 10 period. Tickets were relatively expensive for a 1939 film and it sold a *LOT* of tickets.

  29. @Hampus: Yes, none of this is simple, and that’s why I’ve come more and more over to that it’s more getting the right people working on upholding CoCs than the actual CoCs themselves.

    As for delays and long deliberation, I must say that the concept “justice delayed is justice denied” applies here. If an incident makes person X feel unsafe, then X will continue to feel unsafe as long as the issue is still unresolved. Likewise, a delay will let tensions linger on and solidify, which also isn’t good.

    So safety first. But being perceived as fair is IMO very important as well. First, if the person being sanctioned in some way understands why he or she is sanctioned and can accept the reasons, then the risks of a public blowup are reduced, and public blowups are by definition unsafe for everyone. Second, public confidence in the CoCs is very important for the general enjoyment of the cons or events.

  30. @lurkertype: I think you and I read (1) from opposite directions, and I think it helps to explain if it reads as great or as bizarre (like JJ experienced).

    One can read it as a call for the new-element or the explained-element type of science fiction, and that’s how I think you and JJ read it.

    I rather looked at the following sentence as key: “a story which uses them uncritically, which simply slots them together like Lego, is Ruritanian sf”. So if a science fiction element is introduced, then I don’t necessarily want it explained, but I want it examined: what does it imply for us humans and society, or what scientific and technical opportunities or possibilities come up? If the story does that, it’s not ruritarian sf.

    And yes, I agree that ruritarian sf (or fantasy) can be great for social commentary. In a way, then it’s a form of allegory. However, those works seems to be very few and far between.

  31. Another element to Alexandra Erin’s point – safety first puts the emphasis on making a place safe rather than punishment and rather than judgement. So the action taken with regards to somebody is not a statement that they are guilty or even that they have done something immoral (although they may well have).

  32. Don’t know how I missed this, or maybe I have just forgotten. Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror returns this Friday with six new episodes on Netflix.

    Apparently part of a twelve episode deal. Hopefully with Brooker still at the wheel even with a much more Amarican slant (actors and directors) it will retain it’s essential character. Bleak and horrifying…

  33. 13) I’m not going to mention it over there because Crooked Timber comments tend to exhaust my patience, but there really do need to be more women on that list. (And of course I’d never trust the taste of anyone who recommends Last and First Men over Star Maker. But that’s by the by.)

    I mention it here, though, because I just came across this piece by Laurie Penny that includes a short list of recommended reading:

    Naomi Alderman, The Power
    N. K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season
    Becky Chambers, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
    Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents
    Marge Piercy, Woman on the Edge of Time
    Ursula Le Guin, The Dispossessed
    Sheri S. Tepper, The Gate to Women’s Country
    Sisters of the Revolution: A Feminist Speculative Fiction Anthology, eds. Ann and Jeff VanderMee

    I could quibble with some of the choices, but there are worse starts.

  34. To always choose safety of persons over justice (which is what she said she supported) is hyperbolic, don’t you think?

    The hyperbole is you comparing the decisions made by a private organization when running an entertainment event with the government preventing people from traveling. It is also clear that you didn’t bother to read what Erin wrote.

  35. Taking a point similar (if not the same as) Al’s, I am leery of the “react first, look into whenever” system that Erin seems to espouse.

    Having been part of con security in the past, my first instinct upon a complaint being filed against another con-goer is to interview both people. While I can appreciate Hampus’ decision in his remembrance, nearly everyone involved within a con is a member. In some instances a warning is enough to stop the situation, though I agree that there exists situations where a bad actor must be ejected.

    If I have misread Erin’s post, feel free to ignore mine.

  36. I didn’t see anything from Daily Science Fiction at RSR. A pity.

    I enjoy a great many of those stories. Although they are definitely well below novella/novelette length.

    Regards,
    Dann

  37. (1) Yeah, I didn’t get that either. I suppose if all you want out of your SF is new and exciting and exhaustive descriptions of vehicles and weapons, fine — but most of us outgrew that and are looking for, y’know, characters and plot.

    Sounds to me like Sales is talking about the Horatio Hornblower in Space and Firefly with the Serial Numbers Filed Off crap that gluts the market, which is very plot intensive, yes, but seriously lacking in characters of any depth, or even breadth and width.

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