Pixel Scroll 10/20/16 Pixeled In The Scroll By My Own Pixel

(1) PLAYING WITH REAL NUMBERS. Aaron tests the idea that EPH will not distort the results when there is no slate in a new post at Dreaming of Other Worlds. Find out what changed on the 2014 final Hugo ballot.

E Pluribus Hugo was passed largely in response to the results of the 2015 Hugo nomination process. I outlined the background leading up to this in my previous post about the 2016 E Pluribus Hugo Revised Hugo Finalists, and I’m not going to repeat myself here. Anyone who wants a summary of the Sad and Rabid Puppy campaigns, the responses from non-Puppy Hugo voters, and an outline of the mechanics of E Pluribus Hugo can go read about that there.

The E Pluribus Hugo system had several goals. One goal was to dampen the influence of bloc voting. A second goal was to create a system that presented a nominating voter with a means of voting that was substantially similar to the one that voter had under the old system. The third was to create a system that would return results that were as close to those that the old system did in a year in which there was no bloc voting. To test this third goal, the system was used on the 2014 Hugo ballots, which was a year in which there was a Sad Puppy campaign, but no slate in any meaningful sense, and therefore no real bloc voting….

(2) SUMMERTIME. Chapter 10 of T. Kingfisher’s Summer in Orcus has now been released.

When the witch Baba Yaga walks her house into the backyard, eleven-year-old Summer enters into a bargain for her heart’s desire. Her search will take her to the strange, surreal world of Orcus, where birds talk, women change their shape, and frogs sometimes grow on trees. But underneath the whimsy of Orcus lies a persistent darkness, and Summer finds herself hunted by the monstrous Houndbreaker, who serves the distant, mysterious Queen-in-Chains…

(3) RIDERS OF THE PURPLE PAGE. Max Florschutz enters the perpetual debate about “literary” vs. “genre” in “You Just Keep Pushing Me Away…” .

Granted, I could write a whole thing on how genre fiction can (and does) approach the tough questions, demands intelligent thought and reason, and present ideas (and when it comes down to it, most who disagree are either cherry picking their examples or of the mindset of “that doesn’t support the message and ideas I want,” which doesn’t help). I could talk about that, pull examples, etc. But I won’t. Not at this point.

No, instead, I’m going to tackle a different point. The idea that “literary” fiction is automatically intelligent and thought-provoking. Because this isn’t accurate. No, more accurate would be that it’s fiction that thinks it’s intelligent or thought provoking, written by someone who thinks they’re presenting something much more “intellectual” than it actually is. When it really isn’t … but they’re too “smart” to do the research to know otherwise.

… What’s sad about this is I could see myself enjoying more “literary” works.  The writing is more tell, sure, and more purple, but sometimes that’s pretty good purple. Sometimes there’s some neat ideas buried in there.

But my issue is that they are buried in there. It’s like “literary” writers can’t be bothered to do the most basic of research. And that pushes me away. Back towards genre fiction, where, despite not being the “intelligent” fiction choice, the science is real, the facts are usually real (or pretty close), and even when I’m reading about fantasy kingdom of some kind, said kingdom is actually laid out like a real government and civilization would be. As opposed to the “literary” version, which comes off feeling like Disney-mythology in comparison.

It just keeps pushing me away. Especially with all the battles over how “literary” fiction is the “superior” fiction, or the more intelligent, or the more meaningful, etc. I just can’t take a story seriously that can’t grasp basic parts of life, like how a car works. Or a TV. Or science.

(4) ANOTHER MIDDLE-EARTH TALE ON WAY TO PRESS. “JRR Tolkien’s Middle-earth love story to be published next year” reports The Guardian.

JRR Tolkien’s legend of the mortal man Beren and the immortal elf Lúthien – a story that meant so much to the Lord of the Rings author that the characters’ names are engraved on the headstone shared by him and his wife – is to be published next year.

The Middle-earth tale tells of the love between the mortal man and the immortal elf. Lúthien’s father, an Elvish lord, is against their relationship, and so gives Beren an impossible task to fulfil before the two can be married, said HarperCollins, which will publish Beren and Lúthien next May. The pair then go on to rob “the greatest of all evil beings, Melkor, called Morgoth, the Black Enemy, of a Silmaril”, or jewel.

(5) PULITZER EXPANDS ELIGIBILITY. Crain’s New York Business reports print and online magazines are now eligible for Pulitzer Prizes in all journalism categories.

The Pulitzer Prize Board announced Wednesday that entries of work done in 2016 will be accepted beginning in December for the 2017 prizes.

The board says it made its decision after two years of experimentation.

New entry guidelines are posted at Pulitzer.org.


  • Born October 20, 1882 — Bela Lugosi.


(7) HORROR READING.Ellen Datlow’s photos of the “Children of Lovecraft Reading October 16, 2016” are on Flickr.

Laird Barron, John Langan, A. C. Wise, Siobhan Carroll, Richard Kadrey, and David Nickle all read wonderfully at the Lovecraft Bar on Avenue B in NYC’s east village.


(8) PLAYTIME. I got a kick from John Scalzi’s first line in one of his mallet-is-out warnings:

  1. Hey, two political posts in the same day! Can you tell I finished my book?

(9) TIME TO LEVEL UP YOUR ALIENS. Motherboard’s post “The Way We’ve Been Imagining Aliens Is All Wrong” sets us straight.

Why do we always picture aliens as distorted humans?

Science fiction has failed to creatively, or even accurately, imagine alien life, said British science writer Philip Ball in an article, “The Aeon Idea: Why our imagination for alien life is so impoverished.” Now Aeon, a digital ideas and culture magazine, just released a video called Stranger Aliens, adapted from Ball’s theory and narrated by Ball himself.


(10) DIVERSITY ON DISCOVERY. Otaku-kun at Haibane comments on the proposal: “A Muslim crew member on Star Trek: Discovery?”

I think including an explicit Muslim would be jarring since tehre is no other “real world” religion represented in Star Trek, at least for the Human society. It was Roddenberry’s world and he chose to eliminate religion from it. Adding a character who is explicitly Muslim complicates canon and introduces tension that undermines Star Trek’s appeal to all of humanity. Then you also need canon explanations for the status of Jews, Christians, Hindus, etc. This mess is exactly why religion was introduced to DS9 using the alien Bajoran society rather than picking one from our own.

The solution is to recognize that Islamophobia is not an intellectual reaction to a religion’s precepts, but rooted in racial and ethnic fears. Having a stand-in on the crew for a “Muslim-y” ethnic type would be great because that way when someone sees a Muslim on the street, they should be able to counter their knee-jerk stereotype by relating that person to this crewmember. Therefore, the ethnic choice of the actor is relevant to maximize that stereotype-defeating analogy. Which ethnicity works best for this purpose?

(11) WHO’S THE GEEZER? selenay articulates the cross-generational stresses affecting fanfic writers in “Regarding all the AO3 bashing” (AO3 = Archive of Our Own).

Us olds remember the old days. The days when you had to label all slash–even when it was just hand-holding–as NC17 and plaster it with warnings. The days when only certain archives accepted slash at all, and you could get your FFN account or LJ suspended if someone objected to your boy kissing fics, so everything was locked down under f-lock or posted to the adult slash-friendly archives with a thousand warning pop-ups. The days when RPF was never to be spoken of because almost no archive accepted it. The days when we all danced around carefully because at any moment, our favourite fics could be deleted and never seen again if a site advertiser threatened to withdraw funding….

Current fandom has splintered and seems to have broken into generational buckets. The youngest part of fandom is on Tumblr and Snapchat. The older part of fandom is on Tumblr a bit, but not much, and many of us have stepped a long way back from it because we’re made so unwelcome. We’re still here on LJ, DW, Twitter, and Imzy, where the youngs aren’t so much. Due to those divides, there isn’t that interaction and mutual learning, so the younger fanfolk don’t know the history. They don’t know why AO3 exists and why we’re so passionate about not censoring it. They’ve never had to creep around on the edges of fandom because they were slashers, or RPF-ers, or wrote explicit fics after FFN banned them.

The divide is also contributing to the feeling that anyone over thirty shouldn’t be fannish anymore, and I suspect that’s part of the AO3 wankery. There aren’t many people from that very young end of the fandom involved with the OTW or AO3, so it feels like the olds run it. We created it, we fundraised for it, we continue to work on it and we’re old, by their standards. We should have shuffled off to our graveyards or our adult lives or something.

Except we haven’t, because when we were the fandom babies, there were all these fans older than us who were still active and we learned we’ll never be too old for fandom. With the divide getting so sharp between the youngest and everyone else, they’re not getting that part of the fannish experience, either. They can’t imagine being thirty (or forty, or fifty), never mind being that age and still being in fandom.

You’ve also got the problem that Tumblr-style activism is very different from what we were doing five or ten years ago. It’s all about protecting young eyes not just from the content, but from knowing the content is even there. About removing it so it doesn’t need to be thought of. For them, “don’t like, don’t read” isn’t enough. They don’t want anyone to read it or see it or write it.

(12) A VISIT TO ANTIQUITY. James Davis Nicoll has posted his latest Young People Read Old SF, assigning them “Snowball Effect” by Katherine MacLean.

Although she won a Nebula Award for The Missing Man, Katherine MacLean is hardly a household name these days. Her most productive period ran from the 1950s to the 1970s. That Nebula was won in 1971; other honours (such as being a professional guest of honor at the very first WisCon in 1977) are almost all of a similar vintage. She was admired for her ability to combine character with plot, character being an element of fiction many of her contemporaries seemed willing to do without.

In her heyday, MacLean was one of the few high-profile women working in the field. In the specific context of these reviews, she is remarkable in a different way: the first author selected who is still with us: born in 1925, she is but 91. Her birthday is January 22: join me in raising a glass to this grand figure of science fiction.

(13) LARPING FOR PEACE. In a piece on Vimeo called “Bjarke Pedersen:  Becoming the Story,”  Danish LARPer Bjarke Pedersen explains what “Nordic LARP” is and how in Scandinavia, LARPers work together to come up with stories they wouldn’t be able to create on their own.  Pedersen’s video was presented at the Future of Storytelling conference held in New York City two weeks ago.

As the Creative Director of Odyssé and one of the world’s experts on LARPing, Bjarke Pedersen has spent many years exploring the power of this collaborative form of storytelling. He’s observed that by getting a chance to engage with different characters, LARPers are also able to learn more about themselves. LARPing is also particularly powerful for the ways in which it relies on building trust among people. Many individuals are able to tell their own stories within a given framework, but it is the larger output of so many different stories being told at the same time that makes LARPing so unique and powerful.


[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Aziz Poonawalla, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Josh Jasper.]


126 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 10/20/16 Pixeled In The Scroll By My Own Pixel

  1. 3) Florschutz loses me when he claims that SF FANS are saying that “if it’s genre, it can’t be good”. Somebody hasn’t been paying attention.

    11) Does anybody else get a “that sounds like the crap my parents used to say” vibe from the Tumblr activists? And one wonders if they realize how much they sound like the people we mock during Banned Books Week.

    12) The responses this time were extremely interesting — especially the one from the person who knows something about control systems engineering and was critiquing the story from a professional standpoint.

    @ Steve D. I’m with Tasha — what the fuck difference does it make? Also, pretty much everyone has a cellphone nowadays, while a lot of people won’t have a cigarette lighter, which means they’d be left out.

    @ Nancy: There’s plenty of stuff on AO3 for non-slashers too. Although if you started with movie-Avengers fandom, I can see how you came to that conclusion.

    @ Oneiros: A valid point — but when it does, it’s not called “rusting” and never has been.

    @ CeeV: *facepalm* Are they really saying that fandom is something you’re supposed to grow out of, the way my parents did? Honestly, the parallels are getting stronger and stronger.

    @ Darren: Hee! I used to have a button that read, “COBOL programmers understand why women hate periods.”

  2. Darren Garrison said:

    Re insufficiently alien aliens.

    This brought to mind a TV Guide review of ALF by Isaac Asimov.

    Hey, I remember reading that as a kid! I recall it snarked a great deal about all aspects of the show. One part that particularly stuck with me was the bit about how a lesser mind such as his might have given the daughter of the family an interest such as science or astronomy, but the producers in their infinite wisdom and originality had decided to make her obsessed with boys instead.

    I don’t have a copy of it, though.

  3. I recall it snarked a great deal about all aspects of the show.

    I’m remembering his sarcasm over the mundaneness of ALF’s “alienness”–he listed several exotic ways ALF could be alien–but wasn’t.

    Meanwhile, ESA’s “make a new crater on Mars” project has proven to be a smashing success!

  4. I myself is interested in the interaction between literary fiction and the genres,

    Oh, you is, is you?

    and consider literary fiction as one genre in itself, but one with the privileges of not being considered a genre, i.e. it’s the default

    I consider the nebulous “mainstream fiction” (aka light fiction or general fiction) to be the default, while “literary fiction” is a genre (or at least a niche) — though admittedly, the border between the two is about as easy to pin down as the border between SF and fantasy. Maybe moreso, because the distinction is about style, depth and intent more than about subject matter.

    Then again, the border between “literary SF” and “genre SF” is also vague and cloudy, for much the same reasons.

  5. well I guess I win the internet for stupidity today.

    And that’s fine, but you all are missing the primal nature of fire and the symbolism there.

    That’s fine, no one has to take things to the extremes I do; but I also know that there was a time back during the heyday of the film’s cult following when most of the theaters got tired of cleaning up soggy toast and cards and banned just about everything, at which point they usually stopped showing the film because they’d lost their audience (owing to killing the participatory nature). (Hoboken’s crew negotiated and had a crew cleaning up gratis; things kept going there for a bit longer than most.)

    FYI: Lighters stop flaming when you let go of them.

    And – same thing as taking sparklers away from kids on the 4th and giving them chemsticks instead. Just. Not. The. Same. Part of the joy is taking a minor risk.

    Hampus: That’s why theaters pay for fire insurance…(jk)

  6. I used to have a button that read, “COBOL programmers understand why women hate periods.”

    That might be a better joke if it didn’t treat “women” and “programmers” as disjoint sets (wasn’t COBOL Grace Hopper’s doing?).

  7. Darren Garrison on October 21, 2016 at 12:05 pm said:

    Meanwhile, ESA’s “make a new crater on Mars” project has proven to be a smashing success!

    Eventually after enough probes, the impact remains will spell out a message

  8. Wrongfans are having wrongfun at RHPS! No one appreciates fire correctly anymore!

    Next up, a lecture on why dropping the “goddamn f-gg-t” callout from the audience participation during “Sweet Transvestite” is a tragic loss of rebellious spirit in today’s youngsters and also PC gone mad.

  9. @HelenS: It would be more accurate to say that COBOL was an offshoot which was created due in large part to her work. Others built on what Hopper did when they developed COBOL. Hopper has been called the grandmother of COBOL.

  10. @Nicole J. leBeouf-Little

    Wrongfans are having wrongfun at RHPS! No one appreciates fire correctly anymore!

    Next up, a lecture on why dropping the “goddamn f-gg-t” callout from the audience participation during “Sweet Transvestite” is a tragic loss of rebellious spirit in today’s youngsters and also PC gone mad

    Just wanted to admire it a second time. 😀

  11. @ HelenS: Being (at the time) a female COBOL programmer myself, I guess that didn’t register for me. Having had to trace down the missing-or-extra-period error more than once, I just fell over laughing and bought it.

  12. @steve davidson

    It’s worth noting that, even ignoring the issue of cultural mores for the moment, your fandom and the fandom referred to in those Tumblr posts really are completely different beasts. You’re part of SFF fandom and they’re part of transformative works fandom, and the two overlap but are far from synonymous.

    Your greater point about fandom’s tradition of inclusivity is applicable to both types of fandom, though. I discovered transformative works fandom as a teenager, ~20 years ago, and I can’t recall anyone my age bewailing the presence of older people in fandom. A lot of older fans wrote amazing fic and made beautiful art and fanvids and wrote interesting meta! They wrote the code to make fanfic archives, and they paid out of pocket for the archives’ webhosting! They shared weird yet fascinating stories about what it was like to be a fan pre-internet! They had a lot of useful knowledge about fannish history! Why would we ever want to exclude them? (And why would we ever want to be excluded from fandom ourselves, when we got “too old”?)

    There was a small number of older fans back then who were uncomfortable with–and even annoyed by–the presence of minors in their fandoms, particularly when the fandoms in question produced a lot of erotica. But those concerned older fans didn’t try to exclude younger fans from the entirety of online fandom. They just added age confirmation popups to their own websites, and any younger fans determined to read that type of fic (*raises hand*) pretended to be 18 for a few years, and we all managed to coexist in relative harmony.

    So this Balkanization of transformative works fandom that seems to be occurring on Tumblr is very strange and unwelcome. Also, I find it frankly bizarre when certain younger fans try to claim Tumblr and AO3 as their personal playgrounds, when older fans are and have always been such a vital part of the community (not to mention the founders and maintainers of AO3), and when in fact teenagers are a minority of users on both those sites.

  13. Grace Hopper didn’t invent Cobol, although she was an advisor to CODASYL, the committee that did invent it. However, the Cobol design relied heavily on the ideas she pioneered in her FLOW-MATIC language. Before FLOW-MATIC, no one believed it could be done, so her contribution to Cobol was foundational.

    Her life is well worth reading about. Especially for anyone who works in CS.


  14. Kurth Busiek:

    I consider the nebulous “mainstream fiction” (aka light fiction or general fiction) to be the default, while “literary fiction” is a genre (or at least a niche) — though admittedly, the border between the two is about as easy to pin down as the border between SF and fantasy

    Yes, I think that’s about right. I would actually use ‘mainstream’ for anything that is sold without a specific genre label, and treat literary fiction as a subgenre of mainstream; but certainly it isn’t just the ‘literary’ stuff which is treated as a default. The ‘general fiction’ shelves where I am include the works of Jeffrey Archer, Jilly Cooper (some of it – she also writes romance), Helen Fielding, John Grisham et al, none of whom are taken seriously by critics or considered for literary awards.

    Genre fans often miss this, and see the world of fiction as divided into literary and genre, ignoring the vast mass of fiction which is neither. They also tend to assume that when a work with SFF elements is sold as general fiction, this must be because of snobbery and a desire to pass it off as ‘literary’; but even if this is true of Margaret Atwood it can hardly be true of Diana Gabaldon or Michael Crichton, or indeed Dan Brown, whose works are not being sold as ‘literature’ but as popular mainstream.

  15. On Rocky Horror: I think it’s pretty funny to have strong opinions about the appropriate amount of rebelliousness in a group activity where the cool kids are all supposed to yell out exactly the same thing at the same time.

  16. Eli on October 21, 2016 at 1:10 pm said:

    On Rocky Horror: I think it’s pretty funny to have strong opinions about the appropriate amount of rebelliousness in a group activity where the cool kids are all supposed to yell out exactly the same thing at the same time.

    Reminds me of the time I was at a rock festival and Rage Against the Machine were playing ‘Killing In the Name Of…’ and they told the audience to sing along

  17. All this talk about getting into groups and being rebellious does cry out for a certain scene from a certain movie…

    Brian: Please, please, please listen! I’ve got one or two things to say.
    The Crowd: Tell us! Tell us both of them!
    Brian: Look, you’ve got it all wrong! You don’t NEED to follow ME, You don’t NEED to follow ANYBODY! You’ve got to think for your selves! You’re ALL individuals!
    The Crowd: Yes! We’re all individuals!
    Brian: You’re all different!
    The Crowd: Yes, we ARE all different!
    Man in crowd: I’m not…
    The Crowd: Sch!

  18. Greg Hullender on October 21, 2016 at 1:26 pm said:

    Here’s a nice explanation of the difference between genre, mainstream, and literary fiction.

    It is neat but I sort of feel that ‘Science Fiction’ doesn’t meet that criterion of a genre – likewise ‘historical fiction’, the important element is setting and tropes rather than plot. Romance and mystery arguably have defining aspects of plot (or at least things that will drive the plot) but it isn’t a model that fits other genres quite as well.

    As for: “Stories are told in a straightforward, linear manner, and they meet reader expectations: endings are usually happy, questions are resolved, and loose ends are tied up.” – sounds like an attempt to incite Steven Moffat to get worse.

  19. In the UK we don’t have periods full stop…

    Whenever I see a former colleague who went to a large financial institution I always enquire if they’ve developed COBOL fingers. Worn to stumps by excess verbosity worthy of a JCW tome.

  20. even if this is true of Margaret Atwood

    Random association time… BBC 6 Music are starting a new series of “Paperback Writers” at 13:00 BST on Sunday. First up, the aforementioned Margaret Atwood “… chooses her favourite songs and talks about what they mean to her.”

    6 Music is a digital station and can be heard on DAB and online, the programme will almost certainly be available on iPlayer after transmission and the station doesn’t usually apply any geographic restrictions.

  21. Greg:

    While I appreciate the effort of that writer to whom you linked to neatly delineate categories, I can without breathing hard name a bunch of stories that bust through all the conventions of genre.

    The work of John Crowley, Ursula Le Guin and Michael Chabon immediately leap to mind.

    Stories tend to escape from whatever categories the marketers try to shoehorn them into.

    But it is apparently harder to sell a story, as a new writer, that defies these clean categorizations. Agents are focused on genre as a way to market stories, it’s clear. Only solidly established writers have the freedom to play, I guess. And of course self-publishing is another way to avoid being pigeonholed.

    Related: I object to is the elevation of literary or realistic fiction over genre. It’s my impression that academia is slowly coming to this awareness, but it will take another generation, I’m afraid. Remember when the academy invented this category called “magical realism” to avoid having to let “fantasy” into the Ivory Tower?

    I read an article once that claimed that “literary fiction” was just another genre, as well.

    And I am at a loss to understand the boundaries of “mainstream fiction”, I’m afraid, as explained in that post.

    In short, genre can be a useful shorthand, but it’s extremely limiting, and seems to be part of the grind of marketing one’s early work.

  22. It seems to me that genres (of the sort we’re talking about here) are almost entirely social phenomena: they can’t be sorted purely by subject matter, but depend on traditions and communities and expectations. Science fiction and fantasy, horror, crime and romance have traditions and communities of readers, and so count as separate genres. So, up to a point, does historical fiction (though that is typically shelved as mainstream, and the ‘high end’ of it is considered literary and gets literary awards). Literary fiction also appeals to a particular community of readers and stands in a tradition, though in a rather different way. Non-literary mainstream is just the amorphous mass left when these other things are subtracted.

    It’s quite possible to have a work whose content links it with a genre, but which is not particularly addressed to a genre audience: I think it’s quite fair to sell it without a genre label. ‘Fantasy’ is not just any fiction about the fantastic; it’s a particular tradition, and it doesn’t seem to me unreasonable to give another name to works with fantastic content which don’t stand in that tradition, and call on different expectations.

  23. The Catholic Church across the street where I volunteer at the Tuesday morning food pantry is having all of its copper flashing replaced, a very long project. While waiting for the first food delivery of the morning, I asked and got a lesson in copper flashing from the folks doing the work.

    The flashling grows brittle after fifty or so years but its biggest problem is that it traps moisture behind it which if the structure is largely bricks held together with sand based cement as this church is, the bricks and cement rot. So they’re spending most of their time putting new bricks in after digging out the crumbled bits of the old ones.

  24. @Camestros Felapton and Dana
    I’ll admit I didn’t look that closely at their definition of genre; I mainly posted it for the definitions of literary and mainstream. I tend to think that each genre has its own definition. For example, a reasonable definition for science fiction would be stories that explore some substantial development of science and/or technology beyond what exists today. You can play with it to try to include or exclude certain stories, but that’s pretty much the idea.

    The existence of boundary cases doesn’t disprove the value of definitions. “To Kill a Mockingbird” is definitely not science fiction. “Luna: New Moon” definitely is science fiction. It’s no surprise that a few things are on the boundary. To argue otherwise you’d also have to reject “rare” and “medium-rare” as categories for cooking a steak, since it’s possible to have in-between steaks.

    In a practical sense, readers of SF have a very high tolerance for confusion at the start of a story. Part of the pleasure of reading an SF story is figuring out what’s going on and how the world works. Readers in almost any other genre are extremely allergic to confusion. This alone is good reason to separate SF from other books. I think the other genres have similar kinds of expectations.

  25. So I started reading R Scott Bakker. He apparantly had a 5 year publishing gap and his latest book just came out. I am only 80 pages into The Darkness That Comes Before

    Its darker epic fantasy.

    For a genre site there are very few posts about actual books.

    Btw, Mikes Nemesis at the Wertzone blog wrote an outstand set of blog posts on epic fantasy last year.

  26. (1) It seems EPH is fit for purpose.

    (2) This story is SO GOOD. Interesting plot, good characters, great turns of phrase.

    (3) He’s way off on the Puppy kerfuffle, but the rest of it is solid. Rusting copper and inability to remember sleds… geez.

    (9) Well, when CGI gets even cheaper and quicker, movies and TV can have more alien aliens. Till then, it’s actors in suits and makeup. But even “the” Alien was pretty non-human back in the 70’s. Meanwhile, written SF has all kinds of non-humanoid aliens. Maybe this guy should read more?

    Frankly, I was pretty happy when they banned lighters from RHPS. Drunk/high people at midnight with open flame in a dark, crowded theater isn’t my idea of a good time. Most places, people used the TP to help clean up afterwards. LIPS!

    “Everything That Isn’t Winter” is a good, solid story.

    Have read “The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales” and HIGHLY recommend it. I didn’t hate any of the stories, although a couple of them were “meh”. But I’m putting a few of them on my Hugo longlist.

    (10) Too reasonable. It’ll never fly. 🙂 But it seems to me you could represent Muslims by hiring an Arab guy and giving him the name of “Bashir”. Naaaah.

    (11) Us REAL Olds wrote fanfic on PAPER and snail-mailed it, and had to be super careful. And we had to hope someone would like our stuff enough to put it in their zine, and invest actual money in printing, not 3 seconds to put it online. And occasionally get sued. That the kids are getting MORE censorious is… bwuh?

    (12) Academia hasn’t changed.


  27. @StephenfromOttawa

    I don’t think Tolkien was a genre writer.

    Agree. What he wrote was so powerful that an entire genre created itself around his work.

  28. Regarding “Everything that Isn’t Night”, I read the first person narrator Aiden as male, especially since Aiden is traditionally a male name. The boyfriend Khalil is definitely male and – as his interactions with the woman early in the story show (he does not sleep with her BTW) – very likely bisexual. But even if you read Aiden and Khalil as a heterosexual couple, it’s still a touching love story.

    3) Regarding Max Florschutz, I definitely have seen badly researched literary fiction. There was an example in Germany a few years ago, even shortlisted for a couple of important awards, where the author portrayed e-mail, the internet and mobile phones as commonplace in 1991 and also placed a Serbian city in Croatia or vice versa (which was made even more appalling by the fact that the war in former Yugoslavia was an important plotpoint in the story). So yes, badly researched literary fiction exists. Just like badly researched SF, badly researched fantasy, badly researched crime fiction, etc…
    However, dismissing a whole genre/type of fiction on the basis of a single bad example is pretty narrow-minded. And I still fail to see what any of this has to do with the Hugos.

    And copper definitely does corrode, though not in six years. It’s probably not as common in the US, but in Europe green copper patina is a common sight on the roofs of churches, townhalls and other older buildings. As is the shock when a building you’ve known all your life suddenly looks “wrong”, because the patina has been removed and the roof is copper coloured again.

    Regarding lighters and open flames at the Rocky Horror Picture Show and elsewhere, as a woman with very long hair I’m very glad that lighters and open flames at public events are a thing of the past. Cause when I was younger, I was always terrified that my hair would accidentally catch fire, because some idiot wasn’t careful with their lighter. And yes, accidents like this happen, even if you’re careful. Recently there was a case where the gauze bandages of a mummy costume caught fire and a young woman was badly burned, because some idiot played with a lighter.

    In the 19th century, when stage footlights were still open gasflames, the gowns of actresses and dancers frequently caught fire and plenty of overwhelmingly young women were mained and died. Quite often, the whole theatre burned down as well. And that list of horrible fires in nightclubs, discotheques, theatres, cinemas, etc… speaks for itself.

    So yes, I’m all for banning lighters, candles and open flames at public events. Because the safety of the audience is more important than tradition.

    By the way, when I attended my first Rocky Horror Picture Show showing as a teenager in the school auditorium (with audience participation, of course) and we all bit into our cookies during the banquet scene, my then best friend suddenly realised just what or rather who the main course was and promptly spat out her cookie in disgust, straight at the people in front of us.

  29. Guess: For a genre site there are very few posts about actual books.

    1) This is an SFF genre news site. Every single post here falls into that category. If you don’t understand the purpose of this site, that’s your problem.

    2) In the last 2 weeks (14 days), this blog/fanzine has published:
    – 20 articles about Books and Authors
    – 14 Pixel Scrolls (SFF News aggregation posts)
    – 6 articles about Awards and Contests
    – 5 articles about SFF Movies / TV Shows
    – 2 articles about Publisher news
    – 2 articles about Convention news
    – 1 article about a public SFF reading
    + countless member comments about books and stories

    The fact that you’re apparently not seeing any of the posts about “actual books” is… wait for it… your problem.

  30. @ Cora: And then there was the Aggie Bonfire tragedy (warning: graphic news photos), where a “tradition” that had become overblown finally collapsed… literally. Over the years, the annual student bonfire ceremony had gotten larger and larger, until the students were building a mountain of logs 5 stories high, with no onsite safety supervision beyond “common sense”. When the structure collapsed, 13 people were killed and 27 were injured, and the college declared a hiatus on the bonfire ceremony.

    Of course, there is now a substitute ceremony, held off-campus and with no oversight by the college at all, because TRADITION! One hopes that the new ceremony has gone back to being a normal-sized bonfire instead of the former Monument To Wretched Excess.

  31. @Lee
    That’s horrible and such a senseless tragedy. I also wonder why the university allowed the students to build such a massive bonfire with apparently zero oversight..

    In my region, we have a tradition of bonfires on Easter Saturday. They can be quite big, though not as big as the one in those photos. However, the bonfires are strictly regulated. The pyre may only be built on the same day to prevent people from dumping their trash in and to keep animals from making the pile of wood their home with deadly consequences. And the fire brigade oversees the construction of the pyre as well as its burning. I’m not a big fan of Easter fires, because the smoke can be annoying (I live close to our local Easter fire spot and always get the smoke stench in my home), but they’re safe.

  32. Here’s a nice explanation of the difference between genre, mainstream, and literary fiction.

    I think it was a little muddled, perhaps. And I flat-out disagree when it says things like:

    “…whereas the primary focus of a mystery will always be the main character solving a crime.”

    Since “mystery” has become a catch-all for “crime,” the focus may well be the main character committing a crime, or the aftermath of a crime.

    Ultimately, genres are about defining characteristics, but there are different kinds of defining characteristics, and they describe, but don’t exclude.

    For instance, SF is about setting and subject, romance is about relationships, literary is about style, and so on. It’s possible to write a literary science-fiction romance, just as it is to write a comedy Western mystery, and various other combinations.

    And “mainstream” isn’t really “the absence of defining characteristics,” it’s “broadly popular fiction.” Some literary novels are mainstream. Some fantasy is mainstream. Some book editors once described to me the category of “event thriller,” which is a mainstream-friendly way to describe SF/fantasy that gets marketed as mainstream.

    “Mainstream” has traditionally been realistic fiction about real-world conflicts, but that gets broken the minute Stephen King or someone else comes along and attracts a mainstream audience to material that in other hands would be genre fiction.

    Genre/literary/mainstream are not a Linnaean taxonomy. They’re category labels that describe something, but don’t necessarily harmonize with other labels, because they’re not about divvying things up, they’re about describing things example by example.

    Some labels tend to trump others. A science-fiction romance is more likely to land in the SF shelves, because romance readers tend to assume a real-world setting. A fantasy romance used to be more likely to end up in fantasy, but now that we have paranormal romance, maybe not. Romance readers let it in, so it’s in.

    Literary novels are literary. Mainstream novels are mainstream. Some novels are both.

    “Genre fiction” is taken by some to mean “unambitious fiction that fits a known category as a way of selling familiar content to a pre-interested audience, and the story is there to keep all the familiar genre bits from happening all at once,” and to others it means “any work that fits into that particular defined category, whether formulaic, ambitious, experimental or whatever.” For people of the former persuasion, a literary SF tale, if done well, “transcends genre,” because it’s literarily ambitious and succeeds at it, so it goes in the “literature” bucket, while people of the latter persuasion think that anything that has SF content or setting is an SF book (and some subset of those people think that publishers marketing those books as mainstream or literary are being snooty and looking down on the genre, rather than reaching out to whatever audience they think they can sell the most to).

    But in the end, very few of these labels are about separating things into categories. They’re about describing things using categories, but there’s so much overlap that separating them is a matter of marketing convenience, not of category borders.

    Genre is flexible, but not terribly organized. As noted in other comments, Michael Crichton wrote a lot of SF but it had mainstream appeal and got marketed that way and usually shelved that way. That’s because the choice isn’t about dividing the categories, it’s about selling the book. Ultimately, he wrote “event thrillers,” because that’s what they call SF/fantasy/horror that you can sell well beyond the genre market.

    Some labels are about setting, some about story, some about style, and so on. Some overlap more easily than others — an SF mystery is easier to do than a Regency Western — but they’re about describing what’s there for convenience and practicality, not for hard-edged categories that all fit together like a puzzle.

    So any rundown of genre that tries to separate them into “X is this, not that” is probably going to get muddled, because a lot of fiction is “this” AND “that.” But the dividing lines between “literary” and “mainstream” and “mystery” are about as trustworthy as the dividing lines between “comedy” and “Western.”

    Ultimately, genre labels describe. They may divide, as well, when the examples allow it, but dividing isn’t really their purpose. CASABLANCA is a wartime romance; it’s both war story (albeit away from the front lines) and romance, and both genre labels fit.

    Where you rack it depends on who you’re trying to sell it to.

    Ramble ramble ramble…

  33. @Greg Hullender


    I don’t think Tolkien was a genre writer.

    Agree. What he wrote was so powerful that an entire genre created itself around his work.

    I would say that Tolkien revived, greatly strengthened and popularised a genre, but was knowingly writing in a tradition recently (by Tolkien’s standards) bolstered by William Morris and E. R. Eddison (among others), trodden earlier by Richard Wagner, and ultimately stemming from the Norse and Germanic sagas and legends which formed an important part of his personal literary world (“. . . and then along came the Renaissance and spoiled everything”). He didn’t invent Epic Fantasy (if we’re calling it that this week).

  34. I think Tolkien would have said he was writing in a genre — he was writing fairy-stories. That’s the term he used, and he discusses and defines the form:


    He didn’t invent the form — he knew about Lord Dunsany and George MacDonald and James Branch Cabell and Frank R. Stockton, and the mythology and folk tales that predated them.

    It wasn’t a genre with critical mass enough to have its own section in the bookstore, but it was something he recognized as a literary tradition with boundaries and history and tropes.

    He became perhaps the largest figure that influenced the development of what we now call the genre of fantasy, a genre that became successful around work influenced by and imitative of him, C.S. Lewis, Robert E. Howard and others, and as such he wound up defining the box we tend to put books like his in.

    But that doesn’t mean he didn’t feel there was a category that his work fit into, or distinctive elements and commonalities to that category that made it something more definable than “general fiction.”

    It just had a different shape back then, and he used a different name for it. He transformed it, but the genre didn’t create itself around him. It developed around him (and others), but its roots go through him and back through others as well.

  35. Many years ago, I read an essay which suggested that all fiction–every single bit of it–was a subset of fantasy. And mainstream fiction was a subset of science fiction (which in turn is, again, a subset of fantasy).

    It’s really quite logical. Fantasy allows all sorts of rules. Science fiction is the subset of fantasy which uses rules that happen to exist in our universe. And mainstream fiction is science fiction set in the present, with minimal emphasis on exposition of the rules, since the author can assume everyone knows them.

    Similarly, historical fiction is the subset of fantasy which (arbitrarily) follows the rules of the real universe (making it science fiction), but set in the past.

    Most other genres count as science fiction by this categorization as well. (Horror being the primary exception: it’s fantasy, though some of it is the subcategory of fantasy called science fiction.)

    This makes even more sense when you realize that fiction is, by definition, fantasy. If it weren’t fantasy, it would be fact, not fiction. 🙂

    Of course, this doesn’t match the marketing definitions of genre, so publishers will never accept it, but I still think it makes sense. And it’s a fun argument to pull out when you encounter one of the (rapidly vanishing breed of) people who sneer at SF/F. 🙂

  36. I’ve heard Wittgenstein. Well, recordings of him. His solo work in Ravel’s Left Hand Concerto (which he commissioned) is far from great, though I can imagine worse. His transcriptions of pieces for piano solo are interesting, though more ambitious on the page than he can… his little brother, the philosopher Wittgenstein? I hear he was just as sloshed as Schlegel.

  37. @Cora: in the U.S., college is commonly seen as a time of freedom; students are legally adults in many ways (although most can’t drink legally, cf not-too-recent thread) and are often living away from home for the first time — thus expecting (and expected) to take responsibility (increased or total) for themselves. Added factors:
    * A Texas model of non-interference.
    * A university that tries to exert control risks being (net) less popular, and thus coming up short on enrollments. There is pushback on this in some parts of the US, but it’s led by liberals, feminists, and other categories less popular in the south.
    * “A&M” means “Agricultural and Mechanical”; i.e., it began as a high-level trade school. There used to be nasty jokes about this; I don’t know how much the reputation is [still] true, but students may expect less regulation of conduct than at some citadel of thought.
    * AFAICT, the doctrine of in loco parentis is effectively dead at this level; the university has very limited legal grounds to restrict conduct.
    * I’m guessing your bonfires are either on small private lots (where there’s a risk of involving neighbors) or general public lands (where the public has an interest and government police can have a role). State universities are peculiar (and individual by state); who (e.g., university police vs government) regulates what can be touchy.

    @Xtifr: That essay might have been derived from Campbell; he used to maintain something very like your opening, although he didn’t treat fantasy as supersetting science fiction.

  38. This is an SFF genre news site.

    Even more precisely, it is an SFF genre fandom news site. That’s what it’s headed: ‘Mike Glyer’s news of science fiction fandom‘. Because SFF has more overlap between the fandom and the actual creative community that many genres, it covers books quite a lot: but it’s odd to suggest they ought to be its main topic.

    Regarding Aaron’s survey: I never managed to work out what Bryan Thomas Schmidt actually edited to qualify him for BESF in 2014. Can we be sure he was eligible? If not, EPH would have made even less of a change.

  39. Remember when the academy invented this category called “magical realism” to avoid having to let “fantasy” into the Ivory Tower?

    While that may be an adequate summary of one role the term plays in the English language, I’m pretty sure its origin is somewhat different.

    After an intense period of study of the Latin American genre during AP Spanish in high school, I wanted more than anything to write short stories that did in the English language what these stories did in Spanish. And I can think of English-language authors whose writing, for me, evokes that same feeling. (Kelly Link comes to mind.) So for me the term remains both aspirational and descriptive. But I won’t deny it also gets used in the cynically proscriptive way you describe.

Comments are closed.