Pixel Scroll 10/21 One Ink Cartel

(1) The Onion reports a major addition to the movie ratings scheme.

WASHINGTON—In an effort to provide moviegoers with the information they need to determine which films are appropriate for them to see, the Motion Picture Association of America announced Tuesday the addition of a new rating to alert audiences of movies that are not based on existing works.

According to MPAA officials, the new “O,” or “Original,” designation will inform viewers that a particular film contains characters with whom they are unfamiliar, previously unseen settings, and novel plots. The rating will also reportedly serve as a warning of the potentially disorienting effects associated with having to remember characters’ names for as many as two hours and the discomfort that can occur when one is forced to keep track of narrative arcs for an entire film.

The MPAA’s new O rating will appear on all movies containing explicitly original, unadapted, and unfamiliar material.

(2) In a day devoted to Back To The Future nostalgia, Bill Higgins would like to remind everyone that Ronald Reagan “smuggled a quote from the film into an important speech to Congress.” C-SPAN has the clip, from Reagan’s 1986 State of the Union address.

Reagan also liked the movie’s joke about him being president – according to the Wikipedia he ordered the projectionist of the theater to stop the reel, roll it back, and run it again.

(3) Here’s a link to BBC video of the Back To The Future day unveiling for a Belfast university’s electric-powered DeLorean project.

(4) And in (wind) breaking news — “Michael J. Fox arrested for insider sports betting”

Fox aroused suspicion after achieving a statistically-impossible, perfect record on the site under the username NoChicken.

Authorities found an unusually worn copy of a sports almanac which was just recently printed and which has markings cataloging winning bets Fox has placed since the late 80’s.

(5) Today’s Birthday Girls:

  • Born October 21, 1929 — Ursula K. Le Guin celebrates her 86th birthday today.
  • Born October 21, 1956 – Carrie Fisher, famous for portraying Princess Leia onscreen, and author of the bestselling novel Postcards from the Edge.

(6) New York Mets fan James H. Burns is flying high. He has some tales you’ve never heard before in “The Curious Case of Daniel Murphy” on the local CBS/New York website.

(7) Steven H Silver, on the other hand, is suffering and reminds people about his 2008 article for Challenger, ”I Call It Loyalty, Others Call It Futility”.

Several years ago, I spent two summers working at Wrigley Field. When most people say something like this, it means that they sold beer or peanuts during the games (which is what my brother-in-law did). I did something different.

On Sundays during the season, when the Cubs are playing on the road, Wrigley Field is open for tours for a minimal charitable donation (at the time $10, which goes to Cubs Care Charities). I spent two summers giving tours of the ballpark. The tours included the standard places open to the public, like the concourse under the stands, the stands, and the bleachers, but also non-public areas like the press box, the visitor and home team locker rooms, and the security office. Two of my more interesting memories were getting to watch a Cubs game on television from within the confines of the visitor’s locker room and escorting a woman out to the warning track in center field so she could scatter her husband’s ashes.

The tours, of course, included information and trivia about the Cubs’ history and the stadium’s history. The tour guides were pretty good on the whole and worked to debunk legends and stories about the field while presenting information in an interesting and memorable manner.

(8) Ken Marable says the 2016 Hugo recommendation seasons begins November 2 – at least on his blog, which is coincidentally named 2016 Hugo Recommendation Season: The Non-Slate: Just Fans Talking About What They Love. For the first week he’ll focus on the Best Semiprozine category.

(9) The Wall Street Journal’s “Dan Rather, Still Wrong After All These Years” opines —

The movie ‘Truth’ is as bogus as the original attempt to smear George W. Bush’s wartime service.

Seeing that brought to mind my article about Gary Farber in File 770 #144 [PDF file] where I mentioned Farber’s then-recent participation in outing that fraud:

Within hours of “60 Minutes” purported exposé of memos by George W. Bush’s old Air National Guard commander, people were blogging away with accusations that the documents were forged because the text could not have been produced on typewriter likely to have been in use at a Texas military office in 1971, if indeed it could have been produced by anything besides Microsoft Word. Gary’s analysis showed no one knows better than a fanzine fan about the capabilities of 1970s-era business typewriters.

Another paragraph in my article praised Gary for a quality still missing from most political discourse today:

Amygdala shows how disagreement can be handled without loathing, and that evidence is more important than orthodoxy, two notions practically extinguished from the rest of the Internet in 2004. I’ve always been more conservative than a lot of fannish friends and favorite sf writers, finding the contrast informative and fascinating. Yet in 2004, I had to drop off two fannish e-mail lists to escape the constant spew of venomous political nonsense, and tell two individuals to quit sending me their mass-copied clippings. So not sharing too many of Gary’s political views, one of the pleasures I find in reading Amygdala is how his provocative viewpoints are expressed in a way that values the reader’s humanity regardless of agreement.

(10) Bob Milne reviews Larry Correias’s new Son of the Black Sword at Speculative Herald.

Larry Correia is an author best known for his guns-and-monsters, no-holds barred, testosterone-soaked urban fantasy sagas, Monster Hunter International and the Grimnoir Chronicles. For those who were curious as to how he’d make the transition from guns to swords, Son of the Black Sword is pretty much everything you’d expect, with his macho sense of almost superhuman bravado slipping well into a pulpy heroic fantasy world.

(11) What a wonderful alternate universe it could be…

(12) Mayim Biyalik on “My Sort-Of Acting Method”.

I’m not a real actor. Well, actually, I guess that’s not fair – what I mean is I’m not a trained actor. Many actors you love and see on TV and in movies studied acting for real. Like, some of them even have degrees in acting and stuff. I call those people “real actors.”

I have never studied acting in a class or in school or in college. I don’t know Stanislavsky from Uta Hagen or method acting from acting that isn’t method. It’s all Greek to me. But I do have a method of my own, from my almost 30 years being employed as an actor, and trained actors I know tell me my ‘method’ actually is a sort of method. So there you have it.

The scene I had with Jim Parsons in this past week’s episode of “The Big Bang Theory” (Season 9, Episode 5, “The Perspiration Implementation”) was a very emotional one. I cried the first time we rehearsed it and each time we showed it to our writers and producers. (Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen it.)

(13) “You too can learn to farm on Mars” promises the article.

“Congratulations! You are leaving Earth forever,” the case study begins. “You are selected to be part of a mining colony of 100 people located on the planet Mars. Before you head to Mars, however, you need to figure out how to feed yourself and your colleagues once you are there.”

The task is similar to that of Watney, who has to grow food in an artificial habitat after he is separated from his mission crew in a Martian windstorm. “Mars will come to fear my botany powers,” he boasts.

“Farming In Space? Developing a Sustainable Food Supply on Mars” can be found here. Teaching notes and the answer key are password protected and require a paid subscription to access.

(14) NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars photographed Earth on January 31 using the left-eye camera on its science mast. See a video of Curiosity’s Earth-from-Mars images here.

(15) Makes yourself clean and shiny before lining up to see the new Star Wars movie with the help of these Darth Vader and R2-D2 showerheads.

star-wars-showerhead-darth-vader-r2-d2-gif-1 COMP

What are the major differences between the Vader and R2 model? Aside from the price, the lowest setting on the Darth Vader showerhead makes water run from the mask’s eye sockets, allowing you to bathe in Sith Lord remorse. This model also provides a handle, leaving less of your bathing up to the Force.

Darth Vader has a handle, but I don’t know that I would want to aim Darth’s tears at any vulnerable body parts….

(16) Last night Camestros Felapton staked out his spot in comments with this video is about fours waking.

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, Bill Higgins, Will R., and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]

212 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 10/21 One Ink Cartel

  1. Here’s a good source for some recent short fiction available online, with just enough of a review to give you an idea of whether it is to your taste or not:
    http://www.locusmag.com/Reviews/2015/10/lois-tilton-reviews-short-fiction-mid-october-6/

    She highlights some more obscure sources, not just the usual suspects, so I really do recommend giving it a glance.

    Personally, I have been enjoying the stories in Kaleidotrope lately; the issue prior to the one reviewed at the link featured Ghost Champaign by Charlie Jane Anders, which I enjoyed because it so perfectly evoked the fear of getting stuck, and imperfect but still loving relationships.

  2. Has anyone read “All in a Hot and Copper Sky” by Megan Arkenberg? Although it’s probably coincidental because the author doesn’t say anything about it, this story could have been written as a deliberate counterpart to The Martian with a way more cynical view of society and the kind of people who’d be in charge of organizing a Mars exploration mission. In what follows, I’m going to discuss the whole story without any rot-13, so read it first if you’re so inclined.

    The premise is, that a sealed biosphere was set up on Earth as a trial run for exploration, with 1000 people in it, simulating a situation where they were on Mars and a support mission from Earth could not reach them for two years. For those two years, the inhabitants were not given the lock codes to exit and guards were posted to stop them leaving. One of those inhabitants was Socorro Vargas, described thus by her girlfriend Dolores in a letter to her: “You were a drifter, traveling from minimum-wage job to minimum-wage job, despite your intelligence, despite your work ethic, because you were caustic as hell, Socorro, you made enemies and half the time they were your bosses.” The oxygen filters failed a year into the mission, the atmosphere gradually approached lethal, people began to die (maybe), and Socorro believed that the operators were not paying attention, or were deliberately running the experiment to the failure point, and would let everyone die before they opened the biosphere; so she went to the guards and demanded they open the door, and when they wouldn’t, shot two of them (with a gun she’d taken from a police officer). It’s left ambiguous whether she really had to; almost certainly not.

    The story isn’t really about this debacle, but more about the aftermath, the ass-covering by the people in charge during Socorro’s trial, the scapegoating, for 30 years after her conviction, the sensational relentless media attention. “You made your enemies out of people who had their eyes on the cameras, on the future, every time they mouthed your name.” Dolores wonders, now that there’s talk of trying again, whether she ought to try to stop it, on the grounds that Socorro’s fate may discourage other people from defying authority even if there’s a less ambiguous emergency. It seems to argue that even though Socorro way overreacted in those circumstances, the way the authorities behaved afterward proved that they weren’t trustworthy anyhow. I have to say that the case isn’t really made very well, because that isn’t the real point of the story, which is about the effect of the media attention on Dolores. But there’s a distinctly cynical view of society behind it all, as I said.

  3. @Mary Frances: Yes, I’m definitely more of a “broad, oddly-shaped fuzzy area” guy myself. Especially since I’ve always been fond of “genre-benders”, both in my fiction and my music.

    The definition I tend to go with is actually fairly simple, though. I forget who said it, but it was some SF writer back in the sixties: “science fiction is what science fiction editors buy.” 🙂

  4. @Stevie
    re:Red Queen ARC

    I bought it and got it into iBooks. It formats as usual, so I wouldn’t anticipate any unusual problems.

    Gah! I haven’t been to Baen’s site recently. It’s been redesigned since that time. The old design was severely clunky, but navigable. The new site is just as clunky, thinks it’s whiz bang (love the crashing, exploding spaceships…not) and slightly less navigable. Can’t they afford professional web design?

  5. I guess what got under my skin about the normalizing/transformative categorization is that the distinction has no inherent causal relationship to a fantasy/science-fiction distinction. There may, at various time periods and in various literary traditions, be a correlation between the two methods of categorizing. But that’s as nonsensical as the correlation of pink/blue and female/male.

  6. @Heather Rose Jones: Absolutely. I defy anyone to say that Jemisin isn’t writing fantasy or that she isn’t profoundly concerned with transformation.

    There was some rather famous essay about spec-fic by a Marxist critic where he dismissed all fantasy as antirevolutionary, and then years later changed his mind — can anyone recall what I’m talking about?

  7. Junego

    Thank you for the tip; I use iPads (one old, one new) as my primary reading devices, together with a cheap Kindle given as a freebie for booking a holiday, but I’m not good at tech stuff so I think I will hold off purchasing until it’s a bit clearer exactly what I’m getting.

    I agree with your comments about Baen’s website; I thought it was utterly dreadful, so I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one bemused by it!

  8. @James
    “The copyright date rule was designed to handle border conditions where a physical book has a January copyright date but ships in December – not a four-month gap between a “rough draft” made available electronically and a final version made available in print as well as electronically.”

    If this was the true intent of the rule, then GJatRQ would be considered published as of today by the WSFS constitution, imo. Released electronically for sale is published, too, afaict from the constitution. Unless Bujold is planning on *major* revisions to the story, all that remains are copty editing (which Baen is lousy at anyway) and minor story/language revisions. I don’t think it’s a “rough draft”, it’s an ARC.

    Hmmm, just thought to check the ARC. The copyright pages say: copyrighted 2015, date of pub is Feb 2016. Maybe that’s official enough to satisfy WSFS and all my blather is, well, blather.

  9. I am thinking of making a formal challenge against the idiots who do not even know what a formal challenge is, much less know what would one does in response.

    It’s the only way of persuading large numbers of children looking forward to watching the telly, and in the the year 0684, we had to make our own icons…

  10. Heather Rose Jones: I guess what got under my skin about the normalizing/transformative categorization is that the distinction has no inherent causal relationship to a fantasy/science-fiction distinction.

    Good point, and I suspect partly why I found it an interesting distinction. If we define “normalizing” as “returning to the status quo ante” or even “maintaining the status quo as a good thing” and “transformative” as “world- or culture-changing,” I think I agree with you. But if “normalizing” is something on the order of “stabilizing society, in whatever form,” then maybe not. In that sense, Pratchett’s later Discworld books are normalizing. Sort of. But in that sense, so is all fiction.

    Ah, well. I suppose I shouldn’t get carried away–when I get right down to it, I find that all fiction is fantasy, and most of the time genre theorists and categorizers are just arguing about the flourishes . . .

    Vasha: There was some rather famous essay about spec-fic by a Marxist critic where he dismissed all fantasy as antirevolutionary, and then years later changed his mind — can anyone recall what I’m talking about?

    David Hartwell had a fairly well-known essay in, I think, the NY Review of Science Fiction, which could be what you’re thinking of for the first essay, at least. I don’t know as I’d call either his argument, or him, Marxist, though it’s been many years since I read it, so maybe?

    Xiftr: The definition I tend to go with is actually fairly simple, though. I forget who said it, but it was some SF writer back in the sixties: “science fiction is what science fiction editors buy.”

    I can live with that . . . 🙂

  11. @Vasha I wrote a review of it on RSR.

    http://www.rocketstackrank.com/2015/09/all-in-hot-and-copper-sky-by-megan.html

    I thought it was a good story, but not a great one. The scenario was pretty unrealistic; they’d have aborted the simulation long before people started suffocating. And it was hard to buy the idea that NASA would go thirty years before trying again.

    It did an awfully good job of make Socorro real simply through the effect she had on Dolores.

  12. @Rose Embolism

    More seriously, my definition would be: Science Fiction is a subset of the Fantasy genre, that uses the terminology of science and technology to give the feeling that the alternate world depicted in the story cold take place in the real world. An emphasis on plausibility, in other words.

    Yup, that’s my definition too. I’ve gotten a surprising amount of pushback on it from some fannish quarters — from people who want genre to be a bucket you can put something in, and also from people who seem to think that science fiction is inherently better or more important that fantasy.

  13. Yeah I don’t think it’s that great of a story, I was just interested in the portrayal of the project heads (not identified as NASA, unless I missed something) as uncaring incompetents more interested in publicity than proper administration of the project!

  14. @Vasha, Darko Suvin notoriously hated/hates fantasy, labeling it as anti-cognitive, but I’m not sure he’s changed his mind. I actually really like his work, despite his extremely tendentious definition of fantastic literature. The concept of cognitive estrangement is still very useful, and I kind of like the crankiness. He’s definitely gotten some pushback on the question from Mieville.

  15. Right, Darko Suvin is who I was thinking of, in the essay Strange Horizons reprinted, with the following addendum by the author: “Ah yes: on Fantasy. The lay of the land has changed here: I wrote before the Deluge. I’ve looked anew at it in my essay “Considering the Sense of ‘Fantasy’ or ‘Fantastic Fiction’,” Extrapolation 41.3 (2000): 209-47. It does not simply deny but it supersedes (as Hegel would say) what is written here.”

  16. I think I’ll have to stick to the “know it when I see it” test to distinguish SF from fantasy.

    (Examples: Citizen of the Galaxy: SF
    Hour of the Dragon: Fantasy
    Gate of Ivrel: SF
    Executive Orders: Extremely unrealistic fantasy)

  17. I’ve just finished “Radiance” by Catherynne M. Valente.

    My brain isn’t back in my head.

    When it comes back, it won’t be the same shape.

    It’s fantastic in every sense of the word.

    On my list.

    (Even in 8297)

  18. If you want a bok that outlines the main foundations of most magic systems Master of the Five Magics by Lyndon Hardy is a good Middle/YA read.

    It also explains(in its own way) The Doctrine of Signatures and The Rule of Three. Plus it adds some extras(or at least some new to me).

  19. Even from the (twisted) perspective that Sriduangkaew is the victim and everyone else are the harassers, celebrating the death of someone’s partner goes beyond healthy schadenfreude. Way beyond.

  20. I just finished a reread of Graydon Saunders Commonweal books, which fall somewhere in the strange borderlands of fantasy and SF. When a key magical working is limited by the availability of samarium, you aren’t in the Shire any more.

    The odd thing is that these books feel like they belong in a cluster with “The Goblin Emperor”, and not just because they have viewpoint characters who are not strictly human and an attention to architecture and civil engineering. (Roads, bridges, canals… )

    I think there is a … striving toward humaneness? … that they also share, and that makes a refreshing change from the bitter grittiness that has become fashionable in recent years. (The Ancillary series has some of that, too, at least on Breq’s part. Hints of a swing of a pendulum in their popularity along with TGE?) It’s not lightness, exactly: TGE acknowledges the presence of darkness (factories, the snowblind lace, survivors of political and personal abuse) and the Commonweal books don’t lack for body-count.

    TGE and the Commonweal books also share a willingness to let the reader experience the worlds through immersion rather than through explanations. But I have to admit, I suspect the people who whine about the linguistic quirks in TGE and the Ancillary books will be even more unhappy about the stream of conscious flow in the Commonweal books. (I found the prose style pleasantly chewy, but I suspect that will be a minority view.)

    Now I’m wondering what else is out there that would fit into the same cluster.
    I’ve decided I’m going to skip “The Traitor Baru Cormorant” and others of its ilk — it sounds like the exact opposite of what I’m looking for, and “The Fifth Season” was about as far as I want to go in that direction.

    I don’t think “The Sorceror of the Wildeeps” quite fits the cluster, but it puts language to work in a space where the boundary of SF and Fantasy becomes debatable, so it falls within shouting distance. If the drive toward humaneness is present, it is fainter.

  21. Lurkertype, that might be the most effective recommendation I have ever read.

    Emgrasso, if there is a swing of the pendulum away from grimdark, toward more humaneness, albeit one that acknowledges darkness, I would be thrilled. I don’t like the deepest grimdark, and as Kyra noted in commenting about Baru Cormorant, one can often feel the author’s hand, unsubtly shaping a world where brutality is the only sane response.

  22. @Meredith, I’m not really surprised by anything she writes, but I have to wonder at this point what her friends/supporters make of it. For me, if that were someone I had been generally rooting for, I would at this point have to start thinking “What the hell is wrong with you?”

  23. @Tintinaus

    Thanks for the reminder that Master of the Five Magics and its clever, wonderful sequel Secret of the Sixth Magic still aren’t available as ebooks. Off to Amazon to fruitlessly push those buttons…

  24. Here in 5170, a new cosmetic wall-altering technology has just launched and murals, now animated, are back in fashion as a result. My (fictional) neighbour has invested in it and is currently deciding between an ocean view and a space scene with randomised spaceships passing by for the bathroom.

    @Eli

    The best explanation I have is that in this case there’s plausible deniability, and a good chance people who support her and saw that tweet either won’t know about or won’t connect it to Roenen-Ruiz’s circumstances. The tweet doesn’t mention name or specifics – and I suppose there is a possibility that another one of Sriduangkaew’s targets is having a hard time and it may refer to that. It just seems more likely that due to the timing that’s what she’s referring to.

    Seiduangkaew’s financial situation would make her gloating over someone else’s financial difficulties gross in any circumstance, to be honest, but particularly so when there’s a bereavement involved.

  25. @LunarG, it is about all I could say 10 minutes after finishing. My brain floated right out of the top of my skull, a chunk of it having been removed and left open. The brain has come back, but there are a couple bumps and dents that weren’t there before.

    It is also, blessedly, not grimdark, even when bad things happen. I am SO TIRED of grimdark. It’s so incredibly cliche and unimaginative nowadays.

  26. Just wanted to share this tweet from @jeffreysomers

    Also: Am very sad to hear that Harriet Klausner passed away. Her reviews were useless, but her presence was comforting.

    @lurkertype,
    Your comment was the last straw: have just purchased “Radiance”.

    Once again, the plate tectonics of File770 comments on books is responsible for increasing the height of Mt. TBR.

  27. Random note to all who might find it relevant: I shall be at Mile Hi Con. If I am *very* good and get my work done on time, I’ll be there right when programming starts at 2:00. If I am not very good… I shall be ducking out for an hour or two here or there to try to make up for it.

    @RedWombat, dunno if you’re still reading or if you’re deep in the throes of travel prep, but: Can I bring you a Boulder-ish thing? Of some nature? I kind of have no idea outside of “Erm, we’re the home of Celestial Seasonings, but they’re kinda weaksauce tea. Something from the Boulder-Dushanbe teahouse?” Apparently I can’t seem to think past tea. Local beers or hard liquors? We have distilleries and mead makers as well as the usual assortment of brewers. Fine chocolates? Fine chocolates infused with local alcohol?

  28. Oh wow, I just went to the Baen site and… well, wow. It’s as if they got someone from the early 90s to design it for them.

    Also: maybe it’s because I’m spending a while not drinking alcohol, but I can’t imagine anyone not being absolutely delighted with awesome tea. But these days I have difficulty keeping my tea consumption under 3 or 4 cups per evening. Right now I’m really loving the osmanthus tea I bought at the market, but I have a hankering for sakura tea lately. Or Vietnamese lotus tea. Damn that was good stuff.

  29. I love tea as much as the next non-Breq, but the caffeine doesn’t agree with me nowadays. Which is sad, since decaf comes in so few varieties, mostly terrible. I am also allergic to many herbal concoctions.

    My college roomie drank the Celestial Seasonings one with the buffalo on it in the morning, since she hated coffee and couldn’t stomach soda before dawn.

    @Soon Lee: yessss! I am a true Filer now!

  30. Along with the idea that science fiction is a subset of fantasy, which I first heard many years ago, I’ve also heard it suggested that mainstream or contemporary fiction is a subset of science fiction. After all, all the science in such books is more-or-less plausible, as are the worlds the characters inhabit.

    I think it’s an entertaining perspective. And perfectly reasonable. But when it comes down to it, my favorite fiction tends to be that which uses science fictional tropes (whether or not it counts as science fiction), with fiction that uses fantasy and/or mystery tropes a close second. So I tend to go with the “it’s what the [genre] editors buy” definition, because experience tells me that most often results in books I enjoy.

  31. @LunarG

    I follow Tilton, as although I don’t necessarily agree with her recs she’s fairly clear about her reasons, so I can adjust accordingly. I also like Quick Sip Reviews for being quick and covering some wider sources.

    @Vasha

    I read “All in a Hot and Copper Sky” a little while ago. I rather thought the point was that Socorro was a variant of the “heroic engineer taking their own action when those corporate rats wouldn’t listen about impending disaster”, with the corporates being fairly stereotypical in their refusal to listen, but that the ambiguity of who she was and whether she really needed to act was a comment on how that trope usually plays out.

    Hmm, I actually like that version of it more than the actual story, which was annoyingly distanced from events.

  32. Re: SF vs. Fantasy

    So, here’s a related question, just to complicate things a smidge. Where does superhero fiction fit in? Does it depend on the superhero, such that Wonder Woman is fantasy and Batman is SF? If so, what about Justice League stories that include both of them?

    I am tempted to stake a claim that supers fall under fantasy, simply because the science depicted doesn’t work like that… and thus, for the stories to work as told, there must be a “hidden” fantasy element at work. In other words, it’s all magic, but some of it looks science-ish.

    And then there’s steampunk… 😉

  33. Rev. Bob on October 23, 2015 at 2:52 am said:

    Re: SF vs. Fantasy

    So, here’s a related question, just to complicate things a smidge. Where does superhero fiction fit in?

    Oh, good point.
    It demonstrates that the boundary is a fractal one if it exists at all. Consider also the X-Files. In some episodes the premise is the that spooky aliens are real (SF) and in other spooky ghosts are real (fantasy/horror) – so what is the X-files overall?
    Superheroes can exist in a shared universe but some are more supernatural/mythical (Thor, Swamp Thing) and others more technological (Iron Man) but also the stories can cross over genres (X-Men stories featuring supernatural elements).
    Doctor Who overtly gate-crashes genres, as does Adventure Time.

  34. Superheroes I’d generally slot into the science fantasy spectrum, with some books leaning closer to the science fiction end and some books leaning close to the fantasy end.

  35. My personal definition of the difference between science and magic is that science is universal – anyone can learn to do it and operate the artifact. Magic requires some special innate ability and has chosen ones. So Star Wars is fantasy since Luke is uniquely strong in the Force.
    By this same criteria, Superman is fantasy, Batman is SF, and there is crossover comics as well.

  36. Mary Frances:

    I dunno. I think Pulley has an interesting point about fantasy world-building in general, in contrast to some sf world-building . . . worth exploring, maybe. […snip…] she doesn’t say that short fantasy with strong world-building is impossible (just difficult).

    I’ve just reread, and you’re right, she doesn’t. It was the “cannot” in the title and the talk of requirements that made it seem more forceful than I’d like.

    The thing that got up my nose was actually a secondary point she makes, equating fantasy with fairy tales. Now, I’m all for calling everything fantastika and being done with it, but she seems clearly to be talking about genre fantasy, and of a specific kind that is far more akin to historical fiction than to fairy-tale. (That might actually work better for her larger point, seeing as how historical novels trend large.)

    I have some issues with her idea that fantasy has to build things up brick by brick. Some authors might, and not show it to you, some might have unexplained magic and that not be a bad thing. This seems like a really narrow definition of fantasy (only the kind that gives you a backstory and a logic).

    I’m not sure about short fantasy, but the holeyness of my memory and the distance of my shelves won’t let me point to examples. But, as you point out, there was a time when books weren’t huge, and some (a lot) of sf has to do just as much worldbuilding. Even leaving aside the get-off-my-lawn argument, there are still, here and there books that actually finish.

    I do love long series, sprawling ones, even; I wasn’t taking issue with her defending them, just with the notion that they’re somehow unavoidable.

    They exist, but too many of them seem to rely on conventions of fantasy rather than independent world-building.

    But all genres rely on conventions of the genre, even lit-fic.

    Besides, if your counter-argument is Le Guin, I counter-counter: Le Guin does everything brilliantly. That she makes it look easy doesn’t mean it isn’t difficult!

    True dat! I was thinking of Tombs of Atuan, which is so perfect and makes such a complicated world, and is so slim, comparatively. And I’m sure her short fiction could be marshalled into this somehow, although all the examples I’m coming up with are sf.

    But I like the thought of a whole debate made up of people saying “Le Guin”, “No, Le Guin”, and “But, Le Guin!”

  37. Meredith on October 22, 2015 at 8:00 pm said:
    Even from the (twisted) perspective that Sriduangkaew is the victim and everyone else are the harassers, celebrating the death of someone’s partner goes beyond healthy schadenfreude. Way beyond.

    Eli on October 22, 2015 at 9:28 pm said:
    @Meredith, I’m not really surprised by anything she writes, but I have to wonder at this point what her friends/supporters make of it. For me, if that were someone I had been generally rooting for, I would at this point have to start thinking “What the hell is wrong with you?”

    No kidding. It says a lot about someone’s character that they would rejoice at a death and gloat about someone grieving it.

    If a friend of mine did that I would be very worried about them.

  38. Baen – I have to admire them in a business sense, they seem to be the only publisher that sells a substantial number of books from its website.

  39. Susana: The thing that got up my nose was actually a secondary point she makes, equating fantasy with fairy tales.

    Huh. Did Pulley equate fairy tales with fantasy? I’ll have to go check–don’t have time right now–because even as a secondary point and for the record: I emphatically disagree with that. Even fantasies that are “retold fairy tales” are not the equivalent of fairy tales, in my opinion; the author has to put some hard work into the transformation, and a considerable part of that hard work is in fleshing out the world of the fairy tale so that it makes sense. On the other hand, the author does sometimes get a kind of “assist” from the reader’s familiarity with the original tale . . . told you that that was a topic that fascinates me!

    But I like the thought of a whole debate made up of people saying “Le Guin”, “No, Le Guin”, and “But, Le Guin!”

    Me, too! Le Guin is sort of the exception that proves all sorts of rules, isn’t she. To witness: I also call as evidence contra-Pulley the incredible world-building in Le Guin’s sf, and the deft way she pulls it off in without going all Doorstop on her readers . . . even though she has a kind of a “shared universe” background, she pretty much starts from scratch on each individual world, in my opinion. And her completely alien, fictional worlds are as solidly realized as this one, to me . . .

  40. Mary Frances:

    Huh. Did Pulley equate fairy tales with fantasy?

    Ish. Here’s the relevant bit: “At its heart, high fantasy is what happens when a fairytale-style plot is sufficiently elaborated upon. The magic is explained and systematised; where a fairytale says, “there was once a witch”, fantasy explores what witches are and where they come from, how they live, the culture of witchcraft. It builds its reasoning from the ground up, brick by brick.”
    Aside from the fact that I think this definition excludes Tolkien, I don’t think most high fantasy plots are fairytale-style.

    [Le Guin] And her completely alien, fictional worlds are as solidly realized as this one, to me . . .

    Yes!

  41. @emgrasso:

    Also a Boulderite, and also going to MileHiCon this weekend.

    Woot! MiniFilerCon! I’ll try to keep an eye on this thread in case you want to meet up. (For recognition purposes, I look rather like the picture on my website, only my hair will be braided.)

  42. One thing that worries me about the normalising/transformative thing is that both seem to apply only to optimistic works. ‘Normality has been restored: this is good!’ ‘The world has been transformed: this is good!’. But dystopias are widely seen as SF, and grimdark as fantasy; defining the terms by world-view rather than by subject-matter or setting seems to leave out an enormous amount that would normally be seen as falling under them.

    There may be a difference between SF and fantasy here, because SF as a conscious genre arises out of a specific movement, and while I think the genre has expanded to include all sorts of other things, the original promoters of it may indeed have been moved by this transformative ideal. But fantasy has always been something much wider than that; I think it can only be identified with a particular ideal if it’s limited to Tolkien and his imitators. (Even if we stick to other-worldly and mediaeval-ish stuff, there’s Dunsany and Mirrlees and Cabell and Peake and…, who I don’t think fit that description.)

    As for the ‘extrapolation of current science’ idea, since that excludes FTL, it would mean that the Ancillary series isn’t SF, which I find very implausible. Some people do adopt extremely restrictive definitions of SF, but if they follow them consistently they often end up concluding that hardly anything is SF. Of course any definition will produce weird edge-cases, and they will often be the most interesting works, but I think a useful definition should allow most of what is normally known and sold as SF to be such.

  43. I’m partially through Sorcerer of the Wildeeps; so far, it reminds me of Delany’s fantasy works. Dense use of language, implying a deeply imagined world without elucidating every detail. In a sense, the reader is a collaborator on the book, because I find myself constructing (and sometimes deconstructing) the world of the book in my head as I encounter additional clues and references. I’m not sure, tho’, that MY interpretation of that world would be the same as that of other readers. It also reminds me somewhat of working out a fairly difficult crossword puzzle.

    I also recently purchased, after reading several sample chapters, THROUGH THE BAMBOO by Mack Green. This is something that might not show up on the radar of most SF/Fantasy readers, because the marketing for it presents it as a Vietnam War novel. Yes, it is a Vietnam novel… but with ghosts and spirits. The sample chapters were spooky and weird enough, and written well enough, that I paid more than I usually do for an e-book. ($4.99 at Amazon; oddly, the ebook is $8.99 at B&N.)

  44. Rev. Bob on October 23, 2015 at 2:52 am said:

    So, here’s a related question, just to complicate things a smidge. Where does superhero fiction fit in?

    I would say it’s a fairly specific type of fantasy, which has many SF elements. Steampunk, same thing.

    @Susana

    Here’s the relevant bit: “At its heart, high fantasy is what happens when a fairytale-style plot is sufficiently elaborated upon. The magic is explained and systematised; where a fairytale says, “there was once a witch”, fantasy explores what witches are and where they come from, how they live, the culture of witchcraft. It builds its reasoning from the ground up, brick by brick.”
    Aside from the fact that I think this definition excludes Tolkien, I don’t think most high fantasy plots are fairytale-style.

    I agree with you (and disagree with the original essayist.) I think she’s not bothering to make a distinction between myth and fairytale, which is a problem, because while fairytales are myths, myths are not necessarily fairytales. High fantasy is very inspired by EPIC myths of the past, things like Homer, or the Arthurian legends. Fairytales do not have a huge scope — they’re not “the tale of the Trojan War” or “the tale of the Crusades,” they’re “the tale of the Miller’s Daughter.”

    I also think that, while she’s right that fairytales will just tell you “there was a witch” and modern fantasies will get into things like where witches come from, that’s a difference between modern fiction, ALL genres, and ancient tales. Ancient tales are notoriously lacking in things that modern readers take for granted, like “emotional inner lives of characters such that their motivations are established and their actions make sense in light of their motivations.” People in ancient tales just kind of… do things. It’s weirdly arbitrary a lot of the time.

    And, finally, I disagree with her about the connection between worldbuilding and length. The length of Lord of the Rings or the Song of Ice and Fire series is because of their epic scope — they’re following the “tale of the Trojan War” model — not because of any worldbuilding requirements.

  45. McJulie:

    Triple yes on ancient vs contemporary.

    And, finally, I disagree with her about the connection between worldbuilding and length. The length of Lord of the Rings or the Song of Ice and Fire series is because of their epic scope — they’re following the “tale of the Trojan War” model — not because of any worldbuilding requirements.

    Exactly, they’re story requirements. In fact, when a book gets shaped by its worldbuilding/backstory requirements, it’s usually to the detriment of story.

    I mean, I love the Silmarillion, but, as a novel, it would be terrible.

  46. Wow. So, this is a great afternoon for the car to crap out on me.

    I’ll still make it down to Mile Hi Con (yayyyyy AAA) but not in time for the 2:00 programming. Alas, I was looking forward to Fantasy Pictionary!

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