Pixel Scroll 10/25/17 Blue, Blue Pixels Behind The Stars, Yellow Scroll On The Rise

(1) TRAINING WHEELS. Travel from Chicago to next year’s San Jose Worldcon as part of Traincon 4. The organizers now have a FaceBook page.  Here’s the URL.

Janice Murphy forwarded the basic info posted by Bill Thomasson, saying the cost is around $400 one way.

We’ll be taking sleeper cars as a group To Worldcon 76 From Chicago’s Union Station.  We’ll be riding Amtrak to San Jose and back via the Chief, the Zephyr and the Coastal, but that means we have to reserve roomettes as a group for the discount, and we have to do it before November 21 — THIS year.  Roomettes have two beds, two person occupancy. A note on the down payment from Bill:

“I am asking everybody who signs up to pay me the basic fare up front. For the outbound trip that is $214.20 for adults and $202.30 for seniors (62+). For the return trip, it is $171 for adults and $161.50 for seniors. As previously mentioned, Amtrak’s roomette prices go up as you add more rooms, so the average price — which is what Traincon members will be asked to pay — will depend on the number we ultimately take. This won’t be known until the final payment is made, so I won’t be asking for roomette payment until then.”

Janice Murphy adds this pitch:

True, you could fly for less BUT — ALL meals are included with the fare, plus Amtrak has a VERY liberal luggage policy.  No need to mail those signed books home from the Convention.  You can take an empty suitcase out and bring it back filled with memories.

Frankly, this is about as close as some of us are going to get to traveling cross-continent on a train, and I’m not going to miss it.

We’ve got enough folks going out to make the sleeper reservations, though there is room for more so we are encouraging folks to get on board.  We definitely need more folks to take the trains back to Chicago in order to meet the minimum 15 bodies.

…So the thing is, if you would like to take advantage of the fact that you can have a couple of large bags to haul stuff back from the Con, just taking the trip back would be a hell of a lot of fun.

Because it’s a convention on the rails.

(2) THE ROAD TO LUNA. Newsweek says “India Is Going to Beat Us Back to the Moon—Here’s Their Plan”. And the India Space Research Organization (ISRO) is going to do it for less than a billion dollars. However, it’s not a manned mission.

And without an atmosphere on the Moon to keep the dust in check, it gets everywhere. So a key piece of Chandrayaan-2’s mission is to study the force that moves the dust around, an envelope of highly charged particles circling the Moon’s surface. Other tasks include taking the Moon’s temperature near its poles. The mission is also developing a new way to land more softly on the Moon’s surface. The entire project is supposed to cost just $93 million. Yes, with an M.

Although many Americans likely don’t think of India as a spacefaring nation since it doesn’t take part in the International Space Station, ISRO was established in 1969, less than a month after the first astronauts walked on the Moon.

(3) CHEKHOV’S LGBTQ. (A phrase invented here, by the way.) Chuck Wendig unpacks why “Not Being Inclusive Is Also A Political Choice” at Terrible Minds.

My response was:

  1. everything is forced in a story because they’re not magic
  2. stories are not a natural state and so nothing occurs naturally within them, nor can they “call for” anything
  3. inclusivity is part of good storytelling
  4. not being inclusive is also a political choice

This person deleted his tweet and went on to clarify that he in fact totally supported a pairing like, say, Finn/Poe, but he wanted it to have a purpose in the story and not simply be included for political purposes. Abstractly, what he’s saying is, he’s not a bigot, not a homophobe, he just cares about storytelling. Which is fine, in theory, and I’m not suggesting this person is worthy of excoriation. I’m sure he means well. But I think it’s really worth shining a big, bright-ass light on this, because I think there’s a soft, unacknowledged prejudice at work.

It assumes that there exists a default in storytelling — and that default is one way, and not the other. The default is straight relationships, or cisgendered characters, or able-bodied white dudes, or whatever. One of the criticisms Aftermath received was this very special kind of softball phobia, right? “I don’t mind LGBT characters, but these were forced into the narrative for a political agenda,” assuming that the characters are somehow not characters at all, but rather protest signs or billboards advertising THE WONDERS OF GAYNESS or THE FABULOSITY OF THE NON-BINARY SPACE PIRATE LIFE. The complaint then becomes that these characters are political levers, identified as such because their natures (be it LGBT characters like Sinjir Rath Velus and Eleodie Maracavanya, or a character of color like Admiral Rae Sloane, or women characters like Norra Wexley and Jas Emari) do not somehow factor into the plot. Like, Sinjir’s homosexuality is not a plot point. He doesn’t shoot gayness out of his eyes to blow up the Third Death Star, oh no, he’s only there as a commercial for GAY PEOPLE EXISTING.

(4) WHERE THE MERCURY’S HIGHEST. Look for the launch of the ‘Orson Welles on the Air’ website at Indiana University tomorrow.

Indiana University will launch its highly anticipated new website, Orson Welles on the Air: Radio Recordings and Scripts, 1938-1946, on Thursday evening, October 26, at  https://orsonwelles.indiana.edu/

The university is very excited to finally be sharing the new audio files with the world, said Erika Dowell, Associate Director & Curator of Modern Books and Manuscripts at Lilly Library.

… In May 2016, Indiana University Libraries announced receipt of a $25,000 grant from the National Recording Preservation Foundation, which would be used to preserve original Welles recordings and establish a website where users could stream audio, search Welles’ radio scripts and access expert commentary on the broadcasts.

Mike Casey, the university’s director of technical operations for the Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative, has said the grant would be used toward the preservation of 324 master sound recordings in the form of lacquer discs and about 100 accompanying paper scripts. The script pages show tangible evidence of Welles’ creative process in their dramatic deletions and seemingly last-minute rewrites.

(5) SCIENCE’S COMPATABILITY WITH POETRY. SPECPO, blog of the SF and Fantasy Poetry Association, brings us “Atoms and Imagination: An Interview with Magdalena Ball”.

Some people think themes of science don’t go well with poetry, but you’ve written several books demonstrating a tremendous intersection between these and the imagination, including Sublime Planet, Repulsion Thrust, and Quark Soup. How do you explain your approach to poetics to others surprised at these possibilities?

I’ve always been poetically charged by science – even as a child (and I’m afraid I spent rather too much time in the Haydn Planetarium).  It’s probably as much due to my lack of mathematical capability as to anything else.  I’m able, for example, to look at a formula – let’s say Euler’s Prime, and see the visual beauty without having a clue how it’s applied or what might be created from it.  I can read about the collision of two neutron stars (!), and feel like something is opening up in me – a sense of possibilities and ways of seeing and perceiving and exploring both human emotion and the broadest picture of what we’re all made of, without being able to map the process in any experimental sense.  So it’s possible that my poetry is a kind of limitation spurred by not quite understanding.  That said, I do feel that all science is spurred on by not quite understanding and that many hypotheses have their basis in poetic wonderment.  I wrote about 10 poems through my reading of A Brief History of Time.  I usually get at least one poem from each issue of New Scientist.  I mean, and again, this is partly just my ignorance and playing with the semantics rather than accurate meanings of words, but how exciting and visceral is the idea of quarks having “flavours” (just one example).

(6) REDROBE. Sci-Fi Design would love to sell you one of these “Star Trek TNG Robes”. Are people brave enough to order the red ones?)

Step out of the shower and into the future when you wear this Star Trek TNG Robe. That way you can go straight from the shower and onto the bridge and not look too out of place. You can choose Blue (Science), Gold (Operations), or Red (Command). These robes are super soft and comfy and no worries, they are Starfleet regulation, I’m sure.

(7) LEACH OBIT. Rosemary Leach (1935-2017): British actress; died 21 October, aged 81. Genre appearances include Worlds Beyond (one episode, 1987), The Tomorrow People (five episodes, 1995), Chiller (one episode, 1995), Frighteners (one episode, 1997), Afterlife (one episode, 2005), The Great Ghost Rescue (2011), May I Kill U? (2012). Received the 1983 ‘best actress’ Olivier Award for her performance in ’84 Charing Cross Road’.

(8) COMICS SECTION

  • JJ finds that ancient puns are the best ones.

(9) THERE WILL BE A QUIZ. According to Motherboard, “The Most Scientifically Accurate Animation of a Sperm Cell Is in a ‘Star Wars’ Parody”.

As detailed in a paper published today in ACS Nano, Don Ingber and Charles Reilly, the founding director and a staff microbiologist at the Wyss Institute, respectively, teamed up to create a scientific animated short film called The Beginning. The film details the journey of a sperm cell to an egg, framed as a parody of Star Wars. While this might sound like the recipe for a trying-too-hard-to-connect-to-the-kids cutaway in a middle school sex education video, it actually led to a scientific discovery. In this case, it showed how energy is distributed through a sperm cell at the molecular level to propel the cell toward an egg.

 

(10) ALL GLORY IS FLEETING. Editors at Vox Day’s Infogalactic are continually at work reshaping the mirrored Wikipedia content – or making up for its absence. For example, Wikipedia has no article about Jon Del Arroz, but Infogalactic does. The only flaw is that the article’s link to JDA’s entry on the Internet Speculative Fiction Database takes you to John C. Wright’s entry instead.

Here’s a copy of the article at the Internet Archive — https://web.archive.org/web/20171025183844/https://infogalactic.com/info/Jon_Del_Arroz

(11) GIVES ME GAS. Atlas Obscura runs down “The Brief, Wondrous, High-Flying Era of Zeppelin Dining”.  S.M. Stirling’s Peshawar Lancers also has a nice riff on this.

Zeppelins flew so much lower than modern planes do that they did not have the same cold, dry, pressurized cabin air that dulls taste and smell today. Airship food would therefore have been much more flavorful than what we eat aloft today — even if the menu didn’t include fattened duckling with champagne cabbage. No expense was spared. In The Great Dirigibles: Their Triumphs and Disasters, John Toland describes the Hindenburg’s larder: turkeys, live lobsters, gallons of ice-cream, crates of all kinds of fruits, cases of American whiskey, and hundreds of bottles of German beer. The Graf Zeppelin allowed for 7.5 pounds of victuals per passenger, per day, whether fresh or in specially prepared cans, with labels hand-affixed by the chef’s sister.

(12) SO LET IT BE WRITTEN. Beyond embedded ID: “How a graphene tattoo could monitor your health” (BBC video).

A graphene-based tattoo that could function as a wearable electronic device to monitor health has been developed at the University of Texas.

Gold is often used in electronic components, but graphene is more conductive, can be hundreds of times thinner and allows the tattoo to wrinkle naturally with skin.

It is hoped that as the cost of graphene falls, such tattoos will become affordable for medical use.

(13) IT’S SUPPOSED TO PAY TO BE A GENIUS. Collection craze: “Albert Einstein’s happiness note sold for $1.6m”.

Einstein gave the note to a courier in Tokyo in 1922 instead of a tip.

He had just heard that he had won the coveted Nobel prize for physics and told the messenger that, if he was lucky, the notes would become valuable.

Einstein suggested in the note that achieving a long-dreamt goal did not necessarily guarantee happiness.

The German-born physicist had won the Nobel and was in Japan on a lecture tour.

When the courier came to his room to make a delivery, he did not have any money to reward him.

(14) MAGIC DIRT. Using satellites to search for rare-earth elements: “An eco-friendly wat to make smartphones”.

A team of researchers at Cambridge may have found a safer way to extract rare earth elements (REEs) – the vital material in our smartphones – that could end up saving the planet.

When you think about where your smartphone comes from, the first thing that comes to mind is normally the shop that you bought it from, the stranger who sold it to you online, or maybe even the lovingly wrapped present you received from a doting relative last year.

But in tech terms, that’s the equivalent of thinking that you came into the world because a stork flew to your parents’ house and delivered you straight to their door. The reality is a lot more complicated.

The truth is that the fundamental material your smartphone is made of probably came from one mine in China. The Bayan Obo mine produces more than 95% of the world’s rare earth elements; the uniquely multivalent metals that make your phone ‘smart’. Lanthanum, for example, gives smartphone screens their smoothness and colour pop; neodymium’s super-high magnetism puts microphones, speakers and vibration units all in the palm of our hands. But to have such a luxury has come at a heavy environmental cost.

(15) STOP WASTING TIME. “Neil deGrasse Tyson’s new viral video is straight-up scientific fire.” The video is on Facebook here.

Most of all, though, Tyson is done — completely and utterly done — messing around when it comes to people who don’t take science seriously.

There are solutions. Take climate change, for instance. We could fight climate change with a carbon tax, or increased regulations, or more nuclear power plants, or solar energy plants. Heck, we could do all of the above! But nooooo, instead we have a Congress that literally throws snowballs around.

You can just hear in his voice how sick and tired he is of it.

“Every minute one is in denial, you are delaying the political solution that should have been established years ago,” says Tyson.

(16) THE HORROR. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog wants to add a few books to your TBR pile: “10 Hair-Raising Horror Novels Not Written by Stephen King”.

Every October, blogs near and far give the horror genre a bit of extra love, and that’s fantastic—but one can get the impression the genre suffered an unceremonious death two decades back as one list after another trots out the same (undeniably worthy) names. Sure, Stoker, Shelly, Shirley Jackson, and Lovecraft’s books are considered classics for a reason. And no, you can never go wrong with Peter Straub’s Ghost Story, or William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist, or Stephen King’s [insert ’80s King novel here].

But as times change, so too do the things that unsettle us. Horror is all about readers taking an unflinching look into a dark reflection of the world around them. These 10 contemporary horror novels offer a great introduction to a genre that’s never truly left us—and find more terrifying reads on our list of 2016’s best horror novels.

First on their list —

Occultation, by Laird Barron Technically, Occultation is not a novel, but a short story collection. Before you head for the hills, know that this is widely considered one of the best horror collections since Clive Barker’s Books of Blood. Barron is a modern master of the New Weird genre and plays with the best bits of Lovecraft’s mythos: dark, cosmic forces punching their way into our reality and reminding humans just how puny they are. An Alaskan native, Barron infuses many of his stories—like the award-winning “Mysterium Tremendum”—with wilderness settings that host profound dangers, bone-deep isolation, and an inevitable violence that blots out even the smallest spark of certainty or hope. It’s heady, horrible, and a voice that’s oft-imitated by less skilled storytellers.

(17) BACK SO SOON? The Beyond Official Trailer. The movie is coming January 9, 2018.

Set in 2019, The Beyond chronicles the groundbreaking mission which sent astronauts – modified with advanced robotics, through a newly discovered wormhole known as the Void. When the mission returns unexpectedly, the space agency races to discover what the astronauts encountered on their first of its kind interstellar space journey.

 

(18) ARM’S LENGTH TRANSACTION. Could it be…bad breath? The Verge warns, “Radius starts with an unbeatable science fantasy premise, then gets weird”.

And then along comes something unheralded, under-the-radar, and authentically strange, like the Canadian movie Radius. Suddenly the audience is on a fast-paced trip into the unknown, with no idea where this premise could possibly lead. And Radius, the latest collaboration between married writer-director team Caroline Labrèche and Steeve Léonard, does start with an unbeatable premise that feels like a solid Stephen King horror story. A man wakes up in a wrecked truck and goes looking for help. His memory is completely gone. He can’t even remember his name. And slowly, he starts to realize that anything that comes within a certain radius of him — animals or people — instantly drops dead….

Radius will have a limited theatrical release on November 9th, and will appear on VOD services and Netflix on the same day.

 

(19) WINDOWS. Adweek comments on a PSA that, coincidentally, shows lots off SJW credentials — “See What’s Hiding in This Video About Putting Your Damn Phone Down”.

How do you get 18- to 24-year-olds to put their phones down while driving? Maybe not with the supernatural. But who doesn’t love cats and music?

For the Department of Transport, London agency AMV BBDO created “Pink Kittens.” Directed by We Are From LA, it feels more like a pop-oriented lifestyle shoot than a public service announcement.

At its start, a busy city scene scrolls by from a driver’s perspective (assuming you’re looking out your side window … which, incidentally, is another thing you shouldn’t really be doing).

Then comes the question: Did you see the pink kitten? Look again.

 

(20) FLEET SCHOOL SERIES. Orson Scott Card returns to the Enderverse in his new Fleet School series. The first book, Children of the Fleet, came out October 10.

Children of the Fleet is a new angle on Card’s bestselling series, telling the story of the Fleet in space, parallel to the story on Earth told in the Ender’s Shadow series.

Ender Wiggin won the Third Formic war, ending the alien threat to Earth. Afterwards, all the terraformed Formic worlds were open to settlement by humans, and the International Fleet became the arm of the Ministry of Colonization, run by Hirum Graff. MinCol now runs Fleet School on the old Battle School station, and still recruits very smart kids to train as leaders of colony ships, and colonies.

Dabeet Ochoa is a very smart kid. Top of his class in every school. But he doesn’t think he has a chance at Fleet School, because he has no connections to the Fleet. That he knows of. At least until the day that Colonel Graff arrives at his school for an interview.

(21) THE MAITRE’D RECOMMENDS. This year’s Hugo Administrator Nicholas Whyte feels enough time has passed that it’s safe for him to tell us where he ranked “The 2017 Hugo Best Novel finalists” on his own ballot. Hmmm. So he voted the winner in practically last place? Talk about marching to the beat of a different drummer! However, there certainly wasn’t anything wrong with his first-place choice —

My first vote went very clearly to All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders. Second paragraph of third chapter:

The first week of school, Patricia smuggled an oak leaf in her skirt pocket—the nearest thing she had to a talisman, which she touched until it broke into crumbs. All through Math and English, her two classes with views of the east, she watched the stub of forest. And wished she could escape there and go fulfill her destiny as a witch, instead of sitting and memorizing old speeches by Rutherford B. Hayes. Her skin crawled under her brand-new training bra, stiff sweater, and school jumper, while around her kids texted and chattered: Is Casey Hamilton going to ask Traci Burt out? Who tried what over the summer? Patricia rocked her chair up and down, up and down, until it struck the floor with a clang that startled everyone at her group table.

I really loved this from the first chapter on, a sort of Jo Walton / Neil Gaiman mashup which really worked for me. It was the first of the Hugo finalists that I got (I was given an ARC in late 2015) but in fact the last that I read. Interestingly it has by far the most owners on both Goodreads and LibraryThing, but also the lowest ratings on both. It missed winning the award by 43 votes, the second closest of any result on the night, and won second place.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Steve Green, Martin Morse Wooster, Janice Murphy, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson, who will be along shortly to explain it.]

150 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 10/25/17 Blue, Blue Pixels Behind The Stars, Yellow Scroll On The Rise

  1. My experience of OSC in ALL his series is that he writes an excellent first book or two, maybe three if he pushes hard enough… then peters out. He sometimes manages to save a setting by starting an entirely new series (Ender’s Shadow was reportedly an improvement over Children of the Mind, though I didn’t care enough to read that series). Based on that, this might be a good book.

    I don’t care enough to read it. I haven’t even gotten properly through the Stone Sky, my reading time has been so curtailed.

  2. On Amazon Key: Someone pointed out this could be a boon to shut ins for physical health reasons (Age or otherwise), especially if they live in relatively safe areas.

    For me, I can pick up my packages elsewhere if you can’t fit them between the doors.

  3. The Amazon Key discussion brings to mind a story….

    Back a few years ago, I was working security at a big, brand-new office/shopping complex. Besides the roving security officers, one officer was assigned to the room where the monitors for the complex’s camera system were. The place had 150 cameras, many maneuverable and zoom-enabled, so there were very few blind spots. The officers would rotate between street duty and monitor duty every few hours, because sticking to just one or the other got really, really boring after awhile, especially on graveyard shift like I worked.

    One night, the other graveyard shift officer called in sick, and no one was available to cover his shift. This had been a continuing point of contention between the security director and the operations manager of the complex. (“I need to hire another one or two people to have some leeway for sick calls and vacations.” “No.”) I called the director, and was instructed to stay in the monitor room all night, using the cameras to keep an eye on everything.

    This happened to be just a few days after an Apple Store had opened in the complex, and it was the first night when they brought in a cleaning crew to mop and wax floors, etc. Besides the cleaning crew, Apple also hired a private security guard to oversee the cleaners (who were all, y’know, kinda brown in hue; can’t trust “those people”!) and prevent any thievery.

    About 3 AM, I was getting REALLY bored in the monitor room, when I noticed Apple’s security guard had left the Apple store and was walking down the main street towards the parking garage.

    “Must be taking a break or grabbing a bite to eat,” I thought. I was still pretty new at using the camera system, so I decided to follow the guy for practice, and for a break in the monotony.

    I used the cameras to follow him down the street, into the parking garage, up to the second level, and over to his car, where he opened the trunk, and then…

    …he looks carefully around to the right, and then carefully around to the left…

    …and then he starts pulling packages out of his shirt and putting them into the trunk.

    Yep, the guy hired to prevent thievery turned out to be a thief.

    There wasn’t a security officer to do anything in person about it, soI called the security director to ask if I should notify police about what the cameras had seen. Because the cameras weren’t quite good enough to positively identify the packages in the guy’s shirt were actual Apple products, he said no, but the Apple Store manager was notified as soon as he came in later that morning, and a copy of the cameras’ footage was given to the security company the guy worked for.

    (The sad consequence of this story was that the security director, who was a heck of a good guy, lost his job for it. “I told you there’d be problems if more people weren’t hired.” “You’re fired. Box up any personal belongings from your desk and be off-property in fifteen minutes.”)

    (The operations manager there, Fred, had a hair-trigger temper and a loud voice, and it wasn’t the first time he’d fired people without warning. I think I may have been the only employee there who never got shouted or screamed at, though there were a few times when Death Rays From Planet Fred were sent in my direction; Fred gave good glare. The good news is that the fired security director eventually got a better position as Head of Security at the swanky Arizona Biltmore hotel/resort.)

  4. Lenora Rose on October 26, 2017 at 12:17 pm said:

    My experience of OSC in ALL his series is that he writes an excellent first book or two, maybe three if he pushes hard enough… then peters out. He sometimes manages to save a setting by starting an entirely new series (Ender’s Shadow was reportedly an improvement over Children of the Mind, though I didn’t care enough to read that series)

    That’s been my experience as well. Ender’s Shadow was good but just like everything else that series nosedives as it goes along. If you didn’t go on after Children of the Mind you totally missed out on War of the Gifts, which is pretty much the Enderverse’s ‘A Star Wars Holiday Special’. Homecoming’s latter books crapped the bed and Alvin Maker he just abandoned, which I’m still angry at because even if it was heavy on certain religious themes and got progressively less interesting as a story I would’ve like a conclusion to it.

  5. Re: bad Amazon delivery — yeah, we get UPS and Fedex packages at work all the time, both for business and personal stuff for the employees (it helps that it’s a small family-owned business). Last month, during regular business hours when all the doors were unlocked and plenty of employees were onsite, an employee came back from lunch with a bemused look on her face and a package in her hand. “This was in the middle of the parking lot,” she said. It was a package I’d been waiting for from Amazon. Apparently, they’d driven into the parking lot, placed or tossed the package onto the ground kinda near the door, and driven away. (Fortunately, the package contents were not fragile and weren’t damaged by being tossed. Or driven over, which would have been Very Bad for the contents.)

    Ten minutes later the regular UPS guy came by and I mentioned the incident to him. “Yeah, I hear that a lot. People keep asking me can I deliver the Amazon stuff so they’ll get it..”

  6. If you didn’t go on after Children of the Mind you totally missed out on War of the Gifts, which is pretty much the Enderverse’s ‘A Star Wars Holiday Special’.

    Just two days ago I described War of the Gifts as “A Very Special Christmas Episode.” It was the point I stopped bothering to read the books (which are apparently planned up to volume 793, or thereabouts.)

  7. So OSC is kind of like ERB, then, in that most of Burroughs’ series tended to flag. Although Burroughs generally got further before the inflection point — 8/11 Barsoom books, maybe 14-15/24 for Tarzan, 3/7 for Pellucidar, maybe 1-2/5 for Venus …

    And now I think I need to read the John Carter of Mars books again.

  8. NickPheas on October 26, 2017 at 2:01 am said:”A friend with a key and a deep lake.”

    I don’t like JDA or JCW but I am not okay with wishing them harm. Even as a joke.

  9. I read Ender’s Game, but though it was fascinating, there was this weird undertone of the author seeming to do his damndest (unconsciously or not) to try to minimize horrifying child abuse, giving the impression that the author had been abused himself and hadn’t quite dealt with it, instead trying to convince himself as well as his readers that such abuse is NBD and may be administered by fundamentally good people who mean everything for the best. It creeped me out sufficiently that I never read his fiction again. (This was long before I knew anything about OSC’s political opinions).

    I will say that his nonfiction work on creative writing was quite good, and even inspired me to write my only story I ever sold.

  10. @Andrew Porter/Jeff Smith:

    Sorry about the confusion; I don’t mean to impersonate Andrew Porter or any other Andrew – I just lack imagination regarding coming up with a good name to use here. I’ll work on that.

    @Chip Hitchcock – yeah, the “Stars My Destination” example may have influenced Niven.

    Have we done “Little Pixels on the hillScroll, little Pixels made of Tickyboxes…”

  11. On the TNG robes – Even though the color coding is correct for that series, they’re still way too bright. (TOS red was that bright a color, but the others were more muted.)

  12. Andrew Porter: BTW, the “Andrew” who posts here isn’t me.

    The other Andrew’s posts are quite different in tone and content from yours, and I doubt that many Filers are confused by the difference.

  13. jayn: I read Ender’s Game, but though it was fascinating, there was this weird undertone of the author seeming to do his damndest (unconsciously or not) to try to minimize horrifying child abuse, giving the impression that the author had been abused himself and hadn’t quite dealt with it, instead trying to convince himself as well as his readers that such abuse is NBD and may be administered by fundamentally good people who mean everything for the best. It creeped me out sufficiently that I never read his fiction again.

    I think that I actually did throw that book at the wall at least once while I was reading it (but not as hard as I wanted to, because it was from the library).

    Not only did I get the same impression as you, I was horrified by the fact that when Ender xvyyf gjb qvssrerag crbcyr, these incidents are portrayed as being justified and admirable. Even more horrifying is the fact the knowledge of this is hidden from him, so that he never has to psychologically deal with the consequences of what he’s done.

    Especially horrifying is that a huge number of fanboys seem to have latched onto Ender’s Game as their Mary Sue fantasy, where they get to see themselves as smarter and more competent than everyone else despite the stupid adults’ inability to recognize that, in addition to imagining themselves as getting revenge on other kids who’ve bullied them — and that none of these fans seems to recognize the abusive aspects of the book, or that Ender never has to know, much less face the consequences of, what he’s done.

    I will say that Speaker for the Dead is a much better book, and is worth reading. I remember a Filer mentioning that OSC said that EG was written to create the setup for SftD, which is the book that he wanted to write.

    I also took various Filers’ comments to heart and stopped after SftD, because the series apparently took a serious nosedive after that one.

  14. Re 1) traincon, the $400 is just the base fare. The roomette is separate, and quoted per room, meaning if you share you pay half the roomette fee.

  15. For those thinking of coming by train: The San Jose Amtrak station is also the light rail station, and it’s a short ride from the Amtrak station to Convention Center station, the most convenient stop to the San Jose Convention Center and most of the hotels. (It’s slightly closer to the Fairmont to ride one more stop down to Paseo de San Antonio.)

    I’ve taken the train cross-country to the Worldcon in Montreal and Chicago and the NASFiC in Detroit. The Chicago trip was an unplanned TrainCon, with something like six rooms of fans, most of us on the same sleeper. We spent a lot of time in the Sightseer Lounge car. (It was sort of like how my wife and I traveled on the same Baltic Sea ferry from Germany to Finland for Worldcon 75; most of the “walk on” (i.e. not driving on with their car) passengers were fans going to Worldcon.)

    If DC wins their Worldcon bid, I’m expecting to take the train. I should have enough Amtrak points from my credit card to make the trip. It will also let me collect at least one and probably two Amtrak routes I’ve never taken before. But probably not the Crescent because it would end up leading to the Sunset Limited and we discovered the hard way that my wife is allergic to South Texas on one train trip and a Worldcon in San Antonio.

  16. JJ and Jayne

    I actually thought the abuse of Ender was the point. I never thought that we were supposed to find the reveal at the end happy. I thought that we were supposed to be horror struck at how he had been used, and that one of the themes of the book was the loss of innocence in wartime, writ large because the individual who is only trying to survive a horrific war experience and somehow succeeds is discarded except when they want to trot him out for propaganda purposes. Granted, many of OSC’s fans want to think that battle school is a great experience but I never felt that this was OSC’s viewpoint. For the record, though, I’ve only read Speaker and heard part of another book’s audio version on late lamented Sirius Book Radio. If OSC has said something different in an interview, I never saw it.

  17. UPS has more or less been horrible in delivering packages here in Sweden. They fail to deliver, they come to my apartment while I’m at work, they can’t understand directions, they have their office out in the nowhere and demands that I should pick up my package there and so on. Some times I have been forced to have them send my packages to my work as I know there will always be someone at the reception, so they won’t have any excuse.

  18. @Andrew: Not to worry. Your name’s your name. People probably see me here and think, That doesn’t seem like something the guy who did Bone would say. And it isn’t.

  19. Chip Hitchcock on October 26, 2017 at 12:16 pm said:
    @techgrrl1972: If you can convince Amazon to use FedEx or UPS consistently, you can make arrangements to pick your stuff up at a UPS Store or FedEx/Kinko’s. Can that be done permanently? My experience with Oops is that I had to flag, en-route, each package that I wanted them to hold rather than try to deliver. Would addressing to a Staples-with-embedded-UPS work?

    From the UPS Store Website:
    Let Us Help Manage Your Mail and Package Receiving
    With our personalized Mail Boxes Etc.® services, you get package acceptance from all carriers, a real street address and email or text notification*. Plus, we’ll keep your packages secure until you’re ready to pick them up.
    * A street address, not a P.O. Box number
    Have your mail and packages delivered to your personalized mailbox at The UPS Store.
    * 24-hour access*
    Pick up your mail when it’s convenient for you. Your mail and packages stay-safe and confidential.
    *Package acceptance from all shipping carriers
    We accept packages from all carriers, so you’ll never miss a delivery.

    So it looks like you can set it up as a safe location to have ALL your packages delivered. I suspect FedEx/Kinko’s has something similar. Can’t speak to the UPS at the Staples, you should probably go ask them about it.

  20. I’ve had relatively few problems with Amazon delivery in the UK, except once when they thought it would be a good idea to throw a package over the fence and into the back garden. Fortunately it was just some new USB cables and universal adapters packaged in plastic, nothing that would break or be ruined by rainwater seeping through the cardboard. But as a result of that I pretty much exclusively use the pickup lockers in town now, whenever I’m back home.

  21. @SoonLee

    I don’t like JDA or JCW but I am not okay with wishing them harm. Even as a joke.

    Sorry if I seemed to be suggesting that I would be dropping them in the lake. I was only meaning the key. They’d get out sooner or later.

  22. When I get packages with regular mail, I walk around the corner to the grocery store and pick them up. When I get packages with UPS and similiar “fancy” delivery companies, I typically get a call from some poor driver standing outside my home while I’m at work. What happens from there varies – if I’m lucky they redirect it to my work adress and I get it there a day or two later, if I’m not lucky it takes a long time before I get the package. (My last purchase from Amazon took 3 1/2 day from California to my front door, and then it took 1 month before I got it. And in an ironic twist, it was finally delivered at work on a day I was home.)

    To make matters worse, international stores are unable to tell me which option they’ll use. Amazon uses both more or less randomly – back when I bought more paper books there an order for multiple books could arrive in two packages, one by mail and one with a delivery company.

  23. Joe H. on October 26, 2017 at 1:23 pm said: 8/11 Barsoom books
    I liked #9, Synthetic Men of Mars, more than the much earlier Thuvia, Maid of Mars.

    I am surprised to see that the books were written over such a long period, 1912 all the way to 1939 for Synthetic Men.

  24. techgrrl1972 on October 26, 2017 at 10:44 pm said:
    I’ve had a box at a “UPS Store” for years, and I’ve received via FedEx there, as well as USPS and UPS. They won’t ship via FedEx, though.

  25. @Andrew

    I sympathise with the common name problem, for obvious reasons.
    I’d suggest a distinctive gravatar – just sign up there with the same email you use here and it automagically works.

  26. Seconding “Mark-kitteh” above. Andrew, everyone here calls Mark “Mark kitteh” or “Mark-kitteh” or “Mark-kitty” because of his gravitar. He’s gotten Contributing Editor of the Day credits with that appellation… (And, yes, we asked and he’s fine with that nickname.)

  27. @Bruce Arthurs: the moral of that story is to put warnings in writing; ISTM that the director had grounds for a suit — or at least an argument for unemployment compensation (i.e., he was fired out of spite rather than for cause); the former would take a lot of energy, but the latter could be a lifeline (or not — I don’t know how unemployment coverage works outside of my home state). I’m also amused that your idiot had the same name as the legendary Brighton Metropole manager.

    @techgrrl1972: TFTI — but as I expected, the further details include

    How much does a mailbox agreement cost? Because all our locations are individually owned and operated, prices may vary. Contact your neighborhood location for pricing.

    i.e., I have to pay to get them not to leave the package where it can be taken. (Out of curiosity, I’ve emailed the closest place to see what the cost is.) What I’ve done when nervous is tell them to hold at the local distribution point (easier to get to than the nearest paid receivers), but that is per-piece and doesn’t always work. I suppose a box would be worthwhile if we got enough by mail….

    @Johan P: a call? I’m lucky to get a slip (and that only if the sender marked “signature required” and the driver doesn’t miss that mark). (Yes, uphill both ways in the snow….)

  28. I get my mail at a PO Box at my local post office. (Which among other things gets me out for a walk once a day — the PO is about 1 km from my house.) My US Post Office is one of those that has also implemented the ability to accept package delivery from UPS, FedEx, etc., by giving the street address of the building with the PO Box number after that. This is very helpful, as we buy a lot of things on eBay where the shipper will only send by UPS or FedEx.

  29. Chip Hitchcock on October 27, 2017 at 8:58 am said:
    @techgrrl1972: TFTI — but as I expected, the further details include
    How much does a mailbox agreement cost? Because all our locations are individually owned and operated, prices may vary. Contact your neighborhood location for pricing.

    i.e., I have to pay to get them not to leave the package where it can be taken.

    Well, yes. UPS Stores are actually NOT owned by UPS, but by a franchise owner, i.e. a small business owner. They are providing a service, after all. Don’t forget, they accept packages from ALL carriers, including FedEx, the USPS, and whoever Amazon is hiring this week. Also your U.S. Mail. The UPS Stores started life as Mailboxes, Etc. until UPS bought them and started expanding the franchises.

    Mailboxes, Etc. Started to allow small businesses to have a street address instead of a P.O. Box, thereby helping to create an image of a real, physical entity.

    So if you live in an insecure area or an apartment building with no security, and get a lot of packages from various sources, this might be a viable option for you.

  30. techgrrl1972 on October 27, 2017 at 11:36 am said:
    Also useful if you don’t want strangers showing up on your doorstep.
    I got mine originally because the apt management stopped accepting parcels, and kept it because it was far easier as a central mail collection point (especially when we got a manager who had a tendency to leave the office door open); I’ve moved twice while I’ve had the box, and it’s saved having to change addresses.

  31. @Chip Hitchcock

    I set up a FedEx account so I could specify a delivery location for my dad. It seems to work well. I can’t comment on UPS.

    @August

    If they were merely present in the world, playing no meaningful role in the story, and everything about them was about their being gay, that would be a problem for me.

    Careful. The reception when I have wandered in that direction has not been the best. I agree with where you are going on this.

    FWIW, some of the sex in some of Heinlein’s work definitely was just hung in there so he could write about sex rather than furthering the storyline.

    Regards,
    Dann

  32. @NickPheas,

    Sorry I misinterpreted your joke. (I can be overly sensitive)

    If hell is other people maybe JDA & JCW being locked in a room for a while might teach them to be better humans?

  33. Dann, what do you think of the example I gave upthread? I’ll repeat it:

    “The desk of the murder victim was cluttered with scattered papers; there was a “World’s Greatest Mom” coffee mug lying on its side, and the the small photo of her wife and young son had wicked up the spilled drink so that the bottom half was stained brown….”

    Does that fit August’s definition of “If they were merely present in the world, playing no meaningful role in the story, and everything about them was about their being gay, that would be a problem for me” as you understand it? Do you think that the mention of her wife is extraneous to the story and should not have been included?

  34. “If they were merely present in the world, playing no meaningful role in the story, and everything about them was about their being gay, that would be a problem for me.”

    It is a problem for me too sometimes. But of course, that also goes for monogamous and heterosexual relationships. A lot of sitcoms and movies are unwatchable because of that.

    I tried to rewatch Terry Gilliams Fisher King a few years back and got hopelessly irritated at the totally dysfunctional relationship between the main characters. It was obvious that they should stay the hell away from each other and I got really pissed off when they got back together at the end. They were just bad for each other.

    That is typical message fiction where the protagonists have to find each other at the end, even if it just a bad choice for them both.

  35. @Cassy B

    Please keep in mind that very rarely do I have an “oooo that’s icky I can’t read anymore” moment. Just like real life, these elements in a book occur on a scale. So a single instance such as the one you describe might ting the “checkbox” bell in my head. Or it might not. But in either case, a single “ting” doesn’t make or break a book for me. Far from it.

    Let me rewrite your passage a bit.

    “The desk of the murder victim was cluttered with scattered papers; there was a coffee mug lying on its side, and the small photo of her family had wicked up the spilled drink so that the bottom half was stained brown….”

    Here’s my question. Has my rewrite impacted the plot in any way? Does her family appear elsewhere in the story? Does the fact that she is a mom impact the story? Does the fact that she has a son instead of a daughter impact the story? Etc. Etc. I think you can see where I am going.

    A story that includes a lot of detail about the construction of a horse-drawn wagon when the characters mostly end up walking through underground caves rings the same sort of bell.

    Stack up enough issues in any book (i.e. misspelling, poor grammar, plot holes, diversity as a ficus*) and the book loses some traction with me.

    I deleted a longer bit extolling Peter V. Brett’s Demon Cycle Series. The last book in the series, The Core, just came out. He has a broad range of people in the series. The differences across the various ranges are integral to the plot. Plus his world building and storytelling are fantastic. The only drawback to The Core is that I own it in hardback. It is a bit of a doorstop and therefore my reading time is limited. Thus far, it is on track to be one of my nominees for 2017.

    Regards,
    Dann

    *ficus, not focus. My spellchecker is ill experienced with a certain range of vegetation.

  36. For me it’s simple: it shows that people other than Straight White People exist.

    Even if it serves no other purpose than that, it’s good enough for me.

  37. Dann, I like a little human detail about characters, to keep them from being all cardboard cutouts. Would it bother you the same way if the description read, “The desk of the murder victim was cluttered with scattered papers; there was a “World’s Greatest Mom” coffee mug lying on its side, and the the small photo of her husband and young son had wicked up the spilled drink so that the bottom half was stained brown….”? Would there be a checkbox for that?

    The fact she has a child is character-building. The fact she has a wife, and is open enough about it to have a photo of her family on her desk, is world-building. Now you know a little something about her society. If the photo had shown her wife and her husband and their son, you’d know something else about her society. If it had shown her sister-wives and her husband and their children, that would paint a different picture. If it had been her clone-sib, that would be still a different one. Or the nanny with her son. Or her husbands and their son. Or the gene-donor. Or….

    From such little details is a world built. Leaving such details out drains color out of the world, in my opinion.

  38. Why must everything in a book/movie/TV episode always impact the plot? Sometimes, a detail is just there to enrich the worldbuilding or deepen the character or to show that the world is not comprised solely of straight white people or just because the author thought it was cool. All these are excellent reasons, even if the detail in question does not directly impact the plot in any way.

    I know it’s fashionable these days to treat any extraneous details that don’t impact the plot as fat to be cut, but IMO this has made stories blander and more predictable. TV writing is particularly bad about this. Every line has to further the plot, so you know that the throwaway line about a wave of car thefts in the neighbourhood or the phone conversation in the background will eventually contribute to the solution and is probably the crucial clue that will unmask the killer.

    Besides, if you’ve ever read/watched a mystery, you know that the murder victim’s family will play a further roles, if only because the investigator will eventually interview them.

  39. @SoonLee

    I don’t like JDA or JCW but I am not okay with wishing them harm. Even as a joke.

    Who said anything about harm? As scum sucking bottom feeders, they should be right in their element…

  40. As someone in possession of a pretty well-filled diversity bingo card, I’m baffled at the idea that I might not be allowed to have stories where my tickies aren’t Relevant to the Plot. Not everything I do revolves around those things, and nor does everything that happens to me, but I still am those things while doing other stuff. It would be a bit weird to treat characters that way when real people don’t work that way (and I note that I have never seen someone complaining about diversity-without-plot-reasons also say that they don’t understand why a character’s straight-white-dude tickies were mentioned when they weren’t plot-relevant).

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a character who literally had no purpose except to briefly appear, be gay, and disappear with zero plot or worldbuilding or character relevance whatsoever, so I’m not sure why that would be a concern. Appearing-while-gay and then being plot relevant (but not gay-plot-relevant) isn’t really the same thing, and is perfectly fine and lovely because, well, real people appear-while-happening-to-be-gay without the gayness influencing anything in particular all the time. Why shouldn’t they be in stories?

    (I very much liked Cassy B’s examples of worldbuilding colour.)

  41. (12) SO LET IT BE WRITTEN

    As it happens, one of my goals in life is to look as much like a cyborg as possible via the medium of disability aids and medical tech, so needless to say I would really like one of these. Possibly several.

  42. @Jeff Smith/Mark:

    Thanks. I’ll think about an appropriate Gravatar. Work (and life) have been pretty crazy lately, so I’m just glad to take a few minutes every day and keep up with File770 (even if it’s just ticking the box, or making a pun).

  43. @Andrew

    Honestly, there’s a few of us who use our first names as the username, you don’t stand out as the Only Totally Unoriginal One. Gravatar is nice, though, and you don’t need to worry too much about what it is so long as you like it. I just took a photo of a bookshelf. 🙂

  44. @Meredith: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a character who literally had no purpose except to briefly appear, be gay, and disappear with zero plot or worldbuilding or character relevance whatsoever, so I’m not sure why that would be a concern.”

    There’s an officer early in Elizabeth Moon’s Hunting Party who comes pretty close. I remember being sufficiently thrown out of the story that I briefly thought, “Oh, okay, this book is lesbians in space.” It took me a chapter or two more to realize the book really was as it appeared, hetero characters except this one thumb sticking out.

    I mention this specifically because it is unusual. I can’t think of another example from a competent writer. Which is not a slam at Elizabeth Moon, by the way. I have three books by her, all very different from each other, and all at least very good. The Speed of Dark might be more than just good. I’ll have to re-read it someday soon.

  45. @JJ
    I know, right? When Raqre ybbxf ng uvf svefg nyernql qrsrngrq naq qbjarq ohyyl bccbarag naq pnyphyngvatyl qrpvqrf gb znxr qnza fher ur’f arire tbvat gb or obgurevat uvz ntnva ol xvpxvat uvz va uvf snpr – ner jr tbvat gb ERNYYL oryvrir guvf fhcretravhf VFA’G njner gung guvf pbhyq xvyy uvz, rira vs ur vf bayl fvk? Naq qbrf cerggl zhpu gur fnzr gb gur frpbaq qbjarq naq qrsrngrq ohyyl ol whzcvat ba uvf noqbzra naq xvpxvat uvz va gur pebgpu? Jura V ernq gung, V sryg vg jnf n qrcvpgvba bs gur nohfrq puvyq tebjvat gb nohfr – naq zheqre.
    Raqre, bs pbhefr, unf terng zvgvtngvat snpgbef sbe gur zheqref ur pbzzvggrq. Ur jnf na nohfrq puvyq pbagvahbhfyl ivpgvzvmrq ol nqhygf. Gebhoyr jnf, gur obbx frrzrq gb oraq bire onpxjneqf gb nibvq nffvtavat erny oynzr gb nal nohfre va vgf cntrf. Gur Pbybary vf n ivpvbhf zna jub frgf puvyqera gb xvyy rnpu bgure yvxr svtugvat pbpxf, naq oebbxf ab bccbfvgvba orpnhfr ur XABJF guvf vf gur bayl jnl ur pna trg n yrnqre jub pna qrsrng gur rarzl. (UBJ qbrf ur xabj? Unf ur rire genvarq n yrnqre pncnoyr bs fynlvat nggnpxvat rkgengreerfgevnyf orsber?) Gur Pbybary trgf gb rkcynva naq whfgvsl uvzfrys gung ur qvq vg nyy sbe gur tbbq bs gur Rnegu. Crgre, Raqre’f ubeevslvat oebgure, jub nohfrq Raqre haprnfvatyl naq yvgrenyyl gbegherf fdhveeryf sbe xvpxf naq tvttyrf – n grkgobbx ohqqvat cflpubcngu – tebjf hc gb nccneragyl or jryy ba gur jnl gb gnxvat bire cbyvgvpny yrnqrefuvc ba Rnegu. Raqre’f ernpgvba vf gb oynaqyl srry tynq gung Crgre’f tebja hc gb or n tbbq thl (ba ab terng rivqrapr) naq yrnir uvz gb vg. Naq Raqre uvzfrys vf qrcvpgrq nf fb shaqnzragnyyl vaabprag gung ur’f sbetvira gur trabpvqr bs gur nyvra enpr OL gur nyvra enpr ur urycrq rkgrezvangr, naq tvira gur bccbeghavgl gb fbbgur uvf pbafpvrapr ol urycvat gur enpr or erobea tbbq nf arj. Nohfvir cnerag ernyyl zrnag jryy, abobql ERNYYL qvq nalguvat jebat, rirelbar’f tbbq ng urneg…vg ubeevsvrq zr.

  46. @World Weary

    I actually thought the abuse of Ender was the point. I never thought that we were supposed to find the reveal at the end happy. I thought that we were supposed to be horror struck at how he had been used, and that one of the themes of the book was the loss of innocence in wartime, writ large because the individual who is only trying to survive a horrific war experience and somehow succeeds is discarded except when they want to trot him out for propaganda purposes. Granted, many of OSC’s fans want to think that battle school is a great experience but I never felt that this was OSC’s viewpoint. For the record, though, I’ve only read Speaker and heard part of another book’s audio version on late lamented Sirius Book Radio. If OSC has said something different in an interview, I never saw it.

    Really and truly, I do think he didn’t think the abuse he depicted was all that abusive. In this interview in Salon, he mentions that he based Ender’s treatment by his brother on the way his own brother had beaten and threatened him as a child, but then backpedaled hastily away from any suggestion by the interviewer that this was abusive.

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