Pixel Scroll 11/28/17 Peering Into The Scrolloscope, I Perceived The Pixels of Mars

(1) COLD TRUTH. Rudy Rucker was a Windycon 44 GoH – and he confesses what was going through his mind at the time.

…Despite the good moments, I did have a very strong flash of “What am I doing here?” when I awoke on each of my three mornings at the con. It’s usually like that. And then I feel guilty and ungrateful for tiring of these dear and all-too-human souls. This annual event is their source of joy, their gay holiday of fun and magic, and they look forward to it, and work on it, and plan for it, and make all the pieces come together, and I, the aloof interloper, I have grave doubts. So I’m a horrible person. What a payoff.

“Why can’t you just relax, Rudy?” says my wife’s voice in my head. “Be happy for them that they’re having fun. They’re touching. Love them.” Well, maybe my wife wouldn’t go that far. Maybe that’s Jesus’s voice, or the Buddha’s, or the White Light’s…

…Well, okay, I was nice to everyone except for a fellow panelist on a “What are your fave books? panel. It was all the GoHs on the panel: GoHs for science, art, videogames, writing, cosplay, and signing (in the sense of translating talks into sign language in real time).

The panelist sitting next to me wouldn’t shut up about some dipshit fantasy books, lavishing cliché praises upon them, trading heartfelt hosannahs with a another motor-mouthed fellow panelist, who claimed to be the “moderator.” And they get onto William Goldman’s Princess Bride (a fine work but, I would humbly submit, not the greatest novel ever written).

And I manage to break in and mention that Goldman wrote a good coming-of-age novel called The Temple of Gold and that it was, in a way, a bit like Catcher in the Rye. And the panelist next to me cries: “The Temple of Gold is SO much better than Catcher in the Rye!” And I’m like, “Well, they’re different.” And the panelist is like “No, Catcher in the Rye is whiny garbage!” And, without turning my head, I deliver what is, for me, the mild-mannered math prof / SF writer, a withering put-down. “And you’re an…English teacher? Hm.”

(2) SEEKING AUTHENTICITY. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna, in “How Pixar’s ‘Coco’ became a huge box-office hit”, looks at the ways that Disney/Pixar worked with Mexican consultants on Coco, which not only solved cultural sensitivity problems, but made for a better story.

The company was about two years into the making of “Coco” when it committed a significant PR blunder. For its marketing, Disney in 2013 applied to trademark “Día de los Muertos” — the Mexican holiday the movie centers on — sparking a backlash from prominent Latino voices.

Mexican American cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz (“La Cucaracha”) helped give image to the outcry. Alcaraz, who had tweeted that trying to brand the holiday came across as “awful and crass,” created the Mickey Mouse-spoofing cartoon “Muerto Mouse,” with the caption: “It’s coming to trademark your cultura.”

According to Jason Katz, the story supervisor on “Coco,” the backlash to the Southern California parent company’s trademark attempt was tough to take in the Bay Area, where Pixar’s Emeryville studio is located.

“Working at Pixar, you’re in a little bit of a bubble. We’re removed from the machine to a certain extent,” Katz told The Post’s Comic Riffs while in Washington. “[We were] trying to be as genuine and authentic as you can. It wasn’t something we were expecting. We were all just disappointed and sad.”

The incident, though, led to a realization. “We needed to make sure that even though we were reaching out to folks, we needed to make this movie differently than any other movie we’d made…”

(3) BY DESIGN. Ada Hoffman’s series of tweets begins with a swing at Rocket Stack Rank, but it’s also a thought experiment about building an sff review site:

Here’s one of her thoughts:

(4) EVERYONE’S A CRITIC (OR COULD BE). Likewise, Vajra Chandrasekera — critic, author, fiction editor at Strange Horizons, and one of this year’s Shadow Clarke jurors – blasts away at Rocket Stack Rank in a set of tweets you enter here. Apart from that, he is thought-provoking on the issue of awards-driven reviews and criticism.

(5) GONE GUY. New tech issues, new “solutions”: “Foiled! Electrician Used A Snack Bag As A Faraday Cage To Sneak Off The Job”.

For a while, Tom Colella had found his escape at the bottom of a bag of crunchy corn snacks. But it was not to last.

Earlier this month in western Australia, the Fair Work Commission, a workplace tribunal, found that the electrician — who was fired last year — had indeed been fired for good cause: He had been ditching work while on the clock, the commission concluded, and had hidden his whereabouts from his employer by MacGyvering a Faraday cage out of an empty bag of Twisties.

But let’s back up a step: A Faraday cage, named for 19th century scientist Michael Faraday, blocks electromagnetic fields. Faraday found that an enclosure — or, in this case, the foil-lined interior of the cheesy corn snack bag — can keep these charges out if there’s enough conductive material.

It appears Colella, 60, had slipped his company-mandated, GPS-enabled personal digital assistant into the bag to block the signals that enabled the device to track his movements.

(6) FROM CARD COUNTING TO GEIGER COUNTING. Another tech trick: “Berlin police find radioactive iodine on playing cards”.

Police raiding a Berlin restaurant have discovered playing cards which had been laced with a radioactive substance.

Detectives believe players could wear a hidden detector on their bodies allowing them to recognise certain cards, giving them an advantage.

The scheme was discovered when a routine check at a waste treatment facility uncovered an increased level of radioactivity in a rubbish truck.

Police managed to trace the vehicle to a restaurant in Berlin.

(7) CONSPIRACY THEORY? Visit Ingolstadt, “The birthplace of the Illuminati”.

The idea that clandestine Illuminati gatherings could be taking place in the small Bavarian city may seem far-fetched, but Ingolstadt does have a history of them. The city is the birthplace of the infamous secret society that has become part myth, part historical truth, and the foundation of countless conspiracy theories.

(8) GROUND SHORTAGE. “The buildings designed to house the dead” — Chip Hitchcock says, “Not exactly Silverberg’s urban monads, but a vertical solution to a different kind of population problem.”

In the last 50,000 years, it’s been estimated that around 101 billion people have lived and died on planet Earth. Like it or not, everyone alive today – and that’s more than seven billion of us – is likely to join them within the next century. So what will we do with all the bodies?

As human populations continue to expand and flood into crowded cities, traditional methods of handling bodies after death are coming unstuck. The issues range from a shortage of vultures in India – which has led the Zoroastrian community to abandon the ancient practice of sky burials in favour of dystopian “solar concentrators” instead – to the 40-year old corpses in Germany that remain mysteriously fresh after decades in the ground. In many European countries, it’s normal to re-use graves after 15-20 years. But recently some of their inhabitants have been refusing to rot.

(9) LEGO IDEA. BrickBros UK’s “Tron Legacy Light Cycle” has been selected as the next LEGO Ideas set.

The tron light cycle is based on the Disney : Tron Legacy film and consists of a tron light cycle with a user minifigure Sam Flynn it also comes with a Grid base to mount the light cycle on for display.

The light cycle allows a minifigure to easily fit into and clip onto the handles, the light cycle its self has a console in front of the user, two handle bars and detailing down the sides, there is also a power stream behind connected to the light cycle. The Sam Flynn minifigure comes in a tron suit with helmet and disc connected on the back of the minifigure for added detail. The light cycle can easily be mounted on to the Grid base with two connection points and the base has the Grid effect with black and trans-blue tiles creating a tron feel and has a medium azure trim for finish.

(10) POLITICAL FOOTBALL. Vox Day blogged something that reminded Camestros Felapton he hadn’t finished critiquing the new anti-SJW book: “Reading Vox Day So You Don’t Have To: I forgot this was a series”.

Vox is engaged in a similar exercise in extreme ontology to divide each and every fuss about something into either an example of

  • whiny SJWs being whiny and destroying civilisation because they are so evil and lefty…or….
  • a valiant struggle of brave souls against the forces of SJWs even if it doesn’t seem much to do with them.

Unhappy with how Marvel is directing it’s comic books? Well, the great fascist sorting hat says that is an anti-SJW crusade regardless of what your opinion is or that you are objecting to how a major corporation is acting.

Unhappy with the choice of coach for a college football team because of his past association with a convicted child abuser? Well, the great fascist sorting hat says that is lunacy and you must be one of them evil SJWs.

You can retrospectively sort of work out why one and not the other but it is hard to spot in advance.

(11) THE NOT-SO-NEWBORN KING. The Bangor Daily News wants to simplify your shopping — “Eight holiday gifts for the Stephen King fanatic in your life”.

Overlook Hotel keychains

You can let fellow Constant Readers know you’re a fan in a low key kind of way (pun intended) with these cool, retro-looking keychains inspired by various locations in King’s novels. Places like the Overlook Hotel in “The Shining,” Room 1408 in the Dolphin Hotel in New York, and a keychain from Darnell’s Auto Repair from “Christine.” Speaking of “Christine,” how about this fun replica of the famed 1958 Plymouth Fury from both the book and the movie?

(12) LEIVA. In 2010, Steven Paul Leiva created and organized Ray Bradbury Week in Los Angeles. Steven’s novel Made on the Moon has just been published as an ebook by Crossroad Press. For $3.99 you, too, can be made on the moon. Find it on Amazon here.

(13) BRADBURY PRESERVED. The Indiana University Foundation wants to crowdfund $5,000 for the work done by “Students Preserving the World of Ray Bradbury”. They’ve raised $1,139, with 32 days left in the campaign.

Students help preserve over 100,000 papers of correspondence, documents, and photographs in the collection at the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies. Their work has just begun and we need your support.

…Graduate interns and research assistants are important to helping preserve Bradbury’s collection of books, literary works, artifacts, correspondence, manuscripts, photographs, and so much more. Hear these students tell what they do in the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies and what this work means to them.


[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Hampus Eckerman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

93 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 11/28/17 Peering Into The Scrolloscope, I Perceived The Pixels of Mars

  1. @1 has a point or two, but I do not see why being an English teacher obliges someone to like Catcher in the Rye. And

    The thing about cons…they’re not all that much about the actual books, they’re about the media…comics, video, movies, TV, t-shirts, and free-form user-designed costumes.

    betrays his unfamiliarity with the variety of conventions — or his amnesia, since he was also GoH at a Readercon.

  2. (1) GoH for signing? *checks*

    Judi Miller can be the fan GoH of any con I run any day. Yeah, her signing is what has made her famous in the filk community, but she’s an accomplished amateur musician in her own right, and one of those people who can make everyone around her feel welcome and included.

    (And a phrase like “the ones I love are the elite core who really do care about my work”, together with “there were a few good moments amid the con ennui” and a putdown like “even delivering a saintly homily at the opening ceremony about how it warmed my heart to see their joy at their little communal festival”. Doesn’t make me warm to Rudy Rucker at all, and wondering if he ever grokked science fiction fandom.)

    (4) For all that I agree with some of Chandrasekera’s points, I get the impression that the he can’t see the difference between the reviewer and the critic. In the old days of paper news, it was usually the case that critics wrote reviews, while more “pure” reviews were made mouth-to-mouth, but nowadays people who are mainly reviewers can be much more visible as well.

    I view that as a good thing. While there is an overlap between the roles, a review and a critique of a text have different purposes and different demands.

  3. @ChipHitchcock: “I do not see why being an English teacher obliges someone to like Catcher in the Rye.”

    It doesn’t. But one should have a sufficiently disinterested palate to recognize that a well-written work one doesn’t like isn’t “whiny garbage”.

  4. Though it’s rare to get paid without a tribune’s investigation.
    Yet you parents lay down savage laws for the schoolmaster,
    Demand he should stick to the rules in his use of grammar,
    Should read the histories, and know all the authors as well
    As he knows his fingernails. If by chance he’s asked a question
    As he heads for the warm baths or the freeman Phoebus’s spa,
    He must know the name of Anchises’ nurse, of Anchemolus’s
    Stepmother, and her birthplace, how many years Acestes lived,
    And how many jars of Sicilian wine he handed to the Trojans.

    – Juvenal, Satire VII

  5. Any recommendations for a good 2017 novel to read? (I’ll be combing through the 2017 Recs thread, but thought I’d ask here as well 🙂 )

    I’m particularly fond of “high-concept” books, and books with a lot of social speculation (e.g., in recent years, I loved the hell out of Walton’s The Just City and Palmer’s Too Like The Lightning). I get bored really really easily by action, thriller, horror (mystery’s awesome, though).

    Extra points if it’s something you know has a good audiobook 🙂

  6. While there is an overlap between the roles, a review and a critique of a text have different purposes and different demands.

    I agree with Karl here, but I think that trying to distinguish the two is difficult. Especially because not only does the reader not always understand the diffference, but a lot of critics/reviewers are not clear of their own goals and methods. It’s almost like writing a piece of fiction in having to learn the forms…

    5) That’s extremely clever. Pity he was using that cleveness to skip out of work, but clever all the same. Also insert words here about the street finding its own uses for technology…

  7. Schrödinger’s box remains both ticked and unticked at the same time until you pixel it.

  8. @Paul: Yeah, I think the distinction between reviews and critique are more of a question of emphasis than of wholly separate things. This is most apparent in the case of really good long-form reviews, since they tend to include relevant critique of the text.

    But at the extremes, there is no possible way that the reviews on RSR or the mini reviews in Locus can be confused with long-form critique like Farah Mendlesohn’s “Crowning the King: Harry Potter and the Construction of Authority”.

  9. I’m an English teacher myself (well, I was, but you never really quit) and I’m not a huge fan of Catcher in the Rye. My students usually loved it, though, which lends support to the theory that how much you like Catcher depends on when you first read it.

    Incidentally, I usually taught Catcher and The Princess Bride (or at least the swordfight scene from the movie) in the same course.

  10. [1] ‘Whiny garbage’ sounds like an accurate precis of what I read. Points to the English teacher, who has probably been forced to read the damn thing, write about it, and teach it. Perhaps it’s well written, but this only serves to make it seem more like a real self-centered angstbaby’s musings. I didn’t care for Botchan either. Perhaps I read it too late in life. I recall that I enjoyed A Separate Peace in junior high. The Confession of Nat Turner, by home-town boy Styron, was repugnant, but so well was it written that I had no difficulty finishing it before putting it aside forever.

    [11] Overlook Hotel, hah. I used to practice on a grand piano in one of the ballrooms at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. If one looked, one could also see a signature on the soundboard of this piano, dating from the 1930s, of one John Philip Sousa.

    Fileman, scroll my child!

  11. @John A. Arkensawyer: But one should have a sufficiently disinterested palate to recognize that a well-written work one doesn’t like isn’t “whiny garbage”.

    One should also realize that just because one teaches English (which may include a shitload of works besides one whiny teenager’s angsty story which was fetishized by a mostly male professoriate and critics decades ago) one is not on duty 24 hours and has a perfect right to express one’s opinion of any work of literature. And one might also realize that “well-written” is subjective evaluation that is strongly affected by historical context and discourses and not some universal standard because the “universal standard” in the “literary canon” always privileges elite straight cis male authors who are the only ones granted the ability, apparently, to write about the human (aka male) condition.

    I actually wandered over to read Rucker’s whole screed and thought what a piece of elitist crap that was. I cannot imagine any fans wanting to invite him to their con in any role whatsoever in future.

  12. Re: review vs. critique (not a word I would use since “criticism” is more often used these days).

    I agree a review and a critique are different genres, but all genre boundaries are fuzzy.

    There is also a distinction between peer-reviewed academic criticism (not all of which is good–my lord, have I read some horribly BAD peer-reviewed articles) and between criticism/critique written for a more general audience (sometimes by academics!). I tell my students (only half-joking) that if there aren’t endnotes/footnotes, then it isn’t peer-reviewed criticism! That gets complicated by the fact that academic journals publish reviews although those reviews tend to be of academic monographs. Then there’s bibliographic research and essays….

  13. Had I been 12 instead of 27 when I read CATCHER IN THE RYE, I might have liked it better. Rich kid angst is hard to swallow. The author was doing a variation of BE HERE NOW, but using a kid who hasn’t known much but disappointment., and it was “not this not that ” viewpoint.

  14. John A Arkansawyer on November 28, 2017 at 11:46 pm said:

    It doesn’t. But one should have a sufficiently disinterested palate to recognize that a well-written work one doesn’t like isn’t “whiny garbage”.

    It’s whiny garbage, and I though so when I read it as a teen. It may be well written, but OMG, so whiny. Much garbage.

    robinareid: I wonder if never being invited as a special guest to another con again was maybe his goal with that screed? If so, well done.

  15. @robinareid: Given that English is my second language, and I’ve been exposed to huge amoungs of marxist theory in my youth, I’ll take the blame for using critique over criticism. That said, there was a thought behind using critique rather than criticism. Critisism, in popular parlance, all too often means negative reviews or pointing out deficiencies. But to me, criticism must also include analysis and a discussion of the positive elements of something, and by choosing the more old-fashioned word I could signal that.

    Or it’s just me having English as a second language 🙂

  16. @Standback

    Sebastien de Castell’s Tyrant’s Throne is a good read.

    Peter V. Brett’s The Core has been fantastic thus far. (I have it as a signed hardback and portability is presenting hurdles to progress.) I expect this to be on my nomination list for the Hugos this year. Thus far it is the standard against all other 2017 books will get measured.

    Sadly, both works are culminations of their respective series. So perhaps not great entry points.

    If you are willing to give an anthology a try, then I also recommend Evil is a Matter of Perspective and Aliens:Bug Hunt. Both suffer, predictably, from having so many stories focused on a single theme. Eventually, it becomes a bit repetitive. However, Evil introduced me to a few authors from whom I wish to read more. It is the better of the two anthologies. Both are worth the purchase price of admission.

    I don’t do audiobooks so cannot comment on those options/editions.


  17. I haven’t read too many 2017 books this year, but I’ll recommend unreservedly Elizabeth Bear’s Stone in the Skull.

    Well, OK, one teensy-tiny reservation: It’s the first of a projected trilogy and ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. But still.

  18. I feel I have no authority to declare ‘Catcher in the Rye” garbage, but I feel it is undeniably, objectively whiny. DNF (though I was an adult when I first tried it).

  19. “Catcher in the Rye” was assigned reading when I was in high school and I remember it being yet another boring literature read among many others (and also very whiny).

  20. (1) To be fair, Catcher in the Rye absolutely is whiny garbage. It’s about an upper-middle class brat who’s had one genuinely bad thing happen to him in his entire life rolling around in self-loathing and ennui, written in that dull-as-dirt mid-century American style that seems designed specifically to valourize juvenile gropings toward introspection. You can see it cropping up in some early Pynchon as well (V. especially). I read Catcher twice, once in high school and then again as an adult to see if my opinion changed. (It didn’t.)

    Although I’ve read four of Rucker’s books and haaaaated them, too. Reading about someone else’s high is like listening to someone else describe their dreams: incredibly tedious. And “how we will get high in the future and what it will feel like” was a central theme of the Rucker books I read. Plus the books were written in the 1980s (or at least the first one was), but his style was like a parody of the worst ’60s cliches… until you realize he was dead serious, and then it just became embarrassing, and doubly outdated at nearly 40s years removed. So many writers I respect and whose work I admire rave about Rucker, but I just couldn’t get there.

    (4) Karl-Johan Norén – I think I mostly agree with VC here. There is a lot of overlap between reviewers and critics (a great many reviewers are critics, and do what they can to get criticism into reviews because that’s one of the only non-academic outlets for their work now), and the forms overlap just as heavily (reviews ask “is this enjoyable to read?” but criticism as questions like “does this text interrogate gender issues effectively”?). But word-of-mouth isn’t a “pure” version of a review, IMO. Word-of-mouth recommendations are opinions, reviews are structured arguments about quality that point to and evaluate specific elements in the text; opinions aren’t required to have structure, or even to evaluate. A lot of what gets published in the online reviewing space is opinions, not reviews*. Opinions aren’t any less valid than reviews, but they aren’t the same thing, either.

    *This is why I’ve stopped labeling most of my blog posts as “reviews”. Instead I just call them “thoughts on…”, because I’m often not giving them much structure, it’s just a set of impressions.

  21. Is Salinger’s work still as popular and well regarded as it used to be, assigned reading in schools, etc.? I wonder if its popularity will last.

  22. @Standback: I just finished reading Nina Allan’s The Rift, which I thought was fantastic. One reviewer on Amazon described it as ‘a seamless blend of literary fiction, science fiction, mystery fiction and psychological thriller fiction with horror and slipstream elements’, which sums it up perfectly.

  23. @Standback – If you haven’t already read them Infomocracy and it’s sequel Null States are an interesting futuristic social concept. Autonomous for it’s genetic patent fight. Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. maybe?

  24. Steve, only that specific edition is out of stock (the PF edition, which apparently only came out last month and actual kinda looks a little shady–is it even legit?). No idea why Amazon made it the first-click from their search page. You can still get the book, just click around the formats.

  25. @Ultragotha: robinareid: I wonder if never being invited as a special guest to another con again was maybe his goal with that screed? If so, well done.

    True, that. But I actually read the comments (I know, I know, but there were only three): one of the said how his posts were always so positive, and I was WTF?????

  26. @Karl-Johan: Criticism, in popular parlance, all too often means negative reviews or pointing out deficiencies. But to me, criticism must also include analysis and a discussion of the positive elements of something, and by choosing the more old-fashioned word I could signal that.

    Very true! And yes, I think that “critique” is more commonly associated with some theories and earlier periods, perhaps. My students do all think “criticism” is only negative which is an ongoing problem (they also think ‘opinion’ and ‘argument’ are the same thing when they don’t think ‘argument’ = ‘fight’).

  27. A 2017 book:
    Noumenon – Marina Lostetter. This book examines social changes taking place on a generation ship and the factors that drive them. It’s a well written book – I personally thought it wasn’t imaginative enough, but its received good ratings overall.

  28. Because I am avoiding work (not actually grading but other work!), I did a quick MLA search to see what scholarship has been published on Catcher in the Rye

    270 hits in MLA (OK, but not fantastic amounts, though the interest is growing more recently).

    First publication appeared in College English in 1956: “Holden and Huck: The Odysseys of Youth.”

    CE focuses on teaching literature, not the “pure” textual analysis.

    Most recent indexed: “Stylistic Features of Holden Caulfield’s Language in J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye: A Corpus-Based Study.” Collaborative work published in one of the major applied linguistics journals, English Studies: A Journal of English Language and Literature in 2016.

    1956-66: 28 publications

    2006-2016: 99 publications

    It never showed up in any of my English courses in college, or high school, as it happens, and if people are teaching it at the university level, it’s probably in Children’s and YA literature courses. I bet it’s taught a lot more in high schools.

    I remember picking it up and starting it at some point but tossing it in disgust.

  29. I read Catcher In the Rye when I was very young and the ‘40s prep school/NYC world it described didn’t make much sense to me. I never revisited it, though I read a few of Salinger’s other stories as an adult. Never really understood his popularity and prestige. Not dismissing his work, just noting that I didn’t really “get it” when I tried it, quite a while ago now.

  30. (8) GROUND SHORTAGE: The article in passing mentions the shortage of vultures in India. I ran across this situation a while back, and found it interesting. In India, dead cows are left in place to be eaten by vultures. But a medication called Diclofenac that is (was) given to cattle in India was toxic to vultures. If a cow that had been given Diclofenac didn’t survive and vultures ate it, the vultures would die. The large majority of all vultures in India were wiped out. This effected not only sky burials, but all the dead cows lying around not eaten led to a boom in feral dog populations and the spread of rabies.

    Good Smithsonian article. Wiki link. In India this is known as “Smelly, Yappy Spring.” (Well, it should be.)

  31. (1) Cold Truth

    I thought about commenting on this when I first read it last night, then wondered if I were over-reacting. But it still grates on me.

    Well, okay, I was nice to everyone except for a fellow panelist on a “What are your fave books? panel. … The panelist sitting next to me wouldn’t shut up about some dipshit fantasy books, lavishing cliché praises upon them, trading heartfelt hosannahs with a another motor-mouthed fellow panelist, who claimed to be the “moderator.” And they get onto William Goldman’s Princess Bride (a fine work but, I would humbly submit, not the greatest novel ever written).

    The panel was specifically about “fave” books and his reaction is to trashtalk someone else’s faves as “dipship fantasy” or “not the greatest novel ever written”? What an asshole. What an unmitigated asshole. I have no idea whether the purpose of him telling the anecdote was to demonstrate what an asshole he is or if it just shone through of its own accord. I don’t much care. As they say, when someone tells you who they are, believe them.

    (ETA: When I read this scroll last night, there weren’t any comments on it yet, and I haven’t read the comments before venting my spleen now, so this may well be utterly redundant.)

  32. @Standback

    TBH most of my novel reading this year has been Usual Suspects or catching up on series. I’d +1 on Infomocracy+sequel for the closest to TLTL/Just City style of social speculation. The other high-concept thing I’ve read was Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden which I thought was a spectacular set of ideas that never really came together – sort of a glorious failure. A near-future high tech South Africa is afflicted by the return of old and hungry gods who run into new ones, all mixed up with cyberpunk-y elements. It’s not made my shortlist but reading it was quite an experience!

  33. Literary reputations are pretty unstable–at least, for the first two or three centuries after a writer’s death–and presence in K-12 curricula doesn’t necessarily track with other canons. Salinger was a big mainstream-literary deal when I was in growing up in the 1950s, and I probably read Catcher around 1960 (I can still picture the cover of the Signet paperback), but it wasn’t part of the school curriculum then–not only because of the F-word, but because at that time no living writer was taught in high school. Well, maybe The Old Man and the Sea, somewhere, but otherwise it was Shakespeare, Dickens, and George Eliot, at least in New York State.

    I recall finding it interesting enough, if rather puzzling in places (though not as puzzling as “The Dead” a few years later), and I’m not sure I had a firm grasp on things like the unreliable narrator yet. I recall trying more Salinger (Nine Stories) and deciding he wasn’t for me. I suspect that the whiney side of Catcher is a feature rather than a bug, though I don’t feel like re-reading it to make sure.

    On reviewing and criticism: Plenty of overlap, as a look at any issue of The New Yorker will demonstrate. Academic criticism is better thought of as analysis, with various modifiers that indicate approach or area of interest–though for much of the history of criticism, there was an implicit evaluative side–this is work that is worth analyzing. (Unless one was looking for a dissertation topic, in which case it was “this is work that hasn’t been worked to death already.”) Reviewing and criticism converge on the pursuit of understanding: Why/how is this good/successful/rewarding (or bad/a failure/flawed)? How does this work/say what it says/fit in with the rest of art?

  34. Another interesting thing about Rucker is that most of his books seemed to feature him as at least one of the main characters (over and over and over). That’s one of the reasons I stopped reading him.

  35. I thought I remembered that Catcher was fairly high on the banned/challenged lists maintained by the American Library Assocation.

    And, yep: It is

  36. (3) BY DESIGN

    I think this is a bit of a “build it and they will come” situation. The more engagement with short SF the better IMO.

  37. @Heather Rose Jones – What an asshole. What an unmitigated asshole.

    +1 to that. I’m not sure when it became okay to say stuff like that, but it’s ugly.

    I read Catcher in the Rye and Frannie and Zooey in the way an anthropologist studies a social group. I’m not sure I liked them, but I found them no less fantastical than anything by Bradbury (my favorite writer as an adolescent). I suspect that I would read Salinger differently now.

    4) EVERYONE’S A CRITIC – I can’t pinpoint why (and this is why I’m not a reviewer), but I found that rather delightful. I don’t much like reading either reviews or criticism, unless the person doing so does a brilliant job of threading the needle between objectivity and clearly marked opinion. I do love to read people writing about books they like, love, dislike and detest, though. It feels like a conversation and that’s my jam, plus it gives me a good shot at deciding whether I’ll like something, which reviews and criticism rarely do.

    eta – It was my high school librarian who introduced me to Salinger.

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