Pixel Scroll 11/9/18 But The Pixel Has Passed, And It’s Daylight At Last, And the Scroll Has Been Long — Ditto Ditto My Song

(1) FIRE WATCH. The Westworld sets are casualties of the Woolsey Fire – Variety has the story: “‘Westworld’ Location at Paramount Ranch Burns Down”.

The historic Western town area at Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills, Calif., where productions including “Westworld” have shot, burned down Friday in the Woolsey fire, according to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation area’s Twitter feed.

Westworld” uses the Western town set to shoot its Main Street scenes. The HBO series is also shot at the Melody Ranch in Santa Clarita and in Utah and other locations.

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Taste the tiramisu with Vina Jie-Min Prasad in episode 81 of Scott Edelman’s podcast Eating the Fantastic.

Vina Jie-Min Prasad has been a multiple awards finalist with fiction “working against the world-machine” published in Clarkesworld, Uncanny, Fireside Fiction, Queer Southeast Asia, and HEAT: A Southeast Asian Urban Anthology. Her short story “Fandom for Robots” and her novelette “A Series of Steaks” were both finalists for the Nebula, Hugo, and Sturgeon Awards, and she was also a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

We discussed why she didn’t start writing any fiction until the release of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot, the reason food has such a prominent place in her fiction, why she might never have become a writer if the Internet hadn’t existed, the lessons she took away from her fan fiction days, what she meant when she wrote in her bio that she’s “working against the world-machine,” why her multi-nominated story “A Series of Steaks” was her first submission to a speculative fiction magazine, her fascination with professional wrestling and wrestling fandom, why her story “Pistol Grip” needed a warning for sexual content but not violence (and what Pat Cadigan called her after reading that story during the Clarion workshop), the reason she likes working in the present tense, and much more

(3) FANTASTIC BEASTS. The BBC’s roundup of critical reaction: “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald gets mixed reviews”.

The latest Fantastic Beasts film The Crimes of Grindelwald has earned mixed reviews from critics.

It has a number of three-star reviews with suggestions that the plot is “overburdened” with details and preparing for future adventures.

There is praise for the “vibrantly drawn” characters and Jude Law is highlighted for his performance as young Dumbledore.

Many agree JK Rowling’s imagination is “as awe-inspiring as ever

The second of five planned Fantastic Beasts films by JK Rowling also earns praise for its special effects.

(4) KNOW YOUR BEASTS. Merriam-Webster.com sets a challenge: “Here Be Dragons: A Creature Identification Quiz”. I scored 8/13, which isn’t good, but is better than I’ve done on some other quizzes….

You are an amateur cryptozoologist, setting out on an adventure to evaluate evidence of monsters around the world. On your plane ride to your first destination, we recommend you bone up on your monster lore here.

(5) ANIMAL PHYSICS. Kathryn Schulz’ article in the November 6, 2017 New Yorker, “Fantastic Beasts and How to Rank Them”, discusses imaginary creatures and how they continue to persist in the imagination. (Martin Morse Wooster sent the item with an apology: “Yes, I am 11 months behind in reading the New Yorker. You may report me to the Reading Control Board.”)

Although Walt Disney is best remembered today for his Magic Kingdom, his chief contribution to the art of animation was not his extraordinary imagination but his extraordinary realism.  ‘We cannot do the fantastic things, based on the real, unless we first know the real,’ he once wrote, by way of explaining why, in 1929, he began driving his animators to a studio in downtown Los Angeles for night classes in life drawing. In short order, the cartoons emerging from his workshop started exhibiting a quality that we have since come to take for granted but was revolutionary at the time:  all those talking mice, singing lions, dancing puppets, and marching brooms began obeying the laws of physics.

It was Disney, for instance, who introduced to the cartoon universe one of the fundamental elements of the real one:  gravity.  Even those of his characters who could fly could fall, and, when they did, their knees, jowls, hair, and clothes responded as our human ones do when we thump to the ground.  Other laws of nature applied, too.  Witches on broomsticks got buffeted by the wind. Goofy, attached by his feet to the top of a roller-coaster track and by his neck to the cars, didn’t just get longer as the ride started plunging downhill; he also got skinnier, which is to say that his volume remained constant.  To Disney, these concessions to reality were crucial to achieving what he called, in an echo of Aristotle, the ‘plausible impossible.’  Any story based on ‘the fantastic, the unreal, the imaginative,’ he understood, needed ‘a foundation of fact.’

(6) FINLANDIA. The Finlandia Prize is the premiere award for literature written in Finland, awarded annually to the author of the best novel written by a Finnish citizen (Finlandia Award), children’s book (Finlandia Junior Award), and non-fiction book (Tieto-Finlandia Award). It has had its eyes on stfnal books before: in 2000 Johanna Sinisalo (GoH at the Helsinki Worldcon) won it with her fantasy novel Not Before Sundown. Tero Ykspetejä’s news blog Partial Recall reports this year’s Finlandia award also has some nominees of an stfnal character: “Finlandia Award Nominees 2018”:

Magdalena Hai’s Kolmas sisar is a nominee for best children & YA novel, and the general literature category nominees announced today include Hunan by J. Pekka Mäkelä.

(7) THE SATANIC VERSUS NETFLIX. Not everyone believes the axiom that “all publicity is good publicity.” “The Satanic Temple Files $50 Million Copyright Infringement Suit Against Netflix And ‘Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina’”ScienceFiction.com has the story:

The Satanic Temple has made good on threats made by co-founder Lucien Greaves on Twitter about two weeks ago, and filed a $50 million lawsuit against Netflix for their use of a statue of the pagan deity Baphomet as a set piece on its new series ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’.  Greaves claims that the creators of ‘Sabrina’ stole its design of the statue from the Satanic Temple, which placed a copyright on their design, which depicts the goat-headed deity with two children by its side, looking up at him.  On ‘Sabrina’, the statue is never referred to by name but is a focal point at the Academy of Unseen Arts, where young witches and warlocks go to hone their magical abilities.

The Satanic Temple is not only seeking financial compensation but wants Netflix and Warner Brothers to stop distributing ‘Chilling Adventures…’ or further distributing it, meaning releasing it on DVD or Blu-Ray.

(8) FAST OUT OF THE STARTING GATE. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog has a fine list of the “50 of the Greatest Science Fiction & Fantasy Debut Novels Ever Written”. It includes —

Tea with the Black Dragon, by R.A. MacAvoy (1983)
R.A. MacAvoy’s debut is pitch-perfect in its light use of fantasy elements. Martha Macnamara is a middle-aged, free-spirited musician who meets Mayland Long, an older Asian man with elegant manners and a lot of money—who also claims to be a 2,000-year old black dragon in human form. Their conversation (over tea, naturally) hints that he was an eyewitness to momentous events throughout history, and counts as close friends many long-dead historical figures. He and Martha strike up a thoroughly charming, adult relationship, instantly and believably drawn to one another as the story morphs into a mystery. It’s the sort of novel that floats between genres, never precisely one thing, never entirely another. It’s an achievement many writers never manage; MacAvoy nailed it on her first try.

(9) HAWKING AUCTION. “Stephen Hawking’s wheelchair, thesis fetch $1 million at auction”DW has the story.

A motorized wheelchair and a thesis belonging to Stephen Hawking have sold at auction for more than $1 million. The sale raised money for two charities, including one belonging to the British physicist.

(10) MARVEL ACTION DOLLS.  The entire line-up of Hasbro’s Marvel Rising Action Dolls is available exclusively at Target. They’ll feature on the covers of some Marvel comics soon –

The next generation of super heroes have arrived! To celebrate, Marvel is excited to present Marvel Rising Action Doll Homage variants, hitting comic shops this December!

Featuring Marvel Rising characters such as Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl, America Chavez, Ghost Spider, and Quake stepping into their predecessor’s shoes, each of the five covers is a homage to a classic cover from years past.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 9, 1921Alfred Coppel. Have I ever mentioned how much I love pulp? Everything from the writers to the artwork to the magazines themselves are so, so cool. And this writer was one of the most prolific such authors of the fifties and sixties. That he was also sf writer is an added bonus. Indeed his first science fiction story was “Age of Unreason” in a 1947 Amazing Stories. Under the pseudonym of Robert Cham Gilman, he wrote the Rhada sequence of galactic space opera novels aimed at a young adult market. Wiki claims he wrote under the name A.C. Marin as well but I cannot find any record of this. (Died 2004.)
  • Born November 9, 1946Marina Warner, 72, Writer, Historian, and Mythographer from England who is known for her many nonfiction books relating to feminism and myth. She has written for many publications, and has been a visiting professor, given lectures and taught on the faculties of many universities. Her nonfiction works From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers and No Go the Bogeyman: Scaring, Lulling, and Making Mock have garnered several Mythopoeic Award nominations and a win, and a host of non-genre awards as well. In 2017, she was elected president of the Royal Society of Literature (RSL), the first time the role has been held by a woman since the founding of the RSL in 1820. She was honored with a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement.
  • Born November 9, 1962Teryl Rothery, 56, Actor who is best known for her role as Dr. Janet Fraiser on Stargate SG-1. She can also be found as ISN reporter, Ms. Chambers, in the Babylon 5 movie Voices in the Dark, and has appeared in many genre series including The X-Files, The Outer Limits, Jeremiah, M.A.N.T.I.S., Kyle XY, Eureka, and the Battlestar Galactica prequel, Caprica.
  • Born November 9, 1973Eric Dane, 45, Actor who stars currently as Captain Tom Chandler in the The Last Ship series, and played James Arthur Madrox, aLso known as the Multiple Man, in X-Men: The Last Stand. He also played a character named Jason Dean on the superb original Charmed series, and Nick Pierce in the Painkiller Jane film.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) ROCKS AROUND THE CLOCK. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Three NEOs will make relatively close approaches to Earth this Saturday (Newsweek: “Three Asteroids to Whizz Past Earth in One Day—And One Will Come Closer Than The Moon”). The first one (2018 VS1) will pass by about 861,700 miles from Earth at 9:03AM (Eastern time). The second (2018 VR1) will be significantly further away at over 3 million miles, about 15 minutes later. The third (2018 VX1), though, will pass only about 238,900 miles from Earth at 1:26AM.

The three objects are relatively small—variously estimated to be from 43 to 98 feet wide—but big enough that they could cause widespread destruction if they were a wee bit (by astronomical standards) closer on a future pass. In the US, Near Earth Objects are the province of CNEOS—NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies.

(14) A LABOR OF LINGO. The legacy of a 15th-Century noblewoman lives on in the form of collective nouns used to describe groups of animals across the world: “Why a Group of Hippos Is Called a Bloat”.

As it turns out, these scintillating nouns are neither coincidence nor misnomer, but rather the result of centuries of linguistic evolution.

People have been coming up with terms to describe animal groupings for hundreds of years, but it wasn’t until The Book of St Albans, written by Juliana Berners, a 15th-Century Benedictine prioress from England, that they were recorded extensively. Also known by the title The Book of Hawking, Hunting and Blasing of Arms, Berners’ 1486 publication of this gentlemen’s catalogue of wildlife and hunting included 165 collective nouns for animal species, and is said to make her one of the earliest female authors writing in the English language.

(15) DISNEY HIRES LOKI. His show will be part of Disney’s new streaming service — “Tom Hiddleston to return as Loki in new TV series”. When was the last time a villain got their own series?

(16) DIGGING MARS. BBC says “ExoMars: Life-detecting robot to be sent to Oxia Planum”

The robot rover that Europe and Russia will send to Mars in 2020 will be targeted at a near-equatorial site on the Red Planet known as Oxia Planum.

The area was recommended by an expert panel meeting at Leicester University.

Oxia is rich in clays and other minerals that have resulted from prolonged rock interactions with water.

The ExoMars vehicle will carry a drill and sophisticated instruments to this ancient terrain to look for signs of past or even present life.

(17) THE ONLY WAY TO WIN. “The gamer who spent seven years in his dressing gown” has created a game to wean people from game addiction.

It’s a role-playing board game for small groups.

Players meet once a week over a period of weeks or months, improving their social skills as they play.

No equipment is needed aside from a pen and paper, but additions can include dice and character descriptions.

The idea is the participants play themselves, earning points by achieving certain tasks.

They can improve their “characters” and get extra points in between sessions by taking on a challenge in the real world.

Participants have to prove they have completed the tasks and share the details in an online group set up for each game

(18) YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN NOW. Maybe they couldn’t compete with YouTubers free game videos? Variety reports “Video Game Strategy Guide Publisher Prima Games Is Shutting Down”.

The imprint’s guides all feature in-depth content, detailed screen captures, quick-reference tips, and professional strategies. They were a godsend to many gamers of a certain age, back before internet walkthroughs and wikis became de rigueur. Prima Games later tried adapting to an increasingly digital world by offering eguides filled with interactive maps, streaming video, searchable apps, and more.

(19) NEWS FAKER. Yet another job—newsreader—is under threat from Artificial Intelligence (Popular Mechanics: “This AI Reporter Would Never Get Kicked Out of Press Briefings”). Chinese media, already tightly controlled, appears to be in the process of becoming even more buttoned down. (Original source Xinhua.net: “World’s first AI news anchor makes ‘his’ China debut”)

With a state-run media like China’s, there’s already some concern that newscasters are little more than puppets. After an AI news anchor debuted at the World Internet Conference in China this week, we’re one step closer to that reality.

The anchor was created in a partnership between Xinhua News Agency, China’s official state-run media outlet, and sogou.com, a Chinese search engine company. The Chinese news, of course, is thrilled and impressed, claiming that the character “can read texts as naturally as a professional news anchor.” Two versions of the AI anchors are now available on Xinhua through their apps, WeChat account, and online news channel.

(20) NUCLEAR CHRISTMAS GIFT. You can now order Threads on Blu-ray, called “The most influential film about nuclear war ever made.”

Directed by Mick Jackson (The Bodyguard) and written by Barry Hines (Kes).

Threads shocked the nation when it first aired on BBC Two in 1984 at the height of Cold War nuclear paranoia, and became one of the most significant and iconic films ever produced by the BBC.

It was nominated for seven BAFTAs in 1985, winning four including Best Single Drama.

Threads was one of the first films to depict the full consequences of global nuclear war when a bomb hits the city of Sheffield. It is uncompromising in its display of the tense weeks leading up to the bomb dropping, the attack, and the bleak years of nuclear winter that are left in its aftermath.

(21) VISIT FROM A DINO. There’s a giant, animatronic dinosaur roaming around BBC…

(22) CHAMPION MAGICIAN. Gizmodo promises “The Winning Trick at the World Championships of Magic Might Fry Your Brain Like an Egg”.

But Chien’s ‘Ribbon’ routine is a non-stop barrage of lightning-quick illusions, leaving you with little time to figure out what you just saw before his next trick baffles your brain all over again.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Karl-Johan Norén, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Errolwi, Carl Slaughter, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

93 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 11/9/18 But The Pixel Has Passed, And It’s Daylight At Last, And the Scroll Has Been Long — Ditto Ditto My Song

  1. (5) By a coincidence, I’ve been reading Mike Barrier’s book on Disney’s life in animation (not strictly a biography, but a history of his progress in the art), and the record is nowhere near so neat and straightforward. Disney only started giving life classes at the studio after he found that the artists were chipping in on a model and drawing at someone’s house—perhaps he wanted to avoid a scandal.

    The progress afterward wasn’t the swift, linear progression the quotes indicate, either. They would do a really good cartoon like THREE LITTLE PIGS, and then not do anything at all about the gains they made with it.

    Disney was feeling his way, but not with the swift, sure strokes depicted here.

    (7) “Don’t you fools at the US Mint realize that when we make fake versions of your money, it’s like valuable free advertising for your stupid junk?”

    “Give a little pixel / And always put your con recs in your scroll!”

  2. 4) I only got 4 answers — but the timer got me on some of the others!

    22) ooooo, ahhhhhh. And they say there’s no such thing as magic!

  3. (8) I loved Tea with the Black Dragon. The sequel wasn’t as good sadly, but I still have found memories of the original

  4. 8) I’ve read 25 on that list, dnfed another 2 of them. Interesting list, but it’s suspiciously loaded towards recent books… and I wouldn’t put Storm Front on ANY best-of list, myself.

    OTOH, it does have The Library at Mount Char, which doesn’t get nearly enough recognition IMNSHO.

    And MacAvoy’s Lens of the World trilogy is one of my favorites of all time, but I haven’t gotten around to Tea with the Black Dragon yet!

  5. Yes, Netflix has a real problem with this lawsuit. The statues aren’t somewhat similar, the set piece is a very blantant almost entirely identical copy. When something very similar happened with The Devil’s Advocate, Warner settled with the artist, recalled the DVDs, and hackishly mutilated the movie before re-releasing it, so they must have had poor prospects of winning. (Luckily I was in the habit of buying new releases immediately, so have one of the recalled DVDs.) I think Netflix is pretty screwed.

  6. @4: 10/13 (one of the missed timed out, but I don’t think I was on the right track — and thanks to McGuire for one of them.) Fun.

    @8: I was right with them until they listed The Sword of Sha-na-na and followed with Lord Foul’s Bane — but the later parts of the list look good enough that I’ll have to read some of the 13 I haven’t. (What I’ve heard of Kushiel’s Dart suggests I should avoid it; I’ll start with The Library at Mount Char, since I @Contrarius endorsed it.) My first thought on what they’d missed was The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, but McKillip had done one YA before this.

    @12 (“Ah, Life”) also comes up with a cute riff on a 19th-century stage story.

    @19: my first reaction to reports of this was that China had found a way to avoid the newscaster trick that brought Yanukovich down the first time.

    @22: that’s stunning.

    @Paul Weimer: Loki’s a villain? That was my observation; the MCU Loki is much darker, rather like Thor being much brighter (in multiple senses?) than in the older versions that I’ve read. (I haven’t read either of the Eddas, or anything else nearly that far back.) He has the sense to prevent the destruction of his universe in Thor 2, but that’s as much as I’d grant the current edition — I don’t remember any of the Marvel print versions.

  7. MCU Loki has definitely *been* a villain. Is he a villain by the end of Thor Ragnarok? I don’t think so. Of course, how long this will last is a matter of debate. The TV Trope “Heel/Face Revolving Door” seems to be the way they want to play him. Right now he is on the Face side, even if he is always looking for his own main chance.

  8. 15) Never thought of Loke as a villain (apart from the Fake Marvel Version). Troublemaker or Trickster more like it. I mean, if he was a villain, then why would all other gods enjoy spending time with him?

    So I am really happy that Hiddlestone made him so popular that Marvel is changing his personality.

    17) Sounds like HabitRPG on paper.

  9. @Chip —

    (What I’ve heard of Kushiel’s Dart suggests I should avoid it; I’ll start with The Library at Mount Char, since I @Contrarius endorsed it.)

    Do NOT read Library at Mount Char unless you can stand lots of gore. Parts of it are very grim and upsetting — they’re supposed to be.

    My Goodreads Review, full of Kermit-flailing

    As for Kushiel, I dnfed it pretty quickly. I’ve read a good deal of erotica in my time, but that just didn’t appeal to me at all. YMMV, and all that.

  10. Cheery Savoyard applause for Anna Nimmhaus’s scroll title. (For those who missed the reference: Ta-da! I still want to sing that patter song at Royal Albert Hall when I grow up. That one.)

  11. (11) Wiki claims [Alred Coppel] wrote under the name A.C. Marin as well but I cannot find any record of this.
    The reference work “Contemporary Authors” and several Dictionaries of Pseudonyms confirm this. It looks like he used it for spy/adventure fiction.

    Add to the list Larry T. Shaw (1924), a three-time Hugo finalist for editing, and awardee of a Special Hugo in 1984.

    Also Carl Sagan (1934), astronomer, skeptic, science popularizer, pothead, talk show guest, Emmy-Hugo-Pulitzer winner, designer of the Pioneer plaque and the Voyager record, and author of the novel Contact and a LoC in Astounding, 12/1959. A former coworker went to school at Cornell where Sagan taught, and said that he (Sagan) continually had to replace his nameplate on his office door because people kept stealing it.

  12. @4, I got nine.

    Loki falls squarely in the Trickster paradigm. Sometimes villain, sometimes (less often) hero, but always unpredictable.

  13. Yes, Loki is a Trickster God. Can be hero or villain depending on the circumstances. And impulse. And what will cause greatest inconvenience around him.

  14. 8) I’m pretty sure any list of “50 of the Greatest Science Fiction & Fantasy Debut Novels Ever Written” should’ve included Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars.

    11) I read the Rhada books a while back, but have to admit I kind of preferred the original short story (novelette?) The Rebel of Valkyr, which I first encountered in Brian Aldiss’ Galactic Empires, Vol. 1. (On a somewhat related note, Brian Aldiss edited some great anthologies, didn’t he?)

  15. 4) Also 10/13 – it’s the American folklore ones that tripped me up, sadly. (Still, I came higher on the leader board than someone with the initials CmF….)

    Of course, containing some really quite out-of-the-way monsters is what makes the quiz interesting.

  16. Also, 8) Alfred Bester’s first SF novel The Demolished Man gained a certain amount of recognition, I seem to recall. And Olaf Stapledon started his SF career with Last and First Men, which is a fairly impressive debut.

    (As with all lists, not everyone’s going to like everything on it, but I think all the ones they’ve chosen meet the criterion “arrived with something of a splash”. You don’t have to like Stephen Donaldson, say, or Terry Brooks, to admit that people noticed their first novels.)

  17. 20. Threads is definitely the best of the 1980s mini-wave anti nuclear war films, but I wouldn’t buy it as a present for someone unless I know they actually like that sort of thing, because it is depressing as hell.

  18. 20) When PBS aired it, one edit was made of the woman giving birth, biting through the umbilical cord after giving birth.

    Ye, depressing. Its starkness was far harsher than the over hyped THE DAY AFTER. I think more attention was paid to who was starring in that than what it was trying to say.

  19. 8) Not too far down the list of debut novels, seemingly written by someone who has done little research: As in PEBBLE IN THE SKY, and how it was eclipsed by FOUNDATION a year later. Much of what appeared in FOUNDATION was written a few years before and reassembled as a “fix-up” novel.

    And no matter how hard you try to explain it, THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES is not a novel. FAHRENHEIT 451 is that first novel.

  20. 8) Everyone’s list is going to be different. Lists are easy, and can be done with a minimum of research. Quite often that part shows.

  21. Chip, I’ll also recommend the Library at Mount Char but with the same caveats that Contrarius gives. Helluva a good book. Just not sure I want to re-read it just yet.

  22. @Rick Moen: +1. (I noticed it last night and then got tangled in other responses and didn’t applaud; my bad, as a ~60-year fan of G&S.)

    @Steve Wright: I think all the ones they’ve chosen meet the criterion “arrived with something of a splash”. The title is “Greatest Debuts”. The text before the list expands on this:

    Here are 50 of the greatest debut science fiction and fantasy novels ever written: books that announced the arrival of serious talents arriving on the literary scene, books sturdy enough to support dozens of imitators that followed, books so good it almost didn’t matter if their authors ever published again (thankfully, most of them have).

    I read this as claiming quality, not splash, so my objection to both Brooks and Donaldson stands. OTOH: I’m not sure how well The Demolished Man stands up now (I read it at age 18, having read The Stars My Destination 6 years before, so my judgment is colored), but if they’re going to list Pebble I’d say the Bester belongs there as well.

    @Robert Whitaker Sirignano: the fact that parts of Foundation were written before Pebble doesn’t mean it’s Asimov’s first novel, even if the lister allows other fixups; it wasn’t completed first, even if the completion was just the bits of glue. OTOH, I agree that The Martian Chronicles doesn’t belong on that list, as it’s not even a fixup; the story order could probably be substantially changed without affecting the impact or readability.

    @Contrarius / @BravoLimaPoppa3: Thank you for the warning; I will save the book for sometime when I’m not already down. (I’ve DNF’d at least one work because I realized partway through that I’d mistaken it for a conclusion instead of the part of a set where everything falls in on the leads so the next part can repair/restore them, and was really not ready to cope with that.)

    @Hampus Eckerman: maybe this time they’ll be more selective? IIRC, a number of foreign critics have observed that the US has an extremely high ratio of lawyers to population; TST should be able to find someone with a cleaner record.

  23. I’m happy they had Brown Girl in the Ring on their list. I actually just re-read that a couple of days ago, and it holds up beautifully. Nalo’s later works may be better, but it was a stunning debut.

    I agree that Last and First Men is a HUGE omission.

    I can’t help but feel that His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire #1) should be on the list somewhere.

  24. @bill and @john

    Threads is far more harrowing than Testament. In terms of being grim, unsettling, and depressing, I think Threads mops the floor with both The Day After and Testament, both.

  25. My favorite commentary on Loki’s heroic/villainous status came in Walt Simonson’s run on Thor, when Thor, Odin and Loki teamed up against Surtur and each had their own battle cry.

    Odin: “For Asgard!”
    Thor: “For Midgard!”
    Loki: “For myself!”

    I think that captures the truth of the matter. What I’m more interested in is whether this new show is an acknowledgment that Loki is not in fact dead and will show up in Avengers 4. I already figured that was the case, but still.

  26. @Robert Whitaker Sirignano, @bill
    Threads is a lot more visceral in its depictions of the horrors of nuclear war than either The Day After or Testament. There is the above mentioned birth scene, the famous scene of a woman wetting herself when the bombs fall, ordinary household objects like milk bottles and an ET doll melting/burning up, a hospital transformed into a charnel house, horrific burn victims and scorched corpses in full view, Ruth eating rats and a raw dead sheep, the usual execution of supposed looters, etc…

    Threads also spends the lead-up to the attack showing the character engaging in all sorts of obviously futile protective measures such as building makeshift shelters from unhinged doors and mattresses (which works about as well as you can imagine, i.e. not at all). Apparently, these scenes were based on the advice in real British information leaflets and films that were supposed to be distributed in the case of an imminent nuclear war.

    All three films focus on the “ordinary” American/British family, which succumbs to the usual “everybody/almost everybody dies” plot common with this sort of film, but Threads looks a lot longer into the future than either The Day After or Testament, both of which end approximately a few months or a year after the nukes fall. Threads ends approx. fifteen years later. Spoiler: It doesn’t get better.

    I got to meet the writer of Threads, the late Barry Hines, when he gave a talk and a reading at my university in the 1990s, and even have a signed book by him. Alas, at the time I didn’t know he’d written Threads or I would have asked him about it during the Q&A session.

    @Chad Saxelid

    Threads is far more harrowing than Testament. In terms of being grim, unsettling, and depressing, I think Threads mops the floor with both The Day After and Testament, both.

    This.

    @John A. Arkansawyer
    Yes, it’s absolutely possible to be more depressing than Testament (which I never felt was all that bad compared to other anti-nuclear war films of the period). Threads proves it.

  27. For me, of all these TV and theatrical movies that came out around the same time, the scariest was surely Special Bulletin.

  28. @Chip —

    Thank you for the warning; I will save the book for sometime when I’m not already down.

    I realized last night that I should have added another very important bit of info: the “moral of the story”, the ending, is not at all depressing — it’s just that Hawkins puts his characters through hell before he lets you get there.

    Personally, I am more likely to get depressed by Culture novels than by The Library at Mount Char — because ultimately there doesn’t seem to be any point in trying in the first two Culture novels I’ve read (the AIs are manipulating everything anyway, so why bother?). In contrast, there’s definitely a point in trying in the Hawkins book, though a lot more suffering in the process.

  29. @Cora
    Regarding Threads, the entire movie used to be available online, but it’s gone now,
    Available on Amazon Prime (in the U.S., at least). Available as a torrent on Pirate Bay and elsewhere.

  30. @Contrarius: IME, the AIs have limited person-to-person influence; even if (as I vaguely recall) some of them incarnate in forms mistakable for human, there are only so many places they can be, leaving room for human judgment and endeavor. It’s possible I’m giving Banks more support than he deserves in retrospect, but I haven’t regretted the time I spent with Culture books. wrt …Char, as a Cherryh fan I’m used to characters going through hell for the author’s payoff, although Char sounds a bit more extreme. I’ll find out in a few weeks.

  31. @Chip —

    IME, the AIs have limited person-to-person influence

    But the AIs are manipulating the entire Big Picture — they’re the ones actually playing the biggest games, to reference the title of book #2.

    wrt …Char, as a Cherryh fan I’m used to characters going through hell for the author’s payoff, although Char sounds a bit more extreme. I’ll find out in a few weeks.

    I love Cherryh. She isn’t anywhere in the same universe as Hawkins when it comes to making her characters suffer. Think very grim modern grimdark in terms of the degree of suffering, only without a grimdark nihilistic payoff.

    Truly, some of the scenes are very upsetting — people easily triggered should stay far away. I finally gave up on Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian a few years ago; I nearly gave up on Hawkins during one scene (those who have read the book will know which one!), but I’m very glad that I stuck with it. Read my full review to get a better idea of the ups and downs of the book.

  32. I think you underestimate how important the many small pictures are (some of them are planet-sized, after all), but I also suspect that the Culture is one of those cultures that reads very differently to people, even ones who aren’t necessarily poles apart politically.

  33. @Chip —

    You may need to read Player of Games again. One of the things the MC realizes at the end is that the AIs were manipulating the situation every step of the way.

    But definitely, YMMV!

  34. @Xtifr —

    It’s not exactly a complaint. It was just a personal observation that the Culture books depress me because there really is no point to all the suffering and striving the human characters do in the course of the books. And the reason why there is no point is that the AIs are manipulating everything both behind and within the scenes — they are the puppet masters, and the human characters are essentially just their puppets.

    P.S. — keep in mind that I’ve only read the first two books so far. I got too depressed by them to really much want to continue. I do plan to read Use of Weapons eventually, though.

  35. I guess I just don’t understand why that’s depressing. Humans are, quite clearly, very happy in the Culture. (As happy as humans get.) No, they’re not as smart as the AI, but why should they have to be? John Campbell is dead, so we’re allowed to have SF where humans aren’t the center of the universe, the be-all and end-all, and destined to always be superior to everything.

    Yes, the humans are a bit pet-like in the Culture. But not because they’ve been diminished in any way. Surpassed, yes, but they’re still as complex as ever. The AI don’t hold them back in any way.

    I found the Culture a fascinating look at what it might be like to live with vastly superior (and mostly benevolent) beings. It never even crossed my mind that it might be depressing. It actually seems pretty awesome to me.

  36. @Xtifr —

    “I guess I just don’t understand why that’s depressing. Humans are, quite clearly, very happy in the Culture.”

    It’s the question of free will and agency. Essentially, the humans have none. They think they do, but their decisions are being manipulated by the AIs. That’s why the MC is fighting against them in Consider Phlebas (and fails), and that’s what the MC in Player of Games realizes at the end of the book.

  37. Being manipulated by smarter beings (and I admit the AIs in the Culture do that) doesn’t mean you lack free will and agency. Did Bujold’s mercenaries lack free will and agency just because a smarter guy (Miles Vorkosigan) came along and tricked them all into working for him?

    (Granted, Miles isn’t quite in the same league as the Culture’s AIs, but it’s a matter of quantity, not quality. Both are smart and manipulative but overall benevolent and friendly.)

  38. @Xtifr —

    “Being manipulated by smarter beings (and I admit the AIs in the Culture do that) doesn’t mean you lack free will and agency.”

    Of course it does, when it’s done on a large scale. The AIs are predetermining what’s going to happen.

    “Did Bujold’s mercenaries lack free will and agency just because a smarter guy (Miles Vorkosigan) came along and tricked them all into working for him?”

    The scale is entirely different. (Ironically, I’m just about at the end of my bazillionth reading/listening of The Warrior’s Apprentice right now. 😉 )

    “Granted, Miles isn’t quite in the same league as the Culture’s AIs, but it’s a matter of quantity, not quality.”

    It’s both.

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