Pixel Scroll 12/20/18 Five Chaptered Twice Chaptered Filing Purple Pixel Scroller

(1) YEAR’S BEST FANTASY BOOKS. The popular culture website Paste calls these “The 15 Best Fantasy Novels of 2018”.

The following 15 books capture the range that makes fantasy fiction so great, from epic high fantasy to alternate reality to urban fantasy to literary fiction that just happens to star a Greek goddess. These books visit other magical worlds, sure, but also draw from West African, Chinese and Greek mythology, as well as the American Civil War, ’80s punk scenes, far-off planets and Edwardian England. Most of these are stand-alone novels, but there are also a few continuations of some of our favorite fantasy series.

4. Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Named Paste’s best Young Adult novel of 2018, Dread Nation blends elements of fantasy, horror and alternate history to create something wholly unique and utterly memorable. Set in an alternate world in which the undead rose up at the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War, the novel picks up years later as the United States is spiraling into horror. Readers meet Jane, a teen studying to be an Attendant who is trained to fight zombies for the wealthy white class. But it isn’t the life she wants. A novel that discusses race, class and so much more, Dread Nation is one of 2018’s best reads. —Eric Smith

(2) QUEST, OR GUILT TRIP? However, Forbidden Futures’ Cody Goodfellow takes a skeptical view of epic fantasy: “Exiled from Middle-Earth: Why Fantasy Failed Us”.

…If Tolkien stirred our noblest aspirations, he also created a benign propaganda that mythologized cultural differences until nationalities became species, and denied basic humanity to its antagonists, rendering the defense of the divine right of kings into a Manichean conflict between absolute light and absolute darkness––arguably, in spite of his denials, an allegory for Europe’s agonizing crusade against Hitler. As noted contrarian David Brin observed in an essay coinciding with Jackson’s grandiose adaptation of Lord Of The Rings, the humans and their allies worship at the altar of absolute hereditary rule, and libel the one agent of merit, inclusion and technological progress in Middle Earth. Certainly, the notion that the land might incarnate itself in the form of a devoted ruler is a beautiful conceit, but it’s only the most richly embroidered defense of a myth that’s brought little but tribulation and tragedy, in the real world. If one were to ask the Saudi Crown Prince in a candid moment about the butchery of Jamal Khashoggi only this month, he would no doubt clothe his rationalization by noting that the Washington Post journalist dismembered with bone saws in the Saudi consulate in Turkey was just another orc threatening his divinely ordained kingdom….

(3) ELSEWORLDS CROSSOVER. A highlight from the CW event — “Black Suit Superman Speaks With Kara In Meta Jail — Elseworlds Crossover Supergirl.”

(4) DEEP FAN. NPR’s Glen Weldon discusses “Aquaman, From Super Friend To Surfer Dude: The Bro-Ification Of A Hero”.

Let’s get the bona fides out of the way up top.

This post is about some of the sweeping changes that the DC Comics superhero Aquaman (Swift and Powerful Monarch of the Ocean! King of the Seven Seas!) has undergone on his way to this weekend’s blockbuster movie Aquaman. Inevitably, it will elide many details important to ardent fans of the character, and open its author up to charges of not knowing whereof he speaks, of a willful ignorance of the character, of simply echoing stale observations hastily ransacked from the Aquaman Wikipedia page.

The defense humbly (okay, smugly) presents the following evidence.

Exhibit A: That photo atop this post? That’s the author’s collection of aqua-memorabilia. Kindly do not refer to it as a shrine, as it is simply the by-product of what happens when the author’s lifelong obsession with a fictional character intersects with his husband’s insistence that said obsession not take up more space in their tiny apartment than the top of one friggin’ dresser.

(5) COUNTERPOINT. Despite several quibbles, NPR’s Linda Holmes says “‘Mary Poppins Returns’ Is A Fine And Fresh Take On A Classic”.

The first rule of Mary Poppins is that you must never explain Mary Poppins.

Perhaps the smartest decision in the sequel Mary Poppins Returns is that it’s no more clear than it ever was how, exactly, this nanny floats in. We don’t know where Mary came from, how exactly she has relatives given that she seems to have simply materialized from the sky, or whether she was ever a child herself. Mary Poppins simply is.

It’s hard to bring to life a character with no past and no future except to visit more children, take them on more adventures, and then leave them again. Created in the P.L. Travers children’s books and indelibly committed to film by Julie Andrews in 1964, Mary is special in part because since she’s magic, she is nurture without need. She doesn’t need to be thanked; she doesn’t even need to be remembered. The helping is all.

(6) OUT, DARNED DOTS. Jeff VanderMeer says the problem is very simple:

If the semi-colon is ruining your writing, periods, colons, and commas probably are ruining it, too.

(7) HANG UP. Continuing today’s Abbreviated Wisdom for Authors section: “Michael Chabon’s Advice to Young Writers: Put Away Your Phone”.

…And it’s advice I give to myself, as much as to anyone, but especially to younger writers. Writers coming up now. Which is put your?—?put this [points to phone]?—?away. When you’re out in the world, when you’re walking down the street, when you’re on the subway, when you’re riding in the back of a car, when you’re doing all those everyday things that are so tedious, where this [phone] is such a godsend in so many ways. As in that David Foster Wallace graduation speech, when he talks about standing in line at the grocery store. When you’re in those moments where this [phone] is so seductive, and it works! It’s so brilliant at giving you something to do. I mean walking down the street looking at your phone?—?that’s pretty excessive. But in other circumstances where it feels natural, that’s when you need to put this [phone] away. Because using your eyes, to take in your immediate surroundings… Your visual and auditory experience of the world, eavesdropping on conversations, watching people interact, noticing weird shit out the window of a moving car, all those things are so deeply necessary to getting your work done every day. When I’m working on a regular work schedule, which is most of the time, and I’m really engaged in whatever it is I’m working on, there’s a part of my brain that is always alert to mining what can be mined from that immediate everyday experience. I don’t even know I’m doing it, but I’ll see something, like,“That name on that sign is the perfect last name for this character!” Or the thing I just overheard that woman saying, is exactly the line of dialog I need for whatever I’m doing. And if you’re like this [phone in your face], you miss it all.

(8) BILL CRIDER PRIZE FOR SHORT FICTION. Bouchercon 2019 will inaugurate the Bill Crider Prize for Short Fiction in the mystery genre.

Debuting at the 50th Anniversary of Bouchercon, Carol Puckett and the 2019 Bouchercon Dallas committee launched the Bill Crider Prize for Short Fiction to celebrate this treasured literary form, both the short story and the widely-admired mystery author and reviewer, Bill Crider. Designed to encourage writers from all over the world, these distinguished prizes award stories with fascinating characters and twisty plots, all in the mystery genre.

First Prize: $1000

Second Prize: $750

Third Prize: $500

Janet Hutchings, editor of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and Linda Landrigan, editor of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, will choose the winners from the shortlisted writers.

Once the final four writers have been chosen, all shortlisted authors will be notified on or near October 1.

Bouchercon Dallas Guest of Honor, Hank Phillippi Ryan, will recognize the shortlisted authors and award the top prizes during Bouchercon 2019 in Dallas, Texas. The convention takes place October 31-November 3, 2019.

The deadline for submissions is March 1, 2019. Full guidelines at the link.

(9) MORE ON NINE WORLDS. Robot Archie steered me to another exposition about the fate of Nine Worlds. Avery Delany’s Twitter thread begins here.  

(10) STRONG LANGUAGE, HARLAN? Fanac.org returns you to the thrilling days of yesteryear with an audio recording of Harlan Ellison at Pacificon II, the 1964) Worldcon, speaking about “Adaptation of Science Fiction to a Visual Media.” Visually annotated, illustrated with convention photos, and preceded with this little warning —

Pacificon II, the 22nd World Science Fiction Convention, was held in Oakland, CA in 1964. WARNING – 1) Harlan uses some strong language in this recording. 2)The first few minutes are missing. Harlan gives an engrossing talk (audio, enhanced with images) about writing for television and about how Hollywood works. The talk took place during the filming of the Outer Limits episode, “Demon With a Glass Hand”, and Harlan speaks very frankly (including complaints) about his experience as the writer on the episode. Includes Harlan’s reading of a scene as written, and as changed by management as well as discussion on the casting, the directing and the location. Embedded are photos of Harlan throughout his science fiction career. This audio material was provided by The Southern California Institute for Fan Interests (SCIFI), and Jerome Scott, Director of Projects for SCIFI in LA.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 20, 1933Son Of Kong premiered in theaters.
  • December 20, 1961 – The film version of Jules Verne’s drama Mysterious Island was released.
  • December 20, 1974 — Walt Disney’s The Island At The Top Of The World debuted.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 20, 1838 Edwin Abbott Abbott. Author of the Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, an 1884 novella that has come to be adopted as SF even though it’s really mathematical fiction. Go ahead, argue with me. (Died 1926.)
  • Born December 20, 1942  — Angel Tompkins, 76. Anyone remember Amazon Women on the Moon? Yeah she was in it. She later shows up in the Knight Rider series and, oh, that Starlost series which Cordwainer Bird swore off before the first episode. There’s an episode of Wild Wild West and Night Gallery as well but she stopped acting twenty years ago.
  • Born December 20, 1943 Jacqueline Pearce. Longest and definitely best known role would be as the evil Supreme Commander Servalan/ and Commissioner Sleer on Blake’s 7. She’d show several times in Doctor Who, one on screen in The Two Doctors (Yes, I saw it) and once as a voice only role in Death Comes to Time, a Seventh Doctor story.  She played a Mrs. Annabelle Levin in the “Paris, October 1916” episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles as well, a series I really liked. She did a bit of time travel in Moondail as Miss Vole / Miss Raven and finally showed up in The Avengers as a character named Miaranne. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 20, 1952 Jenny Agutter, 66. Fist SF role was Jessica 6 in Logan’s Run. Later genre roles include Nurse Alex Price In An American Werewolf in London (great film), Carolyn Page in Dark Tower which is not  a Stephen King based film, an uncredited cameo as a burn doctor in one of my all time fav films which is Darkman and finally Councilwoman Hawley in The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
  • Born December 20, 1960 Nalo Hopkinson, 58. First novel I ever read by her was Brown Girl in The Ring, a truly amazing novel. Like all her work, it draws on Afro-Caribbean history and language, and its intertwined traditions of oral and written storytelling. I’d also single out  Mojo: Conjure Stories and Falling in Love With Hominids collections as they are both wonderful and challenging reading. Worth seeking out out out is her edited Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean Fabulist Fiction. She was a Guest of Honor at Wiscon thrice. Is that unusual?
  • Born December 20, 1970 Nicole de Boer, 48. I first saw her in a Canadian produced series called Beyond Reality where she played multiple roles. Very odd show. You’ll more likely know her as Ezri Dax on i or Sarah Bracknell Bannerman on The Dead Zone as those are her major genre series to date. She’s also shown up in Forever Knight, TekWar, Poltergeist, The Outer Limits, Stargate Atlantis, Haven, Five Days to Midnight, The Fearing Mind, Mission Genesis and Psi Factor. I believe all of these latter shows were filmed in Canada, some of them of Toronto if memory serves me right.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) DRUM ROLL, PLEASE. WhatCulture has designated these the 10 Best Comic Books of 2018.

(15) COMICS’ JEWISH INFLUENCERS. Career artist and fan Hugo winner Steve Stiles responded to the Baltimore Jewish Times’ farewell to Stan Lee in this recently-published letter of comment. Steve begins —  

As one who enjoyed a five-year stint as a freelance illustrator for Marvel’s British publications, I enjoyed reading Arie Kaplan’s article on Stan Lee (“Stan Lee Gave Comic Books Permission to Be More Jewish, JT online”). I was, however, surprised that one of Marvel’s leading Jewish characters, Ben Grimm, aka The Thing, the strong man of the Fantastic Four, was overlooked….

(16) KEEP COUNTING. Seems there’s still a lot to discover on this planet! Per the BBC: “The secret life of plants: Ten new species found this year”.

Plant collectors have searched for the hidden wonders of the plant world for centuries.

Yet plants that are new to science are still being described, at a rate of about 2,000 a year.

Scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, discovered and named more than 100 new plants in 2018.

Their list of the top new plants includes carnivorous pitcher plants, exotic orchids and climbers with untapped medicinal powers.

(17) LITTLE BROTHER IS LISTENING. Get ready to shake and bake: “Nasa’s InSight deploys ‘Marsquake’ instrument”.

The American space agency’s InSight mission to Mars has begun to deploy its instruments.

The lander’s robotic arm has just placed the bell-shaped seismometer package on the ground in front of it.

This suite of sensors, developed in France and the UK, will listen for “Marsquakes” in an effort to determine the internal structure of the Red Planet.

InSight touched down near the world’s equator in November.

(18) PIE A LA GIANT MODE. Speaking of baking, this has nothing to do with genre, but dang! In Australia, “Domino’s Is Selling Its Biggest Pizza Ever, And It Barely Can Fit Into Cars”.

It’s available in extremely limited quantities.

Only two are available per store, per day, so you have to order one online ahead of time if you want in. Domino’s requires a 24 hour heads-up, so plan your hang-outs accordingly.

It’s too big for delivery.

Do you really expect someone to carry this on their bike to you?! No, you gotta go in and pick it up. And since it’s a full 40 inches across (Domino’s had to make new boxes to stand up to the weight!) you might want to go in an SUV.

(19) MONSTERS FROM THE US. From Entertainment Weekly: Us first look: See photos from Jordan’s Peele’s Get Out follow-up”

Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, Get Out, not only delivered a bone-chilling psychological thriller, it dissected the underlying racial oppression running through the veins of America, spearheaded conversations of societal fractures, and earned four Oscar nominations. (It would go on to win Peele the Best Original Screenplay award.) So after Peele’s killer success, what does the filmmaker do next?

“For my second feature, I wanted to create a monster mythology,” Peele tells EW. “I wanted to do something that was more firmly in the horror genre but still held on to my love of movies that are twisted but fun.”

Details are very, very vague about Peele’s upcoming film Us. The story is set in the present day and follows Adelaide and Gabe Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke) as they take their kids to Adelaide’s old childhood beachside home in Northern California for the summer.

(20) GET STARTED BOOING NOW. No need to wait — you know this will end badly The Hollywood Reporter says “‘Harvey’ Remake in the Works at Netflix”. The idea does not sound either oh, so nice, or oh, so smart….

‘Shrek 2’ writers J. David Stem and David N. Weiss have been tapped to write.

One of film’s best-known rabbits is hopping his way back to Hollywood.

A Harvey remake is in the works at Netflix, with J. David Stem and David N. Weiss set to write the screenplay. Fabrica de Cine, which is working with the streamer on Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, will produce.

(21) I DREAM OF GENIE. Footage from the forthcoming Aladdin live-action movie with Will Smith as the Genie.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Rob Thornton, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, Robot Archie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

43 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 12/20/18 Five Chaptered Twice Chaptered Filing Purple Pixel Scroller

  1. @1: I’ll look at some of these, but I wonder about a list that puts Spinning Silver at 7 and The Poppy Wars at 2 — the latter still seems to me to spend too much time box-ticking.

    @12: I remember thinking 4 decades ago that Agutter was showing very limited talent — but she’s kept alive in the business, which is no small feat.

    @18: I wonder why it’s available only in that set of flavors? I guess Hawaiian is a thing on the Pacific rim; I’ve seen it offered around Boston but never seen someone actually eat a piece.

    @20: how can they possibly rationalize this in contemporary terms? (Will they even try?)

    @21: and this could be almost as bad — Williams was a brilliant loon, where Smith is mostly a smartass. I wonder how many more animateds Disney will remake before they stop making money.

  2. @Chip — You are a rare male fan from our era who didn’t worship Jenny Agutter. I didn’t exactly worship her either, maybe because I never saw Logan’s Run, but I have enjoyed her work from Walkabout to Call the Midwife with a number of stops along the way. I have wondered if, during those pre-Comicon days, she ever knew what an icon she was within our field.

  3. 11) I enjoy all three of those movies (although I have to remember to mentally disambiguate Island at the Top of the World from In Search of the Castaways).

    Of the three, Mysterious Island is probably the best because Harryhausen.

  4. I listened all the way through Planetside today — it’s a short book, and I was doing stuff that allowed me to listen all day. Never a dull moment.

    And gaaaaaaaaah, what an annoying but effective place to end the book! I enjoyed the whole thing; I’m sure someone else can come up with a profound review, but my short take is that it’s essentially about how “good” people subjected to the pressures of war can end up making horrifying decisions for what seem like very good reasons. Interestingly, the book makes no bones about humanity being the aggressors in the current war as well as in previous ones that are mentioned along the way, although the indigenous people being attacked currently are no angels either.

    Ooo, I just noticed it’s a debut novel. Will definitely be on my Campbell ballot. Also I just noticed that it’s gonna have a sequel, which — giving the ending of this book — will take some doing!

  5. (2) I have trouble wrapping my head around what Cody Goodfellow’s thesis is except fantasy was bad at the start, and then Tolkien ruined it. It also seems to confuse name dropping for genre insight.

    Reactions to Tolkien tended to boil away the engrossing complexity into a stew of YA destiny-porn like Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles or David Gemmell’s Belgariad, or drag an all-too-human element into the plot in troublesome, if not always edifying ways.

    Aside from the confusion of Gemmell and Eddings, I’m far from sure the Prydain Chronicles can be called destiny-porn in any meaningful sense, and I’m definitely unsure if Alexander wrote it as a reaction to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

    (4) Fun little article! A perfect chaser for the (2).

    (9) And I who only had heard good things about Nine Worlds previously, it’s sad to hear both of it having organisation troubles earlier, and now that people have been made to feel unsafe there.

  6. (20) It has been remade a couple of times already. The world didn’t end any of those times, it probably won’t this time either. The linked article is even topped by a photo from the 1972 remake captioned as if it’s from the 1950 version.

  7. No Road Among the Stars, by A. Walker Scott, is a debut novel published this year.

    David Asbury is a linguistics student at a university mainly for training diplomats (including aliens) on a space station. He’s more-or-less drafted into a group project where the pod competes with other pods in a computer-simulated universe.

    I found the first half or more of the book very funny. Then it gets darker. But I like the book.

  8. Mister Dalliard: The world didn’t end any of those times, it probably won’t this time either.

    Hmm. There’s a very long list of things that did not cause the world to end that I’m not a fan of all the same.

  9. 2) That reads like an overenthusiastic 2nd-year college essay, from about 1978. I’m honestly not sure how much fantasy he’s read in the last 20 years- the essay isnt encouraging. Then again, maybe im just reacting badly to “Mad about Moorcock.”

  10. Chip Hitchcock on December 20, 2018 at 8:34 pm said:
    @1: I’ll look at some of these, but I wonder about a list that puts Spinning Silver at 7 and The Poppy Wars at 2 — the latter still seems to me to spend too much time box-ticking.

    The difference between Poppy Wars and Spinning Silver seem to me a matter of perspective. If you read a lot of fantasy from the 1980s onwards as I have, The Poppy Wars as the first book seems to repeat first book-ism that many series’ first books do. Whereas Spinning Silver is a new take on a oft-seen fairy tale seen from a different culture than before (AFAICT), What’s new to me is the personal response as an ethnic Chinese male born outside China to read English language fantasy from a non-Chinese tradition (there are many Chinese-language fantasies, probably even in English translation available; alas I can’t seem to get into them because they are foreign to me, double-pun intended as I can’t read Chinese and they aren’t to my taste, even translated.)
    So Poppy Wars and Jade City by Fonda Lee are very much to my taste as much as I liked Spinning Silver because they (PW/JC) are not Orientalist, and organically create the world-building for lack of a better term from my cultural history (which I have no connection to). Whereas SS is a new take on a many-times told tale which ending isn’t original (im not sure but i havent read all versions of this fairy tale so maybe its brand new, but i kinda doubt it). Only the inclusion of ryirf naq gur Ryira Xvat counts as original which to be sure I loved while reading it.
    Still YMMV i dont think its box-ticking in any way as much as any fantasy after Tolkien which includes a Dark Lord and the threat of imminent destruction of a country.
    I’m not trying to start a flame-war just disagreeing with you about the relative merits of the two books, (and maybe trying to steer Filers who might want to try both books to see their merits on their own terms.)

  11. (10) I can’t help noting the irony of the name of the group that provided the recordings of Harlan.

  12. 13) There’s a lot of very funny stuff–and other not-so-funny good stuff–on that webpage. I note it’s an Arkansaw boy made good, and a Callen, which means I bet I played music with one of his relatives, as there aren’t many with that spelling. That blog is worth your time.

    Andrew@10) Oh, he’d’ve hated that!

  13. That Glen Weldon piece has WAY TMI but I enjoyed theclip from Robot Chicken.

    Finding out the new Aladdin movie is A Guy Ritchie Film is NOT promising.

  14. (14) I’m going to second the recommendation of Eternity Girl. It’s superb, and I think it’s exactly the type of work that seems to appeal to the Hugo-voting crowd. It’s something I’d really like to see on the ballot next year.

  15. Christmassy Pixel Scroll title: “Golden the Ship Was Ho! Ho! Ho!”

    (Inspired by Cordwainer Smith and seeing a sign backwards)

  16. Heads-up for Amazon UK users who’ve been wanting an ebook of Yoon Ha Lee’s Elevenfox Gambit Revenant Gun — it’s currently on sale for £1.99.

  17. @Mix Mat:

    So Poppy Wars and Jade City by Fonda Lee are very much to my taste as much as I liked Spinning Silver because they (PW/JC) are not Orientalist, and organically create the world-building for lack of a better term from my cultural history (which I have no connection to).

    I get that seeing east Asia represented by people who know the subject better than most westerners (even, or perhaps especially, scholarly westerners) is a win. The issue I have is that even from the little I know of east-Asian stories made by east Asians, the world-building does not seem “organic”; instead, it reads like all the fan-favorite (perhaps even Western-fan–favorite) elements of other stories were tossed in a stew with no regard to whether they fit together. (This could be me not understanding the narrative conventions.) I know others have disagreed but IIRC I’m not the only one on this list to have seen gaps and pandering in it.
    I was also not especially impressed by Jade City, but I don’t know how much of its structure was true-to-criminal-life (including the lives of those affected by criminals) and how much was eastern-popcult ideas of criminal life (e.g., as satirized by Itami in Tampopo).

    I suspect you are overestimating the amount of Spinning Silver that can be derived from any version of “Rumpelstiltskin” — the former reads more like a complex real-world story that was boiled down by generations of oral transmission — but I’m not familiar with enough versions to argue this, especially given Wikipedia’s cites that some form of the story may be four millennia old. But a story does not stand solely by the originality of its parts, but the originality of their arrangement and how well they fit together — among many other facets of the author’s craft such as depth of character. wrt craft (and character), I note how she adds one voice after another, but manages to keep all of them distinct without having anyone saying ~”This is me talking now.”

  18. @Mix Mat —

    The difference between Poppy Wars and Spinning Silver seem to me a matter of perspective.

    Yeah, no.

    They are incredibly different books, and not only because they come out of different cultural traditions.

    Whereas Spinning Silver is a new take on a oft-seen fairy tale

    No, it really really isn’t. I know it has been marketed as such, but there is actually little resemblance between the two. The bit about turning silver into gold is more of a take-off point than anything else.

    So Poppy Wars and Jade City by Fonda Lee are very much to my taste as much as I liked Spinning Silver because they (PW/JC) are not Orientalist, and organically create the world-building for lack of a better term from my cultural history (which I have no connection to).

    I haven’t read the Lee stories (yet). I do think Poppy War shows promise, though I think it also has plenty of problems, but I think we all have to agree that cultural elements like testing-to-get-ahead and so on have already been done elsewhere, like in Grace of Kings and Ninefox Gambit and other books.

    Whereas SS is a new take on a many-times told tale which ending isn’t original

    That is just soooooooo much baloney, sorry.

    Again, in reality, the book goes far beyond the fairytale.

    and maybe trying to steer Filers who might want to try both books to see their merits on their own terms.

    IMHO both books are worth reading. Poppy War seems to me to be the imperfect but interesting effort of an ambitious but inexperienced writer, while Spinning Silver has richness and depth brought to it by a writer with tons of both talent and experience.

  19. Oh, P.S. — in case anyone is interested — Mom got a pacemaker this afternoon. Miracles of modern technology, the type she got only required a small femoral incision, with the tiny little pacemaker guided up through the vein and into the ventricle. No wires, no battery replacement needed. Look, Ma, no hands — almost sufficiently advanced to be magic!

  20. Contrarius, I’m glad your mom is not only getting what she needs, but getting it with the benefits of less invasive technology!

  21. (4) That’s an entertaining article but also very annoying, because the author’s whole thesis of “they changed Aquaman into a big strong dude with a beard because people were making fun of him on Entourage” only works if you don’t know that Aquaman was portrayed as a big strong dude with a beard 25 years ago. I can’t tell if the author doesn’t know that, or if he’s just glossing over it in order to write the piece he wanted to write; since he says up front that he’s going to ignore the history of the comics (a bizarre decision when talking about adaptations of a comic) I assume it’s the latter.

  22. It’s horrific, isn’t it? The worst thing is that it appears to be an actual licensed edition from a reputable eBook publisher (Phoenix Pick) and it must be a bespoke cover — the details hew too closely to what’s in the book for it to just be some random piece of clip art.

    (And they’ve done a few other Heinlein books — Double Star and Podkayne of Mars &c. — and those covers, while … not good, are, at least, just kind of bad to mediocre and don’t make me want to gouge out my eyes with a grapefruit spoon.)

  23. I saw a copy of Podkayne with this text:

    PODKAYNE OF MARS
    The fantabulous secret weapon in the cold war between the worlds.
    Back Cover:
    Tomorrow’s answer to the anti-missile-missile.
    Podkayne of Mars
    An interplanetary bombshell who rocked the constellations when
    she invaded the Venus Hilton and attacked the mighty mechanical
    men with a strange, overpowering blast of highly explosive Sex
    Appeal.
    A cenTERRIFICal tale of two planets by the mastermind of Robert Heinlein
    Inside Front Page:
    A HEAVENLY BODY
    She was the sun, the moon and the stars. Wherever pretty Poddy
    rocketed, her radiation waves could be felt for lightyears. The
    fun and games’ rooms at Las Vega, Venus, had never seen anything
    like this minx from Mars. Poddy was having the time of her
    celestial life–until one of her male satellites discovered that
    Podkayne spelled trouble…in anybody’s orbit.

    Any problems with the actual cover art were trivial compared to this text.

  24. @Andrew–Oh. Um.

    After both Heinleins were dead and couldn’t defend against this amazing horror?

    And yes, that Red Planet cover is dire, too, but that’s just bad art. That cover text for Podkayne is in a whole nother universe.

  25. @Chip @Contrarius
    I tried to edit within the editing window but the post didn’t even show up and I haven’t filed since then until now. Sorry, my response and the last paragraph especially were more strident than I, in hindsight, think now. The relative merits of the two books are such that I don’t really agree mostly that the #7 and #2 positions are anything to wonder about. I might even agree now that Spinning Silver Silver is a, imo, theoretically better book than Poppy War. I don’t agree that PW spends too much time box-ticking.

    Also testing-to-get-ahead is part of the culture here that most stories dealing with schools and learning can’t avoid dealing with. Haven’t read Grace of Kings or Yoon Ha-Lee. or Three-Body Problem.

    Also I can get Asian stories by Asians anytime in Hong Kong and China cinema/tv, (or translated books) but SFF which is informed by Western SFF from an Asian viewpoint is new to me. Three-Body problem and Grace of Kings may apply but I believe they come from a translation viewpoint if that makes sense. Not sure about Yoon Ha-Lee.

    Spinning Silver, while I was reading it felt like the author was adding in characters to the plot for, I found out later, eventual payoff; but I was annoyed at the additional characters when I wanted to get to Miryem and Wanda; also not knowing whose pov each chapter was bugging me. (Maybe it’s me getting used to Chapter headings in Martin’s books; GRRM’s ASoIaF)

    Everything else you both wrote I can agree with. It’s just my take that Poppy War is a good post-Tolkien fantasy first instalment. Take that however you want
    : )

  26. OK, yeah, I didn’t actually read the Podkayne cover text, which is unfathomably awful.

    EDITED BECAUSE ANDREW’S NOTE CAME IN JUST AS I HIT SAVE: OK, that makes me feel slightly better.

    EDITED AGAIN TO ADD: And it reminds me of cover text I saw for a Lin Carter book — I think it was Zebra or one of those houses — where the book was a collection of unrelated short stories but the cover copy was describing a fairly generic heroic fantasy novel.

  27. I’ve been looking for a copy with that abominable cover text for over a decade, ever since I heard it read aloud. I’ve resisted online buying for a long time time now, as I realize in my hands, it’s just like crack so far as my cash would be concerned. But for under ten bucks, I may have to break down.

    If you see me living under a bridge any time soon, you’ll know how it started.

  28. Nineteen. Sixty. Three.

    Okay.

    Yes.

    Dim, long-buried memories are coming back, of paperbacks routinely having unfathomably bad cover text. Cover text that meant books with the most unexceptionable content couldn’t be shown to adults.

  29. @Mix Mat —

    The relative merits of the two books are such that I don’t really agree mostly that the #7 and #2 positions are anything to wonder about.

    I’ve got no argument here. I know that Poppy War has been incredibly popular, and while I personally think Spinning Silver is a ton better, I don’t think either one is a bad book.

    I don’t agree that PW spends too much time box-ticking.

    Ehhhh, I’m not sure I would call it “box ticking” either. I would call it something more like “poorly integrated plot elements” — I think it’s something a more experienced author would have done more gracefully.

    Also testing-to-get-ahead is part of the culture here that most stories dealing with schools and learning can’t avoid dealing with.

    Right. I was reacting to your implication that Poppy War was doing something innovative with its depiction of Asian-inspired culture.

    but SFF which is informed by Western SFF from an Asian viewpoint is new to me.

    I’m not sure what this means, really.

    Three-Body problem and Grace of Kings may apply but I believe they come from a translation viewpoint if that makes sense. Not sure about Yoon Ha-Lee.

    Of those three, only Three-Body Problem was translated into English. The other two are English in the original. Yoon Ha Lee was born in Texas; Ken Liu was born in China but immigrated to the US at the age of 11.

    Spinning Silver, while I was reading it felt like the author was adding in characters to the plot for, I found out later, eventual payoff

    I agree that the book got off to a somewhat slow start. I liked it okay at the beginning, but I didn’t really get enamored until about the second half or so. The farther in I got, the better the book got IMHO.

  30. @Joe H: some of that cover looks like conventions of representation that I’ve seen in passing but not looked at in detail, rather than “bad art” per se — but it certainly gives an odd idea of the story while giving away the punchline.

    @Andrew (later post): I remember some of those lines (but not all of them — not sure whether memory is merciful or the library HC was not as prolix). I suppose that back then somebody thought it would draw in predominantly-male readers who wouldn’t consider picking up a straightforward story about a female who is sometimes competent — or maybe some marketroid thought a paperback should aim at Mickey Spillane readers as well as SF readers.

    @Mix Mat

    Spinning Silver, while I was reading it felt like the author was adding in characters to the plot for, I found out later, eventual payoff

    This is a short, ~~mythic tale made into a good-sized novel set in a substantial, real-feeling world. If you require slam-bang action and all your characters up front instead of starting with the core character and then widening focus as the consequences of that person’s actions spread, you’ll miss a lot of good material; I thought Novik was very skillful/effective in giving us what the story needed when it was needed. (I thought it was also appropriate given the constraints on travel that would slow the spread of a story even more than it would in a place which merely lacks instant communications.) This technique would have been somewhat plausible even in a school story; having been to 3 boarding schools (long story), I can say definitely that an outsider isn’t going to learn everything or meet everyone at once — ISTM that this is held to in good structure even if (as in the here-recommended The High Ground) the author prefaces the story with a multi-page list of characters.

  31. @John A Arkansawyer:

    If you see me living under a bridge any time soon, you’ll know how it started.

    Sorry about that.

    @Lis Carey

    Dim, long-buried memories are coming back, of paperbacks routinely having unfathomably bad cover text. Cover text that meant books with the most unexceptionable content couldn’t be shown to adults.

    Yeah.

  32. “Jenny Agutter, 66. Fist SF role”

    Not often a typo (“fist”) doesn’t get caught in the first few comments!

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