Pixel Scroll 12/29/17 A One-Note Scroll With More Than One Note

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites all to share cannoli with Charles Sheffield and Arlan Andrews, Sr  — in 1994.

Back in 1991, when I laid out for the publishers of Science Fiction Age the vision I had for that magazine—which I’d go on to edit through the year 2000—I knew that to compete with the existing SF mags of the time, and give readers what they couldn’t get elsewhere, one of the things we needed to do was deliver a science column unlike any published by the competition. So I decided I’d take science fiction writers who were also scientists out to lunch or dinner, then record, transcribe, and condense the conversations for publication.

Earlier this year, I happened to think back to those chats, and it occurred to me:

Eating in restaurants … while discussing the fantastic … with science fiction writers? Isn’t that what this podcast is all about?

So I ran to the basement and dug out the box which contained my old cassette tapes, all the while wondering whether any recordings of those Science Forums still existed, and if they did, whether the sound quality would justify sharing them with you.

Rummaging through that box, I discovered many tapes, and listened first to a recording of my March 1, 1994 lunch with Arlan Andrews, Sr. and  Charles Sheffield at the Bethesda, Maryland restaurant the Pines of Rome. Our subject was the many ways the world might end. I’d transcribed that talk, edited it down, and published it in the September 1994 issue of Science Fiction Age.

(2) CAT RESCUE. Oor Resnick on rescuing SJW credentials:

Cat Rescue, Part 1: In the beginning…

To date, I have fostered approximately 65 cats and kittens in my home (which is why my upstairs carpet looks like it belongs in a crack house). Although I have fostered a few adult cats, I mostly focus on kittens–for several reasons. Kittens are easier to place (that is, more people want to adopt them), and so I can save a greater number of feline lives by fostering kittens; they move through here at a faster rate, making room for more fosters. Also, this is a small house that already has 4 permanent cats, so I favor fostering kittens because, again, they’re more likely to find homes elsewhere, rather than go unadopted and remain here the rest of their lives. Finally, my adult male cats accept the presence of kittens–they even like kittens and help me socialize them. But two of my cats are very hostile to adult cats moving in here, which creates a lot stress for everyone (including me).

Kittens very often arrive without a mother. Sometimes the mother is feral (doesn’t want contact with people, can’t be adopted), so she’s spayed, vaccinated, and released. Often the mother isn’t around; the kittens are at the age where she has stopped caring for them or is about to stop. Sometimes the mother is dead. And sometimes the mom comes into foster care with the kittens (I’ve had two such mom-cats here with their litters; one got adopted, the other is still awaiting adoption).

I got into fostering by adopting a couple of cats from a rescue group. While researching pet adoption (I am a writer; I research everything I do), I read that black cats are hard to place (and therefore have a very high rate of euthanasia), and also that bonded pairs of cats (and dogs) are harder to place than solo animals. I was perfectly willing to adopt both/either kind of cat, and Cat Adoption Team (C.A.T.) had a bonded pair of black cats available…

Cat Rescue, Part 2: Happy & Sad Endings

I get to see a lot of happy endings, which is the rewarding part. I send my fosters home with people who are so excited to get them, and in our follow-up exchanges days and months later, they tell me how much they love the cats, send me photos so I can see how they’ve grown, and say this pet is a member of the family. That is a long, long way from the ditches and cardboard boxes and sewers and dumpsters where many of our fosters were found. And that happy ending is the best part of animal rescue.
Here is a small sample of the photos I receive updating me on my former fosters….

It’s not always such a happy outcome, though. Sometimes, it is truly heartbreaking. …

[Thanks to Scott Edelman and JJ for these stories.]

70 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 12/29/17 A One-Note Scroll With More Than One Note

  1. Thanks for keeping the discussion roiling! I’m still out of town and concentrating on my mother’s care and family discussion of the next steps. Have used the hotel business center computer to work this up. Will post something again tomorrow, the question is how extensive it will be.

  2. And my cat Sam is going to meet my nieces Claire and Mary for the first time tonight. He’s a friendly sort, so hopefully it all goes well!

    Also, finished Quillifer and felt kinda let down. You can’t stick the landing if there’s nothing you can land on.


    [almost first!]

    [Mike, continued good wishes.]

  3. @Rob I liked Quillifer, liked the character and worldbuilding, but leaving the story in medias res without a clear off-ramp was more than a bit of a weakness.

  4. I’m usually not around when these go up so I rarely have an opportunity to be this close to fifthness.

  5. 2) we’ve fostered several kittens with the support of the Humane Society of Silicon Valley. It’s a lot of work, occasionally nerve-wracking, but incredibly rewarding when a sickly bottle – kitten becomes a sleek happy kitten ready to get a forever home.

    Also, black kitties are the sweetest cats. I have the pictures to prove it.

  6. Kitteh had a fantastic christmas. He loved all the christmas presents! There was tearing of paper and chasing of strings. That it wasn’t his presents didn’t matter. There was so much pure christmas joy. And then he got cuddled by a lot of new people. And got to taste salmon!

    Old cat took a look at the guests, saw that everything was in order, then went for a good sleep until they were gone again.

  7. @Hampus: it’s nice to have a cat that’s blasé about company; our late, even at 7+ years, went right up the stairs (to the sleeping/litter floor) when he heard the doorbell. He did get to the point where he’d come down, cautiously, if he recognized voices (or maybe just didn’t get hostile vibes); watching a very fluffy 15-pound cat (not obese, just half Maine Coon) trying to be inconspicuous was … interesting. May you have joy of kitteh for many years to come.

  8. Bless the cat rescuers! My enormous ragdoll comes from one that was kind enough to get him out of a shelter that didn’t want any XXL middle-aged kitties hogging food and space that could be occupied by a great many kittens. Eight years later, I am still massively grateful.

    To OGH – thanks for keeping the pixels scrolling! That’s a rugged situation that you’re in. Nolo press has lots of law stuff on their website that I found helpful when I was in a similar situation, so passing along that info. Wishing you good thoughts and minimal stress.

  9. Dora, my Chinese Crested service dog, says her SJW credential credentials are surely completely secure, now that she has received a new bed for Christmas, selected by herself, and it’s clearly labeled a cat bed.

  10. @Lis – It’s good to see dogs get into the SJW credential field. They are very underrepresented, in my experience, though many of them deserve the appellation.

    @Charon – We got both of our current cats through a shelter/cat cafe that works with the local city animal shelter (and sometimes other city shelters), fosters, various rescue groups, etc., to find, socialize, and adopt under-socialized cats. Our previous two cats were from another rescue group, as well. I love the shelter we got our cats from so much that I ended up volunteering there. They also state, in the contract you sign to adopt a cat, that you must return the cat to them, not just abandon it or send it to a shelter, if you can’t handle it. But somehow there are still people who abandon their cats rather than surrender them. It’s heartbreaking and awful. On the other hand, it’s mostly good, and there are some beautiful stories that come out of the adoption program.

  11. My current boys (whom I got from the local Humane Society) are, as it happens, both black (one with a splash of white on his chest) and had come in as a bonded pair, which was exactly what I wanted — two cats who knew each other already so I didn’t have to deal with the introductions.

    I have friends who used to foster — it was deeply therapeutic to go to visit them, and lie on the floor and be crawled upon by swarms of kittens.

  12. The last cats I had (Victoria and Hamlet, lived to 19 1/2 and 19 3/4) were adopted as kittens at the no kill St. Hubert’s Giralda in NJ.

    They had a large outdoor enclosure for the spring kittens, had to be at least 100 in there. The staff knew their customers. They let me into the enclosure.

    I eventually took home the two kittens who selected me.

    Now I have Bo, the Wonder Dog, who is every bit a SJW as any cat, and he tells them so whenever he sees one.

    My best wishes to you Mike.

  13. @Rob Thornton:

    Forget the questions; someone get me another beer!

    (Or, in my case at the moment, a dentist. Toothache decided to flare up last night…)

  14. (2) Thank God for Oor Resnick and other kitty rescuers, and all our SJW credentials.
    Best wishes to OGH and happy new year to all!

  15. Meredith Moment: Collapsing Empire by Scalzi and The Bear And The Nightingale by Arden, for $2.99, as well as Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by deGrasse Tyson for $3.99, at the Giant South American River.

    (These may have been mentioned upthread; I’m not sufficiently caffeinated yet to check.)

  16. Cassy B on December 30, 2017 at 8:45 am said:
    Kobo has The Left Hand of Darkness for $1.99. Presumably Other Locations will also have it.

  17. Just finished The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Stephenson & Galland. In brief: I couldn’t believe they tried to bring magic back so *stupidly*. And then, at the end, I was left with a collection of loose ends: jungrire unccrarq gb gur bgure angvbaf cerfhznoyl nyfb ybbxvat vagb zntvp? Abg gb zragvba sbeprf sebz shegure hc gur gvzryvar? Naq gur vqrn gung lbh pbhyq gujneg gur qrirybczrag bs cubgbtencul (be rdhvi) vaqrsvavgryl ol znavchyngvat Rhebcrna uvfgbel nybar vf syng-bhg haoryvrinoyr gb zr.

    It IS making me think about what magic, if it existed, could do these days that tech doesn’t do better. I mean, if magical psychological manipulation was truly effective & reliable in the past, wouldn’t it have effected history more? None of the other things they have witched do, besides time travel, seem all that worth the effort when you have tech.

    Overall, it’s better written & structured than a lot of Stephenson, and doesn’t drag so much, but still hard for me to suspend the ol’ disbelief.

  18. Forget the questions; someone get me another beer!

    (Or, in my case at the moment, a dentist. Toothache decided to flare up last night…)

    Get this man a six-pack of dentists!

  19. Hey, all, could the hivemind help me out? I’m trying to decide if a particular book I just read counts as SFF or not. (It does not particularly matter to me whether or not it does, and I like my definitions fluid, but I saw a number of other people had classified it as SFF and was curious what the general feeling might be.)

    Does a book count as science fiction if it could happen in the present day or within a few decades of it, but hasn’t yet? E.g. no particular advances in technology, start with the current geopolitical structure, and then events happen which haven’t happened (yet) but presumably could (soon)?

  20. Kyra:

    IMHO it depends on how much depends on or is about science/tech. Your description could apply to political thrillers, spy novels, romances, mysteries, etc. Does it “feel” like SF?

  21. I didn’t think so — there is no introduction of new technology, no elements such as communication with a previously unknown intelligence, etc. I would have called it a war novel. But *lots* of people on goodreads have classified it as Science Fiction > Dystopia.

  22. @Doctor Science
    Af V haqrefgbbq vg, vg ghearq bhg gur “bgure sbeprf” jrer gur bgure snpgvbaf qbvat gvzryvar fghss, v.r. ivxvatf, QBQB naq bhe urebrf jbexvat ntnvafg rnpu bgure. Zvaq lbh, va gur ortvaavat, gurl bayl xarj nobhg fbzr fbeg bs zntvpf unccravat, abguvat fcrpvsvp.
    Naq Fgrcurafba graqf gb raq va n jnl lbh rkcrpg n frdhry (pelcgbabzvpbz, Frirarirf rfcrpvnyyl, nangurz pbhyq unir bar nf jryy vzub)

  23. Kyra: Does a book count as science fiction if it could happen in the present day or within a few decades of it, but hasn’t yet? E.g. no particular advances in technology, start with the current geopolitical structure, and then events happen which haven’t happened (yet) but presumably could (soon)?

    In my personal opinion, no — which is one of the reasons why I didn’t consider Persona to really be SFF, because the only real SF in it was implanted audio/video recorders. As Doctor Science says, a great many books fit that desciption. Apart from mysteries, such books tend to not be very interesting to me — but that’s just me.

    I’m curious as to what book you are referencing.

  24. I’m curious as to what book you are referencing.

    How I Live Now, by Meg Rosoff, which I quite liked. Another very similar book I’ve thought of is Tomorrow When The War Began by John Marsden. Both get classified as SF by a number of people on Goodreads (although far from everyone.)

    Incidentally, I did consider Persona to be science fiction, because I thought the social SF aspect was quite strong. The key SF wasn’t the implanted recorders, it was the concept of Politicians-As-Celebrities, competing explicitly for viewership like reality show stars. Which a few years later seems eerily prescient, frankly.

  25. @Kyra: To me, science fiction is much more of an attitude and a tradition than about a novum. Science fiction literature simply has access to a different toolkit than other fiction, and if it feels like science fiction, then at least I’d be willing to discuss it as science fiction.

    Of course, it might be bad science fiction 🙂

  26. Someone else just brought up On The Beach as a book with a similar take. Many people consider that an SF book — is it? Nothing happened that couldn’t have happened a year before it was published or a year after.

  27. @Kyra:

    Like Doctor Science, given that info I’d want to look at the focus of the book before making a hard determination. However, I will say that I generally consider fiction set more than a couple of years in the future to be SF. I mean, it’s speculative by definition, innit? Whether it’s sciency SF or a spec-fic “if this goes on” story with no new tech, they’re still trying to extrapolate a future… one of the classic hallmarks of SF.

    EDIT: Seeing the book identified and checking its blurb on Amazon, yeah, I can see an SF-Dys classification for it. “Our world, but radically changed because of [event]” sure sounds speculative from here, and the changes certainly sound dystopian.

  28. Kyra: Another very similar book I’ve thought of is Tomorrow When The War Began by John Marsden.

    I saw the film version of that some years ago. Very Red Dawnish.

  29. @Kyra: The example that leaps to mind for me is Lee Correy’s “Shuttle Down” which is about a space shuttle that makes an emergency landing on Easter Island (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shuttle_Down) (and which might actually have led to the real Shuttle program making better preparations for emergencies). Nothing in it couldn’t have happened before the book even hit the presses, but it felt SF-ish to me – the engineering involved with getting the shuttle back off the island was integral to the plot and the novel contained the implication that the incident would lead to long-term effects (which puts it outside the techno-thriller genre for me, since techno-thrillers put the world back to its original state by the end).

  30. @Kyra
    On the Beach is science fiction to me, just like similar nuclear war dramas like Threads, The Day After, Testament, The War Game, The Last Children of Schwenenborn, etc… Yes, a nuclear war could have happened, but they were still speculative at the time they were made.

    Coincidentally, I explicitly listed On the Beach as science fiction in my MA thesis and promptly misspelled the author’s name, because it turns out Nevil Shute is not spelled like Neville Longbottom but like Devil with an N. Which I found out when I spotted a copy of A Town Called Alice at the university used book store mere minutes after handing in the thesis. Lucky for me, my supervisor never noticed.

    BTW, my personal head canon is that the Mad Max series is set in the same universe as On the Beach and that Mad Max is what happened to those who didn’t take the government suicide pills.

    Red Dawn is science fiction as well or rather fantasy, since its scenario makes no sense, unlike The Day After, Threads, Testament, etc…

  31. since its scenario makes no sense

    This, alas, has never been a disqualifying characteristic for any genre.

  32. Andrew on December 30, 2017 at 2:24 pm said:
    IIRC, it was in the mid-80s, after “Shuttle Down” was published, that the US announced an agreement with Chile to allow emergency landings on Rapa Nui (Easter Island).
    (I’d read the story as a serial, describing it as “Shuttle going for polar orbit out of Vandenberg has major engine problems and has to land on Easter Island. Then the trouble starts.”)

  33. Red Dawn is science fiction as well or rather fantasy, since its scenario makes no sense, unlike The Day After, Threads, Testament, etc…

    Which version? Or both?

  34. @ P J Evans

    I prefer Manna, but that’s me.

    That was a good serial in Analog and it was one of my faves when I were a lad. It made me think nice thoughts about Libertarianism. I got better, though.

  35. I don’t think I’ve read “Manna” – I’ll look for it at the next dealer’s room I’m in.

  36. Red Dawn is science fiction as well or rather fantasy, since its scenario makes no sense, unlike The Day After, Threads, Testament, etc…

    Really? I guess if you mean the background premise, yeah, but Testament just annoyed me. I couldn’t wait for those people to die. And there were certainly parts of “The Day After” that just had me shaking my head.

    But then, to me the most affecting visuals and scenes were from “On The Beach”–the people lining up to get the pills and walking away; the Admiral and his aide sharing that last drink. More human in a way.

  37. I prefer to use an inclusive definition of SF myself–in no small part because it annoys people who like to think their favorite speculative work isn’t “that science fiction junk.” (I will carefully not mention a certain well-known Canadian author here, because she no longer complains about being classified as SF.)

    So I, of course, would answer Kyra’s question with a resounding “yes!”

    I think a case can be made that “mainstream” fiction is really just a subset of science fiction, rather than a distinct category.

    But then, the only reliable definition of science fiction I’ve ever stumbled across is the classic “what science fiction editors buy”. 😀

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