Pixel Scroll 12/6/20 Tell Me About The Rest Of The Robots, Geordi

(1) MACHINE AGAINST THE RAGE. Get your Murderbot fix from Twitter’s MurderBotBot.

(2) KEEP THE ARMOR ON THE SHELF. The Society for Creative Anachronism has extended its suspension to the end of May 2021: “Resolution to Suspend In-Person SCA Activity Updated – December 4, 2020.

At the end of July, the Board of Directors issued a proclamation suspending most inperson SCA activities in North America until January 31, 2021, due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. In November, we asked the Kingdom Seneschals and Crowns of the known world to give us their counsel on how to proceed in the first part of 2021. We received very thoughtful responses from nearly all Crowns and Kingdom Seneschals as well as many other concerned people. We wish to thank everyone who responded for taking the time to do so, and for putting such effort into your responses. After reading and discussing the feedback received, the Board decided at their conference call meeting on 12/01/2020 to continue the suspension of in-person activities in North America through May 31, 2021….

(3) FILER ASKS YOU OPINION. Cora Buhlert says, “I’m considering starting a Patreon next year and have created a survey to gauge interest.”

Tell Cora what you think here — surveymonkey.de/r/WSDN6DK 

(4) THE ORIGINAL SURVEILLANCE SOCIETY. “How to subvert authoritarian regimes? Astrid Bear’s Hall of Fame acceptance speech for Poul Anderson’s ‘Sam Hall’” on the Prometheus Blog.

…Science fiction set in the future is often as much about the time it was written in as it is about prognostications.   Diving into both world and family history, we can tease out some of the threads that came together to make this story of the subversion of an authoritarian regime from within its record-keeping arm, and how that inspired revolution.

In 1953, we were less than 10 years from the end of World War II.  Senator Joe McCarthy was busy investigating citizens for wrongful thoughts and potential treason.   The early main-frame computer, UNIVAC, correctly predicted the winner of the 1952 presidential election. Dad’s brother, my Uncle John, was turned down for the US Foreign Service because of his Danish Communist aunt. And Dad wrote “Sam Hall.”

Computer-savvy folk of today will likely snicker a bit at the electromechanical whirs and buzzes of the government’s Central Records computer, nicknamed Matilda the Machine. Matilda holds detailed information on all citizens, tracking all transactions, travel, education, contacts, relationships.   The “Matildas” of today know a tremendous amount about us and our shopping habits, travel plans, and private emails.

For although Dad did a good job of thinking about the power of computers held by the government as data gathering machines, in 1953 he didn’t seem to have thought much about computers as gatherers of data for private enterprise.

The America of “Sam Hall” has closed its borders to immigration, gives its citizens loyalty ratings, assigns them each a unique ID number and demands that it is tattooed on the shoulder.  There is an underground movement, but, as our protagonist, Thornberg muses,   “It was supported by foreign countries who didn’t like an American-dominated world – at least not one dominated by today’s kind of America, though once ‘USA’ had meant ‘hope.’”…

(5) HAVE YE SEEN THE GREAT FLIGHT WHALE? Sam J. Miller’s new novel The Blade Between gets praised in a review by Gabino Iglesias at NPR.

The are violent ghosts, flying whales, and dead people with mouthfuls of saltwater hundreds of miles from the ocean in Sam J. Miller’s The Blade Between, but it all makes sense. It all makes sense because the story takes place in Hudson, New York, a place built on the remains of slaughtered whales, where their unused parts were buried underground and the scraps were fed to animals later used to feed people. Hudson is full of angry spirits, but now a different monster is destroying it: gentrification.

The Blade Between is a book about broken people. The creepy atmosphere and ghosts make it horror, but the drug abuse, evictions, cheating, and destroyed lives make it noir. Also, Miller’s writing and vivid imagery, especially when describing dreams, make it poetry. The mix of genres, much like the mix of elements, makes no sense, but it works.

(6) ONCE UPON AN ACADEME. Maria Sachiko Cecire asserts that Tolkien and Lewis not only wrote influential fantasy novels, they created the curriculum for Oxford’s English School, in “The rise and fall of the Oxford School of fantasy literature” at Aeon Essays. She doesn’t find this to be a plus.

… What is less known is that Tolkien and Lewis also designed and established the curriculum for Oxford’s developing English School, and through it educated a second generation of important children’s fantasy authors in their own intellectual image. Put in place in 1931, this curriculum focused on the medieval period to the near-exclusion of other eras; it guided students’ reading and examinations until 1970, and some aspects of it remain today. Though there has been relatively little attention paid to the connection until now, these activities – fantasy-writing, often for children, and curricular design in England’s oldest and most prestigious university – were intimately related. Tolkien and Lewis’s fiction regularly alludes to works in the syllabus that they created, and their Oxford-educated successors likewise draw upon these medieval sources when they set out to write their own children’s fantasy in later decades. In this way, Tolkien and Lewis were able to make a two-pronged attack, both within and outside the academy, on the disenchantment, relativism, ambiguity and progressivism that they saw and detested in 20th-century modernity.

…The Oxford School’s medievalist approach radiated outward, influencing many more children’s fantasy authors and readers, and helping to turn Anglophilic fascination with early Britain and its medieval legends into a globally recognisable setting for children’s adventures, world-saving deeds and magical possibility. 

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • December 6, 1991 Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country premiered. It would be the last Trek film to feature the entire original cast from the series, and was released just after Roddenberry passed on. Directed by Nicholas Meyers and produced by Ralph Winter Steven-Charles Jaffe, the screenplay was by Nicholas Meyer and Denny Martin Flinn from a story from Leonard Nimoy, Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal. It would lose out to Terminator 2: Judgement Day at MagiCon for Best Hugo, Long Form Presentation. The film received a much warmer reception from critics and audiences alike than The Final Frontier did, and it was a box office success. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a most exemplary rating of eighty three percent. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 6, 1881 – Helen Knipe.  Illustrator (also rendered stage plays into novels).  Here is The Magical Man of Mirth.  Here is The Land of Never Was.  Here is an interior for The Queen of the City of Mirth.  (Died 1959) [JH]
  • Born December 6, 1909 Arthur K. Barnes. Pulp magazine writer in mostly the Thirties and Forties. He wrote a series of stories about interplanetary hunters Tommy Strike and Gerry Carlyle which are collected in Interplanetary Hunter and Interplanetary Huntress. Some of these were co-written with Henry Kuttner. His Pete Manx, Time Troubler collection featuring Pete Manx is a lot of fun too. Both series are available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 1979.) (CE) 
  • Born December 6, 1911 Ejler Jakobsson. Finnish-born Editor who worked on Astonishing Stories and Super Science Stories butbriefly as they were shut down due to paper shortages. When Super Science Stories was revived in 1949, Jakobson was named editor until it ceased publication two years later. Twenty years later, he took over Galaxy and If, succeeding Frederik Pohl.  His first credited publications were The Octopus and The Scorpion in 1939, co-edited with his wife, Edith Jakobsson. (Died 1984.) (CE) 
  • Born December 6, 1957 Arabella Weir, 63. A performer with two Who appearances, the first being as Billis in “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe”, a superb Eleventh Doctor story, before being The Doctor Herself in “Exile”, a Big Audio production. She’s had one-offs on genre and genre adjacent series such as Shades of DarknessGenie in the HouseRandall & Hopkirk (Deceased) and even a genre adjacent Midsomer Murders. (CE) 
  • Born December 6, 1962 Colin Salmon, 58. Definitely best known for his role as Charles Robinson in the Bond films Tomorrow Never DiesThe World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day. He played Dr. Moon in “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead”, Tenth Doctor stories, and was Walter Steele on Arrow. He most recently played General Zod on Krypton He was, alas, Ben in the clunker of films, Mortal Engines. (CE)
  • Born December 6, 1942 – Ted Pauls.  A hundred reviews in LocusSF CommentarySF ReviewThe WSFA (Washington, DC, SF Ass’n) Journal.  His T-K Graphics was a leading mail-order bookshop.  Fanzine, Kipple.  Co-chaired Balticon 5-8.  Part of the Baltimore SF Forum (hello, Ted White).  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born December 6, 1946 – Ana Lydia Vega, Ph.D., age 74.  Seven collections, one children’s book.  Casa de las Américas prize, Juan Rulfo prize.  Puerto Rico Society of Authors’ Author of the Year.  Professor at Univ. Puerto Rico (retired).  [JH]
  • Born December 6, 1960 – Julie Dean Smith, age 60.  Four novels “done with panache and a happy skill” — hey, I’m quoting Clute, it must be St. Nicholas’ Day.  [JH]
  • Born December 6, 1962 Janine Turner, 58. Maggie O’Connell on Northern Exposure which we’ve accepted as genre adjacent.  She was also Linda Aikman in Monkey Shines, a horror film not for the squeamish, and had one-offs in Knight-RiderQuantum Leap and Mr. Merlin. (CE) 
  • Born December 6, 1969 Torri Higginson, 51. I had forgotten that she had a role in the TekWar movies and series as Beth Kittridge. I like that series a lot. Of course, she portrayed Dr. Elizabeth Weir in one episode of Stargate SG-1 and the entire Stargate Atlantis series. Her most recent genre roles was as Dr. Michelle Kessler in Inhuman Condition, where she plays a therapist who focuses on supernatural patients, and Commander Delaney Truffault in the Dark Matter series. (CE)
  • Born December 6, 1972 – Kevin Brockmeier, age 48.  Fifteen novels for us, thirty shorter stories.  “A Proustian Reverie” in the NY Times Book Review.  Three O. Henry prizes (take that, Arthur Hawke), several others.  Interviewed in Lightspeed.  [JH]
  • Born December 6, 1981 – Ben White, age 39.  Confessedly Aotearoan pâkehâ.  Three novels.  Twenty-six games here.  Has read The Sirens of TitanThe Phantom TollboothOne Flew Over the Cuckoo’s NestThe Thirteen Clocks.  [JH]

(9) STINK ‘EM UP JUST RIGHT. ”One-star wonders: how to make a film that’s so bad it’s good” – Catherine Bray shares the formula wih readers of The Guardian.

There is nothing quite like a good-bad movie. Sometimes the title alone is enough to let us know what we’re in for: think Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958). Sometimes the good-badness might be about knowing we are guaranteed an over-ripe performance from a particular star: think Nicolas Cage from around 2010 onwards. Sometimes a lurid or ridiculous premise promises a good time all by itself (see: Night of the Lepus, AKA the killer rabbit movie). But whether or not the creative minds behind these kinds of cultural landmarks were in on the joke is sometimes less self-evident.

…The godfather of wonderfully terrible films is Plan 9 from Outer Space, Ed Wood’s 1959 effort about aliens attacking the Earth. Hubcaps on strings are pressed into service as interstellar spacecraft, wobbling their way to our planet. When we get our first glimpse of the alien beings within, the hubcaps start to look pretty cosmic by contrast; the aliens bear a resemblance to inexpensive actors sporting off-the-rack medieval fayre costumes. Horror veteran Bela Lugosi, appearing as the villain, passed away before filming; his character’s scenes are constructed from screen-test footage he’d shot with Wood, plus additional material featuring another, far taller guy with a cape draped over his face. Throughout the film, scenery has a habit of wobbling alarmingly, particularly the gravestones.

(10) WWI09. According to io9 “The First Impressions of Wonder Woman 1984 Are In, and It Sounds Like a Fitting Sequel and ’80s Tribute” – a roundup of tweeted comments about the movie.

(11) WHAT’S UP CHUCK? Checking in on the latest wisdom from the Tingleverse.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ. John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Dany Sichel, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

22 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 12/6/20 Tell Me About The Rest Of The Robots, Geordi

  1. Hokey Pixels and ancient Scrolls are no match for a good Filer at your side, kid.

  2. @Joe H: Makes as much sense as the real lyrics!

    (My favorite Jon Anderson between-song chatter, after “Your Move”: “When we play this in Japan, I’m always surprised at how everybody sings aloud to all the words, since they don’t know what they mean. (beat) Well, I don’t know what they mean, either.”j

  3. (6) Eh. There are many more than one schools in the world. They don’t all have to be the same and have identical English curricula. It isn’t terribly surprising the a very, very old school located in England to which Lewis and Tolkien dedicated approximately 70 years of their professional lives would tend to lean that way. I mean, Tolkien was one of the foremost scholars of Old English in the world, why wouldn’t they take advantage of that?

  4. @rochrist

    I think the question is what effect the anti-modernism of the Oxford English syllabus has had on the wider world, given the status of Oxford university. An Oxford degree doesn’t guarantee you a place in the UK politics and media establishment, but it definitely helps.

    (In a literary sense, I’d argue Tolkien’s idea of sub-creation has been more pernicious than his anti-modernism. So many promising starts have been spoiled by the author’s belief that creating what they believe to be a rich and complex world is more important than telling a story.)

  5. (8) AW
    Nitpick I know, but Exile was released in 2003, The Widow The Witch and the Wardrobe was from 2011, so your timeline is out of order. Time travel just always complicates things.

  6. Sophie Jane says (In a literary sense, I’d argue Tolkien’s idea of sub-creation has been more pernicious than his anti-modernism. So many promising starts have been spoiled by the author’s belief that creating what they believe to be a rich and complex world is more important than telling a story.)

    I’ve found too often that writers, particularly new writers, are too fascinated in creating a complex world but forget that they need both a story and interesting characters to inhabit that world. A good writer knows how to balance all three elements.

    Now reading: Aliette De Bodard’s Seven of Infinities: A Xuya Universe Novella

  7. Since my laptop was in the hospital, I didn’t get to inflict my monthly reading list on y’all at the beginning of the month. So here it is now, oh joy! 😉

    I’m still listening a little slower than usual. Gotta get busy and bump those hours up!

    Ring Shout — P Djeli Clark — novella — I finished this one on 11/1, so I think I may have mentioned it in my previous list, but I’m too lazy to go check. Lots of action; set in 1920s Georgia, it’s about KKK members becoming actual monsters and the black women who hunt them. Thematically, it’s more-or-less about not becoming the thing that you’re fighting against.

    Heart of Flames — Nicki Pau Prieto — second in a series. I like the way this author details the interior lives of her characters, but the pacing was really really bad — she got totally carried away this time and forgot about moving the story along. I finally dnfed it.

    The Once and Future Witches — Alix E. Harrow — Pretty much loved it.

    All about the power of women — in this case literally, embodied as the power of magic. Set in an alternate 1893 America, an America in which real witchcraft really existed, and real witches were burned in Salem. Magic has been mostly wiped out as part of widespread oppression by men, so the fight to return magic to the world is part and parcel of the fight for women’s rights and empowerment.

    Thematically this was too on-the-nose for my tastes, but otherwise I thought it was great. Once again Harrow writes beautiful prose, and both the characters and plot are appealing. There’s plenty of action and emotion, and the climax just about killed me. There’s also a couple of romances going on, but nothing more explicit than a kiss or two. In comparison with The Ten Thousand Doors of January, I’d say less dreamy and more action.

    In audio, very good narration by Gabra Zackman.

    The Hollow Places — T. Kingfisher — Horror is not my thing, especially horror that exists for the purpose of scaring you, like this one, as opposed to stories in which bad or scary things happen while people are doing something else. So I’m not really the audience for this book. Nonetheless, I always love Kingfisher’s/Vernon’s narrative voice, and that’s true here as well. She has a great way of writing — accessible, inviting, humorous, friendly. I don’t know how she pulls it off, but she’s great at it. The horror elements reminded me of a combination of Annihilation and The Call.

    The Unspoken Name — AK Larkwood —
    Bad points: Unexciting prose, made worse by blasé narration from Avita Jay. Lots of telling instead of showing. Disjointed plot, compounded by skimming over weeks or even years at a time and by jumping from place to place with little notice or transition. Worldbuilding ideas that could be fascinating are skimmed over and/or thrown away with little color or attention.

    Good points: There’s the germ of a good story in there, about choosing your fate for yourself instead of letting others choose it for you, and maybe also about not selling your heart in pursuit of your goals. The author just doesn’t have the skill yet to tell that story well. The end of this book sounds like they’re setting up for a book 2, but it isn’t a cliffhanger.

    Once Upon a Tartan — Grace Burrowes — non-genre romance, notable only because the narrator, James Langton, is so great at accents and I love listening to him do Scottish characters.

    Foundryside — Robert Jackson Bennett — A reread for me, in prep for listening to Shorefall. The magic irritates me; it ends up being way overpowered. OTOH, Bennett does know how to put words together.

  8. @ Contarius. If you think the magic in Foundryside is overpowered wait till you read the sequel.
    I haven’t decided how I feel about Shorefall yet. It’s excellent as a stand-alone book. But as a sequel it is lacking, it makes everything that happened in the first book seem pointless.

  9. Cat Eldridge: I’ve found too often that writers, particularly new writers, are too fascinated in creating a complex world but forget that they need both a story and interesting characters to inhabit that world. A good writer knows how to balance all three elements.

    Way too many of the stories I’ve read in the last few years were clearly written by authors who have been involved with RPGs or videogames, and they’re way too enamored of laying out all of their worldbuilding details and not nearly enamored enough of telling a well-plotted, gripping story with strong characterization. 😐

  10. JJ says Way too many of the stories I’ve read in the last few years were clearly written by authors who have been involved with RPGs or videogames, and they’re way too enamored of laying out all of their worldbuilding details and not nearly enamored enough of telling a well-plotted, gripping story with strong characterization

    Yeah those are all too easy to spot. I don’t play videogrames, and I’ve not played a RPG since Travellers Aid Society in the, errr, early Eighties. I’ll be damed if I want my fiction to be based off the world building realities of those games. It’s the same reason that I don’t generally read fiction based off video series – I want original storytelling. Of which there’s way, way more than enough to keep me happy.

  11. Cat Eldridge: Yeah those are all too easy to spot… It’s the same reason that I don’t generally read fiction based off video series – I want original storytelling. Of which there’s way, way more than enough to keep me happy.

    The stories to which I refer aren’t written in existing RPG or videogame worlds. It’s just clear that the author has used gaming worldbuilding as their guide in how to do their own worldbuilding, and they’ve invested way more time and effort in their worldbuilding than they have in telling a great story.

  12. JJ notes The stories to which I refer aren’t written in existing RPG or videogame worlds. It’s just clear that the author has used gaming worldbuilding as their guide in how to do their own worldbuilding, and they’ve invested way more time and effort in their worldbuilding than they have in telling a great story.

    Yeah that too. It just means that they played far too many games and read far too little fiction beore they started writing. Great writers are in my opinion always great readers.

  13. @bookworm —

    @ Contarius. If you think the magic in Foundryside is overpowered wait till you read the sequel.

    Yeah, I did! But I read it this month, so I’ll inflict that report on the scroll at the beginning of January. 😉

    I haven’t decided how I feel about Shorefall yet. It’s excellent as a stand-alone book. But as a sequel it is lacking, it makes everything that happened in the first book seem pointless.

    Yeah, they really just made everything worse! And the new terminology — “privileges” and “permissions” — made me think that this was all going to turn out to be a computer simulation in the Matrix vein. Plus all that over-powered-ness that I kept giving a big side-eye to.

  14. @Contrarius:

    And the new terminology — “privileges” and “permissions” — made me think that this was all going to turn out to be a computer simulation in the Matrix vein.

    % find . -type f -print0 | xargs -0 chmod pixel+scroll

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