Pixel Scroll 1/20/16 Splendiferous Bastion of Finely-Tuned Nuance

(1) BIG PLANET. New evidence suggests a ninth planet is lurking at the edge of the solar system.

Astronomers at the California Institute of Technology announced Wednesday that they have found new evidence of a giant icy planet lurking in the darkness of our solar system far beyond the orbit of Pluto. They are calling it “Planet Nine.”

Their paper, published in the Astronomical Journal, describes the planet as about five to 10 times as massive as the Earth. But the authors, astronomers Michael Brown and Konstantin Batygin, have not observed the planet directly.

Instead, they have inferred its existence from the motion of recently discovered dwarf planets and other small objects in the outer solar system. Those smaller bodies have orbits that appear to be influenced by the gravity of a hidden planet – a “massive perturber.” The astronomers suggest it might have been flung into deep space long ago by the gravitational force of Jupiter or Saturn.

Accompanying the Post article is a short video with the delightfully hideous title “Planet Nine from outer space.”

(2) IN WORDS OF MORE THAN ONE SYLLABLE. Read the paper here.


Generally speaking, coherent dynamical structures in particle disks can either be sustained by self-gravity (Tremaine 1998; Touma et al. 2009) or by gravitational shepherding facilitated by an extrinsic perturber (Goldreich & Tremaine 1982; Chiang et al. 2009). As already argued above, the current mass of the Kuiper Belt is likely insufficient for self-gravity to play an appreciable role in its dynamical evolution. This leaves the latter option as the more feasible alternative. Consequently, here we hypothesize that the observed structure of the Kuiper Belt is maintained by a gravitationally bound perturber in the solar system.

(3) WORLDCON LODGING. MidAmeriCon II hotel reservations open January 25.

(4) FAKING IT. According to The Digital Reader, the “Number One Book Brits Pretend to Have Read is 1984, But for Americans, It’s Pride and Prejudice”.

A recent survey of 2,000 Brits has revealed that 62% of respondents had pretended to have read  one book or another in order to appear smart. The top ten books that people pretend to have read are an impressive list of books, with Orwell’s 1984 and War and Peace taking the top 2 spots.

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien is sixth.

(5) HARLAN SAVES. Elon Musk described the influence of Harlan Ellison on his thinking during this interview. The reference comes at about 13:20 into the video.

It’s possible that Harlan will save the human race. Elon has funded research on A. I.’s with the idea that when they emerge that they will be friendly to us humans. “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” frightened Elon enough to get him to fund the research therefore, if that research helps avoid an unfriendly A. I., then Harlan saved all of us

In the second part of this interview, Elon Musk talks about Artificial Intelligence and the deep concerns its causing him. But first he talks about Tesla building an affordable car, Apple’ rumoured electric vehicle and the future of autonomous driving.


(6) REMEMBERING HARTWELL. Dozens of deeply moving and historically fascinating tributes to David G. Hartwell are appearing at this hour. Representative is Michael Swanwick’s memorial:

I was in Chicago a couple of years ago for Gene Wolfe’s induction into the literary hall of fame there when the phone rang and David Hartwell said, “I’m sitting in Fred Pohl’s kitchen with him, going through J. K. Klein’s photos, looking for pictures of old time writers. Do you want to join us?” You bet I did. I think back to that brief call and I can hear him grinning. The joy in his voice was infectious. That was the key to David G. Hartwell: he loved science fiction, he loved work, he loved making worthwhile things happen….

(7) SARTORIAL SPLENDOR. Here’s the David G. Hartwell Necktie Exhibit that celebrates his garish neckties.

(8) VIEW TIPTREE SYMPOSIUM. The first in a series of videos from December’s James Tiptree, Jr. Symposium at the University of Oregon is now online.

It shows Professor, Carol Stabile convening the symposium, welcome remarks by UO Dean of Libraries, Adriene Lim and Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, Doug Blandy, and the keynote talk by Tiptree biographer Julie Phillips, followed by Q&A.

(9) LIVED EXPERIENCE. Sarah A. Hoyt pays it forward in a column of mentoring for indie and other fledgling writers. In a few places I was nodding my head, especially section 3.

However, with the proliferation of indie, I’m seeing a lot more kid writers running around the net (and conferences) with their metaphorical pants around their metaphorical ankles and fingerpainting the walls in shades of brown.

I would hate for that to happen to one of mine, even if just one who follows my lessons here or over at PJM and as such, I’d like to at least ward off some of the worst behavior….

3- Speaking of marking you as a newbie:

Just a few years ago, I realized either a lot of people were naming their kids Author, Writer or Novelist, or the newbies in my field had got off their collective rocker.

This used to be advice given to us before social media: don’t put writer on your card.  If you’re doing it right, they’ll remember that.

I guess it’s more needful than ever for people’s egos to affirm their real writerness (totally a word) now that there are no gatekeepers.

Look, the way to affirm you’re a writer is to write, and to take it seriously.  Putting “writer” or novelist, or author on your card, your facebook page or your blog isn’t going to make you any more “real” than you are.

But Sarah, you’ll say, how will people know it’s me, and not another Jane Smith?

Well, if they’re looking for you, they’ll know.They’ll know because of your friends, your place of origin, the stuff you post.  Fans are amazing that way.


  • January 20, 1920 – DeForest Kelley.
  • January 20, 1930 — Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, the second man to set foot on the moon.

(11) SHOW HIM THE MONEY. Stephen Harper Piziks on Book View Café doesn’t work for free anymore.

“We just don’t have the money to pay you,” say the moochers.  “We’re barely making our other expenses as it is.  Even our president is a volunteer!”

Then maybe you should charge more for admission.  Or get some sponsors.  Or just realize that you can’t have speakers at such a low-budget event.

“But you’ll get exposure,” goes more whining.

Tell you what.  You talk to the grocery store, the electric company, and the mortgage people and get them to accept exposure instead of cash, and I’ll speak for exposure.

I once showed up at a local convention where I’d been scheduled to speak on five panels (that’s five hours of public speaking) and was informed that I owed =them= $30 to cover my admission.  It was only when I turned to walk out that they grudgingly allowed me free entry.  Later, the con chair denigrated me by name on Twitter.  I thanked him for the exposure.

And that brings me to final reason I charge.  No one, including event organizers, values something they get for free.  You get what you pay for, and an author who speaks for nothing is worth nothing.  Certainly they’re treated that way.  At festivals and conventions where I spoke for free, I’ve been ignored, pushed around, insulted, and denigrated.  This has never happened at places that paid me.

(12) THE SECRET OF TIMING. Vox Day, while reporting this morning that David G. Hartwell was not expected to recover, identified him as part of this history:

Hartwell was John C. Wright’s editor at Tor Books; he was also friendlier to the Puppies than any of the SF-SJWs are likely to believe. I had the privilege of speaking with him when he called me last year after the Rabid Puppies overturned the SF applecart; he was the previously unnamed individual who explained the unusual structure of Tor Books to me, using the analogy of a medieval realm with separate and independent duchies. He wanted to avoid cultural war in science fiction even though he clearly understood that it appeared to be unavoidable; it was out of respect for him that I initially tried to make a distinction between Tor Books and the Making Light SJWs before Irene Gallo and Tom Doherty rendered that moot.

(13) IT’S A THEORY. Scholars told the BBC why they believe some fairy tales originated thousands of years ago.

Using techniques normally employed by biologists, academics studied links between stories from around the world and found some had prehistoric roots.

They found some tales were older than the earliest literary records, with one dating back to the Bronze Age.

The stories had been thought to date back to the 16th and 17th Centuries.

Durham University anthropologist Dr Jamie Tehrani, said Jack and the Beanstalk was rooted in a group of stories classified as The Boy Who Stole Ogre’s Treasure, and could be traced back to when Eastern and Western Indo-European languages split more than 5,000 years ago.

Analysis showed Beauty And The Beast and Rumpelstiltskin to be about 4,000 years old.

[Thanks to Gary Farber, Will R., and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day JJ.]

233 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 1/20/16 Splendiferous Bastion of Finely-Tuned Nuance

  1. I think that an overwhelmingly large percentage of people are shallow and silly and wrong.

    If liking Austen is enough for you to categorize someone as such, then I know who I’d be inspired to apply those adjectives to. Or as E.C. Segar’s characters were wont to put it: “Pooey to you from me.”

    You don’t have to like Austen. Dismissing those who do as the equivalent of Kardashiites is sneeringly weird.

  2. I remember reading an essay once on Austen — perhaps one by Martin Amis in the New Yorker but I don’t remember if that was it — who said the biggest popular misconception about Jane Austen is that she was “nice.” (Or perhaps it was Anthony Lane talking about one of the movies). Anyway — that seemed to me to get it right. She seems to be one of those writers that so many people are just sure they “know” even though they have never read her. (Sort of like Ann Leckie).

    I’m in the love her category myself — but mostly because she’s absolutely deadly as a satirist. As to the adaptions, I like Colin Firth in a wet shirt as much as anyone else likely to so moved, but I’ll admit it’s the portrait of Mr. Collins that leaves me giddy with delight. Not a Kardashian in sight.

  3. I referenced the books’ continuing popularity for two centuries.

    I don’t think they’ve been continually popular all that long, have they? They did modestly at first, faded away, got a reassessment some decades later and have been on a roll ever since, right?

    Still, 150 years (so far) is a pretty good track record, too.

  4. I have an especial fondness for Austen, which cascades into liking regency-tinged SF (Tooth & Claw, MRKs Glamourist books, etc).

    Many many years ago someone in rec.arts.sf.written capitalised on the frequent misspelling as Austin to create a fake website about “Calamity” Jane Austin, famous cowgirl and author of Fence and Fencibility etc etc….

  5. @ultragotha

    In Scrolladu did Kubla Khan a stately pixel-dome decree


    Things scroll apart, the pixel cannot hold.

  6. “Jane Austin” was the creation of Jo Walton. Calamity Jo, we calls her.

    And here’s another take on Jane Austen, from one Rudyard Kipling, writing in his most apostrophe-laden manly way.

    ‘Well, then,’ Humberstall continued, ‘come on this secret society business that I started tellin’ you about. When those two—’Ammick an’ Mosse—’ad finished about their matrimonial relations—and, mind you, they weren’t radishes—they seldom or ever repeated—they’d begin, as often as not, on this Secret Society woman I was tellin’ you of—this Jane. She was the only woman I ever ’eard ’em say a good word for. ’Cordin’ to them Jane was a none-such. I didn’t know then she was a Society. ’Fact is, I only ’ung out ’arf an ear in their direction at first, on account of bein’ under instruction for mess-duty to this Macklin man. What drew my attention to her was a new Lieutenant joinin’ up. We called ’im “Gander” on account of his profeel, which was the identical bird. ’E’d been a nactuary—workin’ out ’ow long civilians ’ad to live. Neither ’Ammick nor Mosse wasted words on ’im at Mess. They went on talking as usual, an’ in due time, as usual, they got back to Jane. Gander cocks one of his big chilblainy ears an’ cracks his cold finger joints. “By God! Jane?” says ’e. “Yes, Jane,” says ’Ammick pretty short an’ senior. “Praise ’Eaven!” says Gander. “ It was ‘Bubbly’ where I’ve come from down the line.” (Some damn revue or other, I expect.) Well, neither ’Ammick nor Mosse was easy-mouthed, or for that matter mealy-mouthed; but no sooner ’ad Gander passed that remark than they both shook ’ands with the young squirt across the table an’ called for the port back again. It was a password, all right! Then they went at it about Jane—all three, regardless of rank. That made me listen. Presently, I ’eard ’Ammick say——’

  7. John Seavey: Right now, my big question is whether and how to do the little advertising cards self-publishers leave on tables at cons. Do those get picked up? (I mean, before the end of the con as part of general clean up.) Can any self-published authors testify as to the ROI on them?

    I always come home from cons with a handful of bookmarks (usually promoting someone’s book, but sometimes a website or something else). Those are around for a long time at my house and get used continually. I may or may not buy your book, or utilize your services, but if you make an attractive bookmark, you will be in my consciousness for a long time.

    In terms of something to hand out at cons, I think it’s an awesome alternative to a business card for people in SFF-related professions.

  8. Msb said:

    It seems that the commenters who find Austen dull seem to be male

    I will step forward and say that I am female and do not care for Jane Austen. I’ve seen a couple of the adaptations and tried to read a couple of the books, so I think I’ve given her a fair chance.

    Few men have been in just the position of Austen’s women

    I doubt many women reading or watching the stories today are either.

  9. I’ve seen several mentions of Infinite Jest, so popping up to say that I actually have read it! I…kinda mostly liked it. It was ambitious, I’ll give it that. Not necessarily successful, but very ambitious.

    I believe I had read at least one of DFW’s essay collections first, so I wasn’t intimidated by the vocabulary or the endnotes. I actually found it rather exhilarating. And the story pulled me along through that 1000-page monstrosity, keeping me curious and invested. I felt like it fell apart at the end, though, or maybe I just didn’t get it. I may give it a reread someday, but it’s not super-high priority.

    (I hated Moby Dick so much, but forced myself to finish it just so I could say I’d read it. I was totally rooting for that whale.)

  10. To quote W.H. Auden – as seen on countless plastic bags from Waterstone’s, at least by me – “Some books are undeservedly forgotten; none are undeservedly remembered.”

    If you’re going to make any sort of serious stab at criticism, you have to face up to the problem that you might not like something that is (by any measure you can reasonably apply to it) good… or that you might like something which is (by the same measure) bad. You have to stop thinking just in terms of your own reading experience and figure out things like what the author set out to achieve, and how well they did it. Austen scores pretty high on that particular measure, even if what she’s setting out to do isn’t of interest to everyone.

    My own blind spot, which I often drag out when conversations turn in this direction, is Henry James. A friend (and Oxford Eng. Lit. graduate), who was a great fan of James, told me at length and in detail what he thought James was doing right. James Thurber (a writer I respect for several different reasons) thought highly of James, defended him vigorously in essays, and wrote some parodies which show genuine affection, as the best parodies are apt to do. H.G. Wells (a writer I respect for several other different reasons) seems to have viewed James as a rival to be attacked – which is another way of conceding his importance. I am prepared to admit, based on all this, that Henry James is an important figure in English Literature, that he is a rare artist with words, that he is a deserving object of study and even of respect. Just please don’t make me read him. (I have trained myself, with great effort, to stay awake all through a James short story – I made it all the way through “The Turn of the Screw” without snoring once – but the novels still defeat me.)

    On the flip side of the coin, I’m a fan of The Tomorrow People, a show which even I must admit has no merits whatsoever. (And I’m a Blake’s Seven fan, too, but that’s OK, because Blake’s Seven really was pretty good. Do not test me on this. You diss Blake’s Seven at your peril.)

  11. ULTRAGOTHA: My name is Scrollymandias; look on my Pixels, ye Mighty, and Despair!

    I love that poem. You made me LOL. 😀

  12. I think that an overwhelmingly large percentage of people are shallow and silly and wrong

    Well, that tells me if not an overwhelmingly large amount about you, enough.

    Mike, what was that procedure for whiting out someone’s posts again? It might be a good time to bring it up.

  13. @Dawn Incognito

    I’ve seen several mentions of Infinite Jest, so popping up to say that I actually have read it! I…kinda mostly liked it. It was ambitious, I’ll give it that. Not necessarily successful, but very ambitious.

    Same here (I read it). I bounced off it the first time but a friend who loves it convinced me to read the first 100/125 pages (basically until it wraps back around to the first POV character, from what I remember). Infinite Jest is remarkable – at times hilarious, sad, ridiculous – and its got a mix of Sci Fi and horror at the core of its plot.

    The US catapulting its garbage into Canada…

  14. Lis Carey: I think he’s referring to the fact that I referenced the books’ continuing popularity for two centuries. I’d think it’s quite likely that he regards that as argumentum ad populum, though I and perhaps you understand it differently. Or maybe you just missed that I said that.

    Oh, uh–oops? I owe both you and Darren Garrison an apology for hasty reading, herewith tendered. I have got to stop posting when I’m seriously annoyed. It leads to the dumbest errors. Because actually I think I was getting “ad populum” mixed up with “ad hominem” as much as anything else. It certainly didn’t occur to me that Darren was referring to your comment about Austen’s enduring popularity–I obviously wasn’t thinking at all when I wrote the sentence you quote. And for the record–I don’t think your comment qualifies as an argumentum ad populum, either, though the reference is at least more understandable. (Hence my apology to you both–for confusing the issue with my own error.)

  15. I’d like Flinx’s starship “Teacher”
    I’ve read Lord of the Rings and the Potter books. Just bits of some of the others.

  16. @Kathodus:

    I enjoyed the subsidized time, myself. (Each year sponsored by a corporate entity.)

    Year of the Whopper
    Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad
    Year of the Trial-Size Dove Bar

    I laughed a lot and then spent the rest of the book grappling with the chronology.

  17. “Few men have been in just the position of Austen’s women”

    I doubt many women reading or watching the stories today are either.

    Well, most likely not in the United States or Europe. But on the other hand, at my job, I work with a number of people from backgrounds where they would understand the position of the Austen women. People come from all over.

  18. @ Steve (“No Relation”) Wright
    When I read that story from Thurber about meeting Dashiell Hammett in a speakeasy and hearing that Red Harvest had been seriously influenced by (Wings of the Dove? Maybe?) I forced myself to try James for the nth time. Still no go.
    So, I didn’t really get any insight into my beloved Hammett’s prose style, but I did discover that my unbounded love of Hammett actually did have a limit.

    Lis Carey, thanks for that measured, clear and forceful response.

    On Austen: I see this a lot with ‘classic’ texts (and it’s why I *hate* the Thursday Next novels), where the stew of general knowledge and popular representation (including in parodies and moves and take-offs and criticism) of any given work overwhelms the *actual* work.

    In many, many expressions of hatred/disdain or even just dislike of a work there are a lot of ‘tells’ that the distaste is a response to the stew, rather than the thing. My go to is complaints about the Iliad which refer to Achilles ‘sulking’ in his tent.

  19. Rose Embolism: Mike, what was that procedure for whiting out someone’s posts again? It might be a good time to bring it up.

    I have never advocated that.

  20. Aren’t some of the Culture ships large enough to contain an entire ecosystem? And I vaguely remember a nicely-described alien ship that was an ecosystem. Anyhow, that’s what I’d go for.

  21. @Steve Wright: I mostly agree, although I’ll note that there are books which are mostly notable for being the first to do something, or remembered as artifacts of their time, but almost universally disliked by modern readers. Pamela , for instance, which: ugh. Shut up, Pamela and your virtue; shut up, rapey-yet-triumphant suitor; shut up, eighteenth century for liking that damn book so much I had to read it for class.

    But if a book or an author has survived through history, *and* resonates with a sufficient number of people these days, there’s probably something there even if I myself can’t quite see it. (HAWTHORNE.)


    I think that an overwhelmingly large percentage of people are shallow and silly and wrong

    …oh, Lord, you *are* Holden Caufield, aren’t you?

    I mean, like what you like, but stressing how much you don’t care about “dating and dancing” or throwing around terms like “silly and shallow”…really makes you sound like That Guy: Will Only Watch Non-Subtitled Arthouse Films Edition. Yes, yes: life is very grim and we should be considering Serious Issues at all times, I’m sure.

    I *am* silly and shallow, much of the time. I enjoy dating and dancing, and reading about other people doing likewise. None of this prevents me from also considering serious topics when meaningful, and I like to think it makes me more pleasant company than constantly scowling into the middle distance while contemplating Sartre, or whatever the alternate ideal is.

  22. Which spaceship? I’m tempted to join the queue for the Heart of Gold, but on reflection it’s got to be Robert Reed’s Great Ship. I like a bit of room to spread out.

  23. You’re not insulting the taste and judgment of random anonymous people; you’re insulting the taste and judgment of the people here, that you’re conversing with.

    Different strokes: I thought it was funny. I am not shallow, silly, or wrong and yet correctly identify Austen as one of the best authors of all time in the English language, so it clearly doesn’t apply to me. 🙂

    Plenty of people bounce off Austen and that’s fine but they are sure missing out on one of the keenest ironical eyes in the canon.

  24. I think that believing most people are silly and shallow is a good sign that you might need to get to know them better.

    Count me among the women who don’t enjoy Austen much. I’ve read Emma and Pride and Prejudice (and also seen Clueless!) and I guess it’s just not my thing. I love Charlotte Brontë, though.

    On Henry James: haven’t read much by him but I did get assigned The Princess Cassimassima and was surprised to enjoy it as much as I did.

    Somebody upthread cited a New Yorker article about the different ways that male and female writers portray love, which I read recently and thought was just fascinating. Seems like the same is true in movies, much of the time. If the protagonist is female, the male love interest is smart, witty, considerate, nice to cats, etc. If the protagonist is male, the female love interest is hot. The end. I remember watching Dr. Zhivago which was supposed to be this great love story and the whole time thinking, “Wait, what does he see in her exactly?” Probably the novel has a better answer than “hot blonde” but the film IIRC did not.

  25. I’m not actually the world’s biggest Austen Fan; I’ve read Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park and enjoyed them well enough, (Well, other than the very end of the latter, where she basically describes the climax and denouement at a reserved third-hand distance for no reason whatever – why, Ms. Austen, WHY?) but I did not love them. (I loved the BBC P&P mini-series and kind of want to reread the book again to see what the series had to cut and where it missed detail. I also figure I should get to Sense and Sensibility first.)

    On the other hand I did not think they were a waste of time, i didn’t think them half as shallow as any number of fantasy and romance novels I’ve also read, and I did not dismiss not only them but everyone who ever read them as shallow and silly based on no proof.

    So I’m not leaping on this out of love for the author but over the sneer at everyone else.

    And Darren Garrison, I ask you to provide quotes when you assert that Lis specifically rained down that sort of dismissive judgment on everyone who has ever actually liked , say, “Turncoat”, rather than simply judging the story. Or really, any of us. Some people waxed wroth about having the cumulative puppy picks shoved down our throats, and I recall people being baffled that anyone would like that stuff, but the reaction when an individual said “Er, actually, I did”, mostly involved people here going out of their way to try and ask people WHY they liked what they liked, and trying to give them the benefit of the doubt that there must be a reason, even if we couldn’t see it..

    One of the single best posts on books I’ve seen here was someone (Bruce Baugh, IIRC) explaining what he loved about Lord Foul’s Bane.

    (Also, as a note? If someone does say they watch Keeping Up with The Kardashians, I’ll nod and smile and say “not my thing”. I might put it on the evidence pile for where their shallow side lies, the way I put Julia Quinn on my “Shallow but still my thing” list. An accumulation of such things will quickly make it clear they and I live in different worlds and care about different things, the same way another persons’s obsession with Sports Team A will do. Note, in the end, “you and I are not in a shared tribe”, though, still isn’t “You’re just shallow”. Said Kardashian fan might for all I know need something silly and shallow to counteract the rest of their life.

    The one possible exception was a former co-worker who never once revealed anything resembling depths to me in a year of working side by side 4 days a week. Even then, I mostly looked at how different our worlds were with wonderment — and a bit of pity for anyone she dated. (ETA: Er, that last isn’t because shallow. She was also smart as a whip but a total shark.)

  26. @Dawn Incognito

    I enjoyed the subsidized time, myself. (Each year is sponsored by a corporate entity.)

    I’d forgotten that. I really, really need to make some time to reread it. Maybe set aside time for one chapter a week?

  27. @ Soon Lee

    The long Pixel to a small, angry Scroll…

    Or, if I may suggest a very minor transposition?

    “The long Scroll to a small, angry Pixel”

    (I’m thinking it works better in referencing the actual computer-related elements.)

    * * *

    Further re: reading lists. At some point when my mother was first contemplating the future literary interests of her children (at a point when none of us were yet reading), she drew up a typed list of (IIRC) 100 books she hoped we’d eventually read, including both novels and non-fiction works.

    At some point after we had all finished college, she finally took down the list from the inside door of one of the book cabinets (the one where all the Great Literature was shelved) and noted with a sigh how many of the books on the list had never gotten read.

    And yet, we were all massively voracious readers. We had read enormous numbers of books, both popular and classical. If I hadn’t managed to make it through Durant’s Story of Civilization, I’d certainly read many works on history of equivalent value. There was nothing magical about the specific 100 books on my mother’s list, and I think even she realized that it was a bit silly to consider that she’d somehow failed in our upbringing solely on the basis of not having ticked off those particular boxes. And yet there was that wistful sigh with which she crumpled it up and tossed it in the trash.

  28. Has no one yet come up with: Kerfuffle On The Orient Express?

    re Henry James: I recently listened to the audiobook of THE FIFTH HEART by Dan Simmons, where he does the odd-couple-thriller thing with Sherlock Holmes and Henry James. Overall, I felt it was one of Simmons’ shakiest works, with an uneven feel, pacing, and characterization. (At times, the portrayal of Holmes felt more like Batman, James Bond, or The Shadow than canonical Holmes.) But there are some really fun parts to the book, especially the section where James does a devastating literary dissection on “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches”.

    I hadn’t known about James being claimed as an influence on Hammett’s RED HARVEST. Back a few years ago, I came up with the throwaway what-if suggestion of “Turn of the Screw” as written by Hemingway and “The Killers” as written by James. Maybe that idea wasn’t quite as WTF as I thought.

  29. I have read all of Austen including her juvenalia. I found Emma a bit of a slog, but apart from that I found them enjoyable and well worth rereading.

    Jane Austen had a fierce intelligence, a sharply observing eye, an acid sarcasm against fools and predators, and warm wit and compassion for the people they entangled.

    Anyone who thinks Austen was “nice” has not been paying attention.

  30. Heather Rose Jones:
    Or, if I may suggest a very minor transposition?

    “The long Scroll to a small, angry Pixel”

    (I’m thinking it works better in referencing the actual computer-related elements.)

    Much better. *fist bump*

  31. I think Infinite Jest is a fantastic book (and a very SFnal one, too). But I’ve learned from online discussion that it’s very much not for everyone — it seems to be a love-it-or-hate-it kind of book. Some people are really angry about that book!

    I’m also a big fan of Austen, particularly Pride & Prejudice but I have a big soft spot for Northanger Abbey. Although I’ll agree with Peace Is My Middle Name about Emma, that one never sat well with me.

  32. Bruce Arthurs said:

    Has no one yet come up with: Kerfuffle On The Orient Express?

    Oh, I like that!

    I am rather fond of Austen, but recognize that highly formalized insults and war conducted via attacks of perfect manners are not everyone’s cup of tea. They’re not always my cup of tea.

    I also don’t Liz Carey has been out of line in this comment thread, or in her other reviews, and support her statements.

  33. LunarG

    I rather feel that there are lessons to learn on the deadliness of etiquette as a means of provoking and waging war; I suspect that Jane Austen would enjoy Anne Leckie’s work…

  34. Emma is my least favorite of Jane Austen’s books. Mr. Wodehouse is monstrous in a way that even Mrs. Bennett doesn’t manage and I despise him. I’ve been told more than once that this is somehow proof that Emma is the best of Jane Austen’s books, but I think he unbalances a book already full of less than admirable characters, so that makes no sense to me. I think after P & P I like Persuasion the best, but I’m also quite fond of Northanger Abbey.

    The equation of Pride and Prejudice with the Kardashians is kind of baffling, unless the latter is biting satire, which I am guessing it isn’t, except by accident.

    As to the notional insult, I’ve observed that people are very revealing in how they chose to denigrate others. VD says SJWs always lie and I think, hmmm, he has a problem telling the truth. Brad Torgerson thinks it’s insulting to compare a Filer to a South Park character who has no friends and I think, wow, sorry, dude.

    ETA – Another book on the American list that I haven’t read is Infinite Jest. It was recommended over and over by someone I don’t much like, so that may be why. That or an essay DFW wrote that seemed to be composed of the thesaurus and one thin idea.

  35. I was an anti-Austenite for years despite the best efforts of friends and teachers to get me to try. I finally read Sense and Sensibility and recognized the author was very witty, and good with characterization and dialogue, writing about intelligent women playing their A game despite holding very few cards. They aren’t quite the empty-headed gold diggers I assumed them to be at first, and I can see Austen’s influence all over modern chick lit. Which is not really my thing, so I never went back to read more Austen.

  36. If I could have any space-faring craft, I would immediately request the Wonderful Electric Elephant.

    The book is so long out of print that I cannot buy a copy without mortgaging the cat, but is available on Hathi or Gutenberg or something or other. It is about as racially sensitive as half a brick in a sock. It is deeply, desperately, unutterable improbable. The protagonists are cheery sociopaths who wreak genocide and vandalism across the planet in a teehee-aren’t-we-delightful way. Naturally, I loved it very much as a child, when I had an ancient copy that my stepfather owned as a boy.

    In short, it’s a electrical elephant that’s hollow on the inside and it must be absurdly large because it sleeps four AND you can store food and water and oxygen AND your cabinet of curiosities AND your gun collection AND a couple of bearskin rugs AND two suits of armor in it, and elephants are just not that large. Plus after the bulk of the book, they found an extra room. Inside the elephant. With directions on preparing the elephant for spaceflight.

    I will liberate that elephant from its murderous criminal oppressors and take it to Yuggoth!

  37. For my starter spaceship I would like Grimes’ Faraway Quest or Kreja’s Le Cygne (Lucy). But for a good long conversation I will go with Sphene

  38. I would love a Tardis, but then who wouldn’t. Especially if the chameleon circuit worked.

    More traditional spaceships: Fireball XL-5. I don’t think it was FTL, but there was one of the more dramatic episodes where a young stowaway got it accelerating at full power and couldn’t turn the engine off. The speedometer they showed had markings for speed — sound, heat and light. It was going faster than the speed of heat and heading towards the speed of light, which isn’t bad for a rocket ship of some kind.

    Other great choice: The Normandy SR-2 from the Mass Effect games. FTL, capable of atmospheric flight, crew of about a dozen, working AI and lots of sexy aliens aboard.

  39. (1) I, of course, support the lurker planet. 🙂

    (4) I have read BNW and 1984. Also Pride and Prejudice. I recognize that 1984 is more literary, but I like BNW better, for being both more SFnal and more entertaining. I was lucky to have an SF class in high school for one of my English electives. The top 1/3 of the class (as far as reading ability) was assigned 1984, the middle 1/3 got BNW, the lower 1/3 got Fahrenheit 451. Dystopia for everyone, at any level! Then we all did reports so the other 2/3 of the class could learn about our book (I was assigned to the 1984 group, but I’d already read it, so I asked the teacher to be put into the BNW group since I hadn’t but wanted to).

    I tried to read “War and Peace”, got maybe 10% into it and gave up. Ditto “Crime and Punishment”. Never made it through any Dickens except “Christmas Carol”. I had to read “Catcher in the Rye” (and HATED it, what a douchebro) and “To Kill a Mockingbird” (much better) in school. I think I read “Jane Eyre” but meh. Only saw the movie of “Passage to India”. Read some of the Bible. But I’ve read LOTR several times all on my own! I’ve read more of the British list than the American, although I did also read “Great Gatsby” in school, probably in the same class as “Catcher” and “Scarlet Letter”. (Egads, that was a depressing semester. No wonder I took the SF class the next semester!)

    And of course Miss Austen’s work is some of the finest observations of human behavior and society ever — practically anthropological. I also read the zombie version out of curiosity.

    I’ve read more of the British list than the American, although USA-wise, I did also read “Great Gatsby” in school. I’m pretty sure there are more people who read 50SOG and pretended they didn’t than the converse!

    (6) Kathryn Cramer’s elegy is so moving I am beyond tears. That she can write so beautifully in such a dire situation is a miracle. THAT needs to be assigned in schools.

    (9) Irony meter pegged!

    (10) Isn’t it Tom Baker’s birthday too?

    (12) So Teddy lies about people when they’re dead and can’t contradict his lies. Typical. Hartwell’s not even in the grave and Teddy has to lie about him. He has no human feeling whatsoever. Even sociopaths manage to hide most of their evil under a pleasant facade when necessary.

    (13) That is so cool. And probably true. It has great truthiness, anyway.


    @Kyra: Maybe Customs wanted to read it! Everyone who gets a book from me knows it will have my eyeball prints upon it before they get it.

    Most of the stuff I pick up at cons is bookmarks, which have the cover of a book, a blurb, the author’s website, a short-term discount code. Business cards are exchanged face-to-face, when there is possible business to be done, plus artists put them next to their work in case you want to order something later. That’s how we do it here in 8368 when we’re cosplaying the early 21st century.

    I would certainly opt for a Culture ship. Anything you want or want to do, at any time, perfectly safely.

  40. Ok, as a guy who likes Austen, I’m a little disgruntled by the suggestion that I don’t exist. 🙂

    Seriously, though, I would expect SF fans, more than anyone, to be able to look past the surface issues of gender, and see people trapped in a flawed society, trying their best to make the best of a bad situation. For that matter, it’s not just the women in Austen—Darcy may have more personal freedom, relatively speaking, but from my modern perspective, he’s pretty thoroughly trapped as well.

  41. I’ve seen film versions of Sense & Sensibility, Emma, and Pride & Prejudice (2 different versions!) — but I have to admit I’ve only read Pride & Prejudice. I had to force myself to read the entire thing.

    I just couldn’t get into a world where everyone’s biggest concerns are marriage and social status. It’s like the Eight Deadly Words Writ Large for me. I know that this world used to exist (and that for some people, it still does) — but it just holds zero interest for me.

    (It generates the same reaction in me as the TV series Seinfeld and Friends — where, on the rare occasion I watched an episode, I would be saying to myself, “Remind me again why I should care about these people?” I have to admit that I watched the last episode of Seinfeld and enjoyed it thoroughly, because those shallow, self-absorbed characters got exactly what they deserved.)

    I tried to read MRK’s Glamour in Glass, which was well-esteemed, but I just bounced off it hard.

    I recognize that there are people who enjoy Austen and similar works, and their enjoyment is valid — but I just can’t share it.

  42. Clears throat in a delicate, genteel way.

    ULTRAGOTHA on January 21, 2016 at 12:50 pm said:

    A Long Scroll to a Small Angry Pixel


    I’m trying to think of which culture I’d like to live in, which would in turn point to which space ship.

    I’ve no wish to live in the Hitchhiker Galaxy, so that leaves out Heart of Gold, as delightfully absurd as it is.

    The Prince Serg would imply Barrayar. But while I adore the books I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to live on Barrayar or Komarr or Sergyar.

    Possibly the René Magritte. Beta Colony might do.

  43. If you want to read about what happens when the Wonderful Elephant gets taken into space, you can also read the sequel at HathiTrust:


    On a quick look, it seems they visit the major planets of this solar system, and also meet the Roman gods among the Milky Way. (Pluto the god makes an appearance, but his corresponding (dwarf) planet hadn’t been discovered yet.)

  44. Wow! Never read the sequel. The first few pages indicate that the Elephant can attain lightspeed, which only cements my choice of spaceship.

  45. I’ve read 1984 (and A Clergyman’s Daughter and Keep the Aspidistra Flying; I was a depressed adolescent and they let me say “well, at least my life’s not that bad”) and agree with the “Stephen Fry can go suck rocks” sentiment wrt to this matter. It’s not the first time QI has pulled the “no, you’re all lying, points off” nonsense.

    I’ve also read Pride & Prejudice. Well, the first third. I skimmed the rest of the book because hell, it’s so dull.

    No, it’s really, really not. It may not be about topics that interest you, but it’s anything but dull. And I say that having bounced off it three times before I clicked with it.

    Reading an annotated version, for better understanding of things like just why is Mrs. Bennett so darn obsessed with getting her daughters married off? can help a lot.

    Lis Carey, Msb, and Mary Frances have addressed the “Kardashian” nonsense better than I could. Thank you.

    I think that an overwhelmingly large percentage of people are shallow and silly and wrong.

    I’m sorry for you. That hasn’t been my experience. Coincidentally, on the latest episode of my Zen teacher’s podcast, she was talking about how “if your mindset is ‘everybody hates me’ then everything you see will tend to confirm that.” So yeah, if your mindset is “most people are shallow and silly and wrong”, everything you see will tend to confirm that.

    @Sweet: darn, I wish you remembered where you’d read that. I’d love to read it myself.

    @James Moar: 50 Shades of Black is a new movie from Marlon Wayans (noted, among other things, for insulting and slandering the women who’ve accused Bill Cosby of rape).

    I asked a few genre people about what spaceship they’d want to borrow or captain, excepting the Firefly and the ‘Falcon

    *checks* Yay, somebody nabbed the Rocinante!

    Regarding 50 Shades of Gray, I haven’t read it and don’t claim I have. If somebody disregards my polite “not my thing” attempts to avoid that conversation and instead starts trying to bend my ear about why it’s awesome I just engage “earnest and tedious” mode and start explaining why the BDSM presented in the book is dangerous and harmful and abusive and hey, let’s talk about “safe, sane, and consensual” as a starting point… by which time their eyes have glazed over and they’re looking for an escape route.

    I did read Twilight (note: if you sign up for a “let’s make amusingly snarky marginal comments in crappy books and mail them to each other” reading club, be sure to specify a maximum page limit) and will, upon minor provocation, go into my rant about why it’s fractally bad. (High-level bad: this is sending dangerous and harmful messages to young people about relationships. Mid-level bad: I don’t care that the protagonist eats granola for breakfast unless that tells me something about the character (or, I dunno, she chokes on it to help FURTHER illustrate the tedious drumbeat of “she’s clumsy”). Detail-level bad: dear author, you DO NOT KNOW HOW TO USE COMMAS correctly.)

    I like to use the prologue to Hyperion to illustrate how science fiction readers tolerate a much higher degree of confusion than readers in just about any other genre. Things are fine up until the Consul gets that message from the CEO, and we can hardly understand it at all because we don’t know what any of the key nouns mean. But as the story progresses, we gradually learn all about it, and one of the real pleasures of SF is untangling mysteries like this.

    Last night at the Belter-language-fan meetup we were discussing this kind of thing. A number of people have reacted negatively to the Belter-language scenes in The Expanse, demanding subtitles. My (admittedly judgmental) feeling is that, for me at least, part of enjoying science fiction is getting to the point of being able to enjoy that kind of not-knowing without needing to have it immediately resolved. Different people enjoy different things, and I very much enjoy being in that headspace of “I don’t quite understand what’s going on, but I think I’m picking up some clues and I’m having fun putting them together to try to figure it out.”

    BTW, the meetup was a lot of fun (Belter word of the day: “rumwala” = “bartender”) and it looks like we may be doing it again, hopefully somewhat regularly. I’ll post a notice of the next one.

  46. Heather Rose Jones on January 21, 2016 at 8:12 pm said:

    *grovels prettily*

    Kindly waves you to your feet.

    (Can I picture all this in Empire dresses? I’m feeling very Austen.)

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