Pixel Scroll 1/31/16 May the Pixels Be Ever in Your Scroll

richard-gaitet-avait-attaque-en-disant-vouloir-realiser-la-ceremonie-la-plus-courte-de-l-histoire-parce-que-tout-le-monde-a-envie-d-aller-boire-des-coups-et-da(1) A COMIC DISGRACE. A few weeks ago The International Festival of Comics (Angoulême) embarrassed itself by issuing a set of nominees for its awards with zero women among them. Several were added in response to a threatened boycott.

And at the awards ceremony on January 30, what the organization covered itself with was not glory. “Angouleme organizers criticized for presenting fake awards” reports Robot 6.

As if this year’s Angouleme International Comics Festival hadn’t been plagued by enough controversy, the organizers decided to play a practical joke at the closing ceremony that a lot of people didn’t find very funny.

The ceremony began with comedian Richard Gaitet, clad in a neon-blue suit and red bow tie, announcing, “This will be the shortest ceremony in history, because all we want to do is drink and dance.” He proceeded to present nine awards in rapid succession, including the award for best series to Saga, best comic for young people to Aaron Renier’s The Unsinkable Walker Bean, and the Fauve d’Or, the big prize, to Arsène Schrauwen, by Olivier Schrauwen. And then two women appeared and said, “Bravo Richard, for that joke about the false fauves [awards] and the size of the Grand Prix. We laughed a lot, but now we must go.” And then they presented the real awards because that first set? That was fake.

(2) SELF-DOUBT. That first item is just one more of the zillion reasons people identify with Aidan Doyle’s “The Science Fiction Writer’s Hierarchy of Doubt”. Here’s his introduction, and the first few entries on the scale.

Even if you’ve had a successful writing year, there’s always going to be another writer who achieved more. Sure, I had a few short stories published last year, but none of them ended up on recommended reading lists. No matter what level of writer you are, there’s always something to worry about. Take consolation in The Science Fiction Writer’s Hierarchy of Doubt.

Why don’t I have any ideas?

Why haven’t I written anything?

Why haven’t I written anything good?

Why won’t anyone publish my stories?

(3) NEW CAMPBELL REQUIREMENTS. On the other hand, last year’s Campbell Award winner Wesley Chu sounds pretty confident. He just announced the next new writer to win it will have to go through him.

(4) BEFORE DAWN. What if the Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice film was made in 1966 starring Adam West and George Reeves?

The makers also produced a video showing scene-by-scene how they parodied the official Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice trailer.

(5) TIP OF THE DAY. “Things Your Writing Teacher Never Told You: Pro-Tip From Carlos Hernandez” at Black Gate.

A Few Words on Structure, Point of View, and Discovery

I once told Delia Sherman that one of the great pleasures of reading her work is the same pleasure I would have purchasing an antique grandfather clock. Maybe I bought the clock because it is gorgeously carved and imbued with history, but then I am delighted to discover over a period of months that it keeps perfect time.

“Perfect time” in that conceit is structure, the mechanics of storytelling. It is, to my mind, the absolute hardest aspect of writing. I can write a funny line or a mordant or trenchant one, but how many of those may I keep and still preserve the pace and measure of the whole? It’s an impossible question to answer in advance of writing, and maybe just plain impossible.

(6) SHATNER COVERS ALL THE BASES. William Shatner does his usual first-rate narrating job on the Major League Baseball Network’s new documentary, The Colorful Montreal Expos, about the National League team that existed from 1969 to 2004 (before moving to Washington D.C., and becoming The Nationals.) Shatner, of course, was born in Canada….

It debuted this week, and should be repeated frequently. Here’s the trailer.

(7) SOURCES OF LOVECRAFTIAN LANGUAGE. Jeffro Johnson has an exposition on “Lovecraft on Lord Dunsany and the King James Bible” at Castalia House blog whose theme is —

So… Lovecraft doesn’t merely encourage writers to study the King James Bible for its “rich and forceful English.” He points out that that Lord Dunsany was among the best (if not the best) because of assimilation of its style– and that lesser writers suffered from not being familiar with it! Given how his politics and beliefs tend to be portrayed, this is liable to be a surprise.

(8) MORE LOVECRAFT ADVICE. Maria Popova’s “H.P. Lovecraft’s Advice to Aspiring Writers: Timeless Counsel from 1920” was Johnson’s inspiration. There are several more interesting quotes in her post.

Much like Jennifer Egan did nearly a century later, Lovecraft stresses the vital osmosis between reading and writing:

No aspiring author should content himself with a mere acquisition of technical rules. … All attempts at gaining literary polish must begin with judicious reading, and the learner must never cease to hold this phase uppermost. In many cases, the usage of good authors will be found a more effective guide than any amount of precept. A page of Addison or of Irving will teach more of style than a whole manual of rules, whilst a story of Poe’s will impress upon the mind a more vivid notion of powerful and correct description and narration than will ten dry chapters of a bulky textbook.

(9) FINLAY OBIT. SF Site News reports actor Frank Finlay (1926-2016) died January 31.

One of his earliest roles was in the six-episode sf series Target Luna (1960). (He did not appear in the three sequels.)

Fans probably know him best as Porthos in Richard Lester’s The Three Musketeers, The Four Musketeers, and The Return of the Musketeers.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 31, 1936The Green Hornet made its radio debut.
  • January 31, 1961 — NASA launched a rocket carrying Ham the Chimp into space.

(11) ARCHIE ON TV. Jackson McHenry of Vulture spins the announcement of Greg Berlant’s new Riverdale series this way — “The CW Orders an Archie Pilot That Will Finally Answer the Question: What If Everyone in Riverdale Were Really Hot?”

According to Variety, Riverdale will offer a “surprising and subversive take on Archie, Betty, Veronica and their friends, exploring the surrealism of small town life — the darkness and weirdness bubbling beneath Riverdale’s wholesome façade.” Substitute “Riverdale” for “Lumberton” and this is also the plot of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet.

(12) A FOURTH HELPING OF DOGS. Jim C. Hines returns to a subject he has studied closely in “Puppies, Redux”, but I’m compelled to ask — if a Middle-Earth blogger wrote, “So far the new ringbearer has been doing a better job,” would you feel reassured?

Predictions:

I don’t know for certain what’s going to happen this year. My personal opinion, for whatever it’s worth, is that there’s been so much hatred and nastiness surrounding Sad Puppies that it’s all but impossible to run a “clean” recommendations list under that brand. That said, SP4 seems to be genuinely trying for openness and to escape last year’s nastiness. Props to the organizers for that, and I hope it continues.

Given everything that went down in 2015, I don’t expect the Sad and Rapid Puppy groups to have as much influence on the final ballot. I imagine they’ll get some nominees from their lists onto the ballot, but it won’t be the same kind of shutout we saw in 2015.

(13) YEP, THAT’S MY PUBLISHER. G. Willow Wilson, the writer of Ms Marvel, talks about the whole Marvel CEO-donating-to-Trump thing that was on yesterday’s scroll.

In an ordinary election cycle, I’d say that when the CEO of an entertainment company supports a conservative candidate while also fostering diverse creative talent within his company, it is a sign of a healthy democracy. Being a Republican is not a crime. However, this is not an ordinary election cycle, and Trump is not an ordinary Republican. The irony that Ms Marvel was launched on Perlmutter’s watch–while Donald Trump would like to prevent Muslims from even entering the United States–was not lost on the mainstream media, nor on me.

(14) NEWS IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR. Let me be the last to report that William Shatner played the role of Mark Twain in an episode of Murdoch Mysteries aired in October 2015 on Canadian television. Here’s the behind-the-scenes preview.

When Twain’s life is threatened after a controversial speaking engagement at the Empire Club of Canada in 1903 Toronto, Detective Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) and his colleagues must protect the esteemed writer.

 

[Thanks to Soon Lee, lurkertype, snowcrash, John King Tarpinian, and James H. Burns for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

234 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 1/31/16 May the Pixels Be Ever in Your Scroll

  1. Cheryl S. on February 1, 2016 at 9:59 pm said:

    Night Witches, the all female Russian aviator squadron from WWII.

    Ah!
    Should have googled. Didn’t connect it with the right conversation.

  2. Dann on February 1, 2016 at 7:24 pm said:

    Just to play the devil’s advocate for a moment, what is the difference between a reader objecting to the extensive use of zeppelins and a reader objecting to female characters that routinely compete physically with men in a combat environment?

    Most of the replies seem to have missed the part about “routinely compete physically with men”. Yes, women have gone to war, and some women are strong and well-trained enough to fight on equal terms with men, but in general women will be smaller and less physically strong than men. And that matters when it comes to things like sword-swinging.

    It might be completely in character for e.g. Catelyn Stark or Cersei to pick up a sword and defend themselves or their family, but having them swing a broadsword like a male knight would be unrealistic. Brienne of Tarth fights the same way as other Westerosi knights – IIRC the scene where she’s introduced makes a point of detailing the physical-ness of the fighting – but Brienne is described as an abnormally large and strong woman. Arya’s Needle is specially made for her, and requires a different fighting style than a larger sword.

    So …

    Both are story elements that run counter to science and experience. Yet both of my current reads (Truthwitch and Dragon Lords) feature female characters that are competent in physical combat. Both have made modest nods to reality in terms of weapons choice and combat styles, but female characters are consistently engaging in physical combat at a level that isn’t otherwise “realistic”.**

    Sure. I haven’t read those books so I can’t comment on whether the “modest nods to reality in terms of weapons choice and combat styles” are indeed too modest to make the female characters realistic. But if you are certain about the lack of realism, feel free to consider it a negative with the book.

  3. Airships = alternate reality

    Emmet O’Brien gave this phenomenon its proper name: the Hindenburg Uncertainty Principle.

  4. David Goldfarb:

    Airships = alternate reality

    Emmet O’Brien gave this phenomenon its proper name: the Hindenburg Uncertainty Principle.

    *snort*

    So… is it an airship, or is it a zeppelin? We won’t know until we open the hangar.

  5. but having them swing a broadsword like a male knight would be unrealistic.

    I dunno, I think it’s also unrealistic how many male heroes have no problem swinging a broadsword around with little or no training in fantasy works. The percentage of a population able to competently wield such a weapon is likely quite small. So while I’m suspending disbelief to allow that Average Joe the Stableboy could pick up a broadsword/battleaxe/lightsaber and be a natural at it, I might as well do the same for Jane.

  6. not to mention how unrealistic it is that all of these people favour two-handed swords in the first place

  7. @Ray,

    unless of course you play Munchkin, in which case the advantages of the two-handed sword are plenty:

    This is a one-handed weapon, but it has two hands of its own, so you get a net gain of one hand when you wield it …

  8. On swords – even a broadsword is likely to weigh as little as 2.5 pounds, even a two-handed great sword tended to top out at around 4 to 4.5 pounds.

    Swinging a broadsword around for extended periods of time is the thing that gets you, not strength to pick it up and wield it for a short time. I think there is enough evidence from women training for martial arts and for weightlifting that they could develop the musculature and stamina to wield relatively big swords very effectively in battle situations.

  9. Plus Dann’s question seemed to pertain to general physical competition with men, without taking into account whether the weapon used would render the edge testoterone provides irrelevant. Like the samurai’s bow. Or today’s guns. When certain guerrilla groups are impressing large numbers of boys 10 and under into their ranks, it becomes harder to argue that the vast majority of women are physically disqualified a priori.

  10. re swords: oh, at my sword dojo there are some women who train! They’re pretty damn good, as it happens.As with anything, it takes time and effort to get any good at it. And the more time you spend training, the better you get at it – in part because you’ll get stronger! (This applies to both sexes, btw, and strength isn’t the only thing you need to be able to use a weapon properly)

    Again: it comes as absolutely no surprise to anyone who does any martial arts that a woman can be as competent as a man in a fight, with weapons or without.

  11. If Dann considers whatever dragons may be in Dragonlords or whatever magic may be in Truthwitch a strike against the book for being unrealistic, then of course it wouldn’t be hypocritical of him to also consider women being in general as strong and aggressive as men (provided that is actually what is in the book) a strike against the book for similar reasons.

    If he accepts the unrealistic dragons or unrealistic magic, then exactly why would it be a problem if women are a bit stronger and more aggressive, again?

  12. What I’m struck by is the implicit assumption that in all books with one, or even a small handful, of female fighters, all females are qualified fighters. Frankly, I don’t know what book Dann’s on about, so perhaps I’m misunderstanding him, but in stories I’ve read which have female warriors, they are not generally represented as, erm, representative of the population. Except in far-future novels where either Everything Is Technological and War means Pushing Buttons (the Honorverse) and/or Humans have been Gene-Modded. Um. Also the Honorverse….

    When we get a novel featuring Joe Commando, the Heroic Superwarrior, nobody blinks, even though 99.9% of male humans couldn’t do what he ever-so-heroically does. So why blink at Jane Commando, when 99.99% of women can’t do what she does? It’s just one more decimal point…

  13. @David Goldfarb

    And coffee just went up my nose. Monster! (Seriously, that’s really funny and thank you for making me aware of it.)

    Re Night Witches:

    They did not suffer a Nazi to live.

  14. @TheYoungPretender

    TheYoungPretender on February 1, 2016 at 6:43 pm said:
    @Cat

    I’ll admit I was wrong about Dawkins;

    Thank you.

    recently, I have seen more of his [Dawkins’] material on how its the only rational thing to be scared of Scary Muslim immigrants with their strange and different ways –

    1) By all means oppose his actual views–just represent them accurately. He gets represented unfairly all the time and I think there is something other than random inaccuracy in play.

    2) I have my differences with him too; it is just that I will be goddamned (I grew up in a culture where people said this and I make the same noises everyone else in my culture does and will take it poorly if people imagine it would be clever to make a thing of it) if I will savage one of my own for the delectation of people who are prejudiced against *both* of us. So I’m not going to bring them up here.

    And (as I think I said above) I’m not talking about all atheists, just that vocal internet subspecies.

    Far too many people think “vocal” is okay when other groups are doing it and not okay when atheists are. Asking for equal rights is, and has to be, “vocal.”

    I understand that this forum is about something else; I just want to explain why you hit a nerve.

    Your point about people who are cantankerous on the internet has a wider application–people seem to have a tendency to look for the most extreme view among the opposition to argue against. I suppose this goes back to the “motte and bailey” description that someone else came up with in an earlier File 770 comment thread. You can see it in Puppies arguing against someone saying “don’t read white male authors for a year” (which starts out being a rather extreme version of “look more carefully for women and minority authors” and Puppies up it to “ever” and picture everyone doing it–just as people turn Dawkins views on the bible up to 11 without realizing it.) You can also see it in political arguments (right now in the US.)

    I suppose nonPuppies are also attributing the offensive parts of JCW’s or Tank Marmot’s or CUL’s views and methods to more people than hold them, and perhaps also turning them up to 11 as well, though this would obviously be harder for me to see. It would be hopeful to think that the majority of the Puppies are more reasonable than we imagine.

  15. Well I’ll be….

    **chuckle**

    My point is that a bit of suspension of disbelief required for all SFF. Reliance on zeppelins as a single point to criticize a book seems a bit minimal and is easily comparable with singling out combat effective female characters as making a work unrealistic. At least I wouldn’t be overly critical if either plot point was the sole flaw.

    As many folks noted, there are lots of exceptions to any rule. (I’m disappointed that no one mentioned Rhonda Rousey.)

    As Johan and jayn suggest (or perhaps I infer), there are physical/biological differences between the average man and the average woman. A woman who has trained to become an excellent fighter will kick a bunch of male butts. All….day….long…..

    But grab the average woman off the street and put her up against the average man and what do you get? More often then not you end up with a guy that has longer limbs, is taller, heavier, and stronger.

    For most responses that read far more than that into my response…. indeed.

    FWIW, Truthwitch is quite enjoyable. I’m waiting until the end to see how the sources of my potential criticism work out. The protagonists, two young women, are delightful. I believe it is intended as YA, but the premise sounded so interesting.

    Dragon Lords has been good thus far, but is starting to drag a bit. The cast of characters is quite interesting.

    @David Goldfarb & JJ

    Hindenburg Uncertainty Principle….airship/zeppelin….priceless. Well played.

    Regards,
    Dann

  16. Johan P –

    Most of the replies seem to have missed the part about “routinely compete physically with men”. Yes, women have gone to war, and some women are strong and well-trained enough to fight on equal terms with men, but in general women will be smaller and less physically strong than men. And that matters when it comes to things like sword-swinging.

    Skill dominates brute force regardless of the medium. Royce Gracie was half the size of Tank Abbott and showed that in the early Thunderdome days of UFC.

  17. Dann

    Oh rats. Yes, they are indeed special, but you have no idea of how they will behave in combat because nobody knows how anyone will behave in combat until it happens.

    My father’s 35 year stint in the RAF included some less than happy years as a slave on the Death Railway; before despatching me out into the big, bad world he taught me how to defend myself, which, in his view, meant how to kill people up close and personal without using formal weapons.

    I’ve never killed anyone, but I can say, with great confidence, that someone missing an eyeball tends to lose their enthusiasm for anything other than finding their eyeball. I’m small, and pretty weak, but you don’t need to be tall and strong to precipitate Hunt the Eyeball; it seems to be built into us…

  18. @ Dann

    Different people differ over what is a breaking point for them. I read all the Grimnoir novels and thought they were more or less okay, aside from the lack of science knowledge (weight and mass are not the same; also evolution doesn’t work that way), the weird conservative anxieties sticking out here and there (FDR was a tough negotiator but not a monster, a rich boy who whines about paying taxes when people are starving in ditches is not a sympathetic character anymore, and believe me a Chinese gangster is not going to have a problem with paper money) and the issue with the women characters all being points of weakness in the first book (one gets captured and must be rescued, one dies so we can feel sorry for her boyfriend and one confidingly reveals secret plans to the major opponent oops.)

    But you know the author is still new, give him time to hone his craft and he could improve. He clearly has a wealth of ideas, which is great. Somebody might mention to him that guns are not actually characters and don’t need that much introduction or development…

    @Aaron I liked the airships, actually. Getting Darwin wrong was a much bigger annoyance for me.

    @Dann

    I’m trying to think of any book where all women are presented as being routinely the physical equals of men in the absence of any training. (As opposed to things that happen more often; some women fighters existing without having to apologize or explain, some women being exceptional the same way some men are, things like that.) Throw me a bone here. What are you thinking of? Maybe if I know the actual book I’ll remember (or read) what you are talking about.

  19. @Cat

    Just mark it up to a poor choice on my part. I don’t have a good example close at hand.

    I thought teeing off on airships as a detractor without any other detractors was a little too strict. By way of example, I wouldn’t downgrade a book if the sole flaw was having inexplicably combat-capable female characters. But there are folks that would do such a thing.

    As long as plot and character development are well served, the modern trends in race and gender sub-plots work just fine in my reading. When plot and character development are poor, then I frequently find race and gender sub-plots to be pretty ham fisted. They end up being the whipped cream and cherry on a much larger turd-sundae.

    Sadly, I’m going to have to sample some of Correia’s work. Thus far the synopses have not really inspired much interest. And as they tend to be part of a series, I’m hesitant to pick one up. Got a recommendation?

    Regards,
    Dann

  20. I liked the airships, actually. Getting Darwin wrong was a much bigger annoyance for me.

    It wasn’t really the airships that I was criticizing in my review. The quote in context is:

    Oddly, while the presence of magically augmented humans has wrought some political changes, it doesn’t seem to have changed the world in many ways otherwise. World War I happened right on schedule with the only substantive changes being that there was a Second Battle of the Somme involving lots of magically inclined combatants and Berlin ends up turned into a walled city of undead creatures. But the Tunguska Event takes place, as does the Oklahoma dust bowl, although in Correia’s alternate world both were caused by the use of magic. The book also makes clear that Prohibition is in effect in the U.S. and the Great Depression has laid the world economy low. J. Edgar Hoover is the head of the Bureau of Investigation, and the Bonus Army marched on Washington only to be driven out by U.S. Army troops serving under MacArthur. On the technological front, despite the existence of humans with preternatural affinity for invention called “cogs”, the only real change that is notable seems to be the prevalence of dirigibles in the place of aircraft, serving both as passenger and freight transports as well as warships. It doesn’t seem clear why the existence of magically augmented humans somehow makes wildly impractical aircraft like dirigibles and zeppelins into practical and ubiquitous ships of the sky, but nevertheless, they are and appear several times in the book.

    As one can see in the full quote, the criticism wasn’t so much that zeppelins became the primary means of air transport in the story, but rather that the technology of the world was so remarkably unchanged other than the ubiquity of airships despite the fact that magical specialists in technology have been introduced into the world.

  21. Aaron, as I recall, when I read the books from my Hugo packet, my general impression was that my parents would not particularly notice if they’d been scooped into Correa’s world from the real one. Other than, as you note yourself, the ubiquity of airships.

    This struck me as a failure of worldbuilding, as I believe I posted somewhere at the time. Alas, it’s been long enough I’ll never find a link to the quote, given it might be on one of several sites…

  22. @Christian Brunschen: “unless of course you play Munchkin, in which case the advantages of the two-handed sword are plenty:”

    The really fun maneuver is using the Two-Handed Sword to carry the Three-Handed Sword from a subsequent expansion.

  23. “race and gender sub-plots”

    A substitution exercise might be fun:

    As long as plot and character development are well served, the old-fashioned trends in white-man-saves-day sub-plots work just fine in my reading. When plot and character development are poor, then I frequently find white-man-saves-day sub-plots to be pretty ham fisted. They end up being the whipped cream and cherry on a much larger turd-sundae.

  24. But grab the average woman off the street and put her up against the average man and what do you get? More often then not you end up with a guy that has longer limbs, is taller, heavier, and stronger.

    You’d get a 5’9″ man who weights 195 pounds with a 40-inch waist, up against a woman who’s 5’4″ and weighs 150 pounds with a 35″ waist. They’re both about 35, a bit overweight, and given that only 18% of Americans meet the guidelines for exercise, they probably don’t work out. It’s not going to be the fight of the century. You don’t have to be Rhonda Rousey to beat up male average Jack Black.

    Grab a random man and woman off the street instead of average, and the man is likely to have a strength advantage, but not as often as you’re implying. The averages for men and women’s strength are shifted, but the overlap is significant. Men are about 30% stronger in the lower body (putting the average man at the 65% point of the women’s range), and about 50% stronger on the upper body (putting the average man at the 75% point of the woman’s range). Versus a randomly chosen woman, a man sitting at that average has – let’s split the difference, since people tend to have one upper and lower body apiece – a 70% of being stronger instead of a 50% chance versus a random man. Three out of ten randomly chosen women and five out of ten randomly chosen men will be stronger than the average man.

    The implications of that? About that sword, if 50% of men have strong enough upper-bodies to swing it, so do 25% of women – 33% of your potential sword-fighters would be women. An army that conscripts all men of above-average strength in the country, and then conscripts all the women in the same range, is going to end up with an army that’s 3/8ths, or almost 40%, women.

    So, I dunno, man, just looking at the actual stats and running the numbers, I’m not exactly seeing why women in SFF combat situations require the same suspension of disbelief as the rare purple unicorn.

  25. Dann –

    Sadly, I’m going to have to sample some of Correia’s work. Thus far the synopses have not really inspired much interest. And as they tend to be part of a series, I’m hesitant to pick one up. Got a recommendation?

    Weren’t asking me but I love recommendations. Personally I enjoy his Monster Hunter International series. They’re a fun goofy mix of B-horror movies mixed with over the top action. There’s an overarching plot connecting the books but it’s the kind of vague ‘there’s something big coming!’ type, the books have self contained narratives otherwise. What I like about his books is there’s a very good awareness of a sense of place and movement in a fight, it’s easy to visualize and descriptive without so much description that it drags.

    Son of the Black Sword came out more recently, but it’s certainly part of a larger plot structure. I found it disappointing, because the fights in the book were written like ‘His sword was a whirlwind and the enemies dropped before him’ instead of having the good sense of scene of action that his other books do and the characters are kind of flat and lifeless compared to the wise cracking over the top characters of MHI.

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