Pixel Scroll 1/9/16 To Flail Beyond the Sunset

(1) USE THE FARCE. Entertainment.ie says this Twitter spat between Emo Kylo Ren and Very Lonely Luke is what the internet was made for. Here are the first two tweets in the exchange —

(2) BEWARE FAUX SPOILERS. Will R., who says Hobotopia is a long-running web comic, and one of the nicest things in all of the Internet, draws attention to its ostentatious Spoiler Alert for what turns out to be a pretty obscure The Force Awakens spoiler.

(3) ACTION FIGURES. Here are your prototype action figures for the Ghostbusters reboot. There wasn’t much chance Mattel would repeat the mistake Hasbro made with The Force Awakens of leaving out the female characters, was there?

Amanda Kooser at CNET already has play suggestions.

The action figures come from toy company Mattel and will be 6 inches (about 15 centimeters) in height. That’s a pretty standard size for action figures, so you should be able to fold them into imaginative play along with your Star Wars and Star Trek collection. The crossover possibilities are endless. I can’t wait to see what a proton pack does against Kylo Ren.

(4) STABBY WINNERS. Reddit’s r/Fantasy group has chosen the winners of the 2015 Stabby Awards. Here are the top vote-getters in 3 of the 15 categories:

Stabby Award

Stabby Award

  • BEST NOVEL OF 2015 Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson
  • BEST SELF-PUBLISHED / INDEPENDENT NOVEL OF 2015 The Labyrinth of Flame by Courtney Schafer
  • BEST DEBUT NOVEL OF 2015 The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

Click on the link to see the rest.

(5) MEAN STREETS. Tobias Carroll at Literary Hub introduces a review by reminding everyone of the time Raymond Chandler mocked science fiction.

In a 1953 letter to his agent H.N. Swanson, Chandler indulges in a brilliantly entertaining, paragraph-long parody of sci-fi writing, which hits every trope and cliché of the genre. Oh, and he namedrops Google some 45 years before Larry and Sergey registered the domain.

Did you ever read what they call Science Fiction? It’s a scream. It is written like this: “I checked out with K19 on Adabaran III, and stepped out through the crummaliote hatch on my 22 Model Sirus Hardtop. I cocked the timejector in secondary and waded through the bright blue manda grass. My breath froze into pink pretzels. I flicked on the heat bars and the Bryllis ran swiftly on five legs using their other two to send out crylon vibrations. The pressure was almost unbearable, but I caught the range on my wrist computer through the transparent cysicites. I pressed the trigger. The thin violet glow was ice-cold against the rust-colored mountains. The Bryllis shrank to half an inch long and I worked fast stepping on them with the poltex. But it wasn’t enough. The sudden brightness swung me around and the Fourth Moon had already risen. I had exactly four seconds to hot up the disintegrator and Google had told me it wasn’t enough. He was right.”

They pay brisk money for this crap?

In the case of Adam Christopher, Chandler’s rivalry with science fiction gave rise to literary inspiration. In the acknowledgements to his new novel Made to Kill, Christopher writes that “what I really wished did exist was Raymond Chandler’s long-lost science fiction epic.” He describes himself as “amused” by “the way Chandler hated science fiction.” There are a handful of nods to Chandler’s infamous riff on the genre peppered throughout Christopher’s novel, including as its epigraph. Made to Kill can be read as a science fiction-laced detective story and as a way of using the detective story template to investigate more archetypally science fictional themes of memory and identity.

The setting of Made to Kill is an altered 1965: John F. Kennedy is president, the Cold War rages on, and American society has had an unsuccessful dalliance with incorporating robots into everyday life. The last survivor of this program, narrator Ray Electromatic, is the detective at the center of this novel, drawn into a conspiracy involving Hollywood stars, radioactive material, and Soviet spies. Ray makes for an interesting protagonist in a number of ways: as robots go, he has an unexpected moral compass, and the fact that his memory only lasts for a day does a good job of establishing him as a less-than-reliable narrator from the outset.

(6) YOU’VE BEEN WARNED. David Gerrold says he’s learned from (bad) experience to avoid feuds, as he explains on Facebook.

Here are 5 of his 10 points:

4) “Forgive and forget” does not apply here. Everyone in a feud, no matter what side they’re on, has already succumbed to self-righteousness, simply by being in the feud. Self-righteousness is terminal.

5) A really spectacular feud, if it goes on long enough, if it gets loud enough, if it gets ferocious enough, will not only destroy the participants, it will destroy the community in which the feud occurs. (I have seen this happen multiple times, where whole forums evaporated because the toxicity reached armpit level.)

6) Sociopaths and attention whores enjoy feuds. People who have not yet learned a modicum of restraint or self-awareness are the biggest victims.

7) Screechweasels and harangutans will outlast everyone and declare the victory of getting the last word. It’s a hollow victory, because most of the other participants will have walked away in disgust.

8) Reconciliation of any kind is almost always impossible — because there is always at least one person who needs to recap the past in one last attempt to prove the other side wrong.

(7) CALL FOR PAPERS. “Reframing Science Fiction”, a one-day conference on the art of science fiction, will be held in Canterbury (UK) on March 21. Keynote speakers: Dr. Jeannette Baxter (Anglia Ruskin University) and Dr. Paul March-Russell (University of Kent).

From William Blake and John Martin to Glenn Brown and The Otolith Group, artists have been producing works of art that are science fiction. And artists and their works have been incorporated into many works of sf.

Meanwhile, on countless book covers and in magazine illustrations, a visual language of science fiction has evolved: bug-eyed monsters; spaceships; robots and so on.

Art in the comic strip and the graphic novel has been the means of telling stories in visual form – whilst artists such as Roy Lichtenstein have made comic panels into art.

The call for papers (which opened some time ago) has a January 15 deadline.

We invite 300 word proposals for twenty minute papers on the intersection of art and sf across the media – painting, sculpture, drawing, collage, photography, film, performance, prose, dance, architecture and so on…

(8) ONE ISLAND’S OPINION. Colleen Gillard’s article “Why the British Tell Better Children’s Stories” in The Atlantic is high-brow click-bait.

The small island of Great Britain is an undisputed powerhouse of children’s bestsellers: The Wind in the Willows, Alice in Wonderland, Winnie-the-Pooh, Peter Pan, The Hobbit, James and the Giant Peach, Harry Potter, and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Significantly, all are fantasies. Meanwhile, the United States, also a major player in the field of children’s classics, deals much less in magic. Stories like Little House in the Big Woods, The Call of the Wild, Charlotte’s Web, The Yearling, Little Women, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer are more notable for their realistic portraits of day-to-day life in the towns and farmlands on the growing frontier. If British children gathered in the glow of the kitchen hearth to hear stories about magic swords and talking bears, American children sat at their mother’s knee listening to tales larded with moral messages about a world where life was hard, obedience emphasized, and Christian morality valued. Each style has its virtues, but the British approach undoubtedly yields the kinds of stories that appeal to the furthest reaches of children’s imagination.

And it works – people are coming unglued in the comments.

(9) FX. Doctor Science formulates a TV production axiom in “How special effects eat characterization”. The Doctor’s last paragraph says it best, but you should read it there. Here is the first paragraph:

I don’t think this trend is mostly an artistic or marketing choice, even though that’s what people in Hollywood usually say. I think “more explodey” is driven by the need to justify budgets, and by the individual interests of the people who have to do it.

(10) UNEMPLOYED KAIJU. They won’t be needing any special effects for Pacific Rim 2 — it’s dead, Jim.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the follow-up to director Guillermo Del Toro’s monsters-versus-robots epic is “off the table indefinitely” – and in its place, del Toro has entered talks with 20th Century Fox to helm a rather different sci-fi spectacular.

Del Toro is reportedly gearing up to take the helm on ‘Fantastic Voyage,’ a remake of the 1966 sci-fi classic which starred Raquel Welch and Donald Pleasance as members of a team who are miniaturized in a submarine and injected into the body of a dying scientist in order to save his life.

(11) CLASS. The Doctor Who spinoff Class will air on BBC America in 2016. It was already on BBC Three’s schedule in the UK.

The eight-part series is from young-adult author Patrick Ness, who is known for writing the “A Monster Calls” books. The series is exec produced by “Doctor Who’s” Steven Moffat and Brian Minchin and is a co-production between BBC America and BBC Cymru Wales. It is filmed in Cardiff in the U.K.

“I’m astounded and thrilled to be entering the Doctor Who universe, which is as vast as time and space itself,” said Ness. “I can’t wait for people to meet the heroes of ‘Class,’ to meet the all-new villains and aliens, to remember that the horrors of the darkest corners of existence are just about on par with having to pass your exams,” he joked.

(12) BESTSELLER SNARK. Diana Gabaldon zinged George R.R. Martin – The Hollywood Reporter has the quote:

When asked by a reporter whether her work on the Starz drama [Outlander] — she penned a season two episode — would interfere with her meeting the deadline for the ninth installment in her saga — in light of Game of Thrones’ George R. R. Martin’s recent announcement that, of course, his next book will be delayed — Gabaldon didn’t miss a beat. “No. Unlike George, I write no matter where I am or what else I’m doing,” she said, adding: “He admits it himself that he likes to travel and he can’t write when he travels. That’s just the way he works. Everybody’s got their own writing mechanism. When I began writing, I had two full-time jobs and three small children.”

(13) TENTACLE TIME. Matthew Dockrey, designer of Sasquan’s Hugo base, made news with his new piece of public art in Vancouver (WA).

A newly installed tentacle sculpture is seen on Main Street in Vancouver Wednesday January 6, 2016. (Natalie Behring/The Columbian)

A newly installed tentacle sculpture is seen on Main Street in Vancouver Wednesday January 6, 2016. (Natalie Behring/The Columbian)

A giant steel tentacle bristling with saucer-sized suckers is slithering from the sewer in Uptown Village at Main and West 23rd streets.

Does it belong to an enormous octopus? A sea monster? Is it the tail of a dragon?

The imagination reels with possibilities.

The sculpture, created by Seattle metal artist Matthew Dockrey, is Vancouver’s newest piece of public art. Called “The Visitor,” the 5-foot-tall appendage cradling a genuine city manhole cover was installed Saturday. It will be dedicated at a celebration at noon Friday by the Uptown Village Association, Arts of Clark County, Vancouver’s Downtown Association and the city.

Karen Madsen, chairwoman of the nonprofit Arts of Clark County, said the artwork selection committee had sought a piece that was whimsical and interactive and that would endure over time. The sculpture, which Dockrey specifically created for the site in front of the old Mission Theatre, fits within the Steampunk art movement, she said.

(14) THE FRONT. Cedar Sanderson has pulled together the Mad Genius Club’s considerable wisdom about cover creation for self-published books into one post.

First and most important: before you start designing a cover, creating art intended for book covers, or even thinking about a book cover, you need to look at book covers. A lot of them. Specific book covers to your genre is even better, as there are subtle cues you need to know and recognize, even if you aren’t doing your own covers. So first, before anything else, go to Amazon and search for your sub-genre (space opera, paranormal romance, werewolf stories, historical military fiction, whatever it is) and look at the top 100 selling books. Not the freebies (unless you are looking at what not to do). Make notes of elements you like, things you hate, and the consistent notes that many of the covers have in common. When you’re done with this, you are ready to begin.

(15) HUGO PREP WORK. Shaun Duke has posted a crowdsourced list – “The 2016 Hugo Awards Reading/Watching List (or, My Next Few Months)”.

Last month, I asked for recommendations for my annual Hugo Awards reading bonanza.  A bunch of you responded with books, movies, TV shows, cookbooks, and so on.  The form will remain open for the next month or so, so if you haven’t submitted anything or want to submit some more stuff, go for it!

So, without further delay, here is the big massive monster list of stuff I’ll be reading or watching for the next few months…

(15) IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR. Doris V. Sutherland resumes her analysis of the comparative quality of Puppy and non-Puppy Hugo nominees in the past two races in “2014 Hugos Versus 2015 Sad Puppies: Novelettes” at Women Write About Comics.

Breaking down the above ten works, we have two stories from the 2014 Sad Puppies slate, four from the 2015 Sad Puppies slate, one from the Rabid Puppies and three that were not Puppy picks. In terms of numbers, this is a strong showing from the Puppies. In terms of quality, well…

Before I go on, I should—in the interests of balance—remind my readers that I generally liked the Puppy choices for Best Short Story; some had their flaws, but I felt that the only out-and-out dud was the Rabid slate’s “Turncoat.” Looking at the Puppy novelettes, on the other hand, I find myself decidedly unimpressed.

(16) ROCK ENROLL. NASA’s new Planetary Defense Coordination Office will coordinate asteroid detection and hazard mitigation.

NASA has formalized its ongoing program for detecting and tracking near-Earth objects (NEOs) as the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO). The office remains within NASA’s Planetary Science Division, in the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The office will be responsible for supervision of all NASA-funded projects to find and characterize asteroids and comets that pass near Earth’s orbit around the sun. It will also take a leading role in coordinating interagency and intergovernmental efforts in response to any potential impact threats….

NASA’s long-term planetary defense goals include developing technology and techniques for deflecting or redirecting objects that are determined to be on an impact course with Earth. NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission concept would demonstrate the effectiveness of the gravity tractor method of planetary defense, using the mass of another object to pull an asteroid slightly from its original orbital path. The joint NASA-European Space Agency Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA) mission concept, if pursued, would demonstrate an impact deflection method of planetary defense.

Even if intervention is not possible, NASA would provide expert input to FEMA about impact timing, location and effects to inform emergency response operations. In turn, FEMA would handle the preparations and response planning related to the consequences of atmospheric entry or impact to U.S. communities.

(17) AFRICAN SF. There are six African authors on BSFA Awards Longlist.

Sarah Lotz has been nominated in the Best Novel category for Day Four, the follow-up on her bestseller The Three.

Chinelo Onwualu of Nigeria has been nominated in the Best Non-fiction category for her essay “Race, Speculative Fiction And Afro SF”, published by the New Left Project.

The Best Short Fiction category features four other African nominations:

Unfortunately Samatar’s story won’t be eligible for the award as she announced hers is a reprint of a 2012 story.

(18) ANIMAL FARM. The extended trailer for Disney live-action movie The Jungle Book looks pretty good.

(19) WUV. Matthew Johnson contributed these instant classic parody lyrics in a comment.

Star Base… LOVE.”

Love, at Warp Factor Two

Beam aboard, we’re expecting you

Love, it’s a captain’s reward

Make it so, it warps back to you


The Love Base

Soon we’ll be plotting a different course

The Love Base

You’ll learn a new way to use the Force


Won’t stun anyone

It’s fruity drinks ‘neath the double suns

It’s the Love

It’s the Love

It’s the Love

It’s the Love Base

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Brian Z., Will R., Standback, and Alan Baumler for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

143 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 1/9/16 To Flail Beyond the Sunset

  1. Did Zelig get inserted into actual footage?

    It’s been a while, but I believe he did. The usual still photos, but they stuck him in the background of some newsreel footage. I recall him boxing with Jack Dempsey or someone.

    They created their own newsreel coverage of the whole Zelig phenomena and they weathered it by putting the film in a shower and walking on it.

  2. Stories like . . . Charlotte’s Web . . . are more notable for their realistic portraits of day-to-day life in the towns and farmlands on the growing frontier.

    I thought Charlotte’s Web took place in Maine.

  3. (2)
    Aw, nothing there.

    Chandler was really asking for his entire genre to be characterized by the worst example somebody could dredge up. Still, the guy’s a top favorite writer of mine. I can’t figure out if he was Ravel to Hammett’s Debussy, or if Hammett was Ravel—damn similes. Anyway, it’s hard to be sensitive without developing grudges. I’m just about convinced that the few who don’t seem to are merely adept at not mentioning them. (My theory on creative people is that they’re the ones who let stuff get under their skin until they make pearls of them.)

    What I keep not saying here is that in all the years I’ve been reading Chandler, and reading people trying to be Chandler, I’ve only read one that succeeded beyond the opening paragraphs, and that is Lethem’s Gun, with Occasional Music, which not only got the hero’s voice, but his backstory, his milieu, and the entire arc of a novel’s worth of his adventures. I’ll be quite pleased if the new work can be as good. I am not wedded to the notion that nobody can ever do it, and though I haven’t hit an upper limit on how many times I can re-read the canon (including Chandlers’ own apocrypha), it’s nice to have something similar to buffer the familiarity with.

    @Matthew Johnson
    Thanks, man!

    @Jim Henley
    Ah, I see you also noticed that someone accidentally said “art” when they clearly meant “money.” And “artists” when they meant “parasites.”

    I don’t want to go read it. Do they remember Baum, Eager, or Thurber in their accounting?

    Spoilers. It’s never too soon if they’re well marked and can’t be scanned inadvertently, or if they’re in a segregated spoiler area. It’s always too soon if I haven’t seen/heard/read it, because it’s still new to me, even if it’s technically ancient. NeilC speaks for me. Happy to see that nobody here took it as a challenge. Fun fact: The “Darmok” aliens on ST:TNG were not merely speaking in allusions to their cultural heritage. They were talking in spoilers. Bastards!

  4. The Other Nigel

    What I do not understand is why the authors chose a total twit for their protagonist. I have done my best; I have plodded through innumerable pages, on the presumption that there has to be a reason for this, but I have reluctantly concluded that the answer is that the authors don’t think he’s a total twit.

    One disaster after another, caused by Holden, and he’s still going strong; the single most helpful thing for people stuck in the same universe as him would be a painless suicide pill, because they’re doomed anyway…

  5. L’esprit de l’escalier: Here are the missing two verses, which go between “A new way to use the Force” and “Love won’t stun anyone”:

    Love, the final frontier
    It’s the scalloped shape of a Vulcan ear
    Yes love
    It’s love…

    The Love Base, soon we’ll be going where none’s gone before
    The Love Base, come with us from rim to galactic core
    No need to jack in,
    Come aboard for a neuromance

  6. I have just noticed that there are two FIFTHteens – HUGO PREP WORK and IN THE REAR MIRROR

    (14) THE FRONT

    Some interestingly bad covers there. The point about how author name size indicates fame is an interesting one. It probably doesn’t hold true where the series is the brand – e.g. Harry Potter covers tend to have HARRY POTTER much bigger than either the rest of the title or JK Rowling. Camestros did an interesting look at the Hugo nominee covers where you can see a good example of Kevin J Anderson’s name taking over most of his cover.

  7. @Mark
    When we did “Anne of the Thousand Days” in high school, I took on the task of providing hand props for the musicians who sing a song composed by Henry VIII for an audience of the King and a girl he wants to impress. It was all hand lettering, with the title at the top, like so:

    “Alas, Alas
    Being a Song written by

    (And the name was in a size about three times as large as anything else on the page, visible from the back rows, then back to something smaller for the rest.)

    “King of England, Defender of the Realm, Defender of the Holy Faith, Defeater of the Thus-and-Such and whatever else I put in there without much regard for strict accuracy, there being no Google and nobody could really see it from the house anyway”

    40+ years later, am I still proud of that? Yes. Yes, I am. That’ll do, Kip.

    Tune by Herb Goodrich. Lyrics here. http://englishhistory.net/tudor/the-lyrics-of-king-henry-viii/

  8. Matthew Johnson on January 10, 2016 at 7:51 am said:

    Come aboard for a neuromance


  9. Is that two non-batshit-crazy articles in a single week from MGC? What is the world coming to?

  10. Yes, Zelig is inserted into all kinds of real footage. I know y’all know that already, but I loved that movie. But he wasn’t a forgotten man — he had the ability to change to suit his surroundings, and he became famous because of it, in a 1920s new fad sort of way. The movie was about various experts trying to figure out what was wrong with him, as I recall, with guest appearances from the likes of Bruno Bettelheim to offer opinions on his psyche.

    I need to watch it again, though. It’s been awhile.

    On the issue of Star Wars spoilers… Darth Vader is Luke’s father. Sorry if I spoiled that for anyone.

    I want to do new Darths, by the way. I think someone was positing new ones somewhere, but after Vader and Sidious, I can’t help but think of Darth Testate, a probate judge, Darth Dulgent, the head of the nanny state, Darth Toxicated, who has a bar, Dark Vestment heading up a bank, and Darth Somnia at a sleep clinic. And then, of course, Darth Conceivable, who came over from The Princess Bride. (I’m sure millions of people have already done this — I don’t follow Star Wars things, so I don’t know. I apologize in advance if this is a most-sincerely-dead horse.)

  11. Darth Conspicuous, who is set up as the villain of the piece, but is just a stalking horse for the real bad guys.

    Darth Escapable, who had a short career, as everybody slipped through his clutches.

    Darth Ept, who was most puissant.

    Darth Telligent, who needed everything explained to him several times.

    Darth Dependent, who just would not leave Coruscant.

  12. “Lord Conceivable, I do not believe that word means what you think — Ack! Gharg! [And other strangulated noises.]”

  13. Darth Cidental – only appears in passing
    Darth Dulgent – always sending those Skywalker kids gifts
    Darth Clement – the Sith in charge of the weather controls on Hoth
    Darth Terval – appears between act 1 and act 2
    Darth Terview – Galactic Sith spokesdarth.

  14. I forget who here recommended Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge, but thank you! I just started it and it is already fabulous.

  15. In John Kovalic’s Dork Tower, Igor’s Star Wars RP character was Darth Sane. (Which, for Igor, was par for the course.)

    The less said about Darth Continent, I think, the better.

  16. > “I forget who here recommended Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge, but thank you! I just started it and it is already fabulous.”

    yesssss our number grows

  17. I finally saw Episode VII only last night, so yeah, I’d say it’s still well in the spoiler zone. And I’d think it would be common courtesy to not to drop spoilers unROT13’d or outside spoiler warnings well past the date of the video release, really.

    Honestly, there isn’t going to be an arbitrary line to cross where it will be definitively okay to talk about the thing and the other thing generally without warning, and it certainly isn’t going to be this soon. Us middle-aged fans can’t just drop everything and queue on opening night to see things, even if it were physically possible for everyone to see it at once. If you need to talk about the movie, do it in a spoiler thread. Is that such a hardship?

    After I walked into a party that we (the Portland Science Fiction Society) were throwing at a convention two days after The Empire Strikes Back open, only to hear one of the PorSFiS members say “Isn’t it interesting that Darth Vader is Luke’s father”, I convinced the group to adopt a 30-day moratorium on all spoilers for new films at any of our gatherings. I believe that lasted until to group finally died a few years ago.

    It seems like would be a good guideline for any open discussions since, as you said, not everyone can rush out and see the film right away. (We saw it the week after it opened, and that was unusually quick for us.)

  18. Re: Chandler on SF — He may not have liked the genre at all, while I love the genre, but he absolutely nailed what I don’t like about a lot of SF. When I bounce off “golden age” or “hard” SF, it’s often because it feels like that to me — a profusion of details that aren’t particularly evocative, but no character, no emotion, no story.

    Re: David Gerrold on feuds. He’s absolutely right, but I don’t know what to do about it. It’s human nature to get sucked in, which of course explains a lot about this whole Puppy business. When the alternative to getting into it with somebody is letting a jerk say a horrible thing and letting it go completely unchallenged… I’m obviously not immune.

    Re: British vs. American books for children. Somebody will probably want to confiscate my American card for this, but there was a time, when I was the target age for children’s books, that I would have agreed enthusiastically. I perceived a difference between American and British children’s books, and I thought the British books were superior. (With certain notable exceptions, like Oz or A Wrinkle in Time.)

    The thing is, that perception is years out of date, so I wouldn’t stand by it now. I also think the article doesn’t make enough distinction between books aimed at different age groups.

    Re: Gabaldon’s dig at Martin. Maybe that’s not how she meant it, but it comes across as really smug, sort of implying that GRRM simply doesn’t have a work ethic. But all other considerations aside, there’s a world of difference between trying to master a sprawling epic that’s already gotten away from you, and simply writing the next book in a series.

    @Kyra on January 9, 2016 at 4:41 pm said:

    Tonight’s read — The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart.
    Welp. This was the first bracket-inspired fill-in-the-classics-I-missed read to turn out to be a serious disappointment.

    That series was one of my favorites while I was growing up, but somehow it didn’t survive into adulthood — the last time I tried to read it, it just didn’t catch.

    What did I used to like about it? I liked the writing style, which seemed elegant to me. I liked the conflict between pagan, magically-gifted Merlin and the new anti-magic Christianity that was growing up around him. It pinged my “stories about witches” radar. I liked that it was a realistic historical setting, with magic that was subtle and could plausibly exist in this world — pinging my “Fortean stories” radar as well. Also, at the time, I had a “fantasies set in realistic historical times” radar that I think has largely disappeared, and a “realistic consideration of mythic and folkloric tales” that still exists.

    I guess it was just the right set of books at the right time.

  19. Has that Chandler letter been published? Because something is peculiar here. Google, the search engine, was a conscious misspelling of Googol, the very large number, which name had been around for a while already in 1953. So if Chandler actually wrote “Googol”, he was just borrowing the name of the number, but if he did write “Google”, he was misspelling it in the same way that Page and Brin invented decades later – or did they take it from Chandler? (According to an article I’ve read, the misspelling originated as an accident made by a friend who was checking for available domain names.)

  20. (8): I browsed a children’s classics section in the local bookstore yesterday and Gillard’s cherrypicking becomes more painfully obvious. Among the fantastical American titles she conveniently ignores: A Wrinkle in Time, Where the Wild Things Are, and pretty much all of Dr. Seuss.

    On the flip side, the non-fantastic from across the pond, we have The Secret Garden, Black Beauty, Emma, and maybe even Treasure Island, depending on how “tales larded with moral messages about a world where life was hard, obedience emphasized, and Christian morality valued” is interpreted.

  21. McJulie —

    The Right Book At The Right Time can be a huge factor in how books are received. I already mentioned somewhere in file770 that Stranger In A Strange Land blew my young teenaged mind when I first read it and … not so much on a more recent reread. When people here were recently griping about early Pratchett, my reaction was “What? But those were hilarious!” — but I also have not reread The Colour Of Magic since I first read it at age 11. (Although it’s also true that, while I like a lot of later Pratchett very much, I also *cough* really am not as impressed by as much of it as a lot of people seem to be and sometimes find his moralizing heavy-handed.)

    I’d always believed that I’d escaped the Everything Was Best When I Was 12 trap, but when recently, for Reasons, I was making a list of my 12 favorite British novels, I realized that every single one, and all the ones I had seriously considered as possibilities, were books I had read before the age of 18. Meaning some books I consider amazing, like Life After Life or Lanark or Cloud Atlas or Vanity Fair or How To Be Both or Mrs. Dalloway or Morvern Callar or The Condition of Muzak or The Vet’s Daughter, possibly didn’t make that top 12 simply because I read them too late and they didn’t end up being Formative. Not sure where I’m going with this, other than maybe that I have no idea how The Colour Of Magic is going to hold up for me when I reread it. Maybe I’ll still like it, though. I didn’t think Rincewind was *supposed* to be likeable …

    Anyway, yeah. I consider it a definite possibility that I read The Crystal Cave too late to appreciate it. Some books are like that.

  22. THE FRONT – Good article, makes some great points about size and considering thumbnail and hiring artists. However she gets so close to talking about intellectual property rights with art but doesn’t get into that discussion despite how important it is. Of course that could be it’s own article probably. But it’s weird how it mentions not using iconic imagery, work for hire, and transforming elements in GIMP/Photoshop without touching on where the line is on IP laws. Stock art can cost money.

    Work for hire is a perfectly fine thing to do, as long as you do it in a professional manner, like signing paperwork with what rights you purchasing to use the artwork for so that the rights of the artist and the rights of the author are respected. There’s no real comparison to paying a street artist for their artwork and walking away, and if that is how you’re going about it, yeah, you’re going to have some problems.

    Also for those self published authors it’s important to remember that the back of the book is important as well. I learned that the hard way.

  23. And if anyone cares, my list of top 12 British novels ended up being:

    Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
    Five Children and It
    The Happy Return AKA Beat to Quarters
    The Hobbit
    Jane Eyre
    Peter and Wendy
    Pride and Prejudice
    The Silver Metal Lover
    Watership Down
    Written On The Body

    Other serious contenders included Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Sheep Look Up, A Christmas Carol, The Game of Kings, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

  24. @Kyra – I am not fond of dolls, so the cover has been making me cringe since I first saw it in the review journals last spring.

    American vs. British children’s lit – granted, I work with children’s lit, but based on the examples listed in that article, I wasn’t thoroughly impressed by the author’s knowledge of the field. She seems to know a number of 19th and 20th century classics and a smattering of modern titles but sometimes confuses children’s and YA lit. It’s not completely off in terms of discussions of the different traditions and how they developed, but it also seems ignorant of current trends in the field. Oh, well.

  25. From Kip W:

    Bigelow T, I think you mean “I apologize Darth Advance.”

    Of course I did. By the way, to anyone who is trying to be careful with my name — I called myself after Bigelow Tea, which I happened to be drinking when I registered. As my name is not, Darth fact, Bigelow, (and it’s not even my favorite brand of tea), I never remember that’s me. So just call me whatever you feel like. Darjeeling, Prince of Wales, Assam, whatever… Maybe I should change it to Darjeeling just to feel more like myself.

    McJulie, I understand why you would say that you might’ve agreed with the British/American children’s books thing. I loved the how “other” and quaint and cozy the Narnia books seemed, plus I loved anything about King Arthur. (Including the Crystal Cave books, although I preferred The Once and Future King. I think the difference for me was a little humor, although I’m not really sure and I need to think that through. Plus both Mary Stewart and T.H. White are Brits, so that doesn’t help this discussion.)

    In a larger sense, I’m afraid I didn’t know who was from where at that age and it never occurred to me to ask or find out. It was more my late-teen mystery reading years when I went full-on British, with Lord Peter Wimsey and all that. But Wrinkle in Time was just as important to my young reading years as the Narnia books (and I didn’t know they had anything to do with Christianity, so I clearly wasn’t working with a full deck at 8 or 9 when I read the books…) Before that, I would say Dr. Seuss, who has nothing to do with fine old prairie values, was tops for pretty much everybody learning to read. But I’m sure the outraged commenters over at the Atlantic have brought up Oz, Madeleine L’Engle and Dr. Seuss. Oh, and Maurice Sendak.

  26. I thought Charlotte’s Web took place in Maine.

    It takes place in rural America, but never specifies precisely where. E.B. White was on his farm in Maine when he saw a spiderweb that, in part, inspired the book, but where the Arables and Zuckermans live doesn’t come up.

    But it doesn’t seem to be “the frontier.”

  27. Favorite British novels include…

    Pride & Prejudice, Austen
    A Perfect Spy, LeCarré
    Empire of the Sun, Ballard
    Hopeful Monsters, Mosley
    Childhood’s End, Clarke
    SS-GB, Deighton
    Possession, Byatt
    The Human Factor, Greene
    Heart of Darkness, Conrad
    The Silver Metal Lover, Lee

    In no way am I arguing that these are The Bestest British Novels, just my favorites.

  28. An American author I didn’t mention, because he wasn’t prolific, is Frank Tashlin, better known as a director of animation and feature films, but he wrote and designed what is still one of my favorite books, The Bear That Wasn’t, a hilarious and pointed children’s story. I think he did one other children’s book (which I haven’t seen) and one that may have been aimed at grownups, but which was told the same way, with simple text and gorgeously stylized pen drawings.

    He directed fast-moving Warner Brothers cartoons (his drawing style can be seen in the character designs in 1945’s NASTY QUACKS, starring that darnfool duck), and went on to direct fast-moving live-action comedies with strong libidos, like THE GIRL CAN’T HELP IT — see how much innuendo he gets past the film censors in under a minute of Jayne Mansfield walking. The cartoon sensibilities are on display in BEAR, particularly in the giant scenes of surveying, construction, circus, zoo, and the cumulative hierarchy of the factory, and his design sense is a thing of beauty. It was the funny parts that got me as a kid, but it holds up, or has so far. I’ve only read it a couple hundred times.

  29. Darth Ception : serving the Empire by stealing into your dreams
    Darth Version : actually a Jedi
    Darth Terpolation : the one that must have come between Ception and Version, based on the timelines.
    Darth Vention : the one they said came between those two, but who never actually existed.

  30. @k8: Thank Kyra for recommending Cuckoo Song; I went on about it at length last week, but it was her who put me on to it.

    @Standback: The video game is in the title of “Kaiju maximus®” (® meaning the publishers have trademarked the name of their monster so no other game can call a monster that) and in the interposed explanatory sections of the story, with their talk of “+1000 EP” and whatnot; and in the way the world operates by known rules. Wilson chose to place his very human characters in this cruelly arbitrary situation in order to test that pompous “psychogenomicist”‘s pronouncements about love and faith (which are probably part of the game’s supplementary materials), and Matthew Arnold’s, and others.

    I then went on and read The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, and enjoyed it a lot, although it’s a mess. I admire the author’s stylistic daring, although he does not at all have it under control; he is giving different characters different speech, including importing African-American slang for the common vernacular of the “brothers” (guards); using both profanity and high style; experimenting with various styles for different narrative purposes; inserting metanarrative footnotes… What if it’s uneven and sometimes wildly purple? This is only Wilson’s fourth published story! (“Kaiju maximus®” is fifth; it also contains some unfortunate choices but less, and is helped by tighter scope.) Better to aim too ambitiously; when he learns control he could be brilliant. The worldbuilding and narrative structure are also all over the place. The structure, with its multiple types of flashbacks, works all right though it can be disconcerting, and is, as I keep saying, messy. The worldbuilding has lots of ideas packed into its pseudo-Africa, and if they don’t all cohere, and I suspect the overall conception is vague, that’s okay. The backstory about preternatural powers is overly complicated. Ambition, again.

    The plot is that of an innocent (the “sorcerer” Demane) leaving home and finding out how evil the world is. Is it a bit exaggerated how naive Demane is and how paradisaical his home is, at least in his memories? Never mind, he makes for a very appealing protagonist. (Jbegu cbaqrevat vs gurer’f fbzr ernfba, ncneg sebz jurgure be abg gur nhgube vf tnl gurzfrys, jul Gur Genvgbe Oneh Pbezbenag pbhyq or pevgvpvfrq sbe tvivat vgf dhrre ybir fgbel na haunccl raqvat naq gur cerfrag jbex abg.) I think this is a very promising start for a new writer (no longer Campbell-eligible alas).

  31. Charlotte’s Web isn’t fantasy? Literate, witty, kind spiders are the stuff of drab realism? The mind reels.

  32. For no particular reason: Sith Admin Vader.

    “I find your lack of Clue disturbing.”.

    (choking noises)

  33. K8:

    but sometimes confuses children’s and YA lit.

    Well, it’s not as if they were easy to keep apart. There are works which come out of the children’s tradition but now seem to be regarded as YA; there are also works which are in fact still sold as children’s but are frequently called YA in fannish discussions. Though when she reaches The Hunger Games I’d agree that she has wandered rather a long way from her starting point.

    By the way, there was a programme on British TV over the Christmas break about the top [some number] children’s books, which was heavily dominated by the fantastic. Was that discussed here at all?

  34. @Vasha

    “enjoyed it a lot, although it’s a mess” was pretty much what I got as well. It’s a good example of what novellas can be great for – I would have resented a novel losing its way through overambition, but at the shorter length I’m happy to pick out the good and pass over the flaws.

  35. Besides, she totally ignores Freddy the Pig as American fantasy.

    I sniff and leave in a huff. My library was not the best when I was growing up, but it did have a good collection of those books, even if little other fantasy.

  36. Hmm, Rosemary Sutcliffe, Noel Streatfield, (a big chunk of) Enid Blyton, Chalet School, Abbey series, the Blue Door Theatre, The Railway Children, Swallows and Amazons… Yes, definitely no reality there.

  37. Andrew M – I think that what often happens is that people don’t recognize what middle grade fiction is and they confuse some of it with YA. Granted, I manage our library’s children’s collection so the distinction between middle grade and YA are clear to me because it’s part of my job to recognize and understand the differences. There are some books where the line is fuzzy, but interestingly those titles aren’t the ones I typically see people confusing as YA.

  38. I’m in the UK, so we don’t have the concept of middle grade (because we don’t have grades), but I’m guessing that corresponds to our ‘older children’s’, which is generally taken to be either 8-12 or 9-12. Though if the distinctions are different from one nation to another, that would add to the confusion.

    In fandom, though, ‘YA’ seems often to be used in a very sweeping way for all young people’s fiction. At least, I don’t think people would call The Gruffalo YA, but I have seen someone seriously calling Alice in Wonderland that. The YA Hugo (or not-Hugo) committee seems to have fallen at least half way into this trap, since it treats all Newbery Medal winners as examples of YA. (Oddly, the proposal in 2013, from which this committee in origin springs, was actually for a Youth Book Hugo, which would make a lot more sense, saving us from unclear distinctions: but everyone called it a YA Hugo proposal, and that seems to have stuck.)

  39. Re: The Crystal Cave — I’ll side with the position that it’s a book that may not have aged well. I read it in 1975 when it was still relatively new. It did a lot of interesting things with the Matter of Britain in terms of historic positioning and realism, when those approaches were still fresh, that have been done perhaps to death since that time. Perhaps a bit of a “Hamlet is all cliches” problem. At the time, I loved the immersive, approachable, historically infused treatment. (Perhaps also relevant is that I read it at that time because it was one of maybe five English-language books present in the house my family was renting in Munich. So it didn’t exactly have a lot of competition for my attention.)

    Re: British vs American children’s books. When I was a kid, I loved British YA books (or what would today be called YA), whether fantasy or slice-of-life. But, as an American reader, I think part of it was that they were comfortably exotic. Books with American settings felt more ordinary, more “present”, even when set in history. When reading something like the Little House books, it was easy to make the connection with my paternal grandparents, who had been homesteaders in Montana. But even the most ordinary British boarding-school story might as well have been set in fairyland, while still being about kids who were “just like me” in certain essential ways.

    I don’t think I’m explaining this very well. But I think it’s sort of like the way some Americans fetishize certain British tv shows. It’s different from what we see every day without being different in a “threatening” way.

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