Pixel Scroll 2/20/21 (I’m Picking Up) Good Vibraniums

(1) A CELEBRATION. N. K. Jemisin and Walter Mosley will be among the participants in “A Celebration of Octavia E. Butler”, a live virtual event at Symphony Space on February 24 starting at 7 p.m. (Eastern). Tickets sold at the link.

Actors and authors come together for an evening of readings and conversation to celebrate the work of the visionary author whose Afrofuturistic feminist novels and short fiction have become even more poignant since her death. Her award-winning novels, including Parable of the SowerKindredDawn, and Wild Seed, have influenced a generation of writers. Playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (An Octoroon) will lead a discussion with authors N. K. Jemisin (How Long ’til Black Future Month?), Walter Mosley (The Awkward Black Man), and Imani Perry (Breathe: A Letter to My Sons); and actors Yetide Badaki (American Gods) and Adepero Oduye (When They See Us) will read selections from Butler’s prolific body of work.

Audience members will be invited to join the conversation with questions for the panelists.

(2) RED PLANET CLOSEUP. EiderFox Documentaries takes the NASA footage and gives you “Mars In 4K”.

A world first. New footage from Mars rendered in stunning 4K resolution. We also talk about the cameras on board the Martian rovers and how we made the video. The cameras on board the rovers were the height of technology when the respective missions launched. A question often asked is: ‘Why don’t we actually have live video from Mars?’ Although the cameras are high quality, the rate at which the rovers can send data back to earth is the biggest challenge. Curiosity can only send data directly back to earth at 32 kilo-bits per second. Instead, when the rover can connect to the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, we get more favourable speeds of 2 Megabytes per second. However, this link is only available for about 8 minutes each Sol, or Martian day. As you would expect, sending HD video at these speeds would take a long long time. As nothing really moves on Mars, it makes more sense to take and send back images.

(3) WORLDCON FOLKS. Ty Schalter says he doesn’t know anything about the Worldcon, but his questions are good: “Worldcon vs. The World”. (Just the same it brings to mind a line from Field of Dreams: “Oh! You’re from the Sixties! There’s no room for you here in the future!”)

…How many of the people reading, writing, editing and publishing the state of the art in genre fiction also fly out to Worldcon every year? How many of the people who go to Worldcon every year are reading, say, FIYAH Magazine— the kind of bold, original, cutting-edge fantastic literature that’s currently earning Hugo Award nominations and wins?

I’m genuinely asking, because remember: I don’t know what I’m talking about. But from the outside, it sure looks like The SFF Community and Worldcon Folks are two pretty disparate groups of people, who don’t necessarily care for or value each other a whole lot.

I see it when SFF Twitter explodes with shock and outrage every time Worldcon steps on another rake— how did it happen again?! I see it every time Worldcon Folks are mystified that doing things the way they’ve always done them is now not just insufficient but immoral— and who are these people yelling at us, anyway?!

I see it every time I go to church.

Wait, church? Yes, at church — and in family businesses, and on non-profit boards. In Chambers of Commerce and Kiwanis clubs. In all the gray-haired, tuxedoed, former cultural revolutionaries of the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame harrumphing about letting N.W.A. in their storied institution. In every walk of life, everywhere, there are cultural and social organizations caught in an existential battle of whether to preserve their traditions or their values.

As a white guy turning 40 this year, I have an appreciation for the SFF of the 20th century and its associated Baby Boomer fans, slans, SMOFs, etc. In many ways, they’re who I grew up aspiring to be. But now that I’m grown, I can see the cultural blind spots and moral holes in the kind of let’s-just-us-smart-people-get-on-a-rocket-and-let-all-the-dumb-people-die Visions of A Better Future that still entice prominent members of the middle-aged-and-up set….

(4) HUGO DYNAMICS. Eric Flint’s Facebook comments in a discussion about Baen’s Bar include his views about the Hugo Awards and the Sad Puppies slates.

(5) AURORA AWARDS ELIGIBILITY. The Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association is compiling its eligibility lists. Do you know of  work that belongs there? More information at their website.

Just a quick reminder that the Aurora Award Eligibility Lists for works done by Canadians in 2020 are open and awaiting your submissions. The Eligibility Lists will close on February 28th at 11:59 EST.  If you have created, published, read, or know of works or activities that should be on our lists please assist us and submit them. Help us find all the fantastic work done by Canadians in 2020! All works should be submitted to the eligibility lists on our website at www.prixaurorawards.ca 

(6) BE LARRY’S GOOGLE MONKEY. Larry Correia is crowdsourcing the next step in his retaliation against the Worldcon for DisCon III disinviting Toni Weisskopf as a guest of honor. Camestros Felapton has the screencap in his post “More Larry Nonsense”. Correia’s public call says in part —

… I need examples of writers/editors/fans who WorldCon is perfectly comfortable with, and their shitty posts, tweets, memes, of things that aren’t “inclusive”. (advocating violence, shooting cops, killing Trump, celebrating Rush’s death, putting us in reeducation camps, whatever. If it makes you feel not included, I’d like to know)
If you don’t have a screen cap but are going from memory, that’s fine…. 

(7) HORRIBLE FAN BEHAVIOR. Examples of bad behavior in the sff community aren’t hard to come by. Harlan Ellison’s recitation of fannish awfulness, “Xenogenesis,” was probably written off the top of his head. It originated as his 1984 Westercon GoH speech. The Internet Archive has a copy in the transcript of an Asimov’s issue — https://archive.org/stream/Asimovs_v14n08_1990-08/Asimovs_v14n08_1990-08_djvu.txt

Ellison precedes his dossier of criminal acts and psychopathic behavior with this introduction:

… In biology there is a phenomenon known as xenogenesis. It is a pathological state in which the child does not resemble the parent. You may remember a fairly grisly 1975 film by my pal Larry Cohen titled It’s Alive! in which a fanged and taloned baby gnaws its way out of its mother’s womb and slaughters the attending nurses and gynecologist in the delivery room and then leaps straight up through a skylight, smashes out, and for the duration of the film crawls in and out of the frame ripping people’s throats.

Its natural father is a CPA or something similar. Most CPA’s do not, other than symbolically, have fangs and talons. Xenogenesis.

In the subculture of science fiction literature and its umbilically attached aficionados, we have the manifestation of a symbiotic relationship in which the behavior of the children, that is, the fans, does not resemble the noble ideals set forth in the writings and pronouncements of the parents, the writers. For all its apocalyptic doomsaying, its frequent pointing with alarm, its gardyloos of caution, the literature of imagination has ever and always promoted an ethic of good manners and kindness via its viewpoint characters.

The ones we are asked to relate to, in sf and fantasy, the ones we are urged to see as the Good Folks, are usually the ones who say excuse me and thank you, ma’am.

The most efficient narrative shorthand to explain why a particular character is the one struck by cosmic lightning or masticated by some nameless Lovecraftian horror is to paint that character as rude, insensitive, paralogical or slovenly.

Through this free-floating auctorial trope, the canon has promulgated as salutary an image of mannerliness, rectitude and humanism. The smart alecks, slugs, slimeworts and snipers of the universe in these fables unfailingly reap a terrible comeuppance.

That is the attitude of the parents, for the most part.

Yet the children of this ongoing education, the fans who incorporate the canon as a significant part of their world-view, frequently demonstrate a cruelty that would, in the fiction, bring them a reward of Job-like awfulness….

(8) WHO KNEW? Science Sensei regales fans with “40 Times Science Fiction Was Wrong About Predicted Future Events”. Connie Willis’ emcee routines about sf predictions are much funnier, admittedly.

… No matter how accurate some writers are about the future, they are victims of the time they live in. It’s not Verne’s fault that he wrote his books in the 1800s and lacked the knowledge we have today. Yet this is what happens when you write about the future. Those future people can look back to see how accurate you were. Verne is one of many amazing writers who were both right and wrong about his future predictions. Yet some were completely wrong, and this involves far more than books. That is what our article is about, the science fiction out there that ended up getting the future very wrong. Enjoy!

25. Back to the Future Part II (Food Hydrators In 2015)

The original Back to the Future, starring Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox came out in 1985. The movies were all released within 5 years in real-time but they had to always return to the year of the original film, 1985. Instead of the past, the second film focused on the future

In this film, we see a Future 2015, where they have an entire world we almost wish was real. One of the impressive futuristic inventions in the film was a Food Hydrator by Black & Decker. Any food you wanted could be made with it, cooked quickly and ready to go in seconds. We never saw this in 2015, and we’re still upset about it!

(9) THAT JOB IS HELLA HARD. David Gerrold comments on “What Would It Take to Actually Settle an Alien World?” and his writing generally in a new installment of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast at WIRED.

David Gerrold is the author of dozens of science fiction books, including The Martian Child and The Man Who Folded Himself. His new novel Hella, about a low-gravity planet inhabited by dinosaur-like aliens, was inspired by the 2011 TV series Terra Nova.

“The worldbuilding that they did was very interesting, very exciting, but because I was frustrated that they didn’t go in the direction I wanted to go, I was thinking, ‘Let me do a story where I can actually tackle the worldbuilding problems,’” Gerrold says in Episode 454 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.

Hella goes into enormous detail about the logistics of settling an alien world, and grapples with questions like: Would it be safe for us to eat alien proteins? Would it be safe for us to breathe alien germs? What effect would plants and animals from Earth have on an alien ecology? It’s a far cry from many science fiction stories which assume that alien planets would be pretty much like Earth. “My theory is that there are no Earthlike planets, there’s just lazy writers,” Gerrold says….

(10) THE WORLD SF MAKES. Sherryl Vint’s Science Fiction is being released by MIT Press this month.

Summary

How science fiction has been a tool for understanding and living through rapid technological change.

…After a brief overview of the genre’s origins, science fiction authority Sherryl Vint considers how and why contemporary science fiction is changing. She explores anxieties in current science fiction over such key sites of technological innovation as artificial intelligence, genomic research and commodified biomedicine, and climate change. Connecting science fiction with speculative design and futurology in the corporate world, she argues that science fiction does not merely reflect these trends, but has a role in directing them.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • February 20, 1955  — On this day in 1955, Tarantula premiered. It was produced by William Alland, directed by Jack Arnold. It stars John Agar, Mara Corday, and Leo G. Carroll. The screenplay by Robert M. Fresco and Martin Berkeley was based on a story by Arnold, which was in turn was based on by Fresco’s script for the Science Fiction Theatre “No Food for Thought” episode  which was also directed by Arnold.  It was a box office success earning more than a million dollars in its first month of release. Critics at the time liked it and even current audiences at Rotten Tomatoes gives at a sterling 92% rating. You can watch it here. (CE)

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 20, 1925 Robert Altman. I’m going to argue that his very first film in 1947, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, based off the James Thurber short story of the same name, is genre given its premise. Some twenty five years later Images was a full-blown horror film. And of course Popeye is pure comic literature at its very best. (Died 2006.) (CE)
  • Born February 20, 1926 Richard  Matheson. Best known for I Am Legend which has been adapted for the screen four times, as well as the film Somewhere In Time for which he wrote the screenplay based on his novel Bid Time Return. Seven of his novels have been adapted into films. In addition, he  wrote sixteen episodes of The Twilight Zone including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “Steel”. The former episode of course has William Shatner in it. (Died 2013.)  (CE) 
  • Born February 20, 1926 – Pierre Boulle.  For us, Planet of the Apes and eight more novels, thirty shorter stories; famous for The Bridge on the River Kwai; a dozen other novels.  Knight of the Legion of Honor, Croix de GuerreMédaille de la Resistance, earned during World War II.   (Died 1994) [JH]
  • Born February 20, 1926 – Ed Clinton.  A score of short stories (some as Anthony More).  “Idea Man” essay in the Jan 44 Diablerie.  Review & Comments Editor for Rhodomagnetic Digest.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born February 20, 1943 – Dan Goodman.  Active fan in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Minneapolis.  Literate, articulate, wry.  Edited and I believe named the Minn-StF clubzine Einblatt.  For a while in The Cult, to which the Fancyclopedia III article hardly does justice, but see Hamlet Act II scene 2 (Folger Shakespeare line 555).  In Lofgeornost at least as recently as 2014.  A story in Tales of the Unanticipated.  A note by me here.  (Died 2020) [JH]
  • Born February 20, 1943 – Suford Lewis, F.N., age 78.  Active in the LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc.); then NESFA (New England SF Ass’n): a Founding Fellow (service; first year’s Fellow of NESFA awards, 1976), President, chaired Boskone 10, co-chaired B44, edited six Bujold books for NESFA Press, also the excellent Noreascon Two Memory Book (post-con; 38th Worldcon).  Ran the Retrospective-Hugo ceremony for L.A.con III (42nd), the Masquerade (our on-stage costume competition) for Noreascon Three (47th).  Co-ordinated and actually brought into being Bruce Pelz’ Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck, herself drawing Strength (! – Major Arcana VIII; a dozen-year project; see all the images and BP’s introduction here, PDF), and exhibiting all the original artwork at N2.  Fan Guest of Honor at Windycon VI (with husband Tony Lewis).  That ain’t the half of it.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  [JH]
  • Born February 20, 1943 Diana Paxson, 78. Did you know she’s a founder of the Society for Creative Anachronism? Well she is. Genre wise, she’s best known for her Westria novels, and the later books in the Avalon series, which she first co-wrote with Marion Zimmer Bradley, then – after Bradley’s death, took over sole authorship of. All of her novels are heavily colored with paganism — sometimes it works for me, sometimes it doesn’t. I like her Wodan’s Children series more than the Avalon material. (CE)
  • Born February 20, 1954 Anthony Head, 67. Perhaps best known as as Librarian and Watcher Rupert Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he also made an impressive Uther Pendragon in Merlin. He also shows up in Repo! The Genetic Operaas Nathan Wallace aka the Repo Man, in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance as Benedict, and in the awesomely great Batman: Gotham by Gaslight voicing Alfred Pennyworth. (CE)
  • Born February 20, 1964 – Tracey Rolfe, age 57.  Half a dozen novels, as many shorter stories.  Clarion South 2004 (see her among other graduates in Andromeda Spaceways 10).  “How do you deal with writer’s block?” ‘I usually take my dog out for a walk.’ [JH]
  • Born February 20, 1979 Brian James Freeman, 42. Horror author. Novels to date are Blue November StormsThis Painted Darkness and Black Fire (as James Kidman). He’s also done The Illustrated Stephen King Trivia Book (superbly done) which he co-authored with Bev Vincent and which is illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne. He publishes limited edition books here. (CE) 
  • Born February 20, 1989 – Nathália Suellen, age 32.  Digital artist and commercial illustrator.  A score of covers for us, but certainty is elusive at borders.  Here is Above.  Here is Unhinged.  Here is The Gathering Dark (U.K. title).  Here is Henry, the Gaoler.  Here is a self-portrait.  [JH]

(13) EMOTIONAL ROBOTS. On March 10, Writers Bloc presents “Nobel Laureate Kazuo Ishiguro with Westworld’s Lisa Joy”. Book purchase required for access to the livestream.

Kazuo Ishiguro, winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature, seduces us with his storytelling. His novels (The Remains of the DayNever Let Me Go; and others) draw us in and we are powerless to leave the page. His novels are deceptive–while he lulls us into his gorgeous and straightforward prose, he presents us with profound observations of human behavior, and explorations of love, duty, and identity. In his new novel, Klara and the Sun, Ishiguro introduces us to Klara, an artificial object who watches the world from her perch in a shop. She watches the comings and goings of those who enter the shop, and those who merely pass by. She hopes that someone will choose her. and that she can be loved. Magnificent.

In conversation with Lisa Joy. Lisa Joy is one of the creators and writers of the acclaimed HBO series, Westworld. A dystopic genre-bending series, Westworld explores the fraught relationship between humans and human-looking robots at an amusement park. What happens when artificial intelligence interferes with the people who employ them? What happens when artificial intelligence breaks its own boundaries and those robots start to feel, to love, to cause harm? Westworld has won countless prestigious awards.

(14) ELUSIVE APPOINTMENTS. “How some frustrated COVID-19 vaccine hunters are trying to fix a broken system”The Seattle Times has the story.

That pretty much said it all, the other day, when a 90-year-old remarked in a Seattle Times story that the easy part of navigating our COVID-19 vaccine system was when she had to walk 6 miles through the snow to get the shot.

George Hu is only 52, but he can sympathize. When the former Microsoft developer tried to find appointments online for his 80-year-old in-laws, he was dumbfounded how primitive it all was.

“All tech people who see this setup are horrified,” Hu says.

That was my experience trying to nab a slot for my 91-year-old father. As everyone discovers, there isn’t one or a couple of places to hunt vaccine, but rather … hundreds, many with their own interfaces. I ran into one vaccine provider that was using Doodle for its vaccine appointment scheduling, another using Sign-Up Genius, another with a “don’t call us, we’ll text you back sometime” online form.

Rather than a global health emergency, it felt more like when the PTA is signing parents up for a bake sale.

“It’s whack-a-mole, except there are 300 holes,” Hu says. “And also you have no clue if the mole is ever going to pop up in any of them.”

(15) WHAT A BUNCH OF SCHIST. The headline made me click – “The missing continent it took 375 years to find” at BBC Future. Maybe your power to resist will be greater!

It took scientists 375 years to discover the eighth continent of the world, which has been hiding in plain sight all along. But mysteries still remain….

Zealandia was originally part of the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana, which was formed about 550 million years ago and essentially lumped together all the land in the southern hemisphere. It occupied a corner on the eastern side, where it bordered several others, including half of West Antarctica and all of eastern Australia.

Then around 105 million years ago, “due to a process which we don’t completely understand yet, Zealandia started to be pulled away”, says Tulloch.

Continental crust is usually around 40km deep – significantly thicker than oceanic crust, which tends to be around 10km. As it was strained, Zealandia ended up being stretched so much that its crust now only extends 20km (12.4 miles) down. Eventually, the wafter-thin continent sank – though not quite to the level of normal oceanic crust – and disappeared under the sea.

Despite being thin and submerged, geologists know that Zealandia is a continent because of the kinds of rocks found there. Continental crust tends to be made up of igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks – like granite, schist and limestone, while the ocean floor is usually just made of igneous ones such as basalt.

But there are still many unknowns. The unusual origins of the eighth continent make it particularly intriguing to geologists, and more than a little baffling. For example, it’s still not clear how Zealandia managed to stay together when it’s so thin and not disintegrate into tiny micro-continents.

Another mystery is exactly when Zealandia ended up underwater – and whether it has ever, in fact, consisted of dry land. The parts that are currently above sea level are ridges that formed as the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates crumpled together. Tulloch says opinion is split as to whether it was always submerged apart from a few small islands, or once entirely dry land….

(16) THE BUZZ. Mental Floss assures us that Wasps Are Ridding Anne Boleyn’s Birthplace of Moth Infestation”.

…Now, however, it’s home to common clothes moths that could wreak havoc on rugs, clothing, and other vulnerable artifacts—including a rare 18th-century canopy bed and a tapestry that Catherine the Great bestowed upon the household in the 1760s. The moths have had much freer rein throughout Blickling Hall in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and periodic pest counts have proved that the population has grown considerably over the past year.

“There’s no doubt lockdown suited our resident bugs,” assistant national conservator Hilary Jarvis said in a press release. “The relative quiet, darkness, and absence of disruption from visitors and staff provided perfect conditions for larvae and adults alike from March onwards.”

To curb further spawning, the National Trust has enlisted the help of an unlikely ally: microscopic parasitoid wasps (Trichogramma evanescens). In 11 especially moth-ridden locations within the hall, staff members will plant dispensers that hold around 2400 wasps each, which will destroy moth eggs by laying their own eggs inside them. Though it seems like Blickling Hall will have simply swapped out one infestation for another, the wasps pose no threat to the upholstery or anything else—they’ll eventually die and “disappear inconspicuously into house dust,” if all goes according to plan….

(17) TENET COMMENTARY. CinemaWins tells you “Everything GREAT About Tenet!” There must have been more good stuff in there than I suspected.

  • Everything GREAT About Tenet! PART 0 (Plot Breakdown):
  • Everything GREAT About Tenet! PART 1: 
  • Everything GREAT About Tenet! PART 2: 

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Jim Henson Introduces Kermit The Frog to Dick” on YouTube is a November 1971 clip from The Dick Cavett Show with both Jim Henson and Kermit as guests where you can clearly see how Henson changed his voice to be Kermit.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, rcde, John Hertz, N., Andrew Porter, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

138 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 2/20/21 (I’m Picking Up) Good Vibraniums

  1. (7) Well, I mean, if you’re looking for examples of bad sff fan and community behavior in the past, there’s no end of anecdotes, from Asimov’s “hilarious” official How To Grope Girls speech to the entirety of Randall Garrett’s interactions with women in fandom to Walter Breen and Marion Zimmer Bradley, full stop.

    It’s been something of a relief to see the community try to move past that garbage and become a better, safer, more welcoming place for fans of all kinds.

    Clean-up’s been a lot of work and it’s still ongoing. Facing up to the disgraces of the past is part of that work.

  2. @Peace: Fortunately for Worldcon, the Asimov speech didn’t happen – but of course the fact that the Worldcon Chair (!) thought that such a speech was a good idea is gross (and Asimov’s ever-so-mild disinclination to give the speech is gross, too).

  3. Matt Cavanagh: just look how many people get upset when things like Fringe show what digital technology can do

    Stop being dishonest, Matt. That’s not why people were upset with the Fringe organizers, and you know that. 🙄

  4. Lis Carey@4:

    So, it would be better if we were judging stories on their politics, rather than on what we actually enjoy and consider good stories?

    Lis, who said they should be? What relevance does that have to what was written?

    Eric Flint said the Sad Puppies were wrong and that Hugo stories weren’t judged by politics.

    Do you disagree with that statement? Why do you pick at it?

    rcade: One of the admirable things about the 1632 project is that Flint is putting money in the pockets of other writers. I suppose one could view that as “monetizing fan fiction”. Another way of describing it would be as a cooperative economic effort, led by a socialist, to share the wealth* in writing and give up-and-coming writers pro credentials.

    *such as it is

  5. @John A. Arkansawer–

    So, it would be better if we were judging stories on their politics, rather than on what we actually enjoy and consider good stories?

    Lis, who said they should be? What relevance does that have to what was written?

    Eric Flint said the Sad Puppies were wrong and that Hugo stories weren’t judged by politics.

    Do you disagree with that statement? Why do you pick at it?

    I agree that Hugo stories aren’t being judged by politics.

    But that’s not all he said, and you know it, and you know I commented on the other part–where he said that it’s actually like high school cliques. That we are giving awards to our friends, and that’s why he’s never going to win one.

    Here’s that part of my comment, the very next bit.

    We’re actually acting like high school students, giving awards to the members of our clique(s)?

    Did you not understand that that bit was directly related to the bit just before it?

  6. @Lis Carey: I understood the first paragraph to be one thought and the second paragraph to be another thought, as paragraphs are, so I answered only the first.

    But since you ask, well, what human institution doesn’t have in-group bias? It’d be surprising if there weren’t any “cool kid factor” in the Hugo voting process! It’s made of humans. Flint goes on to say he thinks it’s a small bias, easily overcome, and that other, innocent reasons explain why he doesn’t get nominated for Hugos.

    Most places, that’d be called a concurring opinion in favor of the Hugos.

  7. RedWombat on February 21, 2021 at 9:46 am said:

    I’ve also definitely said that you should always punch Nazis, and I’m sure I’ve had lengthy discussions on whether eating the rich is going to lead to health issues and mulching the rich might be better from an epidemiological standpoint.

    Does that mean that you’re not in the market for a copy of my new book, To Serve the Rich? 😀

  8. John A Arkansawyer says But since you ask, well, what human institution doesn’t have in-group bias? It’d be surprising if there weren’t any “cool kid factor” in the Hugo voting process! It’s made of humans. Flint goes on to say he thinks it’s a small bias, easily overcome, and that other, innocent reasons explain why he doesn’t get nominated for Hugos.

    I’m not sure what you mean by bias. If you mean that a best work won, that’s not a bias as such, just what happened in a given race. Why Flint didn’t get nominated is simple — not enough of his fans decided to be Hugo voters and therefore didn’t nominated him. What applies to him can extrapolated to Baen Books in general.

  9. @Cat Eldridge:

    I’m not sure what you mean by bias.

    Let’s talk about hiring. I had a co-worker who always wanted, as soon as we had candidates for an open position, to see what his circle of contacts knew about them, which I thought would reduce the diversity of our team. He did it out of in-group bias. Nothing personal–he just favored people he knew. Which is how things go wrong.

    Says Wikipedia:

    In-group favoritism, sometimes known as in-group–out-group bias, in-group bias, intergroup bias, or in-group preference, is a pattern of favoring members of one’s in-group over out-group members. This can be expressed in evaluation of others, in allocation of resources, and in many other ways.

    This effect has been researched by many psychologists and linked to many theories related to group conflict and prejudice. The phenomenon is primarily viewed from a social psychology standpoint. Studies have shown that in-group favoritism arises as a result of the formation of cultural groups. These cultural groups can be divided based on seemingly trivial observable traits, but with time, populations grow to associate certain traits with certain behavior, increasing covariation. This then incentivizes in-group bias.

    Two prominent theoretical approaches to the phenomenon of in-group favoritism are realistic conflict theory and social identity theory. Realistic conflict theory proposes that intergroup competition, and sometimes intergroup conflict, arises when two groups have opposing claims to scarce resources. In contrast, social identity theory posits a psychological drive for positively distinct social identities as the general root cause of in-group favoring behavior.

    So that’s what I mean. Since it involves social psychology and social psychology is in the middle of a replication crisis, use specific results with caution.

    I surely agree with you about this:

    Why Flint didn’t get nominated is simple — not enough of his fans decided to be Hugo voters and therefore didn’t nominated him.

    I also think Flint is correct that not enough existing Hugo voters liked his stories well enough to nominate them, for various reasons or for no reason at all.

  10. (4) HUGO DYNAMICS: Flint should re-read past File 770 discussions related to this, for reality checks. One example: His books aren’t up my alley, so I haven’t read them, which means I can’t nominate them. “Coolness” (whatever that means to him) is irrelevant. (A friend did rec 1632 to me once, though.) It’s not cliquishness; it’s de gustibus, etc.

    @Cat Eldridge & @John A Arkansawyer: Cat’s more on target here, IMHO. (ETA: Apologies; you’re agreeing with her and adding something more, not disagreeing on that last part. Mea culpa.) I for one didn’t “not like his stories”; I haven’t read them. (ETA: But it’s some of both; I’m sure some WC members have read his books.)

    I’m not sure Flint understands that normally, for someone to nominate his latest book, the person has to (a) be interested in it, (b) read it (ETA: at the right time, i.e., when it’s eligible), (c) like it, (d) feel it’s Hugo worthy/better than most other works they read that year (everyone’s calculus here differs), (e) be a Worldcon member, and (f) bother nominating (not everyone does). And that’s just one nomination. 😉 Most books don’t get nominated nominated (there can only be 5, er, 6).

    @Xtifr: “To Serve the Rich?” – LOL, I want the TV episode, maybe on “Black Mirror.”

  11. @Daniel Dern & @Mike Flyer: I love the Pixel Scroll title! 🙂

    @Anyone: I was reading comments on a (non-SFF) YouTube video. The top comment was from the person who made the video; there were many replies, of course. The fifth reply to his comment simply said “5th”! I realize it probably wasn’t a Filer, just someone being goofy, but Reader, I LOL’d. No second fifth, though, darn!

  12. @John A Arkensawyer

    There may well be some in-group bias in the Hugo awards but I would be extremely surprised if it were focussed on publishers or even magazines as Flint alleged. That’s the bit that seems daft. I don’t consider the publisher when nominating or voting.

  13. There’s no reason to have a special explanation for why Flint hasn’t won a Hugo. Most SFF-authors (and there’s a lot of them) haven’t won one.

  14. Re: bias
    I’ve noticed a small in-group bias in myself building up around recommendations. For instance I’m more likely to read something based on a recommendation from here than I am from one elsewhere. And my nominations very naturally are based on what I’ve read, so items recommended here may form a slightly larger sample of my nominations. But it’s not a content, or quality, bias as many people seem to argue. The in-group bias I noted in myself for recs from here results more from people here recommending things that reliably are eligible for the Hugos whereas I have to check publication year for other recommendation sites.

    The commenters here don’t have a single shared taste so the site isn’t an echo chamber or bubble. I still also wander around the internet looking for, and acting on, recommendations from a wide pool of sources. I don’t think I’m only reading what my friends are reading, which is usually what’s meant by in-group bias.

    I think Flint is facing a different kind of problem. I am less likely to pick up a recommended work that is part of a very large series of which I’ve read nothing to date. That’s not a content bias, or a publisher bias, or a political bias, or a bias as the term is usually used along with its negative connotations. But it is a bias of some small kind and I am guilty of it.

    Although since I finally got around to reading Cherryh’s entire Foreigner series this year, it’s one I can get past if I want to. 😉

  15. I still haven’t nominated anything from a series apart from the first book (unless they are all stand alone works in the same universe). And I don’t think I’ll ever do so, apart from in Best Series. And there I will nominate stuff that I know has no chance of winning as it is obscure Chinese webnovels.

  16. Lorien Gray: I’ve noticed a small in-group bias in myself building up around recommendations. For instance I’m more likely to read something based on a recommendation from here than I am from one elsewhere.

    I do the same — just because, over the last 6 years, not only have Filer recommendations been proven to have a greater amount of quality than a lot of other sources, but I have gotten a real sense of which Filers’ tastes are similar to mine, so I especially pay attention to what those people recommend.

    I don’t think that’s so much an “in-group” thing — as you say, there’s a wide ranges of tastes among Filers — it’s more of a “I’ve found a place where I can get pretty reliable recommendations for things that I will find challenging and enjoyable”.

     
    Lorien Gray: I am less likely to pick up a recommended work that is part of a very large series of which I’ve read nothing to date… Although since I finally got around to reading Cherryh’s entire Foreigner series this year, it’s one I can get past if I want to.

    Same here! I read all 21 Foreigner books last year, and it’s on my Best Series ballot. I also worked in all of the Chanur, Company Wars, and Unionside books, of which I had previously only read one or two.

    Every year I try to catch up on at least one series I haven’t read yet. Usually it’s a series that has a new book out, but this year I’m going to do all of the Walter Jon Williams books (thus far I’ve only read the Praxis novels and novellas), and Madeline Ashby’s Machine Dynasties trilogy. I’ve also got 2 novels and a novella to catch up on in Bradley P. Beaulieu’s Song of Shattered Sands series.

  17. Paul King says There may well be some in-group bias in the Hugo awards but I would be extremely surprised if it were focussed on publishers or even magazines as Flint alleged. That’s the bit that seems daft. I don’t consider the publisher when nominating or voting.

    Can you even remember which book is published by which publisher most of the time? I only know because I get review copies, or did prior to the the Pandemic, sent from certain publishers so I’d look for specific authors from those publishers. Many authors are published across a number of Houses these days anyways, so aren’t associated with a specific House.

    I still think it comes back to the authors on Baen Books not being anywhere near as popular as say the authors on Tor Books are. Hugo Award do reflect popular opinion in our community and Baen Books authors on the wholes just ain’t that all that well liked.

  18. @Cat Eldridge I generally don’t remember. The nomination form asks for publisher and I have to look up the publisher when filling it in (on the occasions I do – I’ve only been a few times). And I did nominate the Kencyrath cycle (Godstalk!) for best series in 2019.

  19. Cat Eldridge on February 22, 2021 at 6:14 am said:

    I still think it comes back to the authors on Baen Books not being anywhere near as popular as say the authors on Tor Books are. Hugo Award do reflect popular opinion in our community and Baen Books authors on the wholes just ain’t that all that well liked.

    I think there is probably an element of insularity from the Baen folks. The Hugo electorate is international, even if it does have a big tilt towards the US, and Baen is very much a North American thing from what I can gather. I don’t even recall ever seeing a Baen book in a British bookshop.

  20. @rob_matic my experience may be out of date but Baen did have some distribution into British bookstores – I did see the occasional Baen publication in Waterstones.
    The specialist stores like Forbidden Planet had more.

    My buying has been mostly ebooks over the last few years, so I haven’t been looking in mainstream bookshops much.

  21. rob_matic says I think there is probably an element of insularity from the Baen folks. The Hugo electorate is international, even if it does have a big tilt towards the US, and Baen is very much a North American thing from what I can gather. I don’t even recall ever seeing a Baen book in a British bookshop.

    The only place here I’ve ever seen Baen Books is the Book-A-Million cheek by jowl by The Mall which has quite a lot of their titles. Borders (which BAM replaced in the same space) never carried more than a handful of their titles and the independent shops here carry not a single title. I remember in years past seeing their adverts in LOCUS but I don’t recall if they’re still doing that. (A quick quick shows they are not doing that.)

  22. The Barnes & Noble outlets in the DC/MD/Va area tended to carry at least some Baen books. Since I have not been a Baen person (with the exception of P.C. Hodgell), I didn’t do any tracking so I don’t know how many or which ones.

  23. Rob Thornton says The Barnes & Noble outlets in the DC/MD/Va area tended to carry at least some Baen books. Since I have not been a Baen person (with the exception of P.C. Hodgell), I didn’t do any tracking so I don’t know how many or which ones.

    The only reason I noticed them was because of the ever so distinctive branding. Most House branding is fairly bland and and really dies the show up stand out that well on the shelves so a Tor release ain’t that different looking from an Orbit book. Baen Books on the other paw are downright garish, drawing the eye to them.

  24. Paul King on February 22, 2021 at 6:59 am said:
    @rob_matic my experience may be out of date but Baen did have some distribution into British bookstores – I did see the occasional Baen publication in Waterstones.
    The specialist stores like Forbidden Planet had more.

    My buying has been mostly ebooks over the last few years, so I haven’t been looking in mainstream bookshops much.

    It’s also been a while since I’ve been in a British bookshop and I don’t doubt what you say, but we’re not talking about there being shelves of John Ringo books in Waterstones, are we?

  25. Lorien Gray: “I think Flint is facing a different kind of problem. I am less likely to pick up a recommended work that is part of a very large series of which I’ve read nothing to date.”

    This is exactly why I haven’t read any of the 1632/Ring of Fire series. When 1632 first came out, it looked like something I’d be interested in, with a very interesting concept. But I didn’t get to it right away, and then there were three more books in the series… and then more… and then more… and with each new addition to the series I got less and less inclined to start the first book. With 30 volumes to date (not including the Grantville Gazette collections of shorter fiction), don’t see any way I’ll ever start the series.

    Because if I did like 1632 a lot, which I thought likely, I’d want to read more in the series. And with literally hundreds* of unread books vying for my attention, I don’t want to commit to multi-volume works when it means pushing what might be outstanding standalones or short series/trilogies** back further down the line.

    For the same reason, haven’t started Cherryh’s Foreigner series.

    This attitude goes back at least to the first volume of Wheel of Time, which was originally announced to be seven volumes. “This Big Fat Fantasy is going to be followed by six MORE Big Fat Fantasy books? Ehh, I think I’ll pass.”

    (Also, my slightly –very slightly– tongue-in-cheek rule that “No trilogy should be longer than five volumes.”)

    (Age is a factor, too. In my 20’s, it felt like I had a near-infinite amount of time before me and pagecount/# of volumes were mostly irrelevant. Approaching 70, I’m constantly aware that I may have only a few years, not decades, to read more books.) (“My name is Bruce and I’m a book addict.” “HELLO, BRUCE.”)

    *add in the titles on my various wishlists (basically, “Hmm, this looks interesting”) at Amazon, B&N, Overdrive, and my public library, and it’s thousands instead of hundreds.

    **OT, but my current crappy keyboard can randomly do a brainfart and add multiple letters to a word. I hereby release to public domain the word “trillogoogies”. Not sure what it means, but damn, it’s a fineee-looking word…and there the damn keyboard goes again.

  26. @rob_matic – no we aren’t talking about anything more than a few books per shop – and likely none in the smaller branches. The specialist bookstores have far more. And there’s always Amazon these days.

    Basically fans who want Baen books are able to find them here, but they won’t find many on the shelves of mainstream bookstores.

  27. rob_matic:

    “I don’t even recall ever seeing a Baen book in a British bookshop.”

    In Sweden you can find them in the speciality bookshops, but almost never outside.

  28. I did buy the first 1632 book, found it nice enough and especially fun for Swedes and so bought a copy for my father. But the writing was a bit simplistic, so I skipped out on the rest. Too much “Good guys, f-ck yeah!” for me who didn’t have the same experience with heavily armed men carrying an advantage against those around them.

  29. I rarely notice publishers, but I do notice covers, and when I’ve had the opportunity to look, I’ve noticed that Baen seems to have covers that turn me off far more often than other publishers. (Of course, if it weren’t for the Baen authors whining about how they’re mistreated, I might never have taken the time to notice this prominent reason why I’m slightly less likely to read Baen authors.) And, I know, I shouldn’t judge, and all that, but it’s not really a conscious thing. An ugly or uninteresting cover just reduces the chance I’ll see something and say “ooh, that looks interesting.”

    As for 1632, well, I’m just not that big a fan of time travel books in general. Combine that with a fairly meh Baen cover, and you have a book I’m unlikely to read unless I get strong recommendations from someone I trust. Which, so far, hasn’t happened.

  30. Xtifr says I rarely notice publishers, but I do notice covers, and when I’ve had the opportunity to look, I’ve noticed that Baen seems to have covers that turn me off far more often than other publishers. (Of course, if it weren’t for the Baen authors whining about how they’re mistreated, I might never have taken the time to notice this prominent reason why I’m slightly less likely to read Baen authors.) And, I know, I shouldn’t judge, and all that, but it’s not really a conscious thing. An ugly or uninteresting cover just reduces the chance I’ll see something and say “ooh, that looks interesting.”

    I was being tactful and wasn’t going to mention how ugly the Baen Books design sensibility is. It is truly magnificently ugly and consistently so. It’s the reason that I can tell y’all that are so many of them at the local Books-A-Million.

  31. Xtifr: As for 1632, well, I’m just not that big a fan of time travel books in general.

    I generally enjoy time-travel stories, and that particular book was okay. But it was very much a paean to smart white men with guns and survivalist skills defending against ignorant primitives and “schooling” them in how to do things right.

    And by time I read the third book, it was clear that the series was just going to be endless revisionist history by hordes of different authors, many of whom I knew weren’t particularly good writers, and who would definitely focus on the white male survivalist angle.

    In the 80s and 90s, when I didn’t have access to any source of SFF book recommendations, I read a lot of Star Trek tie-ins (probably close to the first hundred of them which were published). I enjoyed them, but I realized that I wanted a more varied reading experience. I wanted new characters, in different universes. And I just have no desire to go back to that “steady diet of same-old, same-old” with any prolific multi-author series, be it Star Trek, Star Wars, 1632, The Foreworld Saga, or D.O.D.O..

  32. I think there is probably an element of insularity from the Baen folks. The Hugo electorate is international, even if it does have a big tilt towards the US, and Baen is very much a North American thing from what I can gather. I don’t even recall ever seeing a Baen book in a British bookshop.

    Yes, this. Baen has no regular bookstore distribution in Europe. You can find them in speciality bookstores (the bigger Forbidden Planets and Hodges Figgis in Dublin carry at least some) and on Amazon and you can special order them, but they’re not something you can find via casual browsing in a bookstore. And even you could find them via browsing, the garish and dated cover design does not exactly invite you to pick it up. And indeed, there have been a few instances, where someone chanced to glimpse a Baen book in my home and I’ve found myself forced to explain, “Yes, I know the cover is horrible, but it’s actually a good book.” My favourite response was, “Well, it’s an old book and cover design was a lot more garish thirty to forty years ago.” Me: “Uhm, this book has a copyright date of 2016.”

    I do buy Baen books on occasion, usually via Amazon and only from authors I like or if it’s a classic reprint. I have also nominated Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series and Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Liaden Universe series for the best series Hugo.

    On the plus side, I may not know whether a given book was published by Tor, Orbit, Harper Voyager, Saga Press, Del Rey, etc… but I always know which ones were published by Baen because the garish covers are a big giveaway.

    It seems to me as if Baen is very successful in a specific niche, especially since their books don’t seem to be equally available everywhere in the US either. Baen’s readership seems to be primarily in the South and what Lurkertype told me was called the Mountain West. It’s more rural than urban, seems to skew a bit older and seems to have a lot of veterans and active military. Plus, Baen’s target demographic apparently actually likes the covers.

    And that’s great for Baen. They have found their market and know what that market likes. However, Baen’s market is not the world and that’s a large part of the problem. Because it seems that a lot of Baen only authors don’t understand that even though they are very successful in their particular bubble, they are not all that well known or popular outside that bubble.

    As for Eric Flint, I tried to read the first 1632 book and found several glaring historical and factual errors in the first few pages that I never finished that book and certainly never tried another. Also, being German, it’s our history he’s mucking with, so I’m more annoyed than I would be if he were to mess up someone else’s history.

  33. Okay, I’ll fess up.

    Military, no. Live in the South, yes. Older… well, I did turn fifty a few months ago. Does that count?

    And goshdarn it, I generally like the Baen covers, aside from problems like inaccurate character depictions. (Although I think Michael Whelan’s Friday cover still takes the cake for me in terms of character inaccuracy. I’m sure there are worse, but that one always springs to my mind.) I’m not saying they’re my favorites, but I don’t look at ’em and recoil in horror.

    I mean, doesn’t anybody remember the old days of the black Heinlein paperbacks with minimal artwork. or the white ones with nearly abstract art that barely suggested anything at all? Aside from some sentimental attachment, I’ll take a Baen cover over those styles every time.

  34. Cora Buhlert says And that’s great for Baen. They have found their market and know what that market likes. However, Baen’s market is not the world and that’s a large part of the problem. Because it seems that a lot of Baen only authors don’t understand that even though they are very successful in their particular bubble, they are not all that well known or popular outside that bubble.

    I think that’s what Corriea et al aren’t getting when they say that Worldcon (which is to say us) is biased against Baen Books. We aren’t biased at all. We just don’t care for what they publish. Now I don’t know about you but there’s plenty of authors I don’t care for, ie Robert Jordan comes to mind.

    If they want books that are published by Baen Books to be nominated for Hugo Awards, than they need to be part of the process. Complaining about it while not participating is simply stupid. And yes, I know that I that they won’t join us.

  35. Rev. Bob: I mean, doesn’t anybody remember the old days of the… Heinlein paperbacks… with nearly abstract art that barely suggested anything at all? Aside from some sentimental attachment, I’ll take a Baen cover over those styles every time.

    HERETIC! SFF book covers by Gene Szafran are some of my all-time favorites! 😀

  36. Baen doesn’t pitch its books at awards voters & judges. It’s that simple.

    What do book awards look for? They look for books that are well-written, yes, and a good editor plays a part in that. But to win an award, a book also needs to be innovative, to do something new enough*, different enough* & well enough* to attract the attention of award judges & voters.

    *Enough, but not too much: something avant-guarde might well prove too radical to be award acceptable.

    But Baen books don’t typically play in that space; they’ve carved a successful niche selling to readers who know what they like & more stories just like (but not identical to) the last Baen book they enjoyed is what the generic Baen reader is wanting. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Just don’t expect those sorts of books to feature in book awards.

  37. Rev. Bob says I mean, doesn’t anybody remember the old days of the… Heinlein paperbacks… with nearly abstract art that barely suggested anything at all? Aside from some sentimental attachment, I’ll take a Baen cover over those styles every time.

    I like those Heinlein covers! When I was resident in southwest Asia, you could find those editions everywhere for a few rupees. No idea why they were so popular with the ex-pat community…

  38. Soon Lee says But Baen books don’t typically play in that space; they’ve carved a successful niche selling to readers who know what they like & more stories just like (but not identical to) the last Baen book they enjoyed is what the generic Baen reader is wanting. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Just don’t expect those sorts of books to feature in book awards.

    Which makes it particularly contemptible that the likes of Larry Corriea complain that these sort of novels are not being nominated for Hugo Awards. They damn well know that these are akin to modern day pulp novels, not anything that’s going to end up on nomination lists ever.

  39. I mean, doesn’t anybody remember the old days of the black Heinlein paperbacks with minimal artwork. or the white ones with nearly abstract art that barely suggested anything at all? Aside from some sentimental attachment, I’ll take a Baen cover over those styles every time.

    Yes. I remember those covers. In fact, I have a few books with those on my shelves. They are vastly better than anything Baen has put on a book cover in the last two decades.

  40. I think I’ve spent my whole life reading SF&F despite the cover art rather than because of it.

    Strangely, I’ve always preferred fantasy cover art even though fantasy stories have a higher bar to get over in interesting me. I have found that changing in the last 10 years or so, as fantasy has shifted into telling different kinds of stories.

  41. I’m fond of lots of different covers for different reasons. Fine art’s my profession and there’s a lot to get out of different approaches.

    That said, if people here aren’t already aware of this site, it’s a delightful blog and archive of some of the … most vividly memorable, let us say, of sff book covers of the past and present:

    https://www.goodshowsir.co.uk/

  42. @Rev. Bob: I like the occasional Baen cover, but they tend to the lurid end of the spectrum, unfortunately, and I find the fonts & font styles/colors frequently pretty horrible. They have more variety in covers than I remembered, but the text/font is generally bad even on their better covers. But exceptions exist!

    Here are examples of three of their recent covers I feel are pretty good, but these are the exception, for me.

    The Jupiter Knife (good art and I like the title font a lot)
    Blood and Whispers (good art and fonts not bad)
    Tyger Bright (pretty good art, though I never like that sort of box treatment, no matter who does it)

    I’m not saying I’d nominate these covers for awards, but I feel they’re pretty good to good.

  43. @PIMMN: I love Good Show Sir! Occasionally I’ll think, “Wait, I like that cover,” but even then, their snark is usually good. 🙂

  44. @JJ

    HERETIC! SFF book covers by Gene Szafran are some of my all-time favorites!

    Oh, it’s those psychedelic Heinlein covers. I always liked those a lot. More than the more figurative 1980s covers that my editions have.

  45. @Rev. Bob:

    I mean, doesn’t anybody remember the old days of the black Heinlein paperbacks with minimal artwork. or the white ones with nearly abstract art that barely suggested anything at all?

    I am still looking for one of the white ones of The Puppet Masters. I love those abstract/geometric designs, some of which are representational enough.

  46. John A Arkansawyer: I am still looking for one of the white ones of The Puppet Masters. I love those abstract/geometric designs, some of which are representational enough.

    This one?

  47. Re Baen covers, I think it’s mostly that disgusting, lurid, and garish orange they plaster all over everything. What is with their fetish for that color??

  48. Yup. The clipart covers are terrible, terrible things, and the weirdly sexual ones embarrassing at best, but the orange & blue theming Baen’s got going on is brilliant.

    Baen books are always really easy to to pick out, front, back, or spine.

    ‘course, in a lot of cases, that’s to help avoid them, rather like the brilliant colours of poisonous animals, but still.

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