Pixel Scroll 2/28/16 Little Old Lady Got Mutilated Late Last Night, Pixels Of London, Again

Your host will be on the road for a couple days attending Nic Farey’s wedding to Jennifer AlLee on February 29. I have prepared a couple of Scrolls in advance.

(1) CAN’T WE JUST ALL GET ALONG? Roz Kaveny tills the unsatisfactory middle ground between five recent studies of “Tolkien’s English Mythology” in the Times Literary Supplement.

In a sense, of course, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are offcuts from Tolkien’s principal and in the end unfinished and unfinishable work, parts of it published after his death as The Silmarillion, others as the Unfinished Tales. Although he was a Christian who absolutely believed in the literal and metaphysical truth of that body of stories, Tolkien was impressed enough by Elias Lönnrot’s assemblage of Finnish myths and legends as the Kalevala that he wanted to assemble, even forge in both senses of the word, a specifically English mythology that owed nothing to the Celtic or Norse pantheons, or to the Arthurian cycle (he also wrote his own version of that, as he did of Lönnrot’s story of Kullervo). Tolkien wanted to reclaim elves and Faerie from mere decorative prettiness and embed them in a narrative of fall and redemption that functioned as a secondary world; this was a spiritual as well as a creative enterprise, an attempt to understand God by doing imperfectly what He had done.

The success or failure of such an enterprise is in a sense irrelevant; what he produced in the main body of his legendarium is a heap of glorious moments rather than anything entirely achieved. Along the way, however, he wrote a children’s book called The Hobbit which might have been just another light work like Farmer Giles of Ham but turned out to be his gateway into a more approachable version of the legendarium, something that included a voice of the ordinary among gods, monsters and tyrants. In due course, his publishers’s and admirers’ desire for a sequel led to something considerably more ambitious but still puny by the standards of what he intended; one of the most attractive things about Tolkien is how he coped with being famous for something less than his lifelong ambition, not least because it achieved and exemplified some of his aims on a smaller scale.

This is why some of the complaints against him are beside the point – he had planned something compared to which Paradise Lost or the Prophetic Books of Blake would look modest, but if people wanted a superior adventure story, he would give them a superior adventure story with enough of his greater intention embedded in it to make itself visible in sudden vistas down narrative corridors. Whatever Tolkien thought about the literature of his time – not much, since he regarded, or affected to regard, everything that had been written in English after the late Middle Ages as a colossal mistake – he has a lot more in common with, say, T. S. Eliot than he or Patrick Curry would have been comfortable acknowledging.

(2) CCUBED. Those interested in gathering to talk about running conventions should look into ConComCon 2016, which will be held June 10-12, 2016 in Portland, OR at the Sheraton Portland Airport Hotel.

Marah Searle-Kovacevic  says, “The theme will be ‘Building Bridges’ between different types of conventions, the convention and the hotel, convention staff and members, and other bridges. There will also be the usual discussions on hotel contracts, crisis management, parties and hospitality. There will also be a time Saturday afternoon for choosing topics that you want to talk about as programming items.”

You can also buy a membership or book a hotel room at the con web site.

Also, SWOC (founded as the Seattle Westercon Organizing Committee) is offering a scholarship to each convention for one person to attend CCubed. We would like this to be for someone who has not attended a CCubed before. If your convention is interested please contact Searle-Kovacevic through info@concomcon.com.

(3) CONTRASTING BLOODLINES. Doris V. Sutherland continues her comparison of non-slated with slated Hugo categories in “2014 Hugos Versus 2015 Sad Puppies: Related Works” at Women Write About Comics.

Sad Puppies founder Larry Correia presumably had this book in mind when he quipped that “the usual [Related Work] nominees are things like Transsexual WereSeals Love Dr. Who.” This seems unfair, as Queers Dig Time Lords has entertainment value—and that, after all, is something that the Sad Puppies are supposed to be fighting for. That said, I will have to admit that the book is closer to a fan blog than to a Hugo-worthy piece of media criticism…..

Given the book’s jack-of-all-trades approach, it is hardly surprising that Letters from Gardner is something of a mixed bag. To be honest, the fourteen-year career outlined here is simply too uneventful to make a particularly gripping biography. It is somewhat novel to see such an in-depth look at the beginning of a writer’s creative period—I can imagine Letters from Gardner inspiring many of its readers to try their hands at fiction themselves, with Antonelli making the process look easy—but too often the book gets bogged down in irrelevant details. The low point is when Antonelli spends multiple paragraphs waxing nostalgic about those Bic ballpoint pens with orange shafts, which are apparently hard to find in America these days.

(4) A NUANCED THEORY. Douglas Milewski explains “Why the Puppies Bid for the Hugos Failed”.

I’m not sure who taught Conservatives that SJWs only succeed because they browbeat everyone else. (Correct me if I’m mis-characterizing.) That’s the sort of information that sets you up to lose. SJWs win by building coalitions from the ground up, and they’ll take decades to do it. Most of this is done quietly, not because of secrecy, but because that sort of projects just takes time. This coalition building isn’t just a fanciful notion, but the cornerstone of their power. The number one weapon of the SJW is the narrative, building a story that holds the coalition together. A good narrative wins the battle. (Gay marriage is a fine example of this.) So who joined the SJW coalition when the fight got started? The best SF&F writers in the world joined, that’s who. They wrote the SJW narrative. That’s the sort of opposition that you must absolutely respond to, and the Puppies did not adapt.

One more analyst proves with geometric logic that writers, not fans, determined the outcome of their own award.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • Feburary 28, 1996 Tromeo and Juliet premieres.

(6) LIGHTS, CAMERA, MISSING-IN-ACTION. CinemaBlend says he is “The Indiana Jones Actor Who Refused To Come Back For Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull”.

John Rhys-Davies portrayed Sallah in the first and third entries of the Indiana Jones franchise. It turns out, he was asked to make an appearance in the fourth as well, but declined because they only wanted him there for a cameo. What’s worse, he tells Digital Spy that he wouldn’t even have been interacting with any of the other characters.

I was asked to be in the last one, but they wanted me to do a bit of green-screen – walk in, sit down and clap – and they were going to cut that into the wedding scene at the end. I turned it down because it seemed to me that that would be a bit of a betrayal of the audience’s expectations. Sallah is a popular character – there’s a greatness of soul about him that we all love and admire…

(7) H8TERS GONNA H8. In “How real is that Atlas robot video?”, The Guardian pooh-poohs a viral video I linked to the other day.

The Google-owned company’s most recent video shows the latest version of Atlas opening fire doors, prancing about through snow, being abused by an evil scientist wielding a hockey stick, and doing an uncanny impersonation of an Amazon warehouse worker. It looks incredibly impressive, but how much of it can we take at face value?

(8) THEY’RE TEASING. The Spaceballs 2 teaser poster has arrived….

(9) BY POPULAR DEMAND. Here is bloodstone75’s take on Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s Cradle.”

Pup’s in the Manger

A man wrote some books the other day
With Monsters and Guns in the usual way
And they attained some scratch, and won some praise
New writer win? They said “Not today”

And when he didn’t nab a Hugo, his anger grew.
He said “It’s ‘cause I’m not like you, right?
I’m never gonna be like you!”

And the Pup’s in the manger, and he’s venting spleen,
Larry boy’s blue, and it’s making him mean

When you giving up, Lar’
“I won’t say ‘when’; but I’m gonna vex the Fen;
You know I’m gonna vex those Fen.”

A year went by, Larry couldn’t wait
He said “This time it’s mine, yeah, my story’s great.”
But he wanted revenge — they just had to pay!
“I got to make them cry,” he said. “Meet Vox Day
And he, he carved a slate, and his smile was so grim,
And said “They’re gonna choke on him, yeah.
They’re really gonna choke on him.”

CH

Well, he passed his banner to another guy
So much like himself he just had to smile
And he scored a nom, but then he turned it down
He shook his head and said “I’m no clown.
All I really want now is to torment the lefties.
Won’t be happy ‘til they’re on their knees.”

CH

So though he’d “retired”, he still mixed it up
He built a slate with the other Pups
He said “You made us do it; you rigged the vote.
I got my own cabal, now you can watch us gloat.”
But the Pox was ascendant, and the shit hit the fan.
And the backlash sign-ups began, yeah,
The fan enrollment began.
And as they read out the votes it occurred to him
Their rocket hopes were dim
His hopes were just so dim

CH

(10) ALICE SEQUEL. Coming May 27, Disney’s Alice Through the Looking Glass.

In Disney’s “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” an all-new spectacular adventure featuring the unforgettable characters from Lewis Carroll’s beloved stories, Alice returns to the whimsical world of Underland and travels back in time to save the Mad Hatter. Directed by James Bobin, who brings his own unique vision to the spectacular world Tim Burton created on screen in 2010 with “Alice in Wonderland,” the film is written by Linda Woolverton based on characters created by Lewis Carroll and produced by Joe Roth, Suzanne Todd and Jennifer Todd and Tim Burton with John G. Scotti serving as executive producer. “Alice Through the Looking Glass” reunites the all-star cast from the worldwide blockbuster phenomenon, including: Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska and Helena Bonham Carter along with the voices of Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen and Timothy Spall. We are also introduced to several new characters: Zanik Hightopp (Rhys Ifans), the Mad Hatter’s father and Time himself (Sacha Baron Cohen), a peculiar creature who is part human, part clock.

 

(11) INTERFACE. Kill Command opens May 16.

Set in a near future, technology-reliant society that pits man against killing machines.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Will R., Andrew Porter, and Woodwindy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

174 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 2/28/16 Little Old Lady Got Mutilated Late Last Night, Pixels Of London, Again

  1. I am reminded of Senator Roman Hruska (R – Nebraska) who after people criticized G. Harrold Carswell, a Nixon Supreme Court nominee, as supremely and unworthily mediocre, tried to justify it with “even if he were mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers, and they are entitled to a little representation, aren’t they?”

  2. (3) Lou Antonelli is right about the Bic pens with the orange shaft, sadly hard to find in the UK too: I miss them.

    (4)

    I’m not sure who taught Conservatives that SJWs only succeed because they browbeat everyone else. (Correct me if I’m mis-characterizing.) That’s the sort of information that sets you up to lose. SJWs win by building coalitions from the ground up, and they’ll take decades to do it. Most of this is done quietly, not because of secrecy, but because that sort of projects just takes time. This coalition building isn’t just a fanciful notion, but the cornerstone of their power. The number one weapon of the SJW is the narrative, building a story that holds the coalition together. A good narrative wins the battle. (Gay marriage is a fine example of this.) So who joined the SJW coalition when the fight got started? The best SF&F writers in the world joined, that’s who. They wrote the SJW narrative. That’s the sort of opposition that you must absolutely respond to, and the Puppies did not adapt.

    Soooo… SWJ basically won because they are good with people and have coherent and well-constructed arguments? You say that as if it’s a bad thing…

  3. ISTR that it was Karl Rove who said, “You guys are missing the point: WE create our own reality.” when discussing why journalists kept insisting that everything Bush, Cheney, et al were saying had no basis in fact. (I’m paraphrasing, of course.)

    Or as Stephen Colbert famously said, “Reality has a well-known liberal bias”. Which kinda sums up the story of how the Pups meet the Hugo results.

  4. @ Glenn Hauman

    if the pups were better writers, they might have won awards in the first place

    With apologies, I’d like to call out this sort of thinking. There are lots of very good writers who never win awards. And there are a lot of reasons why a good writer might never win any awards, ranging from bad timing (up against even better writers), to awkward classification (work that is hard to categorize, and so never ends up being considered a “best example” of any of the categories it intersects), to slow dissemination (by the time readers find the work and like it, it’s too late for any awards it might have been eligible for).

    Only a tiny fraction of published writing will win awards, purely on a statistical basis. That doesn’t mean that all the other authors are, by definition, not good writers. By all means, express your opinion on the quality of the output of particular writers, but please don’t use the reasoning “we know they aren’t good because they haven’t won awards” as evidence.

  5. @Heather Rose Jones
    Well said. We point that out frequently here. Lots of books written every year. Only a few slots for award nominees and winners. The majority of authors will not win awards. This does not mean none of those authors writing is award worthy.

    1. Series authors rarely win for reasons
    2. Cross genre authors have a hard time
    3. Until recently women, POC, LGBTI were severely underrepresented
    4. Disabled and non-western are still severely underrepresented
    5. Limited publication first time around
    6. Didn’t get enough buzz year published
    7. Didn’t know it was eligible
    8. Published early in year so people forgot about it
    9. Published late in year so people didn’t get time to read
    10. Publisher assumed it wouldn’t be big so didn’t do much marketing
    11. Indie published so lost among the thousands of books published
    12. Fill in the blank ____________

  6. Johan P said:

    But my main problem with this “best writers …” part is that it overstates the importance of presentation and understates the importance of facts. Sure, being able to present your arguments eloquently is a plus, but having arguments based on actual observable facts is more important. And more importantly: While it’s possible to win a campaign by lying, I don’t want a society where that’s the preferred way to win.

    Milewski doesn’t say anything about good writers; he says the Puppies need to come up with a better narrative and communicate it better as part of their campaign. He’s talking about PR, which is a different skill from writing fiction for entertainment, even though the terminology overlaps.

    Persuading people to support your point of view involves facts to a much lesser degree than we would all prefer to think, not least because people disagree about what qualifies as a fact.

    SP1 started from a competely factual basis (Larry Correia didn’t win an award he wanted to win), and the later campaigns were based on additional facts (other writers liked by people who joined it weren’t winning the award either), and yet this did not result in success. The part where it fell down (convincing people that Correia and the other writers should win the award) was a matter that cannot be proved or disproved with facts.

  7. @Heather Rose Jones: “By all means, express your opinion on the quality of the output of particular writers, but please don’t use the reasoning “we know they aren’t good because they haven’t won awards” as evidence.”

    I read Glenn’s statement completely the other way around: “we can see that they’re bad writers, so it’s unsurprising that they haven’t won awards.” Yes, there are indeed many good – even great – writers who do not win awards, and some of those would be worthy recipients. It’s not that “lack of award” means “bad,” but that “bad” means “lack of award” – and those are not synonymous statements.

    A Venn diagram would make it clearer, possibly. Three concentric circles: All writers on the outermost, Good writers in the middle, and Award-winning writers on the inside. Not being Good guarantees not being in Award-winning, but not being in Award-winning doesn’t necessarily exclude from Good.

  8. Lou Antonelli is right about the Bic pens with the orange shaft, sadly hard to find in the UK too: I miss them.

    What’s the appeal? I’ll admit I don’t see any real difference between them and Bic pens of some other color, except that the one with the clear plastic shaft you can look at and think, “Oh, that’s why it’s not working any more. Out of ink.”

  9. @ Kurt Busiek The orange bic pens have finer tips – good for people with small hand-writing or small xpaces to write in. And for administrator/editors who have to keep writing in the same small space.

    They still seem to be around – £2.50 at Staples for 4.

  10. Thanks, Doire. Never knew that.

    If I’d kept reading Antonelli’s book beyond the point I gave up on it, maybe I’d have learned something.

  11. Heather Rose: you’re correct, my phrasing was clumsier than I wanted. Bob does have the gist, though; their ability to persuade us of their POV might have been more successful if their writing was better.

  12. @ Glenn Hauman

    Thanks for the clarification. (In the past, I’ve heard similarly worded statements from people who definitely did intend my first interpretation. So I”m sort of primed to read it that way.)

  13. Petréa Mitchell:

    Milewski doesn’t say anything about good writers; he says the Puppies need to come up with a better narrative and communicate it better as part of their campaign.

    Milewski says: ” The number one weapon of the SJW is the narrative, building a story that holds the coalition together. A good narrative wins the battle. (Gay marriage is a fine example of this.) So who joined the SJW coalition when the fight got started? The best SF&F writers in the world joined, that’s who. They wrote the SJW narrative.”

    So yes, he says something about good writers. Milewski draws a link between “the best SF&F writers in the world” being on the non-puppy side, and the success of the non-puppy narrative. And while he does not specifically say that facts are irrelevant, he never says they’re needed either. He talks about “a good narrative” as something that’s created by good writers, and not something that is best built on facts.

    The part where [the puppy campaigns] fell down (convincing people that Correia and the other writers should win the award) was a matter that cannot be proved or disproved with facts.

    I disagree. Yes, taste and literary quality is subjective, but it’s not divorced from facts. It is harder to argue the merit of “Wisdoms from my internet” than “Ancillary Justice”.

    And more importantly: The puppies tried to spin a narrative about the fabled SJW conspiracy, about discrimination of conservatives, and so on. That’s a narrative that should be provable if true, but the puppies lacked the facts to prove it. While it may be possible to convince the world of that narrative if you give it a good enough spin, the main problem for the puppies was the lack of facts and not that “the best SF&F writers in the world” wrote the competing narrative. That Milewski ignores this angle is in my opinion a failure in his (otherwise relatively good) analysis.

  14. Kurt Busiek on March 1, 2016 at 1:44 pm said:
    Lou Antonelli is right about the Bic pens with the orange shaft, sadly hard to find in the UK too: I miss them.

    What’s the appeal? I’ll admit I don’t see any real difference between them and Bic pens of some other color, except that the one with the clear plastic shaft you can look at and think, “Oh, that’s why it’s not working any more. Out of ink.”

    As somebody said already, the orange Bics have a thin, thin line, which makes my hand a lot more pleasant.

  15. Johan P said:

    And while [Milewski] does not specifically say that facts are irrelevant, he never says they’re needed either. He talks about “a good narrative” as something that’s created by good writers, and not something that is best built on facts.

    And he is completely correct that facts are secondary to a good narrative.

    (Not unpacking that statement further because it would take an entire book to explain. But if you’re interested in learning a whole lot of really depressing things about how the human brain works, I encourage you to look up resources on public relations for the practical view, or on the psychology of belief and persuasion for the academic view.)

    Yes, taste and literary quality is subjective, but it’s not divorced from facts. It is harder to argue the merit of “Wisdoms from my internet” than “Ancillary Justice”.

    It is completely impossible to argue the merit of anything unless you start with an agreed definition of merit. (Personally, I would find it harder to argue for Wisdom From My Internet than Ancillary Justice too. But I’m willing to concede that tastes vary.)

    The puppies tried to spin a narrative about the fabled SJW conspiracy, about discrimination of conservatives, and so on. That’s a narrative that should be provable if true, but the puppies lacked the facts to prove it. While it may be possible to convince the world of that narrative if you give it a good enough spin, the main problem for the puppies was the lack of facts and not that “the best SF&F writers in the world” wrote the competing narrative.

    The Puppies weren’t No-Awarded for believing a conspiracy theory. Just before SP really got going, many people believed that the Hugo Awards were always going to commercially successful fiction about white dudes because of the elderly cabal of SMOFs working to make it so. (Interestingly, the Puppy bête noire Redshirts was pointed out as a prime example of this.) This was just as unprovable as the later claims of a long-running liberal literary conspiracy, and yet when they tried to rally people to get more diversity into the nominations, and apparently succeeded in 2014, they weren’t punished for their beliefs with No Awards.

    The competing narrative to the Puppies was “slating is against the spirit of the rules”. That’s what got their nominations buried under No Award. The violation of a social norm makes for a much more compelling narrative than a simple refutation of conspiracy claims.

  16. and yet when they tried to rally people to get more diversity into the nominations, and apparently succeeded in 2014

    Um, what? I wasn’t aware of a “nominate diversity-based works for a Hugo” campaign. Got any evidence of such?

  17. Hm, that came off a bit more accusatory than I planned. Sorry about that. It’s more that I’m curious about this idea of old-SMOFs-against-diversity and how it was thought to be playing into the Hugo results, and what the response was to that. I’m relatively new to this arena so I have a lot to catch up on!

  18. Christian Brunschen on March 2, 2016 at 7:38 am said:
    Difficult to find in what way? They seem to be available on Amazon UK (and similarly on Amazon US) in black, red, blue and green ink varieties, a 20back for about £5 / $6.

    To be honest cheap pens are not the sort of thing I stock up on Amazon. Among other things, I have plenty of really nice fountain pens at home AND at the office!

    Annoyingly, we lovers of the orange pens are a minority, and most people in charge of stationary supply at work go in for the hated and despised Crystal, so it’s my pen (currently, a Lamy Joy) or the highway. Although at the old job, where the stationery provision was a floating task, there was one ally who would order orange Bics, bless him.

  19. Wildcat said:

    Hm, that came off a bit more accusatory than I planned. Sorry about that. It’s more that I’m curious about this idea of old-SMOFs-against-diversity and how it was thought to be playing into the Hugo results

    No worries, it didn’t sound that hostile to me. 🙂 As Nicholas Whyte says, it wasn’t an organized, named campaign (so maybe I should’ve said “effort” rather than “campaign”).

    A good place to start is Cora Buhlert’s link roundups. The September 2013 roundups here, here, and here have a lot of material on the complaints about the alleged oldness and whiteness and maleness of Worldcon and/or SMOFdom. If you look at earlier Hugo reactions, you can see it building, and then in August 2014, everyone but the puppy proponents is all WOOHOO DIVERSITY.

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