Pixel Scroll 3/11/19 A Scroll Is A Guy That Thinks He’s Fly, And Is Also Known As A Pixel

(1) OBERST FROM COAST TO COAST. As reported the other day, Bill Oberst Jr.’s Ray Bradbury Live (forever) will launch with a performance at the South Pasadena Public Library on March 2. The show’s website says the next performances will be in Indianapolis, IN from May 3-5, then in Charleston, SC on dates to be announced.

(2) ART OF THE SERIES. Seanan McGuire will teach an online class — “Pacing Yourself: The Strange and Sprawling Art of Writing a Long Series” – on Saturday, June 29, 2019, 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific time.

Writing a series can be a long, strange journey. How do you best prepare for it, and where do you stop to refuel? And how do you do know when to keep going and when to bring things to an end? Join Seanan McGuire, Hugo-winning author of multiple series, as she shares secrets of not get lost along the way when undertaking such a trip.

(3) MURDERBOT MUST ADVERTISE. Tor.com has announced “Murderbot Will Return in…Network Effect. A Full Novel by Martha Wells”. But we’ll have to wait til May 2020 to read it. (Pass the time by watching your stored media.)

(4) SHRINK RAP. Larry Correia talks about “getting paid” all the time, and Harlan Ellison extolled the importance of a writer’s work being acknowledged by a “check of money.” How to explain everyone else who keeps pulling the handle on their typewriter? Camestros Felapton searches for parallels between writing and an addiction in “Writing and Gambling”.

One of the notable features of gambling (and a factor that can lead to it becoming a problem for some people) is that people still gain pleasure from it even when they are losing. The phenomenon called “loss chasing”…

(5) R.E.S.P.E.C.T.  YA reviewer Vicky Who Reads surveyed book bloggers and got over 280 respondents to share “their views on how authors + other people should interact to remain respectful.” — “Blogger + Author Interaction Etiquette Survey Responses: Answers from the Book Bloggers’ Perspectives (2019)”. The YA author/blogger dynamic is obviously different than the pro/fan interaction in social media, however, I found it very interesting reading. Here’s the range of reactions to the question –

Do you mind if authors read and/or comment on your review of their book?

  1. “I don’t want them to comment on negative reviews, but I’m fine if they comment on positive reviews!” +12 with the same sentiment +11 same sentiment, also specifying that they would not tag an author in a negative review
  2. “What I don’t like is when an author comments on my reviews to defend themselves or to try and guilt me into changing my opinions.” +6
  3. “I don’t mind if they read, and a quick thanks for reading my book comment is fine— but nothing else.” +3
  4. (paraphrased) Authors are not obligated to read reviews, but I’d like them to know that someone’s enjoyed it, and it would make me happy if they read my (positive tagged) review! +1
  5. “I don’t mind though I’d rather have them contact me in private if they want to discuss it.”
  6. “…would depend on the relationship you have with that specific author.”
  7. “…from anyone with more power than me, NO.”
  8. “…I wouldn’t mind them BOOSTING blog posts involving their books.”
  9. “I don’t mind them commenting on my review in a tweet…but no comments on my actual blog.”

(6) HANDICAPPING THE SHORTLIST. Ceridwen Christensen’s series at Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog continues with “Blogging the Nebulas: The Poppy War Is a Devastating Fantasy Debut”. Each post makes the case for why the nominee will or won’t win. Here, under Won’t, it says —

Though there seems to be a tendency to nominate debut novels for the Nebula in recent year—more than half of the nominees for the last three years have been first novels—there is a clear precedent for established novelists to actually take home the Nebula. The preference for books from established writers makes sense: not only have they had time to hone their craft, but, as and industry award, connections within the industry factor.

(7) A MARVEL(OUS) CAT. USA Today posts a spoiler warning before telling readers “5 things you need to know about furry ‘Captain Marvel’ breakout Goose the Cat”. Brie Larson’s superhero heads up the blockbuster new ‘Captain Marvel’ but scene-stealing Goose the Cat is one of the movie’s biggest breakouts.   

1. Like the movie’s human heroine, Goose comes straight from the comic books.

She’s named Chewie in the pages of the “Captain Marvel” series (named for the “Star Wars” Wookiee co-pilot), while the movie uses Anthony Edwards’ “Top Gun” sidekick as inspiration. But a lot of the hidden abilities Goose unleashes later in the film mirror the comic character’s cosmic connections as an alien Flerken.

Before they had a script, directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck had a room with a whiteboard where they wrote a wish list of everything from the comics that they wanted to see in the movie, including the cat. After figuring out Goose’s role, Boden remembers giving an initial script outline to executive producer Kevin Feige “and him being like, ‘Yep, we’re going to need about 200 percent more (Goose) in the story.’ And he was right. It was so fun to find all the ways that she could participate in the film.”

(8) TIME BANDITS. ScienceFiction.com has learned “Taika Waititi Will Co-Write And Direct The Pilot For Apple’s ‘Time Bandits’”.

‘Thor: Ragnarok’s Taika Waititi has signed on to co-write and direct the pilot for a series based on the 1981 Terry Gilliam film ‘Time Bandits’ for Apple‘s upcoming streaming service.  Waititi will also serve as executive producer along with Gilliam and Dan Halstead (‘People of Earth’).  This will be just one of many shows that Apple plans to offer for free to owners of its various devices, including Apple TV, iPhones, iPads and Macs.  ‘Time Bandits’ will be co-produced by Anonymous Content, Paramount Television and Media Rights Capital.

Time Bandits is a dark, irreverent adventure about imagination, bravery and the nature of our dreams. It follows the time-traveling adventures of an 11-year-old history buff named Kevin who, one night, stumbles on six dwarfs who emerge from his closet. They are former workers of the Supreme Being who have stolen a map that charts all the holes in the space-time fabric, using it to hop from one historical era to the next in order to steal riches. Throughout the movie, they meet various historical and fictional characters, including Napoleon Bonaparte and Robin Hood, while the Supreme Being simultaneously tries to catch up to them and retrieve the map.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 11, 1921 F. M. Busby. Together with his wife and others he published a fan magazine named Cry of the Nameless which won the Hugo award in 1960. Heinlein was a great fan of him and his wife — The Cat Who Walks Through Walls in part dedicated to Busby and Friday in part to his wife Elinor. He was a very busy writer from the early Seventies to the late Nineties writing some nineteen published novels and myriad short stories before he blamed the Thor Power Tools decision for forcing his retirement. (Died 2005.)
  • Born March 11, 1952 Douglas Adams. I’ve read and listened to the full cast production the BBC did of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy but have absolutely no desire to see the film. Wait, wasn’t there a TV series as well? Yes, there was. Shudder! The Dirk Gently series is, errr, odd and its charms escape my understanding. He and Mark Carwardine also wrote the most excellent Last Chance to See, their travels to various locations in the hope of encountering species on the brink of extinction. It’s more silly than it sounds. (Died 2001.)
  • Born March 11, 1962 Elias Koteas, 57. Genre appearances include the very first (and I think best of the many that came out) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, One Magic Christmas, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (I did warn you, didn’t I?), Cyborg 2 (just don’t), Gattaca, Skinwalkers, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and The Haunting in Connecticut.
  • Born March 11, 1963 Alex Kingston, 56. River Song in Doctor Who. She’s in a number of different stories with a number of different Doctors and was the eventual wife of the Eleventh Doctor. (I don’t believe in spoilers.) I don’t see a lot of other genre work from her but she was in Ghost Phone: Phone Calls from the Dead, as Sheila and she was Lady Macbeth in the National Theatre Live of Macbeth. Oh, and she’s in the Arrowverse as Dinah Lance, in FlashForward as Fiona Banks and recently shows up as Sara Bishop on A Discovery of Witches, a series based off the Deborah Harkness novel of the same name. Great series, All Souls Trilogy, by the way. 
  • Born March 11, 1967 John Barrowman, 52. Best genre without doubt is as Captain Jack Harkness in Doctor Who and Torchwood.  He reprised the role for Big Finish audiobooks and there’s one that I highly recommend which is the full cast Golden Age production with all the original cast. You’ll find a link to my review here. I see he’s been busy in the Arrowverse playing three different characters (I think as I confess I’m not watching it currently)  in the form of Malcolm Merlyn / Dark Archer / Ra’s al Ghul. He’s also had a long history in theatre, so he’s been in Beauty and the Beast as The Beast / The Prince, Jack and The Bean Stalk as Jack, Aladdinas, well, Aladdinand Cinderella as, errrr, Buttons.
  • Born March 11, 1982 Thora Birch, 37. A very, very extensive genre history so I’ll just list her appearances: Purple People EaterItsy Bitsy Spider, Hocus PocusDungeons & Dragons, The HoleDark Corners, TrainDeadlineDark Avenger series, The Outer LimitsNight Visions series, My Life as a Teenage Robot and a recurring role on the Colony series.
  • Born March 11, 1989 Anton Yelchin. Best known for playing played Pavel Chekov in Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness and Star Trek Beyond. He also was in Terminator Salvation as Kyle Reese, in the Zombie comedy Burying the Ex as Max and voiced Clumsy Smurf in a series of Smurf films. Really, he did. (Died 2016.)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • “All writers explained” in this Pearls Before Swine strip.
  • Dick Tracy does a shout-out to Gasoline Alley. Joe Staton is one of the creators in the credits – he did fanzine art back in the Seventies before moving up to the big leagues.

Daniel Dern sent the Dick Tracy link with a comment:

Gasoline Alley remains one of my favorite strips. One interest aspect is that characters age “in real time” — they get older, and the strip’s “current time” is the present (as of when it’s written).

Here’s one of my favorite sequences, guest-starring John Hartford [PDF file] (who, IMHO, would have made a great Tom Bombadil). And here’s a clearer view of a few of those.

(11) SO, DOES LOTUS TASTE GOOD? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Some science fiction has imagined a future where automation of one sort or another replaces most or all jobs. Thinking about that sort of future is slowly becoming mainstream but even if this leads to some version of utopia, there will be a difficult transition period. An installment of an AI series on The Verge (The Real-World AI Issue) looks at “How to protect humans in a fully automated society” and asks the question “What happens when every job is replaced by a machine?” It doesn’t get to an answer, but that doesn’t make the question any less important.

People have been worried about machines taking jobs for a very long time. As early as 1930, John Maynard Keynes was warning about the new scourge of technological unemployment, which he termed as “unemployment due to our discovery of means of economizing the use of labor outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses for labor.” In short, automating ourselves out of a paycheck.

(12) CROCK OF AGES. Armies march on their stomachs, archeologists crawl on theirs: “Archaeologists Find Trove Of Maya Artifacts Dating Back 1,000 Years”.

Mexican archaeologists announced last week that they discovered a trove of more than 200 Maya artifacts beneath the ancient city of Chichén Itzá in Mexico.

The discovery of the Yucatán Peninsula cave – and the artifacts, which appear to date back to 1,000 A.D. – was not the team’s original goal, National Geographic Explorer Guillermo de Anda, who helped lead the team, told NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro for Weekend Edition.

A local resident told the archeologists about the secret cave, known as Balamku or “Jaguar God.” It had been known to locals for decades and about 50 years ago some of them told archeologist Víctor Segovia Pinto about the cave, but he ordered it sealed for unknown reasons, causing it to be forgotten. This time, the explorers decided to search the cave chambers, which involved crawling on their stomachs for hours to reach the coveted artifacts.

(13) NOT MUCH OF A GAME YET. Brian at Nerds of a Feather, in “Microreview : Anthem by Bioware (developer)”, feels he has to speak bluntly:

Anthem is a mess. There’s no nicer way of putting it. I can’t recommend it in any form today. The good(?) news is that it’s essentially unfinished but it’s a part of EA’s games-as-a-service strategy. Like so many other games-as-a-service shlooters (that’s loot-shooters, games like Destiny and The Division), it’s being patched frequently with new features, quality of life improvements, and bug fixes. The outstanding questions are can they fix this game post-release and do they have the will to keep working on this game?

(14) JUST A LITTLE PINCH. Sew what? “Scientists Thread A Nano-Needle To Modify The Genes Of Plants”.

Is there an efficient way to tinker with the genes of plants? Being able to do that would make breeding new varieties of crop plants faster and easier, but figuring out exactly how to do it has stumped plant scientists for decades.

Now researchers may have cracked it.

Modifying the genetics of a plant requires getting DNA into its cells. That’s fairly easy to do with animal cells, but with plants it’s a different matter.

“Plants have not just a cell membrane, but also a cell wall,” says Markita Landry, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of California, Berkeley.

Scientists have tried different ways to get DNA and other important biological molecules through the cell wall – by shooting microscopic gold bullets coated with DNA into the cell using a gene gun or by hiding DNA inside bacteria that can infect plant cells.

Both methods have limitations. Gene guns aren’t very efficient, and some plants are hard, if not impossible, to infect with bacteria.

UC Berkeley researchers have found a way to do it using something called carbon nanotubes, long stiff tubes of carbon that are really small. Landry came up with the idea, and the curious thing is she’s neither a n­anotechnology engineer nor a plant biologist.

(15) LOOKING BACKWARD. Remember in Armageddon where Bruce Willis’ character says to the NASA manager, “You’re the guys that’re thinking shit up! I’m sure you got a team of men sitting around somewhere right now just thinking shit up and somebody backing them up!” Same answer here – they’re looking for help from the public: “It’s 2050 And This Is How We Stopped Climate Change”.

When NPR interviewed Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes in February about her Green New Deal, she said that her goal was bigger than just passing some new laws. “What I hope we’re able to do is rediscover the power of public imagination,” she said.

Well, we’re unleashing our imagination and exploring a dream, a possible future in which we’re bringing global warming to a halt. It’s a world in which greenhouse emissions have ended.

(Editor’s note: Each story has two sections, the first reflecting the present and the second imagining the world of 2050.)

(16) PASS FAIL. Tadiana Jones reviews Sylvain Neuvel’s novel “The Test: The cost of citizenship in a near-future world” at Fantasy Literature.

Published in February 2019. Britain, the not-too-distant future. Idir is sitting the British Citizenship Test. He wants his family to belong. Twenty-five questions to determine their fate. Twenty-five chances to impress. When the test takes an unexpected and tragic turn, Idir is handed the power of life and death. How do you value a life when all you have is multiple choice?

(17) ANOTHER JOYCE. Speculiction’s Jesse Hudson does a “Review of The Silent Land by Graham Joyce”. The situation doesn’t sound too bad in the beginning —  

Extensive cellars of the world’s best wines. Pristine slopes with no other skiers, the lifts at your disposal. A hotel kitchen with an endless supply of food that never spoils. The penthouse room available day in and day out for sleeping and leisure. Paradise calls, such is the tragedy of Graham Joyce’s touching 2010 The Silent Land.

(18) EYE WONDER. On CNN, “Rep. Dan Crenshaw shows off his Captain America-inspired glass eye”:

“Captain America” found out he had a big fan in Congress after his mission to the US Capitol this week.

Chris Evans, known for playing the superhero in the Marvel movies, met up with Rep. Dan Crenshaw on a visit to Washington, and the two seemed to hit it off.

Crenshaw, who represents Texas’ 2nd Congressional District, lifted his eye patch to show off a Captain America-inspired glass eye to Evans. In a picture posted to Twitter on Friday, the eye resembles Captain America’s shield, with a five-point, white star in the middle surrounded by circles.

(19) AI AND AIRCRAFT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Two very different aviation stories today referenced AI. At BGR they say, “Oh great, Russian fighter pilots are going to start flying with scary AI wingmen,” while at Popular Mechanics the wonder, “Can Big Data Save Old Warplanes?

The BGR story talks about the possibility of Russian fighters using drones (that fly with an AI assist) as a force multiplier.

Well, it seems Russian military officials don’t want to just stop with that fearsome new hypersonic intercontinental ballistic missile that was tested last month, which we told you about and which Russia claims there’s no defense against. It would appear the country’s military forces have also been testing the feasibility of having AI-powered wingmen fly alongside Russian fighter pilots, executing commands issued by the human pilot an inaugurating a scary new chapter in aerial military combat.

News accounts of Russia’s efforts here are the result of images spotted on social media of a drone called Hunter, an unmanned combat vehicle, along with images of a jet called the Sukhoi Su-57. Of particular interest is that fighter jet’s tail. As you can see below, on the tail you can see the shape of a jet as well as an image that seems to be the “Hunter” drone, along with the image of a lightning bolt.

Meanwhile, PopSci takes a look at using big data and machine learning to keep aging aircraft in the air instead of grounded.

Late in 2018, the Air Force (with help from Delta) retrofitted its aging C-5 and B-1 fleets to perform predictive maintenance. “It’s already doing amazing work, telling us things that we need to look at before they become critical,” Will Roper [(USAF assistant secretary for acquisition, technology, and logistics)] says. “The data is there but it’s not in a discoverable format that you can layer in machine learning on top of it. A lot of what we had to do was reverse engineering, so that that data can be exposed in an algorithm friendly way.”

He says there are more than 100 algorithms running on the C-5 systems, and more than 40 examining the B-1. Each algorithm parses the information generated by specific systems, like the landing gear, wheels, temperature sensors, and anything that is deemed mission-critical.

So far, the A.I. found three maintenance actions on the C-5 “that we wouldn’t have found through traditional processes, that affect 36 different aircraft,” Roper says. Maintainers also removed 17 parts that were showing subtle signs of wear well before those parts had issues.

(20) WHAT’S THAT SMELL? It’s D&D night at Ursula Vernon’s place. The thread starts here.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Rich Lynch, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Adam Rakunas.]

81 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 3/11/19 A Scroll Is A Guy That Thinks He’s Fly, And Is Also Known As A Pixel

  1. @Cliff re: 9)

    There were some great jokes and sequences in the audio that never so far as I know made it into any other medium – the whole bit about a sad people looking at their feet, deciding new shoes would cheer them up, a shoe sales kerfuffle ensures, and ultimately they evolved into birds = fantastic!

    That was a fantastic bit, and I’m certain it’s in the books after all, because I remember it pretty well and I’ve never listened to the audio.

    (I am, however, too cozy where I am at the moment to actually get up and check. But my memory of the ghost telling Zaphod the story about the people cursing the ground after the shoe debacle is absolutely attached to my memory of looking at a particular area of the page in the physical book.)

    @Standback re: 5)

    One of my earliest reviews got the nicest response from the author — to a mixed/negative review, but he said I’d interpreted it differently than he’d intended, and that I’d argued my interpretation convincingly. Now that’s true class.

    I think that responding to reviews, especially negative reviews, such that the experience is enlightening/entertaining/pleasant for all involved, is an extremely high level social skill which fewer authors have than think they have. Thinking one has that skill, and acting upon that presumption, when one does not–there’s yer ABM.

    I have had very few opportunities to be given that temptation as yet. I remember once mentioning in a blog post that I was absolutely fascinated when a review of an anthology my story appeared in spent a couple sentences on an interpretation of my story that couldn’t have been farther from my mind when writing it. Mostly, I said, I was thrilled the reviewer thought my story was worth singling out for mention in the review, but also grateful for the chance to see my story through another lens.

    I didn’t go seek out the reviewer to say that to them personally, though, or Gods forfend drop it in the comments of the review. I just posted on my personal blog something like HAY! HAY Y’ALL! LOOKIT I GOT REVIEWEDED! As one does.

  2. @JDN: I remember when that happened…

    You get a lot of interesting comments – one time, I recall you got complaints from someone claiming to be a particular author, and then a rebuttal from the actual author.

  3. The interwebs say the GSA started licensing bakers in 1936.

    The only time I’ve enjoyed an author reacting to a review is Marshall McLuhan’s cameo in Annie Hall. That’s probably not true, but things usually don’t go well.

    Time Bandits is such a mishmash of a movie. Ultimately very memorable, but I can’t say I’ve ever been satisfied by it. (With the exception of the Sean Connery segment which could have been its own movie.) I suppose that supports the idea if you’re going to redo a property, it’s better to go with one which was good but not great.

  4. Author comments on reviews – I think even a “thank you for reading” is pushing it. There’s something off putting about the knowledge that the person will see what I said about the story. I’m still a bit weirded out that an author liked a Goodreads review of mine recently, and that’s probably the mildest possible acknowledgement.

  5. And you may find yourself Scrolling in a snowy tavern / And you may find yourself in another Deathworld

  6. @Darren Garrison,
    Goodness me, there is quite a lot of reaching going on there. I see cherrypicking and oversimplification. Would not read again.

  7. @Standback: comments about conventions are IMO quantitatively different from comments about books; conventions happen in real time, which means there almost always plenty of things that could have been better if not for chance and/or an intervention of Life. (e.g., some things happened late at Boskone this year because I spent several hours on Thursday and Friday in a mundane wrangle and much of the intervening night laying awake wondering whether I was doing the right thing, to the extent that I was only marginally conscious on Friday.) Books are sometimes rushed, but usually have more room to fix errors.

    @Lenora Rose: Harlan was not being smug; he described telling the critic face-to-face that the critic (maybe even an academic) was overinterpreting. YMMV, but I certainly didn’t think that was metaphor when I read it.

  8. At Marscon, the weekend before last, a Dalek was complaining to the Girl Scout selling cookies that it was false advertising because the cookies contained no Girl Scouts.

  9. @ Nicole – thanks for the correction. That’s good to know. I guess I did read them a long time ago.

    This talk of girl scout cookies reminds me of a pretend Werner Herzog quote I came across recently: “Life is a parade of absurdities and pain, and then we die, alone, in filth. So, yes, little girl, I shall buy a box of Thin Mints.”

  10. @Nicole:

    I think that responding to reviews, especially negative reviews, such that the experience is enlightening/entertaining/pleasant for all involved, is an extremely high level social skill which fewer authors have than think they have. Thinking one has that skill, and acting upon that presumption, when one does not–there’s yer ABM.

    Absolutely this. Along with one point more: A reviewer who’s gotten singed before, is going to be more and more sensitive to authors trying to argue back, and the social skill required to do so gracefully, soon becomes unattainable. Which, well, leads me to agree strong with @Mark:

    Author comments on reviews – I think even a “thank you for reading” is pushing it.

    Although I do have one exception (of course this is all personal and subjective):
    Very frequently, I do recommend specific books and stories on Twitter, and tag the author. And then, getting a like or a “thanks!” or a RT is great. In some ways, it’s hardly a review — or if it is, it’s rolled together with some other things. This form is also a kind of brief “thank you!” note to the author, and an opportunity for the author to RT to followers.
    So, that I’m 100% fine with, and it’s pretty cool 🙂

    @Chip:

    comments about conventions are IMO quantitatively different from comments about books; conventions happen in real time (…) [Books] usually have more room to fix errors.

    This is definitely true 🙂 But I’d hesitate to assume how that affects response to criticism; conventions can be super stressful and looks-like-my-fault-but-it’s-not, while books can often be the author’s babies, with years of work and ambition poured into them, so criticism feels very personal.
    At any rate, I try to write criticism that’s more measured now; and saying “this is awful” is almost never what I want to do. “I was hoping for X but this was Y” or “This was trying to achieve A but I don’t think it worked because B” is almost always more one point.

    I am reminded of this one review that came out for an original Hebrew epic fantasy book, that absolutely eviscerated the book. Held it up as an exemplar of shoddy publishing, poor-to-nonexistant editing, mindless recycling of genre tropes, and unwarranted pathos.

    Like, the review started out by going “Here’s a map of the fantasy world,” and then sketched a basketball court with the two ends labelled “THE GOOD GUYS” and “THE BAD GUYS.” When he’d finished making his major points, he launched into a good dozen examples of cringe-worthy prose. and so on.

    I remember this as a hugely influential review, within the Israeli genre community; this example was immensely exaggerated, but it was also a really on-point guide to what not to do, for a whole bevy of minor and major sins that epic fantasy tends to commit quite regularly. So… a lot of people got a lot out of that one review. But wow, I would not want to be in the position of that poor author.

  11. @James Davis Nicoll:

    I once discovered the hard way an off-handedly snarky award announcement I made was the first hit on google for [author name] [award]

    Ooooh, ooooh, have I told y’all about the time a lawyer politely threatened to sue us for a roleplaying game?

    We were playing InSpectres, a humorous Ghostbusters-inspired RPG. One of the players built a character who was this failed law-school dropout. He gave him an extremely lawyer-ish name, made up a whole backstory for him, and explained that his legal specialty was property rights for the deceased — which in Hebrew comes out a great pun on “real estate,” the Hebrew term for which translates literally as “assets that do not move.”

    …and we put our character sheets on a Wiki.

    …and it turns out the extremely lawyer-ish name was so authentic, there really is a lawyer by that name.

    …and the Google result for “[NAME] lawyer” looked horrendous.

    So this one session, our friend comes in cracking up, and shows us an itemized letter he received, saying that while upon perusal it is clear that this is merely a game and no harm was intended, if we do not remove the page he will have no choice but to etc. etc. etc.

    It was absolutely hilarious (and kind of sobering to realize how easy it is to mess life up for some random person). We took the page down, although the Google results took a while to register the change…

  12. Tom Baker Doctor Who, perhaps with an even lower budget.

    I was going to say Blake’s 7 budget, but apparently the last series was late 1981 which was after HHGTTG TV in early 1981. Somehow I managed to not work on any Blake, though I do remember at least one session waiting for ages between takes of Adric measuring a police box in the Tom Baker Logopolis mentioned earlier.

  13. Standback:

    Back in the days when the web was new, a friend who worked at an ISP forwarded me a letter from the customer support. It was a complaint against my very rudimentary webpage and the complaint went something like this:

    “When I started to look at Hampus webpage, my hardddrive was filled bats and then it crashed. It took me hours to get it started again. I demand you remove his page!”

    I was very proud of that letter.

  14. Oh, and that reminds me of a legendary article in the magazine for our largest employer unions. It was from 1999 and went like this:

    “Andreas has gone through all possible software problems. Now he has arrived at the hardware, the mothermodem, the heart of the harddrive itself, does not work.”

  15. On Rocket Stack Rank, we eventually wrote an article titlled, “A Word for Authors” to explain how we’d prefer to interact with writers. In the simplest terms, our #1 priority is to help readers of short fiction and encourage more people to read it. Anything that supports those goals is great, and we’ve had lots of nice involvement from authors. At least twice, I’ve upped my rating of a story because an author showed me something I’d missed on my first reading.

    In four years of running the site, we’ve only twice had to delete comments other than spam. One was a personal attack on me and the other was a personal attack on an author. Neither one even related to the story being reviewed.

    What I’ve seen is that authors complaining about reviews do so on Twitter or on their own web sites. Often authors will back each other up, assuring the person who got a bad review that that reviewer is just a bad person who hates women, minorities, little children, and kitty cats. I don’t think that’s healthy for anyone involved.

  16. @Greg

    While authors shouldn’t attack reviewers, I think they need space to kvetch and blow off steam as well – we can’t pretend that bad reviews don’t affect them.

  17. Chip: I no longer have the story collection where Harlan relates that interaction, but my impression was twofold: the critic was a blowhard with a very inflated sense of self, and Harlan was exactly the same, only with an additional edge of having got one over on the other blowhard that, yes, I perceived as smug while I was reading it. And, again, I no longer have the collection, but at the time, I looked through the story specifically looking for her descriptions, and what little I found was far from clear; ill placed for anyone looking for a character description, and in at least the silhouette case, far from definitive proof. If you feel like citing the passages to prove it isn’t metaphor, feel free, this was a while ago and I am willing to revisit my interpretation.

  18. Making my way through the Venice Under Glass comments and came across this gem: “Serious question: Is the book a shaggy dog story that ends with the line “Today’s the day the teddy bears had their pics nicked”? If not, this strikes me as a frightful missed opportunity.”

  19. @Cliff: I’m still convinced that Soul Music was a book length Shaggy Dog story Terry Pratchett wrote just so he could end it with “There’s a boy works down the chip-shop, I’d swear he’s Elvish”

  20. Ha ha! Did he really do that?
    I remember when I was a kid I was reading one of the Early Asimov volumes. One story ended with something about a flying city called Atlantis attacked by some people called the Waves. The last sentence was a riff on Atlantis sinking beneath the waves. Asimov related how another author had said ‘why, that’s nothing but a shaggy dog story!’. To which Asimov replied: ‘did you not notice that Atlantis’s leader was called Sha Guido G?’

  21. Standback on March 13, 2019 at 2:47 am said:

    So this one session, our friend comes in cracking up, and shows us an itemized letter he received, saying that while upon perusal it is clear that this is merely a game and no harm was intended, if we do not remove the page he will have no choice but to etc. etc. etc.

    Reminds me of this recent incident.

  22. The most interesting thing about the Venice Under Glass mention to me is that I’ve read a gritty, violent, noir book about a teddy bear detective and it wasn’t this one. Who knew that was a genre?

  23. So nonfunctional the last day or so, this seems to be the first time I’ve seen this scroll.

    Alive, though.
    And yes, even positive comments on reviews from the author feel a little stalkery. I think that’s probably irrational, but still, that’s how it feels.

    On the other hand, comments from the author when I share the link on Twitter seem entirely different and far more comfortable.

  24. @Cliff: A couple of nitpicks… according to ISFDB, the story was published in 1951, too late to have been included in The Early Asimov. It actually appeared in Buy Jupiter.

    Also, “Shah Guido G.” was not just the name of the leader, it was the title of the story! So you really can’t accuse Asimov of not being up front about things.

  25. As an author, and a reader, and a friend of authors, and a friend of readers, let me say that navigating social media can be a serious minefield! Each person makes their own set of ground rules and each will make their own mistakes. Even when you hold to your pledge never to comment back to reviews, if you ever voice an opinion about the reception of your work, every reviewer who has received the work in the indicated way will assume it’s a personal comment on them.

    And the hazard of navigating between fan-spaces that operate with different rules-sets…oh my. If I held to the most extreme version of “authors must never interact with readers” it would seem to call for complete social segregation between the two groups. And where is the dividing line between touching back with a friend who’s saying nice things about your work and getting in the face of a complete stranger who’s saying nice things about your work?

    Some of my worst blunders have come from interpreting casual online interactions as establishing a friendship and then coming off as “an author intimidating a reader by interacting with them.” The flip side of that, of course, is “authors are so stuck up–the only talk to other authors.”

    In response to one suggestion above, while the worst thing an author can do in response to a negative review is to argue back, the next worst thing is to take the criticism to heart. If I changed my books to please every negative reviewer’s opinions, there’d be nothing left worth reading. Often, negative reviews are simply a bad match between reader and book, not anything objectively wrong with the book. When I want to comfort myself, I take note of how many one-star reviews Outlander has.

  26. @ David: thanks for putting me straight. It was nearly 40 years ago and those puns still stick in the mind. I didn’t however at the time realize that the anthology’s title was itself a pun 🙂

  27. @Anthony: Soul Music doesn’t just end with puns — it is stuffed with them the way a good Eccles cake is stuffed with currants(*). Consider the group We’re Certainly Dwarfs, the hard-of-hearing spotted cat, the ~English translation of Imp y Celyn, and I don’t know whether the line about cheeses was added to the animation by Pratchett or by some in-the-spirit adapter (like the visual things that couldn’t have been described adequately in the book). One possible example of a book built around a single monstrous pun is Lord of Light, in which the fit hits the Shan somewhere in the middle of the book — but that probably wasn’t the only reason he wrote it.

    (*) makes me hungry just thinking about it, because the nearby place that baked them closed a few years ago and the imported packaged ones just aren’t very good.

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