Pixel Scroll 3/13/19 This IrrePixel-able, Trantor ‘Original’, This Mule-produced Crime

(1) THINGS FALL APART. T.J. Martinson, in “The Death of the Superhero: The Crime of Killing Off Good & Evil” at Crimereads, notes that comic book publishers periodically kill off superheroes to boost sales of titles, but “when superheroes die, we are left without a moral compass.”  He sees similar problems happening in crime novels where a private eye dies.”

…The death and resurrection of Superman engendered what might be considered a comic book renaissance, one that hasn’t yet run out of steam—for example, in Captain America #25 (2007), Captain America was assassinated in only to later reappear after it was revealed he’d merely been stuck in a time loop involving, you guessed it, an ancient Inuit tribe. Ever since Superman paved the way into and out from the grave, the superhero’s death and resurrection has become an almost-ubiquitous plot-line in otherwise faltering and overstretched narrative arcs. Superheroes are practically falling from the sky like house flies (Infinity Wars, anyone?). The superhero’s death and return has reached such a critical mass that comic books themselves present a meta-commentary on the phenomenon; In DC’s Infinite Crisis (2005-2006), Batman quips to Superman, “the last time you really inspired anyone…was when you were dead.”

But what is it about superheroes that we—readers living outside of Metropolis’ city limits—are so desperate to see resurrected time and time again that we’re willing to weave our suspension of disbelief into tantric knots in order to welcome superheroes from the dead? One answer would be that, in a world of uncertainty and complexity, we yearn for simplified categories (e.g., good and evil) that superheroes boldly represent. But how are to make sense of a world in which the binary logic the superhero embodies is questioned?

(2) REMEMBER THE SPARTANS. Myke Cole analyzes “How the Far Right Perverts Ancient History—And Why It Matters” at Daily Beast.

It may seem silly to argue about the interpretation of events that unfolded thousands of years ago, to fret and hand-wring over people millennia in their graves. Some may argue it is harmless for the likes of Hanson to strut his toxic revision of ancient history across the stage. Just another blowhard shouting at the ocean, after all.

But this notion is having life-and-death consequences in America today. I worked at the NYPD during and following the white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA where Heather Heyer was killed and more than two dozen other people were injured. In August 2017, the Southern Poverty Law Center sent us its report on the flags and symbols used during the rally, including the vexillum of the Roman Republic (SPQR for “Sen?tus Populusque R?m?nus,” “The Senate and the People of Rome”), the ancient sun wheels of Germanic tribes, the Greek lambda (“?” or “L” for “Lakedaimon,” the Spartans called themselves “Lakedaimonians”) falsely believed to have been painted on ancient Spartan shields, and now used by the far-right Identitarian movement.

Last of all was the flag of the American Guard, violent hardcore nationalists who sport crossed meat-cleavers as a rallying symbol. Above them stretched a black cannon blazoned with the clarion call of pro-gun advocates from the NRA to militia groups across the country—“Come and take it.” The phrase is from the Greek “molon labe,” (????? ????), Plutarch’s words put in the mouth of the Spartan king Leonidas in 480 BC, when he defied the Persian king Xerxes’ demand that he lay down his arms. Senator Ted Cruz has repeatedly invoked the same phrase

(3) HOPEPUNK. Behind the Wall Street Journal paywall, Ellen Gamerman’s article “‘Hopepunk’ and ‘Up Lit’ Help Readers Shake Off the Dystopian Blues” quotes Becky Chambers and mentions one of Cat Rambo’s classes.

Cat Rambo, in “Hopepunk Thoughts Plus A Reading List”, blogged her own thoughts on the subgenre and told readers where to find examples. 

Hopepunk is a reaction to our times, an insistence that a hollow world built of hatred and financial ambition is NOT the norm. It is stories of resistance, stories that celebrate friendship and truth and the things that make us human. In today’s world, being kind is one of the most radical things you can do, and you can see society trying to quash it by prosecuting those who offer food to the hungry, water to the thirsty, and shelter to those in need.

Is it something new? No, it’s something that we’ve always celebrated in stories. Think about the moment in the Lord of the Rings when acts of kindness — first on Bilbo’s part, then on Frodo’s — lead to the moment where Gollum enables the ring’s destruction when Frodo falters and is on the brink of giving up his quest. Or go even further back, to Ovid’s Baucis and Philemon, who are rewarded for offering hospitality to strangers who turn out to be gods

(4) FREE DOWNLOAD. Arizona State University has published The Weight of Light, a collection of short science fiction, art, and essays about human futures powered by solar energy, with an upbeat, solarpunk twist. The book features four original short stories, by Cat Rambo, Brenda Cooper, Corey S. Pressman, and Andrew Dana Hudson.  It can be downloaded in HTML, EPUB, MOBI, and via Apple Books.

The Weight of Light emphasizes that the design of solar energy matters just as much as the shift away from fossil fuels. Solar technologies can be planned, governed, and marketed in many different ways. The choices we make will profoundly shape the futures we inhabit. The collection features stories by award-winning science fiction authors, working in collaboration with illustrators, graphic designers, and experts in policy, ethics, climate science, and electrical, environmental, civil, and aerospace engineering.

  • Stories by: Brenda Cooper, Andrew Dana Hudson, Corey S. Pressman, Cat Rambo
  • Essays by: Stuart Bowden, Ed Finn, Wesley Herche, Christiana Honsberg, Samantha Janko, Darshan M.A. Karwat, Lauren Withycombe Keeler, Joshua Loughman, Clark A. Miller, Esmerelda Parker, Dwarak Ravikumar, Ruth Wylie

(5) SLADEK COLLECTION. David Langford told readers New Maps: More Uncollected John Sladek is on course for launch at the UK Eastercon in April.

Chris Priest, in his awesome capacity as agent for the Sladek estate, is very pleased with the early proof copy he’s seen; I hope to have a big pile of trade paperbacks in good time for Easter. Paperbacks and ebooks will also be available for order online, from Lulu.com and Ansible Editions respectively.

(6) FINAL BATTLE. Gail Gygax says her life is in danger: “Fantasy’s Widow: The Fight Over The Legacy Of Dungeons & Dragons” .

In December of last year, Gail Gygax contacted Kotaku through her agent. She wanted to tell us about all of the many dangers—both physical and psychological—she says she’s been dealing with since the death of her husband Gary Gygax, who is widely considered to be the father of the tabletop role-playing game, in 2008. Break-ins. Death threats. Estranged children. Visitations from her late husband’s spirit. Predatory businesspeople. And lawsuits—five of them in total, with one brought by Hollywood producer Tom DeSanto for $30 million. Eleven years after the death of Gary Gygax, there are still battles over who will control his legacy—the rights to his name, his biography, his memorial, his intellectual property, and the future of countless other priceless artifacts, among them Gary Gygax’s original dungeon, the maps to an 11-level magical castle where he prototyped a fantasy role-playing game that 8 million people play every year.

(7) NOT A BLANK SLATE. Andrew Liptak’s “Wordplay: This year’s awards scuffle and influence in the SF/F world” compares the motives behind the 20BooksTo50K slate and the Sad/Rabid Puppies slates, among other things, and how hard it is for groups administering the top sff awards to keep pace with change.

There has been a lot of commentary from all sides about how this is a war of old-verses-new, but I don’t really think that that’s the case. I think it’s more that established institutions like SFWA and the Hugo Awards simply aren’t equipped to handle some of the rapid changes that we’re seeing in the publishing industry and how fandom organizes itself, with the help of platforms like Facebook or Twitter. I think it’s also less “old man yells at cloud,” and more not recognizing potential issues or reacting quickly before they become a problem. The traditional “Fan” community doesn’t really turn and adapt quickly. 


  • March 13, 1781 — The planet Uranus was discovered by English astronomer Sir William Herschel.
  • March 13, 1855 — Percival Lowell was born


[Except for Pluto’s discoverer, above, birthdays are on hiatus. Cat Eldridge is having the elbow surgery he mentioned in comments.]


(11) RETRO REPORT. While researching an article I rediscovered Peter Watts’ account of the 2010 Worldcon “Worth the Price”. One of the many good bits —

…and the sheer joy of dealing with Australian border guards.

I am not being ironic. I would almost be tempted to purchase an Expedia vacation package that consisted entirely of going back and forth through Australian Customs for a few days straight. Yes, I got rerouted to Secondary (they pretty much had to, given the check mark in that little “Are you a felon?” box), but the whole lot of them were friendly and welcoming even so. Mostly they spent my wait time chatting with me about the kind of books they liked to read. (I mean, just imagine: literate border guards. Not a species you’re gonna find anywhere in the US, I’m betting.) And finally, when they waved me through and I pointed to the big sign saying Your Luggage WILL be X-rayed and wondered why they weren’t doing that to mine, the nice lady’s response was “Would you like me to?” She was willing to go out of her way to be extra intrusive, just to make me feel at home.

(12) LEGO IDEA. Sort of like looking for a much richer version of Waldo.

(13) BRITNEY GOES GENRE? That’s what BBC heard: “Britney Spears’ feminist jukebox musical is going to Broadway”.

The hits of pop icon Britney Spears are heading to Broadway in a new jukebox musical with a feminist message.

Titled Once Upon A One More Time, the comedy will tell the story of a book club attended by fairytale princesses.

Their lives are changed when a “rogue fairy godmother” brings them a copy of The Feminine Mystique, the landmark feminist book by Betty Friedan.

It makes them question whether there’s more to life than marrying Prince Charming and singing with animals.

Scriptwriter Jon Hartmere told The New York Times: “Cinderella is having an existential crisis, and she has a posse of famous princesses, and her stepmother is the main antagonist.

(14) LAST PAGES. Associated Press gives perspective on how a “Decline in readers, ads leads hundreds of newspapers to fold”.

…Last September, Waynesville became a statistic. With the shutdown of its newspaper, the Daily Guide, this town of 5,200 people in central Missouri’s Ozark hills joined more than 1,400 other cities and towns across the U.S. to lose a newspaper over the past 15 years, according to an Associated Press analysis of data compiled by the University of North Carolina.

Blame revenue siphoned by online competition, cost-cutting ownership, a death spiral in quality, sheer disinterest among readers or reasons peculiar to given locales for that development. While national outlets worry about a president who calls the press an enemy of the people, many Americans no longer have someone watching the city council for them, chronicling the soccer exploits of their children or reporting on the kindly neighbor who died of cancer.

(15) TOLKIEN RESOURCE. You have to join to have access, but they’re available now: “Earliest issues of Tolkien Society publications digitised”.

The Tolkien Society’s earliest publications have been digitised and are now available for members to download.

Last year, through the British Library, the Society completed the first stage of its digitisation project, resulting in the digitisation of the majority of back issues of Amon Hen and Mallorn, respectively the bulletin and journal of The Tolkien Society. Not all back issues were digitised at the time due to gaps in the British Library’s collection.

Members now have access to the Society’s earliest publications, dating back to 1969 (the year the Society was founded) and the 1970s. This not only includes the missing issues of Amon Hen, but its forerunner publications, The Tolkien Society Bulletin and Anduril. All issues of Belladonna’s Broadsheet, the Society’s oldest publication, has also been digitised.

(16) ON THE MENU AT CHEZ RAMBO. Guest posts on Cat Rambo’s blog in recent weeks include:

What if prose were written like music? What if, instead, of a common world, stories in an anthology were steps on a share emotional path? Those are the questions the upcoming anthology Score is attempting to answer.


There are three complementary sides that determine a phril personality: gastronomy, politics, and romance. The rest represents salads or pickles to fill the mundane.
I will start naturally, with food for the gourmet side of the phrilic spirit, presenting to you, my dear reader, an absolutely genuine Recipe….

(17) WHERE HAVE YOU GONE JOE DIMAGGIO JACK KIRBY?WhatCulture Comics remembers “8 Times The Marvel Vs. DC Rivalry Turned Ugly.”

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

92 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 3/13/19 This IrrePixel-able, Trantor ‘Original’, This Mule-produced Crime

  1. (8) For years I’ve had an 1882 Collier’s Cyclopedia, a single-volume compendium of practical knowledge (how to maintain your horse), music and lyrics of various national anthems (e.g., Czarist Russia), etiquette, etc. In the section on the solar system, it explicitly gives “Herschel” as an alternate name for Uranus. Was someone hoping it would catch on? Were some decorum-conscious citizens embarrassed to say “Uranus”?

  2. William Herschel discovered Uranus, and he originally named it “Georgium Sidus,” in tribute to King George III.

    People outside Britain weren’t that wild about naming a planet for George III, so other names were lobbied for. The French called it “Herschel.”

    The name Uranus was an alternative suggested as early as 1782, but it wasn’t until 1850 that it was universally adopted.

  3. (9) Let me chorus Andrew and Lis in wishing the best for Cat’s operation.

    Here are some birthdays I noted by scraping through the Wikipedia page for March 13.

    Born March 13, 1911 — L. Ron Hubbard. Best known for founding Scientology, but well-known to SF fandom for his work in the pulps, his shelf-busting dekalogy, and for being the subject of infamous Hugo Award ballot-stuffing. (Died 1986.)

    Born March 13, 1945 — Anatoly Fomenko, 74. Russian mathematician and history crank who has proposed that all ancient history is actually garbled mediaeval history. Not in itself SFF, but the idea that history is an illusion (which is not original to Fomenko) is suitably genre-friendly, so I thought I’d put him in this list.

    Born March 13, 1950 — William H. Macy, 69. Best-known genre role is probably the Shoveler in Mystery Men, although he also appeared in Jurassic Park III, Pleasantville, and did voice acting work for Superman and Batman animated series.

    Born March 13, 1965 — Steve Bacic, 54. Played Telemachus Rhade (and his conveniently identical ancestor Gaheris) in the TV series Andromeda, which I think I’ve never seen.

    Born March 13, 1971 — Annabeth Gish, 48. Was Special Agent Monica Reyes in the X-Files‘ seasons 8 and 9; she was partnered with Robert Patrick’s John Doggett in an attempt to establish a replacement pair of supernatural investigators. It didn’t last. I am unusual among X-Files fans (or at least the ones I know!) in enjoying those seasons.

    Born March 13, 1972 — Common, 47. Rapper who has also appeared in TV and film; genre appearances include Wanted and Terminator Salvation.

    Born March 13, 1992 — Kaya Scodelario, 27. Came to prominence in the non-genre UK television series Skins. Her film debut was in the decidedly genre film Moon; she has starred in the Maze Runner movies (YA dystopia) and in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, as Carina Smyth (an astronomer, it says here).

  4. In a storyline in X-Factor, everybody is trying to get Siryn to cope with the death of her father, Banshee, but she was in denial, insisting that he would come back to life, because all of them got killed and came back to life every once in a while. (He was brought back from the dead twice since then.)

  5. Cat, hope your operation goes well.

    (2) to be pedantic the article makes one genre-related slip. “Angus Thermopylae” is a character from Steven Donaldson’s Gap Sequence, so the link to Ancient Greece there may be coincidental

  6. Very best wishes, Cat. (Suggestion: Write ‘do not amputate’ everywhere you can reach with a Sharpie, because you never know when an orthopaedic surgeon might become overenthusiastic.)

  7. I just went through her Hugo and Retro Hugo nominations with my Mom, so I can enter them for her later today.

    When we came to the Retro Hugos, I listed the eligible 1943 novels she knows and said, “Oh yes, and The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse is also eligible.”

    Mom (? makes face): “Ugh! Hesse? Really?”

    Me (a little puzzled): “You don’t want that one? But you own the book. I found it on your book shelves as a kid.”

    Mom: “Just because I own it, doesn’t mean I like it.”

    So if Switzerland is going to get its first Retro Hugo nomination this year, it will be without our participation.

  8. Adding my best wishes for Cat Eldridge.

    My own theory about John Wick continues to be that it’s a simulation created by the Machine Intelligence to keep Neo entertained after the end of Matrix Revolutions.

  9. Best wishes to Cat for a fast recovery and a fully-functional and pain-free elbow! (Here in 6401 we have replaced elbows with tentacles…)

  10. Rick Moen on March 14, 2019 at 1:25 am said:

    Suggestion: Write ‘do not amputate’ everywhere you can reach with a Sharpie, because you never know when an orthopaedic surgeon might become overenthusiastic.

    A friend of mine went in for leg surgery a while ago and the surgeon wrote “do not cut” on the leg that they didn’t want to operate on ahead of time. Just to be sure.

  11. (9) Sending all good wishes out to Cat!

    (12) If this is real, I need to get it for my sibling, aka The Reason Why We Have Lego All Over The Apartment.

  12. (5) Thanks for the New Maps: More Uncollected John Sladek plug, Mike. A second proof copy (with a few tiny tweaks since the first) has just arrived, and it’s looking good.

  13. @Ken Finlayson: Did L Ron really die in 1986? I’m sure there are a few freaks out there who’d argue he merely elevated to a new plane of consciousness.

  14. @7: The traditional “Fan” community doesn’t really turn and adapt quickly. Puh-leeeze! No “community” turns and adapts quickly; occasionally one person will claim to speak for a community and declare an abrupt new direction, but by definition a community is like a flock of birds: members may all have similar opinions, but actually going in a new direction as a group (e.g., instead of fissioning) takes time. And fast reaction is too easily the wrong reaction; I still wonder whether sitting on revisions for another month after the Boskone from Hell would have produced a response that didn’t lose so many people.

    Adding to the hopes Cat’s surgery turns out OK.

    @Paul King: the Donaldson character is Thermopyle, not Thermopylae; it is unclear from context whether the Breivik supporter simply mis-borrowed the name from Donaldson because Angus is a victim mistaken for a villain, or deliberately altered it to draw on the mythology surrounding Thermopylae. I’ve read Donaldson’s exegesis of Wagner’s Ring Cycle as it connects to the Gap pentalogy, but don’t remember whether he justified that name choice. (Many of the names come from Wagner; I don’t remember any others coming from Greek legend.)

  15. A god on the stalk can be quite transcendental
    But pixels are a scroll’s best friend

  16. HAPPINESS!! Yesterday, I got some muscle relaxants and all my shakings are gone! I can move around, turn my head, wave my arms with no problem. I can talk without starting to stutter. I was out walking today without getting tired. I event and saw Captain Marvel (which I *liked*) and had no problems.

    As long as I take a pill every six hours, I’m back to almost my usual functionality. I can feel something is different, but enough to hinder me. For the first time in six months, I’m ok. Yay!!

  17. Yeah, Hampus!

    Also, Cat, get well soon. Also, ice. Ice is magic. Ice is a wonderful thing.

  18. I’ve read Donaldson’s exegesis of Wagner’s Ring Cycle as it connects to the Gap pentalogy, but don’t remember whether he justified that name choice.

    If I remember it correctly, he came up with the name and those of the other two major characters in the first book by random inspiration, and the Wagner link came after he’d written that.

  19. Hampus Eckerman on March 14, 2019 at 10:05 am said:

    HAPPINESS!! Yesterday, I got some muscle relaxants and all my shakings are gone! I can move around, turn my head, wave my arms with no problem. I can talk without starting to stutter.

    Good news 🙂

  20. Hampus, very glad to hear it! (For those who don’t know, Hampus is amazing in the clutch if you are conducting a very unusual scavenger hunt requiring people in far-flung locations to do things. It’s called GISH.) Cat, wishing you the very best on your surgery.

  21. @Chip Hitchcock

    I think the sort of person who sees Anders Breivik as a hero could easily see Angus as the hero of the Gap.

  22. Good luck with the surgery, Cat!

    Darren Garrison: In a storyline in X-Factor, everybody is trying to get Siryn to cope with the death of her father, Banshee, but she was in denial, insisting that he would come back to life, because all of them got killed and came back to life every once in a while.

    Also wasnt there a joke in one of the X-books that when former villainess Emma Frost was dating Scott “catnip for telepaths” Summers after Jean Gray’s death, she said she was only doing so until Jean came back?

  23. Currently doing my Hugo nominations and wow, I did not read much fiction published in 2018.

  24. @Doctor Science

    Any reason the Starfire Series by Spencer Ellsworth wouldn’t be eligible?

    I’ve read only two, but as far as I recall they’re pretty short and probably don’t fulfill the 240000 word requirement.

  25. Great news, Hampus!

    And Cat, adding my good wishes to the chorus–be well!

  26. (Not going onto my Hugo ballot for BDP:LF: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald.)

  27. @Joe H

    Currently doing my Hugo nominations and wow, I did not read much fiction published in 2018.

    Same here – I could end up making more nominations in the Retro Hugos based on what I read many years back.

  28. @Cora Buhlert:

    How would I find out? 210+336+232 pages, per goodreads. I suppose I could import them into Calibre, then run a word-count program. Anyone know a better way?

  29. @Doctor Science — Maybe just do a word count on a page and do the math? That should at least give you a sense of whether it’s even in the ballpark.

    And if it’s close, I’d say go ahead and include it — worst-case scenario, you’re using a nomination slot you could’ve used for a different series.

    (Just for the heck of it, I checked one nearby hardcover and one paperback; the hardcover was averaging something like 400 words/page, which would be comfortably above the limit; the paperback was closer to 300 words/page, which would be much closer but might still make the cut.)

  30. Doctor Science: How would I find out?

    I already have them in Calibre, and I was going to run an actual word count for you when I get home, but that won’t be for about 3 hours, if you can wait that long.

    Otherwise, the way I do it is to convert to RTF in Calibre, import into Word, chop out all the blurbs, Foreword, Dedication, Acknowledgments, etc, and then do a word count.

    I enjoyed those novels, too, but I’m afraid that I have at least 10 series on my longlist that I like better.

  31. JJ: That would be great!

    They REALLY hit my sweet spot (obviously), not least because I felt they started out space opera science fantasy but ended up being actual science fiction. And the heroes aren’t aristocrats (royalty, born wealthy, etc.).

  32. Doctor Science, Spencer Ellsworth’s Starfire series is not eligible, due to insufficient wordcount at approximately 173,000 words.

    A Red Peace – 53,274 words
    Shadow Sun Seven – 63,632 words
    Memory’s Blade – 56,096 words

    Yes, they are very good, and I think that they were under-noticed and under-appreciated, which is too bad.

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