Pixel Scroll 3/31/20 Back In The Future I Was On A Very Famous Pixel Scroll

Illo by Teddy Harvia and Brad Foster.

(1) THE DOCTOR IS BACK IN. In 2013 Russell T. Davies was asked to write a magazine contribution filling in a blank about the Ninth Doctor’s regeneration. His piece got spiked – for Reasons. Read it now at the official Doctor Who blog: “Russell T Davies writes a prequel to Doctor Who – Rose.”

So I wrote this. It even starts mid-sentence, as if you’ve just turned to the last pages. Lee Binding created a beautiful cover. We were excited! And then Tom said, I’d better run this past Steven Moffat, just in case…

Oh, said Steven. Oh. How could we have known? That the Day of the Doctor would have an extra Doctor, a War Doctor? And Steven didn’t even tell us about Night of the Doctor, he kept that regeneration a complete surprise! He just said, sorry, can you lay off that whole area? I agreed, harrumphed, went to bed and told him he was sleeping on the settee that night.

So the idea was snuffed a-borning. Until 2020….

This chapter only died because it became, continuity-wise, incorrect. But now, the Thirteenth Doctor has shown us Doctors galore, with infinite possibilities.

All Doctors exist. All stories are true. So come with me now, to the distant reefs of a terrible war, as the Doctor takes the Moment and changes both the universe and themselves forever…

(2) FUTURE TENSE. The March 2020 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Paciente Cero,” by Juan Villoro. Tagline: “A stirring short story about China turning Mexico into a massive recycling plant for U.S. garbage.”

It was published along with a response essay, “How China Turns Trash Into Wealth” by Adam Minter, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion and an expert on recycling and waste issues.

… Guo Guanghui, vice chairman of a scrap metal recycling trade association in Qingyuan, a thriving industrial town roughly two hours north of us, took the podium. Guo wanted to talk about a government policy that roughly translates as “going out,” designed to help Chinese businesses set up operations abroad. He thought it a good idea for the government to help recycling companies “go out” to foreign countries where they could buy up recyclables and ship them back to China. “We need to get rid of the ability of the other countries to control the resources,” he declared from the podium, “and seize them for ourselves.”

(3) EELEEN LEE Q&A. “Interview: Eeleen Lee, author of Liquid Crystal Nightingale”, with questions from Nerds of a Feather’s Andrea Johnson.

NOAF: What inspired you to write Liquid Crystal Nightingale? How different is the finished product from your original concepts?

EL: The novel began as a simple exercise years ago: write about a few fictional cities, in the style of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. As soon as I started writing about a city that looked like a cat’s eye from space I couldn’t stop at a few paragraphs. The style and tone were initially very literary, reminiscent of Primo Levi’s The Periodic Table and the layered stories of Jorges Luis Borges.

(4) IMPERILED CITY. Cate Matthews did an interview for TIME with N.K. Jemisin as “Author N.K. Jemisin On Race, Gentrification, and the Power of Fiction To Bring People Together.”

TIME: The tone of The City We Became is more light-hearted than much of your previous work, but the novel still addresses serious issues—including the perils of gentrification. Why did you want to tell this story?

Jemisin: I’ve always thought of my writing as therapy. I do have a therapist, but there was a time I couldn’t afford one and writing was the way I vented anger and stress and fear and longing and all of the things that I did not have a real-world outlet for. A lot of times I don’t really understand what it is that I’m trying to cope with until after I’ve finished the book. With the Broken Earth trilogy, I realized belatedly that I was processing my mom’s imminent death. She did pass away while I was writing The Stone Sky. Mid-life crises are not always triggered by getting old, they’re also triggered by an event. And Mom’s death did spur a period of [needing] to grow new things and try new things. I started to think about buying a house. I wasn’t going to be able to buy in Crown Heights, which was the New York neighborhood I had been in, because Crown Heights had hit, like, fourth stage gentrification. Over the time I was here, I watched it change.

(5) HIGH DUDGEON. Wendy Paris demands to know “If marijuana is essential during the coronavirus shutdown, why not books?” in an LA Times op-ed.

Mayor Eric Garcetti and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home edicts let dispensaries stay open but force bookshops to shutter indefinitely. Chevalier’s in Larchmont will take phone orders. Skylight Books in Los Feliz, Book Soup in West Hollywood and Vroman’s in Pasadena are “closed temporarily” but forwarding online orders to Ingram, a wholesaler that will ship direct to buyers. The Last Bookstore, downtown, is seeing customers by appointment.

…Books are essential goods and that ought to mean bookstores are exempt from shutting down during the coronavirus pandemic. As are bread and milk, gas and aspirin, alcohol and marijuana, books should be available, with safety precautions in place, at the usual places we buy them in our neighborhoods.

(6) WHILE THE GETTING IS GOOD. ShoutFactoryTV has made available the complete documentary released last year: “What We Left Behind: Looking Back At Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”.

Ira Steven Behr explores the legacy of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993).

(7) BE PREPARED. “Max Barry on how science fiction prepares us for the apocalypse” at BoingBoing.

My favorite theory on why we dream is that we’re practicing for emergencies. Asleep, unguarded, our minds conjure threats and dilemmas so that once we wake, we’ve learned something. Maybe not very much—maybe only what not to do, because it rarely goes well. But we learn more from our failures than our successes, and this is what our minds serve up, night after night: hypothetical dangers and defeats. Whether we’re fleeing a tiger or struggling to persuade a partner who won’t listen, we fail, but we also practice.

I suspect that’s also why we read fiction. We don’t seek escapism—or, at least, not only that. We read to inform our own future behavior. No matter how fanciful the novel, in the back of our minds, something very practical is taking notes….

(8) MORE TBR FODDER. Lucy Scholes points to another example of the kind of book a lot of people are seeking out lately: “What’s It Like Out?” in The Paris Review.

…Seems like none of us can get enough of stories that echo our current moment, myself included. Fittingly, though, as the author of this column, I found myself drawn to a scarily appropriate but much less widely known plague novel: One by One, by the English writer and critic Penelope Gilliatt.

Originally published in 1965, this was the first novel by Gilliat, who was then the chief film critic for the British newspaper the Observer. It’s ostensibly the story of a marriage—that of Joe Talbot, a vet, and his heavily pregnant wife, Polly—but set against the astonishing backdrop of a mysterious but fatal pestilence. The first cases are diagnosed in London at the beginning of August, but by the third week of the month, ten thousand people are dead….

(9) THE VIRTUE OF VIRTUAL. [Item by Mlex.] In light of the proposed “virtual cons” for Balticon and Worldcon 2020, CoNZealand, I wanted to suggest as a model a new conference that started on March 30th called “Future States,” about the history of periodical culture.

It was planned from the beginning as a “carbon neutral” event to be held completely online.  Now that I have logged in and see how it is set up, I am really impressed by the thought that went into it.

There are keynotes, panel sessions, and forums, which are neatly linked to the video presentations, and the Q&A sessions.  All of the participants can join in to pose questions and comment on the individual presentation threads. 

There is a also a Foyer and a Noticeboard, where you can contact the panelist, or for the con to push updates.  

For those planning virtual cons, take a look:  https://www.futurestates.org/


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 31, 1844 Andrew Lang. To say that he is best known as a collector of folk and fairy tales is a bit of understatement. He collected enough tales that twenty five volumes of Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books for children were published between 1889 and 1913. That’s 798 stories. If you’re interested in seeing these stories, you can find them here. (Died 1912.)
  • Born March 31, 1926 John Fowles. British author best remembered for The French Lieutenant’s Woman but who did several works of genre fiction, The Magus which I read a long time ago and A Maggot which I’ve not read. (Died 2005.)
  • Born March 31, 1932 John Jakes, 88. Author of a number of genre series including Brak the Barbarian. The novels seem to fix-ups from works published in such venues as FantasticDark Gate and Dragonard are his other two series. As Robert Hart Davis, he wrote a number of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. novellas that were published in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Magazine. The magazine apparently only existed from 1966 to 1968.
  • Born March 31, 1934 Richard Chamberlain, 86. His first dive into our end of reality was in The Three Musketeers as Aramis, a role he reprised in The Return of Three Musketeers. (I consider all Musketeer films to be genre.) Some of you being cantankerous may argue it was actually when he played the title character in Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold which he did some years later. He’s listed as voicing the Jack Kirby created character Highfather on the superb Justice League: Gods and Monsters but that was but a few lines of dialogue I believe. He was in the Blackbeard series as Governor Charles Eden, and series wise has done the usual one-offs on such shows as Alfred Hitchcock PresentsBoris Karloff’s ThrillerChuck and Twin Peaks
  • Born March 31, 1936 Marge Piercy, 84. Author of He, She and It which won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Science Fiction novel. Of course, she also wrote Woman on the Edge of Time doomed to be called a “classic of utopian speculative sf”. 
  • Born March 31, 1943 Christopher Walken, 77. Yet another performer whose first role was in The Three Musketeers, this time as a minor character, John Felton. He has a minor role in The Sentinel, a horror film, and a decidedly juicy one in Trumbull’s Brainstorm as Dr. Michael Anthony Brace followed up by being in Cronenberg’s The Dead Zone as Johnny Smith. Damn, I’d forgotten he was Max Zorin, the villain in A View to a Kill! H’h, didn’t know he was in Gibson’s New Rose Hotel but then I haven’t then I haven’t actually seen it yet. And let’s wrap this up by noting his appearance in The Stepford Wives as Mike Wellington.
  • Born March 31, 1960 Ian McDonald, 60. I see looking him up for this Birthday note that one of my favorite novels by him, Desolation Road, was the first one. Ares Express was just as splendid. Now the Chaga saga was, errr, weird. Everness was fun but ultimately shallow. Strongly recommend both Devish House and River of Gods. Luna series at first blush didn’t impress me me, so other opinions are sought on it.
  • Born March 31, 1971 Ewan McGregor, 49. Nightwatch, a horror film, with him as lead Martin Bell is his first true genre film.  That was followed by The Phantom Menace with him as Obi-Wan Kenobi, a role repeated in Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith and The Force Awakens. His latest role of interest, well to me if to nobody else, is as Christopher Robin in the film of the same name.

(11) GET YOUR GOJIRA FIX. “Resurfaced Godzilla Film Goes Viral for One Fan Playing All the Parts”Comicbook.com points the way. (The video is on YouTube here.)

We’ve been waiting for the final part of Legendary’s Monsterverse quadrilogy, Godzilla vs. Kong, for quite some time. Initially scheduled for a release this March before being moved to a Fall 2020 release (and potentially even more so if delays over the coronavirus pandemic continues into late in the year), there’s been a hunger for more of the Godzilla films ever since King of the Monsters released. But as it turns out, this has been a problem fans of the famous kaiju for several decades now as they continue to wait for the next big film of the franchise.

A fan film featuring the Kaiju from the 1990s has resurfaced online, and has gone viral among fans of the famous kaiju for featuring a single actor playing all of the roles. Even more hilariously, the actor not only continues to wear the same suit for each part but even takes on the roles of inanimate objects such as the electrical pylons as well. You can check it out in the video above:

(12) SIX PACK. Paul Weimer pages through “Six Books with Ryan Van Loan”, author of The Sin in the Steel, at Nerds of a Feather.

1. What book are you currently reading? 

The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman. It’s about a newly minted thief who has to pay off their student loan debts to the guild (relatable), a witch-in training, and a kickass knight with a war raven who go on an adventure together. It’s dark, but delightful in a gritty way that hits some of my favorite adventure fantasy notes. Fans of Nicholas Eames, Douglas Hulick, and V.E. Schwab will enjoy this one…unfortunately Christopher’s fantasy debut doesn’t land on shelves until next year.

I hate when someone names a book that’s not out on shelves right now, so let me also plug the book I read before this one: The Steel Crow Saga by Paul Kreuger. It’s a tight, standalone fantasy–think Pokemon in the immediate aftermath of World War II with half a dozen richly imagined cultures that reminded me of southeast Asia and a cast who all have mysteries they hope none discover.

(13) NOT WORKING FROM HOME? NPR’s news isn’t fake, but can you count on that being true about the next item you read? “Facebook, YouTube Warn Of More Mistakes As Machines Replace Moderators”.

Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are relying more heavily on automated systems to flag content that violate their rules, as tech workers were sent home to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

But that shift could mean more mistakes — some posts or videos that should be taken down might stay up, and others might be incorrectly removed. It comes at a time when the volume of content the platforms have to review is skyrocketing, as they clamp down on misinformation about the pandemic.

Tech companies have been saying for years that they want computers to take on more of the work of keeping misinformation, violence and other objectionable content off their platforms. Now the coronavirus outbreak is accelerating their use of algorithms rather than human reviewers.

(14) BUT SOME DISCRETION. Maybe you can! “Coronavirus: World leaders’ posts deleted over fake news”.

Facebook and Twitter have deleted posts from world leaders for spreading misinformation about the coronavirus.

Facebook deleted a video from Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro that claimed hydroxychloroquine was totally effective in treating the virus.

He has repeatedly downplayed the virus and encouraged Brazilians to ignore medical advice on social distancing.

It follows Twitter’s deletion of a homemade treatment tweeted by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

Both social networks rarely interfere with messages from world leaders, even when they are verifiably untrue.

Twitter, for example, says it will “will err on the side of leaving the content up” when world leaders break the rules, citing the public interest.

But all major social networks are under pressure to combat misinformation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

(15) TAIL TALES. Nerds of a Feather’s Adri Joy goes “Questing in Shorts: March 2020”. First up:

The Voyages of Cinrak the Dapper by A.J. Fitzwater (Queen of Swords Press)

This collection, featuring a capybara pirate captain in a world full of anthropomorphic animals and magical creatures, is definitely more of a short fiction collection than a novel, but it’s also a bit of an odd duck when trying to review as short stories, as there’s a strong through narrative between each tale (or “tail”) that makes it hard to speak about them individually. After an opening story (the aptly titled “Young Cinrak”) that sees Cinrak take her first steps into piracy (in this world, apparently respectable career for those seeking freedom and a good community around them), the rest of the collection deals with her time as an established captain, taking on an increasingly mythological set of exploits, all while maintaining the affections of both opera prima donna Loquolchi, and the Rat Queen Orvillia, and looking after her diverse and entertaining crew of rodents and affiliated creatures…..

(16) HISTORY ON THE ROCKS. Pollution and politics were entangled even in ancient days; the BBC reports — “Thomas Becket: Alpine ice sheds light on medieval murder”.

Ancient air pollution, trapped in ice, reveals new details about life and death in 12th Century Britain.

In a study, scientists have found traces of lead, transported on the winds from British mines that operated in the late 1100s.

Air pollution from lead in this time period was as bad as during the industrial revolution centuries later.

The pollution also sheds light on a notorious murder of the medieval era; the killing of Thomas Becket…

(17) TUNE IN. Enjoy a BBC archival video clip: “John Williams scoring ‘Empire’, 1980”. (16 min.)

John Williams at work, preparing the score for The Empire Strikes Back. This Clip is from Star Wars: Music by John Williams. Originally broadcast 18 May 1980

(18) ICONOCLAST. Writing for CinemaBlend, Mick Joest shares what may prove to be a controversial opinion: “Face It, Luke Skywalker Peaked With The Death Star’s Destruction.”

With the Skywalker Saga now finished and opinions being handed out left and right in regards to the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy, I think it’s time for a take that, frankly, is long overdue. During a recent re-watch of the Original Trilogy I had a blast and still love those movies as much as I ever have. That said, looking back now on all that’s come after and what came before, I don’t believe Luke Skywalker ever did anything greater than destroying the first Death Star.

That’s it, there’s the take, but of course I’m not going to just throw that out there and let the hellfire of disgruntled Star Wars fans rain down. I have a lot more to say about Luke Skywalker, his biggest achievement and how nothing he ever did after really came close to it…

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Ben Bird Person, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Mlex, Michael Toman, Joey Eschrich, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cliff.]

74 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 3/31/20 Back In The Future I Was On A Very Famous Pixel Scroll

  1. (10) I’ve read A Maggot but no other Fowles. For some reason, this novel brings to my mind it’s own soundtrack: “Keep It Dark” by Genesis.

  2. 10) Andrew Lang also collaborated with H. Rider Haggard on The World’s Desire, a sort of sequel to The Odyssey set in Egypt.

  3. Meredith moment. A new monthly sale at Amazon UK.

    All three of Ed McDonald’s The Raven’s Mark trilogy are on sale. Dark, but good with touches of Clive Barker and Glen Cook’s Thr Black Company
    I’ve yet to read Book 3 but it’s joined my virtual Mt. Tsundoku

    Theodore Goss’s European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman is back (book 2 of the series there seem to be several book 2s here)

    The Gutter Prayer by Garth Hanrahan is there too. Amazon have been pushing this one at me and I may try it.

    A Memory Called Empire is there, too. And a number of older books.

  4. Ian McDonald’s book is river of Gods, unless they have a dog. Really like desolation road, have the same take (meh) on Luna, seven deadly words apply.

  5. @Chris S — I think we should also flip the last word in the title, and then we end up with Rover of Dogs.

  6. Jeff Smith: Rover of Dogs.

    Really, wouldn’t that be much better than just fixing the typo?

  7. Doesn’t the River of Dogs lead to the Dogs Reservoir?

    There’s an Isle of Dogs (actually a peninsula) in the Thames. Not to be confused with the Wes Anderson film of the same name. Also not to be confused with the Isle of Lucy where Spinal Tap lost one of their drummers during a Jazz-Blues (or Blues-Jazz) festival.

  8. Thanks for the title credit, Miike!

    @ Cat – I’ll bite: how can you describe The Three Musketeers as genre?

  9. Yeah, i’ll bite too.
    Now if you were going to do a ‘Tempest to Forbidden Planet’ level of transposition and give them Lightsabers on a Star Wars backwater planet type setting, i’d probably pay to see that.
    Otherwise, respectfully and out of pure intellectual curiosity, how is Three Musketeers genre?

    (“River of Doges” might be interesting, too…)

  10. 5) The answer is simple: Vice provides extra revenue; books don’t. In my sad state, the “medical” marijuana dispensaries are regulated by who? The Department of Health? Why, no. It’s the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. And one of our five major suppliers is a former state attorney general who used to put pot growers in jail.

    10) After I read Brasyl and The Dervish House, I was totally sold on Ian McDonald, then stalled about fifty pages into River of Gods. I never did pick it back up. I really, really liked him, too. Advice as to where to pick back up with him will be gratefully received.

  11. John A Arkansawyer asks After I read Brasyl and The Dervish House, I was totally sold on Ian McDonald, then stalled about fifty pages into River of Gods. I never did pick it back up. I really, really liked him, too. Advice as to where to pick back up with him will be gratefully received.

    Desolation Road and Ares Express are a pure joy to read; the Chaga saga is more complex and I think uneven but still worth reading. I’m still not sure about the Everness series…

  12. 5) Face facts – you and I might consider books essential to life, but we are a small minority. A majority of adult Americans read zero books in the last year. Not only do bookstores not count as needs, they are pretty far down on the list of wants also. Ms Paris might be better off arguing bookstores should remain open since almost no one goes there so they won’t affect social distancing.

  13. @bookworm1398

    The Pew Center might take issue with the suggestion that the majority of adults read no books last year.

    Every business is trying to stay relevant enough to make it through these tough times. I have quilting stores providing concierge services in my various advert streams. Authors, too! We’re doing what we can to support them.

    TANSTAAFL/TINSTAAFL/TNSTAAFL – Truth no matter how you slice it.

  14. Meredith Moment —

    The Bear and the Nightingale, book 1 of Katherine Arden’s most excellent Winternight trilogy, is currently available for $1.99 at Amazon US.

  15. JeffWarner: Otherwise, respectfully and out of pure intellectual curiosity, how is Three Musketeers genre?

    While Cat is the True Believer of this claim, for those trying to make the argument, I would point out that especially the sequels make the Musketeers the unsuspected movers of some events of French (and English!) history. So, if not alternate history, alternate causation?

  16. @5: there’s short-term essential, and long-term. As a soapbox to remind us to support bookstores this column has some excuse; as a real-time issue it doesn’t. The obvious example: does California allow mail-order marijuana? (Even if they do, I doubt the USPS would carry it.) Bookstores going under diminish us, arguably more than many other kinds of retail — but I don’t see them as short-term critical given alternatives. (Yes, those alternatives aren’t universally available. Do you know a way to make sure the only people who go to bookstores are the ones with no net access?) And my attitude in grocery shopping has been get in, get it over, get out; since I’ve been going to elder-restricted hours I’ve seen some people who couldn’t be as brisk, but none who appeared to be deep-reading boxes to determine product choice — the idea of opening a store to support browsing just doesn’t seem sane.

    @John A. Arkansawyer: I suggest you talk to users of medical marijuana about the proper dose for your cynicism.

    @OGH: do we know who caused the events that the Musketeers were involved in? (I remember that one of the villains in Twenty Years After got himself made executioner of Charles I just to make sure it happened — but we don’t know that that intervention was necessary.) I’m not going to argue Cat’s particular opinion — I probably have more than enough quirks of my own — but ISTM that your suggestion could make a large number of historical novels genre.

  17. More on @5: I just skimmed the sports section and found that construction on a new stadium in LA is going ahead. Construction in MA was shut down because (inter alia) porta-potties never have enough water to wash properly with(*) and workers often have to be in close quarters, although there’s a city-vs-state argument about whether housing construction should be excepted because built-up areas are critically short of affordable housing; absent Arkansawyer-level cynicism, I don’t see how building a fancier stadium can be considered essential.

    (*)Judging by what I’ve seen at recent circuses, this problem should be solvable — but I don’t know whether the added equipment is generally available or travels with Cirque du Soleil.

  18. SF/F, historicals, and mysteries are certainly distinct genres in the critical-taxonomic sense, but their audiences clearly overlap, as discussions here (or at any number of con parties) demonstrate. And even in the critical-taxonomic view, SF/F and historical fiction take on similar tasks: to build coherent not-here-and-now worlds and populate them with appropriate characters. The SF/mystery overlap may have more to do with making the world intelligible, whether via “science” or detecting/policing.

    The world of Lester’s Musketeers movies might not be exactly, academically historically accurate, but the production creates a world that feels inhabited, just as the worlds of Patrick O’Brian or Lindsay Davis or George Macdonald Fraser or Cherryh’s Foreigner series feel like you could step into them. (I suppose the suburbia of mainstream fiction can be as convincing, but then we can actually step into it without reading a book.)

  19. Chip Hitchcock: …but ISTM that your suggestion could make a large number of historical novels genre.

    That’s so. And there would be no real benefit to an argument that helps suck everything into genre like a kind of definitional black hole.

    Doesn’t historical fiction usually insert one or more characters into some set of past events? I suppose you need something more to make it genre. Like adding a talking mouse — Ben and Me, for instance.

  20. Re Everness

    Not typical McDonald, but I did enjoy them, but I AM a sucker for multiple universe novels. Fluffy but not deep.

  21. Musketeers genre? Pfah. Why, next, someone’ll be saying that Robin Hood is genre.

    This is Walken’s first genre role, beating Musketeers by a decade.

  22. @John A Arkansawyer: Seconding Cat’s recommendation for Desolation Road and Ares Express. I also loved McDonald’s short novel Scissors Cut Paper Wrap Stone.

  23. Paul Weimer says Re Everness Not typical McDonald, but I did enjoy them, but I AM a sucker for multiple universe novels. Fluffy but not deep.

    Audible has all three of them and the narrator’s quite good, so I’ll give them a go sometime aafter finishing off Chambers’ Wayfarer series. My three miles a day walk makes for quite a lot of continuous listening time currently as there’s no social time involved as there’s no one to stop and chat with.

    I just ordered two hundred medical grade disposable face masks off of that South American river. One box, fifty in total, are for me in case the CDC decides that we should wear them while out, but three boxes are going to the food pantry I help staff. They’re not overpriced yet.

    I can count on one paw the number of businesses open downtown — fortunately one is the Italian grocer where I get great chocolate for deserving folk including certain website hosts. And we’ve got a Trader Joe’s within walking distance which is handy as well. It looks like some SF novel in its post-apocalypse quietness.

  24. About McDonald’s Luna trio: I liked it a lot–the books do just about everything SF should except maybe the Stapledonian cosmic-vision thing. And the guy can really write. If anyone is curious about exactly how and why I think they’re first-rate, I reviewed them all for Locus, and the second- and third-volume reviews are on the magazine’s website. (And anyone who bounces off the books anyway at least will have calibrated my reviewing trustworthiness for themselves.)

  25. I am appreciating the convenience and germ-distancing-ness of curbside pickup these days, and I don’t even feel the vague self-flagellating guilt of being lazy for using it. I just picked up 650 more pounds of poultry feed on top of the few hundred I’ve already got stockpiled, just in case the outbreak really gets bad around here and/or I get sick myself and can’t go out. And I didn’t even have to walk into the feed store to do it.

    I’m similarly stocking up on dog and cat food, and just yesterday I added a bazillion pounds of potting mix (500 quarts, whatever that works out to in cubic feet) to my already impressive hoard. I still have to buy more concrete blocks (building raised beds) and eventually raised bed soil (no, the potting mix doesn’t go in the raised beds). And tomorrow I’ve got a grocery pickup scheduled.

    Whew! Incidentally, that’s one thing that’s changed with all this self-isolation; I used to be able to schedule a grocery pickup for the same day or at most the next day, but this time I had to schedule it almost a week ahead. No grocery deliveries to my place, sadly — one of the few downsides of living in the boonies!

    On the genre front: I don’t think I mentioned yet that I finished Fate of the Fallen by Kel Kade a coupla days ago, and it was fun. Sort of the fantasy version of John Lennon’s maxim that “life is what happens while you’re making other plans”. Lots of unexpected things happen, tropes get their knickers twisted, interesting characters, some good humor. Excellent narration by Nick Podehl. I’ll be looking for book 2, and I’ll be checking out Kade’s other books.

    And I’m now most of the way through The Pursuit of William Abbey by Claire North. Claire is a very talented writer who always has interesting ideas; this one is about a man (Abbey) pursued by a “shadow” because of a curse, and whenever the shadow gets close, Abbey is able to see the truth of men’s souls and is compelled to tell that truth. Whenever the shadow catches up to Abbey, one of his loved ones dies, so he is forced to flee unendingly. Many complications ensue. Another excellent narrator, Peter Kenny.

  26. Heh — and I forgot that I also have an order of chicks to pick up at the PO tomorrow or Friday, whichever day they get here. I’m not feeling terribly isolated this week!

    Incidentally, since I mentioned him in a previous post — my dad died on March 20. No, I’m not looking for sympathy; he had been miserable for a year, and though what ultimately killed him was not what had been making him miserable, I’m glad he’s no longer suffering because there wasn’t going to be a cure for either problem. I only mention it because I am SOOOOO glad that he died before this pandemic really got serious. He was a very anxious person AND he had compromised lung function and was on oxygen, so if he had still been alive this week he would have just been out of his mind with anxiety AND he also wouldn’t have been able to have visitors in his final hours. So I’m glad he missed out on all that extra worry!

  27. @Contrarius–I’m sorry the last part of your father’s life was so hard. 🙁

    I’ve been very good about self-isolating, except that getting groceries was being a challenge.

    Curbside pickup was not working for getting some things that for me are essential. Then I tried going to the early morning senior shopping hours, and that was much more successful, except that I had a panic attack it was so stressful for me. (Not the fault of anyone there.)

    So finally I updated my Instacart app and placed an order. I placed on the weekend and Instacart was experiencing both high demand and workers who wanted better protective gear (as well as other quite reasonable in the circumstances demands), so I had to wait till yesterday for delivery.

    But I got everything, with in a couple of cases reasonable substitutions. The shopper called when she arrived, put my stuff on the outside landing, and then waited by her car till I came out. I was very happy! All my stuff, no going out, no panic attack!

  28. @Cat Eldridge: the TJs around here announced they’d limit the number of people in their stores; I went by the nearest shortly after its opening time and saw 25-30 people-units (singles, and pairs-who-were-together) queued up, all with something like the recommended distance around them. It had been flooded the previous weekend, but I went back on a mid-afternoon weekday and found almost nobody there — which is probably why they had a full stock of frozen vegetables, where other stores have been almost-to-completely out.

    @Contrarius: indeed a mixed blessing; I’m sorry the last year was so hard.

  29. Chip Hitchcock says the TJs around here announced they’d limit the number of people in their stores; I went by the nearest shortly after its opening time and saw 25-30 people-units (singles, and pairs-who-were-together) queued up, all with something like the recommended distance around them. It had been flooded the previous weekend, but I went back on a mid-afternoon weekday and found almost nobody there — which is probably why they had a full stock of frozen vegetables, where other stores have been almost-to-completely out.

    They were limiting folks the day before as they had a staffer outside who said I had to wait but when I said I was only going inside for chocolate, she let me in. Today there was no one doing that when I went in, but the same person was back doing it when I came out.

    I went in because I wanted something for lunch and got a tuna wrap, plus chocolate chip cookies. I’d guess there was only a few dozen folk shopping but they weren’t practicing social distancing.

  30. @OGH — it’s been way over half a century since I thought about Ben and Me. IIRC, it had none of the usual trappings of fantasy — but excluding it from genre would be questionable even if adults didn’t sneer at it the way they did at Tom Swift Jr. (in a few cases — compared to what I hear of the childhoods of people our age, I was among a remarkably tolerant set of adults).

  31. @Chip Hitchcock: Medical marijuana is mostly bullshit. It also turned out to be the only story capable of breaking through the bullshit of exaggerated (and sometimes straight-up lying) anti-marijuana propaganda. It came at the cost of degrading the institution of medicine and building an alternative pill mill institution.

    I drive past two local dispensaries on a daily basis. I’ve yet to see a car parked in front of one that doesn’t look nice. Medical pot is just legal pot for people with money.

  32. John A Arkansawyer; Medical pot is just legal pot for people with money.

    I have at least half a dozen friends with severe arthritis or other chronic pain conditions for whom CBD products make the difference between a life of misery and a decent existence.

    I will defend to the death your right to be egregiously wrong, but I will also call you out loud and clear for being egregiously wrong.

  33. @Contrarius

    Condolences on the loss of your dad. We went through something similar last year.

    Send me some email if you want to talk privately. I think you know how to find me.


  34. @John A Arkansawyer, I, too, know multiple people with severe arthritis (rheumetoid and osteo) for whom medical cannibis has made a huge difference. One told me that he’s actually able to get decent sleep at night for the first time in years. The people I know have tried all the various painkillers on the market, and for them cannibis works far more effectively, with fewer side effects. They’re not smoking it to get high; they’re smoking it to kill pain. And for them, it works.

  35. @John —

    @Chip Hitchcock: Medical marijuana is mostly bullshit.

    Sorry, but your claim is mostly bullshit.

    The “medical” marijuana concept is undoubtedly misused by some. But that has nothing to do with whether or not marijuana has valid medical benefits in some cases.

  36. Chip Hitchcock says Medical marijuana is mostly bullshit.

    That’s pure bullshit. I had for a few months medical grade THC for my head trauma. It worked miracles on keeping the really nasty spikes on my constant headaches from happening, and it improved my appetite. It did unfortunately have some side-effects that made taking it long-term not viable including hallucinations of cats in my visual field. Fast moving cats at that. And euphoria as well.

  37. @Cat Eldridge–No, John A. Arkansawyer. said medical marijuana is mostly bullshit. He addressed that statement to Chip Hitchcock.

  38. I don’t dispute any of the anecdotes people have presented here, nor that there are serious medical uses. If it hadn’t kept people alive from countering wasting syndrome during the AIDS crisis, and kept people alive through chemotherapy–I personally watched this happen with my best friend’s wife–the various legit, pseudolegit, possibly legit, and total bullshit medical MJ uses wouldn’t’ve caught on. But it’s just a fact that about half the California “medical” prescriptions went to thirtyish guys, and a fact that quite a bit of the “medical” use is folk medicine at best and quackery at worst. Which is fighting D.A.R.E. with F.I.R.E., and only fair, even if I still don’t like it.

    The word “mostly” was too strong, so I’ll back it down to “a whole lot of, possibly mostly”.

  39. Part of the problem with medical marijuana is that there’s been no testing/validation of which things it is and isn’t useful for, because of the illegality. (I have hopes for some useful research out of Canada, now.) And that lack of double-blind testing and the like tends to make almost any treatment look better than it is, because fewer people are going to say “yeah, I tried CBD/acupuncture/melatonin and it didn’t help any” than are going to talk about this cool thing that really helped them. So if something does work, it gets credit both for the percentage of people who benefited, and for those who would have gotten better just as fast without it, and something that doesn’t work gets credit for the people who would be feeling better by now anyway.

    There’s also a weird decoupling between medical marijuana and a lot of other medical care, even where it’s legal. If I wanted a medical card in Massachusetts, I would have to go to one of the doctors who is authorized to do that, and pay a separate fee for the “exam.” My other doctors couldn’t do it, even though I have one of the conditions that it’s supposed to be good for. But neither my GP nor my neurologist is allowed to give me that card, and a doctor with that specialized practice would probably just ask two or three questions, do the paperwork, and charge me a couple of hundred dollars.

  40. @John A Arkansawyer
    Citations are needed on your facts.
    Also, are you aware that medical marijuana uses varieties that are much less likely to get you high? (It’s also more expensive than recreational, in the areas where both are legal.)

  41. @John —

    But it’s just a fact that about half the California “medical” prescriptions went to thirtyish guys, and a fact that quite a bit of the “medical” use is folk medicine at best and quackery at worst.

    You’re making a different claim now. Now you’re essentially saying “there’s a lot of abuse and a lot of uncertainty in the medical marijuana industry”, to which I say “sure” — but that isn’t at all the same thing as “medical marijuana is mostly (or “a whole lot of”) bullshit”.

    As an aside, since the topics of my dad and medical marijuana got onto the same thread — several days before he died, he got a bug under his bonnet that he was going to get a special law (I forget what you call those, the legal exemptions for individuals that are occasionally passed in emergencies) passed so that he could use medical marijuana to lessen his anxiety (it’s not legal in TN). He was a practicing anesthesiologist for many years, so he knew drugs backwards and forwards; as I mentioned previously, he was a very anxious person and was in a lot of pain, but he had very poor tolerance for things like opioids or SSRIs (standard anti-anxiety meds). But he was so prone to “bad trips” on any drug that I don’t know whether pot would have ended up being a blessing or a curse!

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