Pixel Scroll 4/14/18 The Adventures Of Scrolli And Pixelwinkle

(1) ISSUES IN SFF REVIEWING. Several interesting threads about reviews and reviewing in sff. Each tweet is the jumping off point for the thread.

  • Bogi Takács

  • Charles Payseur

  • Cecily Kane

  • Also, Jason Sanford did an overview which includes numerous links to reviewers.

(2) WORLD FANTASY AWARDS. John Joseph Adams advises that the 2018 World Fantasy Awards nominations have opened and voting continues until May 31.

The World Fantasy Awards will be presented in Baltimore, MD during the World Fantasy Convention (Nov. 1-4). Deadline for nominating is and ballots must be received by May 31, 2018.

All registered members of the 2016 World Fantasy Convention, the 2017 World Fantasy Convention, and the 2018 event in Baltimore will be eligible to vote before the deadline. If you didn’t attend one of the previously mentioned World Fantasy conventions, and you don’t plan to attend this year, you can still nominate by purchasing a supporting membership.

Already registered? Go and nominate your favorite works! Voting information is available on the World Fantasy Convention 2018 website.

(3) CODE OF OMELAS. Ursula Vernon tells about the ones who stagger away…

(4) SUPER TRAFFIC MONITOR. The Caped Crusader says, “Don’t get run over!” Or something like that. From the BBC: “Lost footage of Batman star Adam West to be screened”. [Video]

Previously lost footage of Batman star Adam West teaching road safety will be screened for the first time in more than 50 years.

The clip from May 1967 of Batman teaching children the Kerb Drill will be shown to an audience of TV professionals and enthusiasts in Birmingham to kick-off a hunt for 100 missing television clips.

Kaleidoscope, which specialises in finding missing television footage, recently discovered the segment, which was never screened outside of the UK.

It will be shown at Birmingham City University on Saturday, as the company launches its list of the UK’s top 100 missing TV shows that industry professionals most want to see recovered.

This includes early episodes of Doctor Who featuring Mark Eden as Marco Polo, Top Of The Pops and The Avengers.

(5) UTAH WESTERCON NEWS. Westercon 72 (July 4-7th, 2019 in Layton, Utah) has added Special Guest Eric Flint. Westercon also will host the 2019 1632 Minicon.

Eric Flint’s writing career began with the science fiction novel Mother of Demons. His alternate history novel 1632 has led to a long-running series with over thirty novels and anthologies in print. He’s also written many other science fiction and fantasy novels. He resides in northwest Indiana with his wife Lucille.

Along with Mr. Flint, we are also pleased to announce the 2019 1632 Minicon will be held in conjunction with Westercon 72. The minicon is the annual event that allows the 1632 fans and authors to get together. (Of course, in the case of 1632, fans and authors overlap substantially.) Each year the minicon is held “inside” a science fiction convention in a different part of the country. Many cons have agreed to host the minicon over the years. (Wording courtesy of https://1632.org )

(6) DISNEY PIXAR. A fresh trailer for Incredibles 2.

(7) TIN FOIL HATS FOR CATS. Did you know these were a thing? From the Archie McPhee catalog:

It’s a tin foil hat for conspiracy cats! They want to know what your cat is thinking. They want to control your cat’s thoughts. Not on our watch! We’ve made a Tin Foil Hat for Cats to make sure that kitty’s thoughts stay private. This mylar hat fits most cats, has a comfy felt lining and is held in place with an elastic strap. It even has holes for cat ears! Take that, Illuminati! Restores the dignity of your kitty. Very effective against MKUltra satellites, cat food company dream-insertion marketing, Guy Fieri, Soviet cat control protocols, psychic dogs, skull tapping, focused magnetic pulse and the neighbor’s labradoodle. Great for pictures! Fits most cats.

(8) BELL OBIT. Art Bell (1945-2018), the original host of the paranormal-themed radio program Coast to Coast AM, died April 13. At its peak in popularity, Bells show was syndicated on more than 500 radio stations and claimed 15 million listeners nightly

(9) TOWFIK OBIT. Sindbad Sci-Fi eulogizes an influential Egyptian sf writer: “Remembering Ahmed Khaled Towfik (1962 – 2018)”.

Ahmed Khaled Towfik is no longer with us. After a period of prolonged illness, he died of a heart attack on 2 April 2018 in El-Demerdash hospital, Cairo, at the age of 55.

By day, Dr Ahmed Khaled Towfik practised as a medical professor at Egypt’s Tanta University. Over time, he was an obsessively prolific writer who became the Arab world’s most prominent bestselling contemporary author of Sci-Fi, fantasy and horror genres. He is claimed to have written over 500 titles of which one third is science fiction, including his Arabic translations of English Sci-Fi.

(10) TODAY’S SFF BIRTHDAYS

  • April 14, 1936 – Arlene Martel. She played Spock’s betrothed, co-starred with Robert Culp in the Outer Limits Demon with a Glass Hand written by Harlan Ellison plus a couple of Twilight Zone episodes.
  • Born April 14, 1958 – Peter Capaldi
  • Born April 14, 1977 — Sarah Michelle Gellar
  • Born April 14, 1982 – Rachel Swirsky

(11) SWIRSKY CELEBRATED. Steven H Silver shares his appreciation in “Birthday Reviews: Rachel Swirsky’s ‘The Monster’s Million Faces’” at Black Gate.

Rachel Swirsky was born on April 14, 1982. To this point, her writing career has been focused on short stories, although in 2010 she co-edited the anthology People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction and Fantasy with Sean Wallace. Her stories have been collected in two volumes, Through the Drowsy Dark and How the World Became Quiet: Myths of the Past, Present, and Future.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

Courtesy of mlex:

(13) GOOD TO THE LAST DROP. Charles Payseur tests a new batch of short fiction: “Quick Sips – Strange Horizons 04/02/2018 & 04/09/2018”.

The short SFF from the first two weeks of April’s Strange Horizons looks at faith and education, memory and time, fiction and hope. The stories feature characters either revisiting their pasts or desperate to do so. They also feature relationships between parents and children, though in opposite directions (one with a mother as main character, the other with a son). And they explore memory and trying to rewrite the past with something better than the crushing weight of the present. The poetry looks at religion and education, at expectation and death. It’s a rather complex collection of pieces, but it makes for some compelling reading. So let’s get to the reviews!

(14) ARE YOU KIDDING? The Deseret News reports “Former FBI director James Comey is a fan of Utah author Brandon Sanderson”.

In an interview with The New York Times Book Review “By the Book” section, Comey said he’s an avid reader of fiction, “almost always (reading) something my kids are reading, so I can … pretend to be cool.”

When asked what books readers would be surprised to find on his shelf, Comey answered with “The Fault in Our Stars,” by John Green; the Mistborn series, by Brandon Sanderson, and the Red Rising series, by Pierce Brown.

(15) SFF HISTORY. Tom De Haven remembers what it was like to write for Byron Preiss in a memoir at Café Pinfold.

…I met Byron Preiss in the 1970s, near the start of both our careers—as I recall, it was at an art show that he’d curated in a small Manhattan gallery (somewhere up near Bloomingdale’s, I believe) that consisted of super-realistic, high-key paintings of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys (yes, the Beach Boys; don’t ask me why, although probably it was the first or second or third step in a scheme to produce a “Byron Preiss Book” sometime in the future). He was the most confident man I’d ever met. Soft spoken, slow moving, but confident as hell. Always well dressed.  Good clothes but they could get rumpled looking. For as long as I knew and saw him, and it was quite a while, Byron always had a hundred ideas for new projects and the sublime confidence they’d all make millions.

So far as I understood it, he worked like this: he’d pitch a slew of different ideas to a variety of book editors in New York City, ideas that (again, so far as I understood it) he’d dreamed up himself, ideas inspired by current trends in publishing or pop culture (U.S.S.A., for example, followed in the wake of the original Red Dawn movie). Whenever Byron got the go-aheads for specific packaging projects, he’d call up writers to do the actual writing. (He was also likely to call up cartoonists and illustrators since most of his books came illustrated. Later, when he was one of the first people to pionneer digital publishing, he probably called up programmers.)

For me, and no doubt for many other “midlist” authors like me, it was often a lifesaver to get a telephone call from Byron Preiss; he took a big cut of any advance, naturally, and the advances were never better than just okay, but when you were in-between books and fresh out of ideas, or in-between advances for novels of your own, or had a major house repair that you couldn’t afford, or there was a new baby on the way, you were glad—at least I was glad—for an offer from Byron….

(16) WILL ROBINSON REBOOTY. NPR’s Glen Weldon goes back and forth in “Will Robinson, Meet Danger; Danger, Will Robinson: The ‘Lost In Space’ Reboot”, props for competent women, points off for repetition.

The original Lost in Space, which ran on network television from 1965 to 1968, began as a straightforward, if high-concept, adventure show: A colony spaceship carrying a nuclear family, a dashing pilot and a sniveling doctor got stranded on a remote planet. They had adventures while wearing v-neck sweaters over their turtlenecks, presumably because Irwin Allen, who produced the show, imagined that the future would be a chilly place. Or maybe he got a deal on velour, who knows.

Over the course of its run, the focus of the show shifted from the family to that weaselly doctor. Looking back, it’s easy to see why: The family was a bunch of white-bread squares in matchy-matchy outfits, but the doctor – played with a sublimely mincing menace by Jonathan Harris, was a revelation. The character of Doctor Smith was vain, overdramatic (“Oh, the pain, the pain!”), selfish, self-pitying, self-aggrandizing – a campy, eminently hissable villain out of a Christmas panto, down to the clipped British accent (which was something the Bronx-born Harris sniffily affected).

(17) LOST ATTENTION. In contrast, the Boston Globe reviewer describes the robot and the series as “sleek, shiny, and boring”: “‘Lost in Space,’ we have a problem” (may be passworded soon).

The casting is a problem, except in one case — Parker Posey as Dr. Smith. Molly Parker, a favorite of mine from “Deadwood” and “Swingtown,” is OK as the logic-and-science-loving Maureen — but she can be so much better than OK. The writers try to give her a personal storyline, since she and husband John, played sternly by Toby Stephens, are dealing with a troubled marriage. But it’s hard to care about the fate of their relationship because they’re so bland and heroic. The rest of the Robinsons are bland too, with Will (Maxwell Jenkins) a sweet but dramatically inert presence. I didn’t worry about their safety during all of their dangerous missions because I just didn’t care enough about them. TV’s original Robinson family wasn’t particularly exciting, either, but at least whimpering Jonathan Harris’s Dr. Smith brought enough camp and cowardice to keep things entertaining.

(18) SHARKE BITES. Shadow Clarke juror Maureen Kincaid Speller shares her picks: “A Shadow Clarke 2018 selection box – six exciting centres”. First, what you won’t find in her box:

This year, inevitably, my decision-making process is going to be more focused and more self-conscious, so I’ve laid out a few ground rules for myself. First, I have tried to avoid seeing what the other jurors are choosing, so this selection process has been conducted in isolation. Second, my Shadow Clarke to-read list isn’t going to feature anything I’ve already read, although there are some titles there I’d dearly like to discuss with the other jurors: Nick Harkaway’s Gnomon, for example, which is very much my kind of novel – formally inventive, a challenging read, a great story. But Gnomon is among a handful of titles already touted as shoo-ins for the official Clarke shortlist, and I have also decided to avoid putting any of those on my to-read list. I’m going to read them anyway and at this stage I’d rather experiment in my reading and see what’s going on in sf. This may seem very perverse but I would remind you that this exercise is categorically not about attempting to second-guess the official shortlist. As such I have leeway to explore.

With those decisions made, things become both easier and more complicated. Critics and reviewers are mortals like the rest of the world, and we all have our prejudices. For example, as I’ve noted before, I dislike zombie novels and while I could test that prejudice by reading a zombie novel – there seems to be a prime candidate on the list – I’ve come to the conclusion that I am secure enough in my understanding of my active dislikes to avoid wasting everyone’s time by confronting them, because the chances of anything positive emerging from the encounter are unlikely.

(19) CALL FOR PAPERS. Sublime Cognition is a very catchy name for a conference:

(20) SOLO CARDS. I don’t think I covered this with the rest of the Denny’s Star Wars-themed advertising: “Solo: A Star Wars Story exclusive trading cards, available only at Denny’s!”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Camestros Felapton, JJ, Mark Hepworth, Chip Hitchcock, Michael O’Donnell, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, mlex, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

79 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 4/14/18 The Adventures Of Scrolli And Pixelwinkle

  1. Doctor Science: the idea of taking a cat-petting break from the human contact of Worldcon sounds REALLY attractive

    I would be all over that in a heartbeat. I miss my credentials immensely during the week I’m at Worldcon.

  2. (1) (Thanks, Standback!)

    I think part of what’s going on here is that it’s hard to get a centralized critical discourse in a field that publishes so many things; the field is just much larger than it was a few decades ago, which is a good thing of course, but one of the side effects is that we’re largely reading different stuff. (Which also means that “the community” is much looser — really more like a large set of overlapping communities than a community per se; it’s hard to get a set of universal behavioral norms in those conditions, too.) So one thing I’d like to see a lot more of in this field is meta-criticism. Work that, for example, identifies broad patterns and attributes them to multiple works would probably be easier to accrete around than reviews of single novels or stories; authors would probably feel less threatened, which could provide future returns in social norms; and the incentives to escalate conflict might fade.

    And there are certain ideas within the critical zeitgeist — off the top of my head, that apocalypse and colonialist SF are two perspectives of the same story; that there’s a scary amount of white settler colonialist fantasy in much of post-apocalyptic fiction; that imperialism and space opera might be inextricably intertwined — that should be pretty much universally known by now, and outside a narrow circle of (mostly) critics, they just don’t seem to be (or if they are, they mostly go unacknowledged). There was an article on Tor a while back that referenced Blade Runner as a metaphor for slavery, and the ensuing discussion descended into a broad-ranging argument over whether it was that or “what it means to be human” (how are these oppositional?), rather than whether the fact that white SF that creates non-human entities as a way to empathize with the people they’ve historically exploited indicates an existential problem, much less whether it’s remotely responsible to frame slavery as a thing of that there distant future rather than a thing of this world that currently impacts our present.

    And that is among the portion of SF that considers itself left-of-center, which means that the zeitgeist is obviously lagging way behind what critical discourse does exist.

    Also, while I agree with Kit that behaviors are not conditions of ideology, I’m not sure I agree that one can determine a set of social norms that’s ideologically neutral. Like, what does everyone mean here when they say “attack”? When white dudes take my own admitted points and use them to try to “gotcha” me, is that an “attack”? (Not that that’s necessarily equivalent to harassment, but mansplaining does extract a great deal of emotional labor, and that’s part of the conditions that lead to burnout.) When the 15th dude that day does it — and this is what happens to female critics when their work receives more attention than usual — and I snap back that I don’t give an F about his banal man-opinions, does that constitute an “attack”? I’m not sure that I have any real answers here, just feel the need to point out in these discussions that violence down-hierarchy is highly invisibilized, and that the way we frame them tends to reify existing highly imbalanced power relations. I mean, whether fandom could largely agree on a set of behaviors that are never appropriate — well, that’s just the tip of the iceberg IMO when it comes to dealing with the conditions that disincentivize criticism, at least on the political level.

    When it comes to short fiction, the atmosphere is highly colored by the fact that there’s 1) so much of it and 2) so few reviewers of it, so a negative review might be the only piece of attention a given story receives in public. Personally, I am less concerned by the lack of negative reviews on a craft level than I am by the lack of analytical discourse which is willing to be negative on a political level, and that problem is more intense in short fiction to be sure but is far from unique to it.

  3. @Andrew

    You’re welcome. I’ve had a hard time untangling what I think and feel about the story and I’m pretty sure I’ve figured it out, now, thanks to trying to articulate* it in this thread. I’m quite sad about the story because the “spoon theory as world-building!” elevator pitch got me intrigued, and then it wasn’t something I could love or like. Or tolerate. Clearly plenty of other people love it, though!

    *If you can call it that when I’m using words like “argh”. 🙂

    I would rather spork myself in the leg than use Firefox again after it spent six months ragequitting on me constantly so I can’t help with that. I did have a brief problem with a corrupted cookie once that was browser-specific that meant I had to clear out that browser’s cookies to get File770 to load again, maybe that’s it? (Make sure you’ve got all your passwords saved before clearing cookies.)

  4. Thanks Meredith and John. I’ll try clearing cookies, tomorrow, after a good night’s sleep.

  5. The main thing I found offensive about The Art of Starving was that it’s not really spec fic unless you take the heavily delusional narrator at face value. He’s got some fairly serious body dysmorphia on top of other issues, but the people around him enable/deny it until he’s in serious danger, probably to make everything fit within the earnest John Green homage.

  6. @Jeremy Szal
    I miss Lois too.

    I think you’re dead on about the fact that this is only a problem with short-fiction writers. People who write books are used to getting negative reviews simply because they get so many more reviews than short stories do. People who write short stories, on the other hand, generally only see reviews from people who write positive reviews, so a negative review seems like a breech of etiquette.

    Writing a negative review isn’t much fun. Heck, reading a bad story isn’t much fun either. Most of the serious SFF reviewers simply abandon any story that doesn’t grab them. Saves time, saves effort, saves aggravation. Their silence is a negative review, but it’s a lot easier to ignore silence. (I don’t understand the reasoning of someone who writes positive reviews for all the stories a magazine publishes though.)

    We chose to do negative reviews at Rocket Stack Rank because we wanted to be able to do them for slate-nominated works. We could hardly have a policy of only giving negative reviews to works nominated by people we didn’t like. I still think that was the right choice, but there’s no question that it’s a burden.

    That said, one author came up to me at a WorldCon and told me to ignore anyone who told me to quit doing negative reviews because it was important that someone do them. That meant a lot to me, because although I usually recommended their work I’d given them a 2-star review just a month or so earlier.

  7. @Cecily Kane
    We’ve talked about how to do the sort of in-depth reviews you’re talking about, probably by inviting/hiring someone to write them for just the top 20% or so of all stories.

    The question is, would anyone want to read them?

    That sort of critique is really of interest only to someone who read a story closely and wants to get more out of it. (Or so I believe.) And if a given critique were very targeted (e.g. influence of author identity on the story, or a deep analysis of the science and physics in the story, or a detailed cross comparison with related work in and out of genre) then the target audience would be even smaller.

    Also, there’s a question of how timely those critiques would need to be. Would they need to be written before Hugo Nominations started? Or would they get just as many readers if they weren’t written until two or three years after a story had been published?

    Or maybe people would be more interested in broader articles that talked about several related stories rather than a single one?

    Anyway, how to provide in-depth critical reviews is something we’re interested in, even though it’s not at the top of our list of things to do right at the moment. But it’s great hearing ideas about it.

  8. @Mark (Kitteh): Thanks! Yeah, the first chapter of that looks like the sample I just read. Cool! I’ll listen to that to whet my appetite a little more. 🙂

    @Contrarius: I rarely am a WF member and when I have been, I haven’t always voted. ::blush:: I’m going to WF in Baltimore, which is why I’m a member and (just) voted. I have no idea about other Filers, though.

  9. @Meredith: “Mainly because the creators are all doing it for free and treating it the same as commercial work seems a bit unfair.”

    How bizarre. Your next sentence (strong cultural tradition of being critical of the source material) made me roll my eyes. 🙁 This isn’t the first time I’ve thought, “I’ll just never understand the ___ community.” Occasionally the fill-in-the-blank is one of my own communities, BTW. 😉

  10. @Kendall

    Well, I was mentioning it as a contradiction. 🙂

    I should mention that transformative works fandom isn’t a monolith. The conversation around criticism and when it is or isn’t appropriate is certainly ongoing and unlikely to ever be resolved.

  11. @Doctor Science: I liked The Art of Starving, but noted in my comment the other day that it seems like it could be a tough read for someone with eating disorder issues (feel free to broaden that to “food issues”), but what do I know – just a guess.

    I’m not sure @Charon D and I read the same book (or the same short story from a few years ago, mentioned in her review). We walked away with different impressions about the SFF element in Miller’s novel, though I agree it was light and sorta magical realism, but that’s SFF (heh, just noticed SFF is FSS in ROT-13). Spoilers ROT-13’d:

    V qvfyvxr “vf guvf erny be qryhfvba” fghss, fb gung naablrq zr. Fgvyy, vg jnf erfbyirq ol gur raq bs gur obbx, naq gb zr vg frrzrq pyrne #1 vg jnf erny naq #2 vg jnfa’g npghnyyl zntvpny cbjref sebz fgneivat uvzfrys. Fb lrf, vg jnf FSS, gubhtu ntnva – yvtug fcrphyngvir ryrzrag naq V thrff zntvpny ernyvfz vf n orggre qrfpevcgvba. Ohg zntvpny ernyvfz vf FSS!

    This is just my take on it, of course, so take it with a grain of salt.

    @Meredith: I’m not sure how to answer your question about The Art of Starving; I feel like I’m being dense, in fact, sorry. Is every line about food or his body issues? No. But it felt very inward-focused, despite having other characters, plot, a love interest, Things Happening, etc. Hopefully someone else who’s read it can answer your question. I have little knowledge of eating disorders, so maybe that’s why I’m not sure if this fits what you’re asking about or not.

  12. There’s one thing I hate about putting reviews on Amazon — I use a 5-star system, as they do, but it seems that their 5 stars is equivalent to my 3 stars. By my system:

    0 stars – this book was so bad I couldn’t finish it
    1 star – this book has serious problems, do not recommend
    2 stars – this book is readable but flawed (and I discuss the flaws)
    3 stars – this book is good, no noticeable flaws, and I liked it (my average rating)
    4 stars – this book is significantly better than average (and I discuss how)
    5 stars – this book absolutely knocked my socks off (and again, discuss why)

    So when I get on Amazon, I feel as though I have to decide between using my system, and explaining it in every review, or their system where anything less than 5 stars means it has problems and there’s no way to distinguish an outstanding book from one that’s enjoyable and competent but not mind-blowing.

  13. 1 – Honestly those are issues involved in any kind of reviewing. How to be critical but remain professional, though the negative rants typically produce better views. How to be positive without creating an atmosphere where any kind of critical negative opinion is then met with toxic commentary. Like with video game reviews, there’s a culture of reviews using only 7-10 out of the 1/10 scale and most expensive games usually end up in the 8-10/10 range and any kind of criticism or score below gets met with fans who take it as a personal attack. There’s a lot more there, like companies providing reviewers copies and controlled environments to play the games in, developer pay being based on metacritic score, day one patches, publishers being the main advertisers, etc, but it’s still an environment where either you’re popular from angry rants or because you’re justifying someone’s purchase and any nuanced commentary in between is lost to the detriment of the medium itself.

    As long as a person isn’t making personal attacks, and can manage to clearly articulate their concerns/enjoyment I think they’re doing perfect then even if I disagree or feel differently at least then I can read and understand where they came from. But also why I don’t review books, I think after a while it’s hard to turn off that inner critic and stop seeing things, though I appreciate those that do.

  14. @Kendall – Salt added, and apologies if I was excessively salty. I’m glad we can disagree, and I do think Art of Starving is a book strong enough to weather even salty criticism.

  15. @Contrarius: the WFA are juried (by 5 widely-spread people), so it’s very unlikely that any Filers vote on them. Any member can nominate, but the shortlist is only required to take the two most-nominated works.

    @Doctor Science: And the idea of taking a cat-petting break from the human contact of Worldcon sounds REALLY attractive …. I forget whether this was a requirement or merely a very strong request when Norton was GoH.

    And I finished In Other Lands last night; I have less problem with Elliot as a person than with the affectless writing style (reminds me of a comment Mike Ford once made about people believing they should put thought on paper without all the wriggly bits) or the fact that he is Right too bloody often; I felt (as someone noted about, I think about this) that it was trying to push all the liberal buttons without making a workable story.

  16. @ Greg

    I think you’re dead on about the fact that this is only a problem with short-fiction writers. People who write books are used to getting negative reviews simply because they get so many more reviews than short stories do. People who write short stories generally only see reviews from people who write positive reviews, so a negative review seems like a breech of etiquette.

    Yep. Being more of a novel writer/reader, I interact a lot with writers who are strictly novelists, and a lot of them actively refuse to check out Goodreads/Amazon, because there’s inevitably be a person who smites down every word in their book. When they do come across them, they acknowledge this and move on. And they accept, expect and respect it.
    In short fiction land, however, a lukewarm review will lead to Twitter-storms, screenshots, and conspiracies about how the reviewer must hate the author or be unfairly biased. And perhaps some are, although I doubt it. I mean, we all know that if you can’t take criticism, don’t be a writer, right? But this discussion is a recurring one, so no, not everybody knows. It creates an atmosphere where reviewers are afraid to review a story honestly, and that doesn’t help anyone.

  17. @Kendall and @Chip —

    the WFA are juried (by 5 widely-spread people), so it’s very unlikely that any Filers vote on them. Any member can nominate, but the shortlist is only required to take the two most-nominated works.

    Oh, right, I had forgotten that only the first round of voting in the WFAs is full-membership. Thanks for reminding me. That’s probably why I’ve never bought the supporting membership!

  18. D’oh, I said voted, but should’ve said nominated. Thanks, @Chip Hitchcock & @Contrarius.

  19. Well, Charon, I for one appreciate your review of The Art of Starving because I suspect my reaction would be very similar to yours, and it’s much more fun reading books I enjoy, than picking something up and later feeling as though I’ve wasted the time I’ve invested.

    I’m currently on the third Raksura book for my evening (tablet) reading, and am on Bear’s second Eternal Sky book for my lunchtime (dead tree) reading. The Wrong Stars just arrived on my request, so I’ll be digging into that shortly.

    The Eternal Sky books, and The Stone in the Skull, which I have already read, remind me a great deal of Bujold’s Five Gods books: even though there is violence in them, what stands out is the quiet goodness of many of the characters, who — despite the horrible trials they have to face — look out for and help each other, try to protect the innocents around them, and strive to make their world a better place.

  20. @Andrew, if Firefox slows or halts when visiting File770, it may be a problem with your adblocker or noscript program. I had to disable noscript for the site for that reason.

    You can use task manager to temporarily solve some problems. In Windows 10, if you open task manager and then click on Firefox in the list of apps that are active, you should get a list of Firefox subprograms–for me there are 4-5 plus one for each open window. If one of those is using 30% of your CPU 10 seconds after you halted clicking links and your windows have finished loading, it is probably the problem. When I right click it and end task, File 770 loads quick as can be and my other windows unfreeze (but noscript is disabled for all sites for the rest of the current browsing session.)

    I hasten to add I am not a professional programmer, and you should not try this while you are doing anything important in another browser window or if you would mind inadvertently closing the browser.
    Good luck.

  21. Kip W: Pixels Scroll on SFF.

    “The Files on Forty Fifth”
    https://youtu.be/7skQvj-aBV8

    You’re welcome.

    Jeremy Szal, JJ & Greg Hullender,
    Second-fifthing your appreciation of Lois Tilton’s reviews. I didn’t always agree with her reviews, but was always glad I read them. They were so insightful & sharp.

  22. @Standback: Thank you!

    @Lee: A lot of people claimed that they dont read 5-star-reviews, because that means “I dont have any complaints – everything was superb”, so it makes sense to use your interpretation on the ratings on amazon as well (Mine is probably slightly higher, but I also only give out 5 stars if Im quite impressed with a book).
    Its something different when rating sellers however – even 4-star-ratings on a transaction is interpreted as “Dont buy anything from them!”, which now becomes its own self-fullfilling prophecy…

  23. @johnstick

    I had the same problem with noscript, even whitelisting everything still hung the tab.

    Seems to have happened when it was rewritten fir the new add-on architecture. I’m almost tempted to go to the Extended Support Release channel.

  24. @johnstick @IanP: I had tha same issue with NoScript with the mobile version with the change in architecture, but they seem to have sorted it out; I re-enabled it on my tablet a couple of days ago and haven’t had any problems. (Although you’ll probably have to re-whitelist things.)

  25. I cleared my File770 cookies, and my earlier problem seems to have resolved. Thanks all!

    Cheap book alert – a collection of Charles Sheffield stories “Dancing With Myself” is on sale at the usual places for 2.99 (DRM free). I remember reading an enjoying many of the stories when they were first published.

  26. If you want to see the dysfunctional end game of “only positive reviews” some time, check out the lesbian fiction community. I think in part it’s because the current community has very strong roots in fan fiction traditions which, as others have noted, discourage negative reviewing. But the consequence is that I regularly encounter people who say, “I want to read more good lesbian historicals/sci-fi/fantasy/whatever, but I have absolutely no way of knowing where to start because every book from barely literate on up has mostly 5-star ratings and glowing reviews.” When reviewers feel unable (or unwilling) to point out distinctions in writing quality, then reviews become meaningless as a resource for readers and simply become empty ego-boo for the authors.

    As someone who straddles several genres, I get a lot of cultural whiplash between the expected standard behavior in the different communities. And I definitely feel constrained to pad my criticism in reviews of LesFic books because my honest opinion would in some cases be considered the equivalent of a personal attack on the author with a risk of retaliation from that author’s friends and readers. (One of the hazards of being both an author and a reviewer.)

  27. A little late to the party, but,

    @Cecily Kane:

    apocalypse and colonialist SF are two perspectives of the same story

    Considering that H.G. Wells was pretty much explicitly doing that in The War of the Worlds over a hundred years ago, writing much of it as ‘the English being on the receiving end’, I’m kind of disappointed that this one doesn’t seem to be better known.

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