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.


  • 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.


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. 4)
    I actually rediscovered some lost British TV programming in a cupboard at the university. At the time, I ran a weekly bookstall to sell the university literary magazine and returned the unsold mags and the cashbox to the office of our editor. And while I was putting the box with the bookstall stuff in the cupboard, I noticed a few old film rolls at the back of the cupboard. So I asked the professor about it and he said, “Oh, those are just some old TV programs. They’re black and white and we don’t need them anymore, but I don’t want to throw them away either.”

    My ears perked up and I said, “Hey, did you know that a lot of old British TV programming has been lost and that the BBC is actively looking for surviving copies.”

    So the professor contacted whoever was in charge of looking for lost programming at the BBC at the time and they were very happy to have the old film rolls back and even sent the professor a copy of the films on DVD, should he ever want to show them in his classes again.

    Of course, it wasn’t anything cool I rediscovered such as a lost episode of Doctor Who or The Avengers or a cool performance from Top of the Pops or even a Batman traffic education clip. It was just a few documentaries. One of them was about farming, I’ve forgotten what the other two were about. Still, those three films have been returned to the archives.

  2. @7: that’s gotta be photoshop; would any cat that alert actually wear that thing instead of clawing it off?


  3. Did I make one of the fifths? EDIT: woohoo, post-fifth!

    (7) I’m picturing a terrorist cell of raccoons snickering as they take turns throwing the lever on their mind control machine.

    I am corresponding with the Fairmont regarding bringing my social justice credential to Worldcon. They seem biased in favor of dogs. Plus they charge a $90/day pet fee and require a human to be with the pet at all times, which means I’d have to find a cat nanny if I intend to leave my room and check out Worldcon. Which means I might surrender to all this anti-cat oppression and just leave him at Cat Safari. The vet down the block recently stopped boarding pets so now he has stay at a place called Cat Safari, where they have rooms with ambient music and fishtank views, and you can book sessions in the screened-in tree-climbing courtyard. Not that my 30 pound monstrosity would be climbing any trees, that’s just a recipe for disaster.

  4. (2) WORLD FANTASY AWARDS. Thanks for the reminder!

    (6) DISNEY PIXAR. This is looking better than I’d originally feared!

    (12) COMICS SECTION. Hehehe!

    Second, no, third fifth!

  5. (10) Arlene Martel was sometimes credited as Arline Sax (e.g., her two Twilight Zone appearances).

    I am honored to be fourth fifth.

  6. Charon D.: he has stay at a place called Cat Safari, where they have rooms with ambient music and fishtank views, and you can book sessions in the screened-in tree-climbing courtyard.

    That sounds awesome. In one of the cities where I lived which also seemed biased in favor of dogs, the only cat option was a place that mostly boarded dogs but also boarded cats. I knew that the constant barking would terrify them, but I really didn’t have any other option for a 3-week trip. After one of them (a Siamese — there’s a shocker) gave the staff heart attacks by climbing up the dividing fence all the way to the ceiling, escaping, and hiding where he couldn’t be found, TWICE, they called my friend who was the Emergency Contact and told her that she had to come and get them, because they were no longer willing to board them.

    After that, I’ve always made arrangements for a friend or cat service to come every day or two to give them food and water, because it’s far less stressful for them to be in their own place with no barking dogs or strange animals and people around.

  7. Comic read: I just read Green Lantern Earth One Volume One, which was a lot of fun. I’m a GL fan from way back, but I generally don’t get interested in yet another origin retelling or (as in this case) alternate version origin. But it caught my eye because of the change in setting – science fictional future Hal Jordan, instead of present/near-present Hal Jordan, backstory changes, starting over, etc. I know, I’m contradicting it by saying I didn’t want an alternate origin thing, but yeah, it’s like an Elseworlds thing, I suppose.

    [ETA: Hal Jordan as down-on-his-luck asteroid miner! Green Lantern Corps gone before he gets his ring! It doesn’t take much to make me happy, I guess?! Also the art was good, though pretty rough.]

    Anyway, it was fun, had some callbacks to his original story, but was different enough that I enjoyed it and it felt fresh to me. Or maybe I just haven’t read GL in a long, long time. 😉 I look forward to Volume Two.

    I realize this “Earth One” stuff started with other heroes; this volume had none of that, and I hope it stays like this. I’m not interested in getting into yet another DC reboot – just this one slice of it, and where this story’s going. I suspect I’ll find out that’s a pipe dream.

    (Can you tell I’m pretty out of touch with what DC’s doing these days???)

  8. @JJ I love the escape artist Siamese! They are too smart for their own good.

    Cat sitting worked for some of my previous kitties but not for my Ragdolls, they need lots of social interaction and being alone stresses them out. They are the kind of cats that meet you at the door and scold you for going to work. Boarding at the vet worked for Kahuna because there was an army of vet assistants that adored him and would nag me to take more vacations so they could spend time with him. He adores strangers as long as they’re willing to cuddle, and he’d always come back happy and content. My prior Ragdoll would yowl in misery if she got too lonely, which is why I got this one to keep her company. He’s very slightly less needy and insecure, and I don’t know if he would do the same since he does a little better as an only pet, but I do feel better knowing somebody’s keeping an eye on him.

  9. (7) A few years ago I read what I believe to be the first story that features foil hats to prevent mental influences – “The Tissue Culture King” by Julian Huxley in 1926. Anyone know of an earlier example?


    That’s a great thread from Cecily Kane.

    I feel like it boils down to a coordination problem: Can we, as an extremely loose community, decide which critics and what kind of criticism is worth paying attention to?

    The two extremes are pretty clear. If we reward specifically the critics who are vicious, authoritative, who are arbiters of quality, that’s a sure recipe for toxicity. Whereas if we decide to avoid negativity entirely, the result is boosterism, shallow discourse, and the perpetuation of major problems. Obviously, we’re aiming for somewhere in the middle.

    But agreeing on where on the middle is hard or impossible; each person has his own opinion on who’s toxic and who’s cheerleading. And without sweeping agreement, the result is that anybody falling between the two extremes can come under fire (as Bogi touches upon in eir thread), sometimes even from both sides.

    Exacerbating all this is, well, the internet. Quite simply, criticism that isn’t particularly exciting just won’t get a lot of eyeballs. The Sharkes had dozens of pieces last year, but the ones that were “merely” well-written critiques and consideration didn’t get much attention; the ones that were dismissive or resentful did. I call this a “coordination problem,” because you kind of need to get everyone on board with not attacking some protected band of criticism (disagreeing is fine; attacks are the problem). Alas, I don’t think we can coordinate the entire internet; nor even just SFF fandom… We have no way to agree to the kind of cease-fire that we probably all want.

    I’m very appreciative of the many, many people doing amazing work writing substantive criticism. Some of my personal favorites: Strange Horizons have excellent criticism as an integral part of the magazine and its identity; Abigail Nussbaum is always insightful, thought-provoking, and wide-ranging; the Shadow Clarke project impressed me a lot last year and is impressing me even more this year.

    Now I just need to remember to focus my time and attention on these critics I admire and appreciate, and try not to get distracted too badly by interweb firestorms 🙂

  11. I fear that I myself come across too much in the camp of boosterism…but no one has actually tried to take me to task for it. Is it because I’m nobody compared to Bogi and Charles and other reviewers who have been?

    I’ve tweeted defenses of how I go about reviewing, I do feel self conscious about only publishing positive reviews and eschewing more critical ones.

    The words of reviewing for me come much more easily when I am excited and I like a book, rather than taking it apart to find out why it didn’t work for me. So it’s a path more easily taken for me. If I am going to spend time in reviewing, I might as well review things that I like.

  12. (1) OH GODS THIS THING! I’ve actually been seeing variations on this thing in the library-periodical reviews for a while– though it hasn’t always been about negative reviews there; often the community has also exploded because someone left a *positive* review of a work that was *obviously* terrible and toxic and How Dare They.

    And then there was that one writer who tracked a negative Goodreads reviewer back to her house…

    I think a huge part of the problem is that people are taking reviews as another part of the culture wars, and insisting that reviews must conform to whatever their impression of the ideological zeitgeist currently is– and their response when a review doesn’t meet those standards is “ATTACK!”

    There are a lot of people who equate “bad review of this book/story” with “objectively bad book/story” with “this author is a terrible human being and must be punished”, which can make reviews feel quite threatening to authors, which then in turn leads authors to take drastic-and-bad steps in response, especially when the authors are in that equating category. (Let me be clear: it is still wrong for authors to be ganging up on reviewers. I am elucidating where this thinking is coming from; I’m not agreeing with it.) But I don’t think you’re going to get condemnation of the attacks on reviewers as a thing– you’ll get condemnation of the conservative attacks, or the liberal attacks. Because “attacking reviewers” and “using reviews to attack authors” is actually a thing people of every ideological stripe use (some more than others, or more loudly than others, but this is *not* a behavior limited by ideology; just look at Requires_Hate’s following), and anyone who condemns that behavior as a whole has to stop engaging in it, which there are not enough people out there who actually *want* to do for it to work.

    (3) Well, she’s not wrong.

  13. @3, she corrected the typoed “beet” (should have been “beer”) in a following tweet, for what it’s worth.

    But, yes, there are lots of us wandering vaguely around the exurbs of Omelas without maps…. <wry>

  14. Paul Weimer: When I got into fandom in the late Sixties there were still a lot of first fandom types around who had spent their youth using reviews to figuratively weed the garden — attack bad writing/editing and police the quality of the genre. So some of that attitude was absorbed by new fans of my era, and because the field was still small enough a person could read most of what came out, prolific reviewers had time to write and vent about lesser work.

    By the 1980s enough sff was coming out that a lot more people began devoting their time to writing about what they liked, and not about what they’d read and didn’t like.

    And by today, there’s the additional factor that social media makes it a lot easier to enjoy the illusion of knowing writers personally and to empathize with them — it’s harder for an empathic fan to write a negative review of something that they decided to read in the first place because the writer made a good impression on them in social media.

  15. Yay title credit!

    Got the good news that after a recovery time of about two years, my dad can finally read books again (he had several eye operations). He is a SF fan and his first book he read was Artemis. Now I have to decide which books of the last years I will recommend to him… decisions, decisions…

    Houston, we have a pixel!

  16. I’m continuing with New York 2140, where I keep being brought up short by things I expect to be in a nearish-future setting, but aren’t. Where’s online social networking? Why doesn’t Amelia have cameras in every room in her airship? We’ve just started her nqiragherf jvgu cbyne orne rfpncrrf, why isn’t she trending on Twitter-equivalent?

    And it’s still a NYC without racial groups or tensions, and no dialects, either, which feels *bizarre*.

  17. @Peer: Great news! And tough choice to recommend stuff from two years. How’d he like Artemis?

  18. @Kendall
    Actually its more than three years, before the operations he could only read very, very slowly. He liked it a lot and breezed through it. Im not sure if ninefox gambit is put in german, but that would be my top choice. Im torn about three body problem, because I did not like the third book at all…

    He was the one starting our SF collection, which got me hooked when I was young, so now giving him books to read feels very nice 🙂

  19. I just read an excerpt from Emily Devenport’s Medusa Uploaded (Medusa Cycle #1) from Tor, which was very intriguing. Far future generation ship stuff. It comes out May 1.

    Devenport’s written other novels (under her own name and two pen names). I’m not familiar with her; anyone read her past books or heard anything about her upcoming one?

  20. @Mike
    Yeah, I feel in an uncomfortable spot if I didn’t like a book that a friend (or friendly) author wrote (be it real or more often, as you put it, illusionary).

    I can’t really fake enthusiasm for a book that well, and I don’t really relish pissing in an author’s Kung Pao., especially an author I like…so I just don’t write the review and are done with it.

  21. @Mike, @Paul: Definitely.

    I feel this in a couple of ways. One way is the community at large — particularly when I feel like there’s something very popular, but I think it has issues, then I’m very hesitant to start commenting; I don’t want to come across as hashing people’s squee. This is mostly a good thing; the last thing the internet needs is more people telling readers they’re reading the Wrong Stuff, or people Declaiming Their Expert Opinion.
    OTOH, it also means I often hold back (or highly qualify) opinions, or observations of trends, or musings on the state of the field.
    I mostly think this is at a pretty good place — I guess if I didn’t, I’d express my opinions differently — but I’m aware of the dynamic.

    The other place I feel this keenly is within the Israeli community, which is just small. You really can’t move a muscle there without the author of whatever-you’re-reading making note. So there, I’ve learned to be rrrrrreeeeeealllllly cautious with any public note of criticism. Because (A) the author will most definitely see it, and (B) the author probably knows me personally, and (C) the author is not getting so many reviews and responses that they’ll not notice or not care.
    It’s… kind of stifling. Not the end of the world, but it kind of means I can’t be a very active participant as a reader. So it goes.

  22. 2) Hmmm. I’m eyeing that WFA supporting membership.

    Do many Filers vote for the WFAs?

  23. @Doctor Science re: New York 2140

    Not to mention the fact that (at least as far as I’ve gotten into the book) conservatives and/or the Republican Party have simply disappeared.

    Which would not at all be a bad thing, and might make sense given the fact that the catastrophe they’re in the midst of denying right now has inescapably come to pass, but still, it reads like a bit of utopian wish fulfillment.

  24. (1) There’s a handful of authors who routinely complain bitterly on Twitter whenever any of them gets a negative review on Rocket Stack Rank. They all seem to belong to the same clique, and they strongly support each other. That’s okay; writers ought to support each other, and I have no problem with friends saying, “that idiot totally missed the point of your story.” (Who knows? Maybe I did.)

    What disappoints me is that they frequently express the opinion that “negative reviews are only for bad people” so, in their eyes, by giving someone a negative review, I’ve attacked that person. That’s bad for two reasons: First, I’m at pains never to criticize the author of a story; I only criticize things in the story itself. But, as Cecily Kane implies, if authors treat all criticism as personal attacks, that ultimately benefits critics who dish out real personal attacks. Second, it bothers me that they seem to be unable to see that if we base reviews (good or bad) on authors, not stories, then we’re no better than the Puppies were.

  25. 1) Being a former review who still flirts with the practice, my opinion is reviewers want to be kinder in their short fiction reviews for the sake of maintaining a “healthy” SF/F atmosphere. Coupled with the fact that Everybody Knows Everybody, either from SF/F twitter or cons, and there’s a lot more reservation to be as critical as they’d be if the author was a blank face. And this has led to any form of negative reviews (or anything not positive) to be seen as attacking the authors (which some reviewers, of course, do). So far, this is strictly with short fiction. Go to any well-loved book on Goodreads and one of the top five reviews will usually be a scathing one; but there’s no discussion in the novelist realm (at least as far as I can see) what the ratio of positive to critical/harsh reviews should be. It’s taken for granted there’ll be those that love it, those that hate, and those inbetween. In short fiction, the suggestion at anything but the former seems to invite trouble, which is why we’re having this discussion. (Ninja’d by Greg above: it’s the Usual Suspects who make it a habit of conflating any criticism of their stories with them as people. Which is troubling, for the reasons he states)

    Me, perhaps I’ve been tainted by my slush reading over the years, but I’m unmoved by most short fiction I read – maybe around 60%. Not to say it’s bad, but it just doesn’t grab me. There’s awesome stories and there’s god-awful stories, (YMMV) and everything in-between, and it strikes me as strange the short fiction reviews don’t reflect that diversity.

    I say we bring Lois Tilton back.

  26. Jeremy Szal: I say we bring Lois Tilton back.

    I’ll fifth that suggestion. I didn’t always agree with her reviews, but by the gods, I knew that they were honest. I miss her reviews.

  27. I’m having a bit of trouble expressing exactly why one of the Hugo short fiction nominees makes me feel quite so… stabbity. At the moment I’ve stuck it under No Award although I might change my mind later on if I decide that my anger is very unreasonable (I’m okay with mildly unreasonable). It will still be bottom of my ballot regardless, because I truly hate it, and I can’t conceive of an argument that would make me change my mind about that.

    I’m not sure whether the finalists are likely to be following File770 discussions. Probably depends on the finalist.

    In transformative works fandom there’s a pretty strong cultural taboo against critical comments, and critical reviews aren’t always seen as appropriate, either. Mainly because the creators are all doing it for free and treating it the same as commercial work seems a bit unfair. There’s also a strong cultural tradition of being critical of the source material, though.

  28. Meredith: I’m having a bit of trouble expressing exactly why one of the Hugo short fiction nominees makes me feel quite so… stabbity. At the moment I’ve stuck it under No Award although I might change my mind later on if I decide that my anger is very unreasonable (I’m okay with mildly unreasonable).

    It’s possibly the same one that made Cora and me both feel stabbity.

    There are several things on the Hugo Ballot which are going under No Award for me. They don’t get there just because I don’t like them; they get there because I don’t feel that they are up to level of Hugo award-worthy.

    I think that you should go with your personal evaluations of things and not worry too hard about whether you’re being unfair to the author. Your judgment and opinions are yours, they are valid, and you shouldn’t feel as though you have to second-guess yourself.

  29. @JJ

    It’s more that I know perfectly well that I would reassure a person from a specific group that using certain terminology to describe themselves is perfectly fine, but that a story which uses that terminology-as-worldbuilding from the close-in perspective of someone in that group just doesn’t feel the same. To me. And I’m not sure if I’m being fair when I think that. It doesn’t entirely seem like a reasonable line to draw.

    I’m usually pretty good at separating “I don’t like this story” from “this story is awful” but in this case I hate the story so much I’m finding it hard to see past that to the presumably very real good qualities that got it on the finalist list to begin with.

  30. @Dr Science – that’s a very sweet thought, people pitching in to take turns snuggling a huge neurotic cat. He’s a teenager now, just turned 13 this year, so I’m probably going to go with the path of least stress and check him into the kitty hotel.

    (1) I wrote a very harsh review of one of the YA nominees because I thought it was being derivative and manipulative while ostensibly supporting noble ideals. I’m wrestling with myself over whether to take it down, or maybe just file the sharp edges off.

    I’m leery of nice reviews. I know people who shower each other with 5s and regard anything lower as failure, and they strike me as creepy.

  31. @JJ @Meredith

    It’s possibly the same one that made Cora and me both feel stabbity.

    There are several things on the Hugo Ballot which are going under No Award for me. They don’t get there just because I don’t like them; they get there because I don’t feel that they are up to level of Hugo award-worthy.

    I think that you should go with your personal evaluations of things and not worry too hard about whether you’re being unfair to the author. Your judgment and opinions are yours, they are valid, and you shouldn’t feel as though you have to second-guess yourself.

    Not sure if it is the same story that makes Meredith feel stabby, but one of the short fiction finalists really doesn’t work for me. I haven’t yet decided whether to no award it, especially since I can see why others might like it, but it will definitely be at the bottom of my ballot. Unless it goes as with “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love…”, which I didn’t like (yes, puppies, some of us SJWs didn’t particularly care for that story either) and was going to put at the bottom of my ballot, until I got to the Thomas Olde Heuvelt story and realised that I disliked that one even more.

    I will no award several things on the 2018 Hugo ballot as well. There are three finalists I know I will no award and four or five others where I’m still debating.

    And yes, I mentioned on my blog why one 2018 short fiction finalist didn’t work for me. Nonetheless, I find that I am more scathing when talking about films and TV shows, because those are team efforts, so harsh reviews aren’t directed at only one person.

  32. @Cora – It’s all in the hands of the Fairmont Hotel’s executive staff. I was emailing with head of housekeeping because I want it in writing that my freakishly huge cat may stay there before I subject him to an hour in a car (he hates cars; yowls). I haven’t heard back yet, so I’m imagining their suits are arguing the matter over a conference table, or will be shortly.

  33. I think I’ve stretched avoiding the title to breaking point, so: Carnival Nine.

    I think the difference, for me, between a carer using the spoon theory for themselves (totally fine! would defend to the hilt!) and the story effectively using the spoon theory as worldbuilding, is that it ends up being a story where the protagonist becomes disabled by virtue of being a carer.* Which, for me, is just… Argh. I’m also not entirely keen on an early work using the spoon theory as the framework for worldbuilding being built around a carer rather than disabled people, either.

    The whole thing ended up feeling like it was appropriative, and also there are already huge problems in the disabled community where disabled people struggle with the feeling of being a burden, so a Hugo finalist which is basically built around disabled people being such a burden that we disable those who care for us… Nope. Nopenopenope.

    I’m 100% willing to believe the author didn’t intend to convey any of that. From what I could tell from a quick look through her twitter feed, she’s either in the community or community-adjacent. But that’s how it felt to read it.

    *Plus the bit Cora points out on her blog about how it ends up a story where it is Women’s Work to do so, and punishes the protagonist whenever she takes a minute to herself. Which. Also nope.

  34. @charon:

    You do whatever you think will be least stress for him! it just seemed to me that maybe sleeping with you would be the easiest on him. And the idea of taking a cat-petting break from the human contact of Worldcon sounds REALLY attractive ….

  35. also @Charon:

    I for one really appreciate your negative review of The Art of Starving, it’s the fiction work I’ve been dreading because of my own food issues.

    The other work I’m probably going to wimp out of is “Get Out”: I find filmed horror (and realistic violence) REALLY hard to deal with, the images keep re-playing in my brain.

  36. @Meredith: Thanks for the comments on “Carnival Nine” – that clarifies some of my thoughts on the story.

  37. Re: Carnival Nine – I also didn’t get much out the story in other aspects aside from the politics, just to be clear, it isn’t just a “politics bad, rawr!” thing, although without that I’d probably just be mildly indifferent instead of exceedingly grumpy. It didn’t have much of a plot, I would have liked the secondary characters to have a bit more to them, and the prose didn’t do much for me. I thought the best/most interesting bit about it was the world-building, and the world-building is part of what really didn’t work for me. I feel like I’m being very harsh on this poor story!

    Re: The Art of Starving – my problem with reading depictions of eating disorders is if they go much into the obsessiveness aspect – is that the case in this book? I’ve never had an eating disorder but that particular obsessive thing sets off something else (which, oddly, I rarely have a problem reading about directly) something terrible, and if that’s part of the book I really shouldn’t read it.

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