Pixel Scroll 4/15/18 Up Forty Or Better On Your Right Scroll, Corp’r’l, Or The Pixels’ll Degauss Your Files!

(1) NUMBERS RAMPED UP: WHY? Jason Sanford contends “Questionable sales surround Writers of the Future anthologies”. He analyzes Writers of the Future anthology sales over the years as reported by Bookscan.

Note: This market analysis is available free to the public. If you like my original reporting on genre issues, consider backing my Patreon.

There are numerous warnings being raised in the SF/F genre about connections between the Writers of the Future contest and Scientology. While these connections have been explored before, new concerns are being raised — such as by former WotF winner Keffy Kehrli and others like Vajra Chandrasekera — that the contest gives “legitimacy” with regards to Scientology and its abusive practices. For more, see this post from The Underground Bunker.

These concerns should absolutely be listened to. The science fiction genre spawned Scientology and for far too long the SF/F genre has maintained a “look the other way” attitude to Scientology and its many documented abuses. The genre must now take the lead in ending this relationship and support.

And Jason Kimble comments:

(2) LAWYER DAGGET, SHE DRAWS HIM LIKE A GUN. “Stan Lee Sues Former Business Manager For Fraud, Elder Abuse — Including One Scheme To Sell His Blood”Deadline has the story:

Comic book industry legend Stan Lee is suing a former business manager for fraud and elder abuse in a suit that alleges such egregious claims of abuse as extracting and selling vials of the Marvel Comics icon’s blood as “collectibles” in Las Vegas.

Lee, whom many consider the godfather of the modern-day superhero, was grieving the death of his wife of 70 years, Joan B. Lee, in late 2017 when he became the target of “unscrupulous businessmen, sycophants and opportunists” who sought to take advantage of his despondency.

A suit filed today in Los Angeles Superior Court alleges Jerardo Olivarez is once such opportunist. A former business associate of Lee’s daughter, the suit claims Olivarez took control of Lee’s professional and financial affairs — and began enriching himself through various schemes and bogus enterprises….

…In one particularly ghoulish money-making scheme, Olivarez instructed a nurse to extract many containers of blood from Lee, which Hands of Respect later sold in Las Vegas for thousands of dollars, the suit contends.

“There are shops in Las Vegas selling Stan Lee’s blood,” said a family friend, Keya Morgan. “They’re stamping his blood inside the Black Panther comic books and they sell them for $500 each.”

(3) GENRE CATS. The New York Public Library is “Feline Good with Our Favorite Literary Cats”. Here’s an excerpt of their roundup:

Fantastical Felines

Catwings, in which Ursula LeGuin writes about the adventures of cats who were born with wings. I have no idea why this isn’t an animated series with plush dolls and t-shirts and fan cons with cosplay cat ears and wings. —Judd Karlman, Pelham Bay

What’s better than a cat who’s a celestial being with purple eyes and sassy attitude? My favorite cat is Faithful in In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce and then reappears again as Pounce in the Beka Cooper series Terrier, also by Pierce. —Chantalle Uzan, Francis Martin

The Aeronaut’s Windlass, Jim Butcher’s second foray into high fantasy, features a race of hyper-intelligent felines who serve the lords of the Spires. Or are they the lords? —Joshua Soule, Spuyten Duyvil

Ursula K. LeGuin’s No Time to Spare: Thinking about What Matters is a collection of the prolific author’s essays on a variety of topics like ageing, writing, our socio-political landscape, and culture. Any cat lover, though, will probably find themselves most delighted by the vivid, playful, and soulful stories of her cat Pard that are sprinkled throughout. —Beth Dukes, Enrichment Zones

My Cat Yugoslavia. Dating can be hard, especially when your boyfriend is a sexy, bigoted, and capricious cat who doesn’t get along with your free-range snake. In Pajtim Statovci’s novel he weaves in this fanciful story line while addressing immigration, Balkin weddings, and isolation. —Richard Dowe, Aguilar…

(4) HORROR GENTRIFIED? The Washington Post’s April Wolfe notes, in “With ‘A Quiet Place’ and ‘Get Out,’ horror is having a mainstream moment. Will that alienate fans?”, some films are now called “elevated horror,” but that people should realize that a lot of very good films (including “horror-adjacent” The Shape of Water, happen to be horror films, and that horror has given a lot of important actors and directors their start.

Adding “elevated” to a movie’s description seems an attempt to distance the film from its lineage, signaling to contemporary filmgoers that a horror film isn’t a “slasher,” the type of blood-and-gore fare that proliferated from the 1980s through the aughts. But even that subgenre offered more than cheap thrills: It offered roles to then-unknown actors such as Tom Hanks, Jennifer Aniston, Leonardo DiCaprio and Charlize Theron, because horror films will make money at the box office whether or not there’s a star attached. It’s one of the few places actors can get their start.

Slashers also trained the next generation of coveted effects artists. For instance, Jim Doyle, who broke ground with chill-inducing effects on “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Prom Night II: Hello Mary Lou,” pioneered what would become the industry-standard fog machine, which earned him a “technical achievement” Academy Award — where horror is most often honored.

(5) REPLAYING THE CLASSICS. Mike Allen says he believes in “Honoring National Poetry Month the lazy way” – by which he means it’s time for him to remind readers about his verse and media collection:

Operating under the theory that it’s become old enough to be new again, I present thirteen poems from my 2008 collection The Journey to Kailash, with illustrations, detailed explanatory notes and even audio of me reciting each poem (you’ll have to activate Flash plug-ins to listen to those). And below the links to the main show I’ve included a bonus, my concrete poem “Phase Shift” from which this blog gets its name. Originally published in Tales of the Unanticipated in 1997, “Phase Shift” appears in my collection Hungry Constellations, but this stunning visualization by artist Bob Freeman appears nowhere else but here.

Poems from The Journey to Kailash:

I. “Defacing the Moon” (note about)
II. “Requited” (note about)
III. “A Curtain of Stars” (note about)
IV. “Bacchanal” (note about)
V. “Midnight Rendezvous, Boston” (note about)
VI. “Manifest Density” (note about)
VII. “Petals” (note about)
VIII. “Giving Back to the Muse” (note about)
IX. “Disaster at the BrainBank™ ATM” (note about)
X. “No One” (note about)
XI. “Sisyphus Walks” (note about)
XII. “The Strip Search” (note about)
XIII. “The Thirteenth Hell” (note about)

(6) CONCATENATION POSTED. The summer season edition of sff news aggregator Science Fact & Science Fiction Concatenation is out today.

[The new issue] has sections on film, books and publishing, TV, as well as the season’s forthcoming books listing of new titles (also fantasy and non-fiction) from the major imprints in the British Isles, many of which will soon be available elsewhere.  And then there will be the news page’s science as well as science and SF interface section.  Additionally, there isanother in our series by scientists are also SF authors as to their science heroes born in the 20th century (so by-passing Darwin, Einstein etc). We also have a review of this year’s British Eastercon, plus our annual 12-month top box-office SF/F film chart, and annual whimsey from Gaia.  All this and some standalone SF/F/H and science & non-fiction book reviews.


Cath sends three clippings from the internet of comics:

I’m one of today’s 10,000 – I had no idea that the concept had a name, or had originated from the LessWrong community. I approve of Bob’s response, not to mention XKCD’s variation (reference in the mouseover).

(7) LEFT HIGH AND DRY. SNL’s Shape of Water parody:

After retiring from acting, The Shape of Water’s Fish Man (Kyle Mooney) watches his friend (John Mulaney) succeed in his place.


(8) FUTURE HITS. The best is yet to come. Or is already here if you’re from the future.

(9) FAKE TROPE EXPOSED! They have a point. (The thread starts here.)

(10) GROUNDBREAKER. KPFA brings you “Bookwaves – February 15, 2018: Trina Robbins”:

Trina Robbins, in conversation with Richard Wolinsky.

A legend in comic book circles, an artist at a time when hardly any women drew comics, Trina Robbins discusses her latest book, a memoir, “Last Girl Standing,” which deals with her life as an artist, author, and clothing designer. She was the first woman to edit a comic book created by women, “It Ain’t Me Babe,” the first woman to draw “Wonder Woman,” and the single most influential historian chronicling the women who created comics and cartoons.

In this interview, she also talks about her other recent books including a history of women drawing comics during World War II, a graphic novel version of a short story collection originally written by her father in Yiddish, and a graphic novel based on a work by British author Sax Rohmer. Trina Robbins was clothing designer for Los Angeles rock and roll bands in the 1960s and for the Warhol factory in New York. She also was a regular contributor to “Wimmens Comix,” a series of comic books created by women from the 1970s through 1990s.

An extended version of this interview can be found as a Radio Wolinsky podcast

(11) LE GUIN QUOTES. Conext and great quotes together in “Subjectifying the Universe: Ursula K. Le Guin on Science and Poetry as Complementary Modes of Comprehending and Tending to the Natural World” at Brain Pickings.

…Marine biologist Rachel Carson, who catalyzed the modern environmental movement and pioneered a new aesthetic of poetic writing about science, once asserted that “there is in us a deeply seated response to the natural universe, which is part of our humanity.” More than half a century after Carson, Le Guin considers how poetry and science both humble us to that elemental aspect of our humanity and train us to be better stewards of the natural world to which we belong:

To use the world well, to be able to stop wasting it and our time in it, we need to relearn our being in it.

Skill in living, awareness of belonging to the world, delight in being part of the world, always tends to involve knowing our kinship as animals with animals. Darwin first gave that knowledge a scientific basis. And now, both poets and scientists are extending the rational aspect of our sense of relationship to creatures without nervous systems and to non-living beings — our fellowship as creatures with other creatures, things with other things.

(12) PROSPECT. The Ars Technica profile makes me want to see this film: “Sci-fi stunner Prospect values small stories in a galaxy far, far away”.

Make no mistake, South by Southwest conference film darling Prospect takes place within a giant, intergalactic reality. Even lower- to middle-class adventurers like our heroes, Cee (Sophie Thatcher) and Damon (Jay Duplass), have a spacecraft and mostly functional equipment. And when this just-getting-by father and daughter duo takes an unexpected crash/detour that happens to land on a resource-rich planet littered with aurelacs (a valuable stone found inside some slimy pod that must be handled with care or “kaboom!”), Cee recognizes this as an opportunity.

“$10,000?” she retorts after dad ballparks the first gem recovered. “That’s enough to cover the loan… and the pod lease?”

Their ship has been built with Kubrick-like attention for analog detail, with cheap-ish CRT displays punctuated by handwritten notes. The planet they’re now on feels dream-like, a lush swampy Dagobah with a near-constant twinkle in the atmosphere. Nothing could happen from here and Prospect would still be worth watching for an hour-and-change of ambience and aesthetic alone. But as its initial 10 minutes show, this gorgeous-looking sci-fi flick has big subjects to match its style: intergalactic travel regulations, tiers of consumer goods, interplanetary trade standards.

…”We maybe were a bit naive in the conception of this, putting the entire film on the shoulders of a teenage girl,” Chris Caldwell, Prospect co-writer/director, tells Ars. “But she killed it, and in many cases she saved our ass.”

“In another movie, you might get 12 takes, but we’re in helmets that are hard to breathe in—you get four takes,” adds Zeek Earl, co-writer/director and cinematographer. “She nailed it.”

Movie’s Facebook page: Prospect.

Also, the teaser trailer:

(13) IN THE RUNNING FOR NUMBER ONE. Andrew Liptak guarantees “Space Opera is the funniest science fiction novel I’ve read since Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” at The Verge.

Many authors attempt comedy in science fiction, but few pull it off. Alongside very funny works like John Scalzi’s Redshirts and Terry Pratchett’s entire Discworld series, the pinnacle of hilarious science fiction is Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, about the misadventures of Arthur Dent as he travels across the universe. But Catherynne M. Valente’s new novel Space Opera might give it a run for its money, because it’s one of the funniest books that I’ve ever read.

Space Opera’s title is a pun. Valente said recently that the story came out of a dare on Twitter after a conversation about Eurovision, and the novel lovingly skewers long-standing science fiction tropes, driving home humor with every single sentence. In Space Opera, humanity is living blissfully unaware of alien life, until extraterrestrials appear and invite them into an advanced intergalactic civilization. But there’s a catch: humans have to prove their sentience in a talent show called the Megagalactic Grand Prix, instituted after a galaxy-wide conflict known as The Sentience Wars. If Earth comes in dead last, humanity will be wiped out, and the biosphere reseeded so the planet can try again later.

(14) THE MARCH TO ECBATAN. Rich Horton concludes yet another Hugo finalist is good-not-great: “Hugo Ballot Review: Provenance, by Ann Leckie”.

…This new novel is set in the same universe, at roughly the same time, but outside the Radch. It is engaging and fun but frankly seems just a little thin next to the Ancillary series. There’s no crime in that – I think it’s a good thing when an author reaches the point where her readers are glad to read each of her books, and are satisfied by them – but also admit that they are not each equally as good (or progressively better). Solid and enjoyable work is nothing to sneeze at. That said, if I’m saying that, it probably means I don’t consider Provenance one of the best five or six SF novels of the year – and that’s true. But it doesn’t disgrace the award by its nomination either – and, indeed, it fits with all the nominees I’ve read so far, in being enjoyable and entertaining but not exceptional…

(15) COVERING THE MARKETPLACE. Pulp specialty website Pulps1st sells disks with galleries of old pulp covers, and other merchandise featuring cover images.

…No other company produces anything like the Pulp Image Library with thousands of pulp cover images on one disk!  No other company produces the different Pulp Image Cover T-Shirts, Mugs, Mousepads, iPad covers, or Postal Stamps.

(16) THE COOLNESS. Wish you could do this? Thread starts here:

(17) WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN. Jerry Beck introduces “Brad Bird’s Lost 1980 Pencil Test for ‘The Spirit’”.

Producer Steven Paul Leiva has posted a rare artifact to You Tube – a 1980 pencil test “trailer” for a proposed animated feature based on Will Eisner’s classic comic strip hero, The Spirit.

In 1980, Leiva became involved with Brad Bird and Gary Kurtz (producer of the first two Star Wars movies) in trying to get into production an animated feature based on The Spirit”. In a 2008 piece in the L.A. Times (read it here) Leiva spoke of a pencil test “trailer” for the proposed film, made by Bird along with several classmates from Cal Arts, most of whom were working at Disney at the time.


(18) HISTORY UNBOUND. Via The Verge, this news about Mercury 13:

Mercury 13

Netflix has a new documentary coming up looking at the 13 female pilots who went through spaceflight tests around the same time the first men were planning to go up to space. While the 13 pilots never made it to space, their stories speak to the difficult and overlooked work women contributed to the US space program. It comes out April 20th.


[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Danny Sichel, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Allen, Andrew Porter, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Mark Hepworth, and Michael Toman. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Chip Hitchcock.]

63 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 4/15/18 Up Forty Or Better On Your Right Scroll, Corp’r’l, Or The Pixels’ll Degauss Your Files!

  1. (4) Huh. I went to high school with Jim Doyle, and after that he had a theatre troupe for a while, and I was in a couple of shows with it. I played Sancho to his Quixote in “Man of La Mancha.” I’d heard that he was working in Hollywood (something to do with motion control cameras and Star Wars?) and had even gotten an Oscar, but I didn’t get confirmation till I looked him up just now in IMDB. Well. Better that than singing, I have to say.

    (17) That pencil test’s been around for a while, but it’s worth a look. Bird gets it, I think. (Speaking of personal connection, Jerry Beck was the Fearless Leader of Apatoons when I joined. This one time, he turned down a chance to punch me, even.)

  2. 14) I have…somewhat similar feelings about Provenance. The world-building is solid and tight, but everything else: the cardboard, unconvincing characters with zero chemistry (who are, at times bizarrely ignorant and stupid, given the circumstances they grew up in), convenient plot resolution, bland story, wonky pacing and a dozen other reasons had me…confused how this book was liked, let alone nominated for a sodding Hugo. Obviously, there’s some merit it the book, and it’s obvious that Leckie’s work is Not For Me, but I came out of the book baffled and with the suspicion that my time had been thoroughly wasted.

  3. 14
    It’s not like the Ancillary books, but it’s not bad. It doesn’t go where you think it’s going to go, based on the blurbs and the opening chapter (and I think that may be the problem for some people), but it does work. (That planet has a society that’s kind of strange, even compared to the Radch. But it apparently works for them. As in the Ancillary books, some of the details are never explained.)

  4. Wow, I’m kind of surprised at how low the 2010-2014 WotF sales were – was it higher in the past? I used to see multiple copies on the shelves of major bookstores, and you wouldn’t think they’d do that for something that sells in the 100s.

  5. @Jeremy Szal —

    Obviously, there’s some merit it the book, and it’s obvious that Leckie’s work is Not For Me, but I came out of the book baffled and with the suspicion that my time had been thoroughly wasted.

    I had a lot of fun with Provenance. I agree that one of its flaws is the fact that characters, especially the lead, are sometimes Too Naive To Live (I wouldn’t personally say too stupid, but definitely too naive) — especially given the milieu in which they grew up.

    OTOH, I enjoyed the humor, the narrative voice, and all the scrapes she fell into and out of almost by accident. But that sort of enjoyment is going to be very subjective and YMMV-ish.

  6. @Jamoche —

    I used to see multiple copies on the shelves of major bookstores, and you wouldn’t think they’d do that for something that sells in the 100s.

    I have no idea if this is relevant to the WotF sales, but people often seem to forget that BookScan numbers only count retail sales of physical books that actually have their barcodes scanned at point of sale. So it won’t count things like ebook sales, and it may or may not count mail-order sales — any type of sale that doesn’t actually scan the barcode when the book is sold. So BookScan numbers are almost always (always?) going to be an undercount of actual sales.

    “BookScan records cash register sales of books by tracking ISBNs when a clerk scans the barcode. BookScan only tracks print book sales, thus excluding ebook sales from major e-tailers such as Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo, Apple, and Google Play. BookScan likewise does not include non-retail sales through channels such as libraries, nor specialty retailers who do not report to the service.”

  7. I’m in the camp that loved (and nominated) Provenance, but I think its charms are heavily dependent on how one feels about the distinctly non-heroic main character. To me she felt plausibly out of her depth, and clearly very talented even if its not at the things she thinks she should be good at, but I can understand how to others that reads as “irritatingly incompetent”. I have also actually been the young woman who is quietly falling apart from impostor syndrome while everyone else pretends to be amazing at intricate political scheming, so seeing that in a book was like “oh, yep, that’s definitely a thing”. (My experiences involve fewer jailbreaks, alas). So yeah, this was a book that really reinforced how much I love Ann Leckie’s work, but I can see how it wouldn’t work in the same way for others.

    At the moment it’s going second on my final ballot after Stone Sky.

    That is very sad.

    (16) THE COOLNESS.
    So very cool.

    In other news,
    I’m no longer a cyborg. Had surgery today to remove the metal from my knee. I’m not supposed to make any life-changing decisions until the drugs wear off completely. But here I am throwing caution to the wind & commenting like a boss. #preemptiveexcuse

  9. @ Contrarius/ @Arifel

    I agree that one of its flaws is the fact that characters, especially the lead, are sometimes Too Naive To Live (I wouldn’t personally say too stupid, but definitely too naive) — especially given the milieu in which they grew up.

    I can understand how to others that reads as “irritatingly incompetent”

    Yeah, that’s probably what struck my nerve-centers the hardest. Hopeless, hand-wringing characters disagree with me very strongly. Give me skilled, smart but flawed people who move through the ranks, drive the story and Get Stuff Done.
    If I wanted to read about incompetent and inept individuals way out of their depth, I’d pay much more attention to U.S. politics.

  10. I liked Provenance well enough, considered as a piece of entertaining writing – while the central character is frequently in over her head, at least she then swims to some purpose instead of sinking helplessly. Heroic improvisation in the face of apparently insurmountable obstacles has a long and honourable place in the SF tradition – The Warrior’s Apprentice, anyone?

    Having said which: yes, I did think that Provenance was a bit on the thin side, compared to the “Ancillary” books.

  11. I will point out that Sanford readily accounts for Bookscan in his post, pretty much saying as much, but I largely suspect he is trying to prove that the Writers of the Future anthology sales are disgustingly inflated and reminiscient of the 1987 Hugo Awards incident, where something similar was pulled off in favor of Black Genesis.

  12. 16) Whoa, neat!

    13) High praise. I did pre-order the book as soon as I had heard about the book, on the strength of Valente’s other writing. I just got to move it up Mount TBR

    (for those interested, just started Ilana Myer’s FIRE DANCE)

  13. With regards to Writers of the Future, at some point the declining sales of the mass-market paperback edition would have resulted in a decision to go with trade paperback. But this is something happening across the industry, so nothing unusual in that. Beyond that its sales were decent for 2004, 2005, but then inexplicably exploded in 2006 and 2007, nearly four times as previous years. However, if you pull up the localized point-of-sale locations, again, nearly all of it can be explained by Scientologists buying up copies, in bulk.

  14. @Sean Wallace

    It does seem pretty much cut and dried in terms of evidence – whether or not bookscan is getting the absolute numbers correct, the relative numbers + locations seem conclusive, and iirc they do have form for doing this with some Hubbard novels in the past as well.

    What anyone can do about this is another question though – by definition their target audience is new writers who may not be clued into “common knowledge”.

  15. Jamoche says Wow, I’m kind of surprised at how low the 2010-2014 WotF sales were – was it higher in the past? I used to see multiple copies on the shelves of major bookstores, and you wouldn’t think they’d do that for something that sells in the 100s.

    Bookscan tracks sales, not inventory. So the number of a given title on the shelves tells you nothing beyond that the publisher pushed the book hard to be stocked by bookstores. I don’t know who published that series but the main publishers discount books generously, close to fifty percent off cover price, and except returns for full credit with thirty to sixty days depending on the book.

  16. Back when it was in mass market paperback, you could probably push as much as you really wanted, especially if you bought co-op, but as Cat Eldridge pointed out, within a few months most would come back unsold. I suspect the anthology is written off as a marketing expense, really.

  17. I liked Provenance a lot. In general, I’m more likely to be irritated by protagonists who are “Too Good To Be True” that those who aren’t good enough.

  18. 9) Cannot stop laughing. “This proves professor douchebag wrong…” I just had to tag all my friends in academia.

    On Provenance and several of the other Hugo nominees, I liked them well enough, but they weren’t far enough up my list to get a nomination. I had three OUTSTANDING novels on my ballot and was a little sad none of them made it. Provenance was a fun, lighthearted caper and I had finished several very dark novels, so it was just the perfect read for a little break. I did find the main character to be a bit of a woobie, but I work with young people. They’re all kind of like that.

  19. >@ Joanna Rivers
    and others

    Not a regular File770 reader, but is there a reason why people keep leaving the work names out? I very much want to know what the 3 outstanding novels are, or what that highly disliked short story from one of the last pixel scroll was.

  20. @Joanna Rivers — That’s exactly how I’ve felt about the Hugo nominees I’ve read to date (be interested to hear the OUTSTANDING ones on your list (mine were KA, SPOONBENDERS, and THE MOON AND THE OTHER, and there were a few more not far behind that didn’t make it (such as AUTONOMOUS).)

    And I didn’t mention it in my review, but as many people have noted, the main character in protagonist is indeed a bit of a “woobie” (new word for me!), but I didn’t think that was a problem — that was realistic.

  21. @Rich Horton —

    mine were KA

    I’m glad to see someone else mention this one. I keep waffling between thinking it was just okay and thinking it was brilliant.

  22. 6b
    Mind, I would not say I was one of the lucky 10K. And my bad luck has rubbed off on Mike. Two “about”s and two 6s!

  23. My own Best Novel Nominees That Didn’t Make It included Kameron Hurley’s The Stars Are Legion, Nick Harkaway’s Gnomon (which I thought was very good indeed) and last year’s Man Booker Prize winner, George Saunders’s Lincoln in the Bardo. But the Hugo Award, at the end of the day, is a prize for popular writing (among the WorldCon membership, anyway), and I’m not really surprised that Provenance turned out to be more popular than those three – however much I, personally, might wish it otherwise.

    (It would’ve been great if Lincoln in the Bardo had made it onto the list. The opportunity for SF-in-general to lift its collective leg and mark some territory on “Serious Litratcha” doesn’t come up often.)

  24. @Jeremy Szal –

    Obviously, there’s some merit it the book, and it’s obvious that Leckie’s work is Not For Me

    That’s where I am with her work as well. I think there’s some great ideas in there but her style and narratives I don’t connect with. Which is fine, if not a little sad because I see people having a great time with them and I want to be sharing that experience as well, but like electronic dance music I can appreciate the technical talent and skill involved and wow people are really having a great time dancing to it but it’s not for me.

    And the musical metaphor might be in my head as I’m reading Space Opera (13) and enjoying the heck out of it. Only thing is that I’m a visual reader, I see the books playing out like movies in my head, and Space Opera is a bit of imaginary sensory overload. The sentences go on in madly wonderful descriptions, the kind where you can tell the writer was just having a great time and it comes across well. Sometimes the text goes off into long side tracks and things that might bother me in other books (describing something as looking like the smell of watermelon smoke) but I can’t imagine a copy editor trying to cull any lines because it’d be like kicking a baby unicorn. It’s fun, funny and sometimes a bit too much so that I’ve been reading it in chunks.

    4 – Horror is cyclical, it will not be hurt by being more mainstream now nor will it hurt by being less so later. Just like a knife in the dark it will always just be waiting there ready for when we need it.

  25. @Steve Wright —

    last year’s Man Booker Prize winner, George Saunders’s Lincoln in the Bardo.

    I loved loved LOVED this book. But I didn’t put it on my Hugo list, because I just didn’t think it “fit”.

    This seems to be a Marmite book — I’ve read a lot of glowing reviews, and a lot of scathing ones. Personally, I highly recommend the audio version. It’s very much a “Ken Burns Does Ghosts in a Cemetery” sort of book, and the narrators are wonderful.

  26. @Jeremy Szal: If I wanted to read about incompetent and inept individuals way out of their depth, I’d pay much more attention to U.S. politics. The difference is that those people got where they are through some combination of the Peter Principle (which is too common) and naked ambition (which I have no sympathy with). IIRC, the issue in Provenance is more like “Who gets the inheritance and who gets the shaft”, with a side of trying for parental acceptance; the more-worthwhile goal made the struggle more interesting. Also, I’d argue that the lead is not incompetent/inept (unlike some politicians, for whom TNH’s epithet-quote “dumber than a sack of hammers” is too kind); the question is whether she’s ept and competent enough.

  27. @Anoplophora

    If you have another look at the last Scroll you’ll see the title of the short story and a small amount of further discussion.

  28. I was a bit sad to see “Autonomous” didn’t make the final Hugo ballot. “Providence” didn’t make my list for reasons already mentioned. Pleased to hear I wasn’t the only one who nominated “Lincoln In the Bardo”. 🙂

  29. (16) Cool. Mmm can I have one, please?

    I’m no longer a cyborg. Had surgery today to remove the metal from my knee. I’m not supposed to make any life-changing decisions until the drugs wear off completely. But here I am throwing caution to the wind & commenting like a boss. #preemptiveexcuse

    So dont vote for the Hugos today!
    And Congrats, of course!

    (8) The Tingler is a big fan of radiohead apparently.
    In this spirit:

    Pixel police
    I’ve reading all I can
    It’s not enough
    I’ve reading all I can
    But Ballot not finished
    This is what you’ll get
    This is what you’ll get
    This is what you’ll get
    When you mess with Hugos

  30. Just finished Ferrett Steinmetz’s Uploaded. I think I’ll look for his other books, but this one had issues.
    The thing is, I swear I’ve seen blurbs for similar books but can’t find them.
    Anyone able to think of other books where the uploaded dead rule the roost while the living toil away in near slavery?

  31. “The Scrolls on Forty Fifth” (formerly “The Files on Forty Fifth”)

    You can Scroll it like Glyer, love that news lowdown
    Clicky the checkbox, get email notified
    But don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t forget, oh no
    Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t forget

    The Scrolls on Forty Fifth
    Keep on filing in your mind
    “Cats Sit on SFF”
    And “Meredith Moments”
    Still more books to add to Mt TBR

  32. Arifel: To me she felt plausibly out of her depth, and clearly very talented even if its not at the things she thinks she should be good at, but I can understand how to others that reads as “irritatingly incompetent”.

    Except that she’s not incompetent. Unworldly and too trusting, yes, but not incompetent. And this is where Provenance resembles the Ancillary books — Breq keeps telling you, over and over, that she isn’t human — while repeatedly demonstrating that she is more human than almost any other character in the book. And Ingray keeps telling you that she’s incompetent — while repeatedly demonstrating her ability to improvise and deal with what life and chance hand her, much of which is shitty — and yet she refuses to become jaded, cynical, and hateful.

    The trick is recognizing that the character is an unconsciously unreliable narrator, and that what they’re telling you isn’t true.

    I agree that Provenance is not another Ancillary Justice — but of the ~60 2017 novels I’ve read, none of them was on the level of Ancillary Justice. That novel set a very high bar for other novels to clear.

  33. Sean Wallace says Back when it was in mass market paperback, you could probably push as much as you really wanted, especially if you bought co-op, but as Cat Eldridge pointed out, within a few months most would come back unsold. I suspect the anthology is written off as a marketing expense, really.

    Most publishers treat trade paper like MMPs in that all the seller returns for full credit is the cover with the book itself getting trashed. That way neither the seller or the publisher pickup shipping back costs.

    Magazine industry works the same way — send the ripped off covers back within a certain period and get full credit.

  34. @JJ Exactly my takeaway too – and what I particularly adore about Provenance and the Ancillary books (especially Ancillary Mercy) is that the protagonists end up surrounded by people who recognise and -sometimes grudgingly – admire their talents even though the protagonist can’t actually see what they value. It’s subtle and brilliant and heartwarming, and I think it forms a big part in what turns these books about AIs and aliens and unrecognisably odd human cultures into stories about recgnisable and sympathetic people, without compromising on that other-ness that makes the worldbuilding so rich.

    And yeah, for reasons alluded to above I find Ingray more sympathetic and relatable than Miles Vorkosigan, who is going through a similar stage of development in his earliest POV books.

  35. I honestly thought 2017 didn’t have as many stand-out knock-my-socks-off novels as some other years have had (bearing in mind, of course, that there are a bunch I haven’t read yet, including some well-regarded ones like Autonomous.) The only 2017 SFF novels I’ve given five stars to so far are In Other Lands (which I didn’t even read until March 2018), City of Miracles, and Miranda and Caliban (which I seem to be largely alone in adoring).

    But given that In Other Lands is up for the YA and City of Miracles is up in Best Series, I’m reasonably content with the distribution of my faves, and there are 8 other books I gave four-star ratings that up for awards in either Best Novel, YA, Campbell, or Series. If any of those win, I’ll still be pretty happy.

    Although if, of course, something I didn’t like so much wins somewhere, I will be forced to shake my head and mutter, “What were people thinking?!” to myself on public transportation, as one does. (It happens, although it hasn’t much in recent years; but I just read a much-acclaimed 2018 book that I haaaated. I suspect it’ll at least make the ballot next year, and who knows, it could win.)

  36. @jamoche on the subject of shelf space in major bookstores, whether the book sold well or not had very little to do with how it was displayed.

    For many years in the 1980s I worked at bookstores (B.Dalton, Benjamin Books, Schoenhof’s, among others). There was no attempt to hide the promotional aspects of bookselling. Spaces in the store were regularly bought and paid for. Not just end-caps, or those fold-out cardboard standing displays (usually full of Danielle Steel or Stephen King), but also actual shelf space.

    When I worked as Senior Sales Clerk at B. Dalton, we actually had computer print-outs from the “mothership” in Minneapolis that would list the exact number of books to be placed facing out for particular authors in particular sections. (The thickness of the book was measured to fit the shelf space). And that computer in the sky would also insist on which shelf the book had to appear on (how many feet above the ground). Sometimes this meant moving whole racks of books to get the “premium” book in the right position.

    If you think this sort of drudgery wasn’t bad enough, the “senior managers” would go on tours around the country to check up on the regional anchor stores and the only thing they verified was if the checklists of those items were in place. The rest of the store could be full of Hunter Thompson, William S. Burroughs, Celine, Kathy Acker books for all these guys knew. (And in my store, yes, it was!)

    But the worst of all were the “strip lists,” that mama computer sent us, telling us which books to destroy (by stripping off the covers) and sending the covers back for credit to the publisher. Much cheaper to send the envelope of unsold covers than the whole books. And it was “illegal” we were told to do anything with those books, like donating them to a prison, for example. They had to be destroyed. To add insult to injury, owing to the reality of sordid human beings moving things around, the computer often gave us orders to strip all copies of a book that we hadn’t received yet! And our store manager just told us to follow the strip list: basically destroy the book as we unpacked it and never let it touch the shelf…. *sigh*

    Anyway, I eventually got out of the bookselling biz and resorted to my current life of crime (… academia).

  37. @BravoLimaPoppa3: I am curious about the issues? (I’ve been trying to decide whether to track it down.) But no, I can’t recall any others on the same premise.

  38. mlex: there’s a scene in The Door into Summer in which the narrator is destroying brand-new cars for some market reason I won’t try to explain (given that RAH’s economics were heading around the twist by then). I thought it was only a parable; the idea of stripping books that hadn’t even been displayed in the real world is … bizarre.

  39. Chip Hitchcock:
    I remember that scene. Brand-new Eisenhowers! Also, they weren’t really roadworthy. They were often incomplete or badly made, because they knew they were being manufactured for immediate destruction.

    Soon Lee: Thanks!

  40. @chip yes, bizarre, and heart breaking. I always treasured books, and here I was being paid to destroy them! When I was offered a job at the indie bookstore, Salt of the Earth, managed by John Randall, I said good-bye to the B. Dalton computer, once and for all!

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