Pixel Scroll 4/16/20 And Faintly Falling, Like The Descent Of Their Last End, Upon All The Scrolling And The Filed

(1) STUCK INSIDE. BBC’s Doctor Who site has posted a new short story by Paul Cornell, “The Shadow Passes”. The setup is —

… She’d been thinking that when Graham had found the sign. It had said, the letters wobbling a little in the way that indicated the TARDIS was translating for them, ‘This way to the shelters’.

‘Am I over-reacting,’ Graham had said, ‘or is that just a tiny bit worrying?’

Which was how they’d ended up in a bare room, one hundred feet underground, sitting in a circle, with the names of famous people stuck to their foreheads….

(2) BOUCHERCON CANCELLED. The annual mystery convention, which was to have been held in Sacramento, CA in October has been cancelled. Provisions will be made for the Anthony Awards and some other components of the con.

We’re terribly sad to tell you this, but out of an abundance of caution and concern for the health and safety of our community, we are canceling Bouchercon 2020.

We have no way of knowing what the balance of this year holds for groups of people gathering, nor can we tell what the state of travel will be.

While we are canceling the actual Bouchercon convention, we are working to develop a different format for some of the Bouchercon events and activities such as the Anthony Awards, the short story anthology and the General Membership meeting. Nominations will continue to be open until June 5 for the Anthony Awards. As we work to develop other ways to present a traditional Bouchercon experience, we’ll keep in touch with you.

(3) VINTAGE ROLL. Via Shelf Awareness, a photo from the owners of a Sewickley, PA bookstore: “Toilet Paper Shortage Update: Penguin Bookshop”.

I inherited this 25-year-old roll of penguin toilet paper when I bought the Penguin in 2014. And darn it! Come hell or high water (or no more tp) we aren’t going to use it now.

Jim Freund said online, “I think The Penguin Shop, formerly headquartered in Brooklyn and with a physical store at the South Street Seaport called ‘Next Stop, South Pole’ used to carry that TP.  25 years ago sounds about right, so they may well have gotten it from there.”

(4) PAINT YOUR STARSHIP. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler finds women sff authors in 1965 – but it isn’t easy: “[Apr. 16, 1965] The Second Sex In Sff, Part VIII”. Six are named in this post.

It’s been almost two years since the last edition of our The Second Sex in SFF series came out.  In that time, women have only gotten more underrepresented in our genre.  Nevertheless, new women authors continue to arrive on the scene, and some who produced under gender-ambiguous names have become known to me…

(5) WHY THE FUTURE IS COVERED IN KUDZU. Geoff Manaugh, in “Tax Incentives and the Human Imagination” on Bldgblog, says that the landscape of horror films often depends on which state or country offers the biggest tax deductions, including such obscure ones as the amount of expenses caterers can deduct.

…My point is that an entire generation of people—not just Americans, but film viewers and coronavirus quarantine streamers and TV binge-watchers around the world—might have their imaginative landscapes shaped not by immaterial forces, by symbolic archetypes or universal rules bubbling up from the high-pressure depths of human psychology, but instead by tax breaks offered in particular U.S. states at particular moments in American history.

You grow up thinking about Gothic pine forests, or you fall asleep at night with visions of rain-soaked Georgia parking lots crowding your head, but it’s not just because of the aesthetic or atmospheric appeal of those landscapes; it’s because those landscapes are, in effect, receiving imaginative subsidies from local business bureaus. You’re dreaming of them for a reason….

(6) READ A KIJ JOHNSON STORY. Us in Flux is a new series of short stories and virtual gatherings from the Center for Science and the Imagination that explore themes of community, collaboration, and collective imagination in response to transformative events. The project’s second story launched today: “An Attempt at Exhausting My Deck,” by Kij Johnson.

On Monday, April 20 at 4 p.m. Eastern, they’ll have a virtual event on Zoom with Kij in conversation with Jessie Rack, an ecologist and coordinator for the Supporting Environmental Education and Communities program at the University of Arizona.

Programming Note: They’ll have two more weekly installments (stories by Chinelo Onwualu and Tochi Onyebuchi), then continue publishing on a biweekly schedule.  

(7) DENNEHY OBIT. Actor Brian Dennehy has died at the age of 81. His genre work included the movie Cocoon (1985), the Masters of Science Fiction episode “The Discarded” (2007) – based on a Harlan Ellison story, and voice work in Ratatouille (2007).

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 15, 1955 Science Fiction Theatre aired “Time Is Just A Place” as the second episode of the first season.  It’s from Jack Finey’s “Such Interesting Neighbors” (published in Collier’s, 1951) which would later form the basis of the March 20, 1987 adaptation of the story under its original title for Amazing Stories. The story is that neighbors are increasingly suspicious of the inventions of Mr. Heller, who claims to be an inventor, who uses a robotic vacuum cleaner and a flashlight that beams x-rays. It starred Don DeFore, Warren Stevens and Marie Windsor.  You can watch it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 16, 1913 Lester Tremayne. Between 1953 and 1962, he appeared in these in these genre films: The War of the WorldsForbidden PlanetThe Monolith MonstersThe Angry Red Planet and Kong vs. Godzilla. He’d later appear in Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaMy Favorite MartianMy Living Doll (yes, it’s SF) and Shazam! (Died 2003.)
  • Born April 16, 1918 Spike Milligan. Writer and principal star of The Goon Show which lampooned  a number of genre works such as H. Rider Haggard’s She, Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, James Hilton’s Lost Horizon and Quatermass and the Pit. You can find these scripts in The Goon Show Scripts and More Goon Show Scripts. (Died 2002.)
  • Born April 16, 1921 Peter Ustinov. He had a number of genre appearances such as being in Blackbeard’s Ghost as Captain Blackbeard, in the animated Robin Hood by voicing both  Prince John and King Richard, as simply The Old Man In Logan’s Run, Truck Driver In The Great Muppet Caper, and in Alice in Wonderland as The Walrus. He wrote The Old Man and Mr. Smith: A Fable which is clearly genre. (Died 2004.)
  • Born April 16, 1922 Kingsley Amis. So have you read The Green Man? I’m still not convinced that anything actually happened, or that rather everything including the hauntings were really in Maurice Allington’s decayed brain. I’m not seeing that he did much else for genre work other outside of The Alteration but he did write Colonel Sun: a James Bond Adventure under the pseudonym of Robert Markham and his New Maps of Hell: A Survey of Science Fiction sounds fascinating published in the late Fifties, he shares his views on the genre and makes some predictions as there’ll never be a SF series on the boob tube. (Died 1995.)
  • Born April 16, 1922 John Christopher. Author of The Tripods, an alien invasion series which was adapted into both a radio and television series. He wrote a lot of genre fiction including the Fireball series in which Rome never fell, and The Death of Grass which I mention because it was one of the many YA post-apocalyptic novels that he wrote in the Fifties and Sixties that sold extremely well in the U.K. (Died 2012.)
  • Born April 16, 1962 Kathryn Cramer, 58. Writer, editor, and literary critic. She co-founded The New York Review of Science Fiction in 1988 with David G. Hartwell and others, and was its co-editor until 1991 and again since 1996. She edited with her husband David G. Hartwell Year’s Best Fantasy one through nine and Year’s Best SF seven through seventeen with him as well.  They did a number of anthologies of which I’ll single out The Hard SF Renaissance and The Space Opera Renaissance as particularly superb.
  • Born April 16, 1963 Scott Nicolay, 57. Navajo writer whose “Do You Like to Look At Monsters?“ was honored with the World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story. It’s found in his Ana Kai Tangata: Tales of the Outer the Other the Damned and the Doomed collection. He hosts The Outer Dark, a weekly podcast about weird fiction.
  • Born April 16, 1983 Thomas Olde Heuvelt, 37. He won a Novelette Hugo at Sasquan for “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” (translated by Lia Belt). He’s best for HEX, a horror novel, and  “You Know How the Story Goes: A Tor.com Original”  is his other English language story. 

(10) BIRTHDAY QUIZ. And via Lise Andreasen (translated from this tweet):

Who am I?
One of my names is þórhildur.
I appear on stamps from Greenland.
One of my ancestors was Harald Bluetooth.
I illustrated Tolkien under the pseudonym Ingahild Grathmer.
I turn 80 today. 

Answer: The Danish queen. 

(11) CAN YOU DO THIS? Wil Wheaton publicized an opportunity for 3D makers to help frontline workers: “Gamers vs. COVID-19”. Contact info at the link.

My upcoming eSports competition show, Gamemaster, has been delayed like everything else, but the people involved wanted to use the resources they had already mustered for production to do some good at a moment in time when it’s so desperately needed.

So we’re organizing to 3D print what we can for our frontline healthcare workers!

(12) REFERENCE DIRECTOR! Anna Nemtova, in “Chernobyl Is Burning and a Sci-Fi Cult Is Blamed” on The Daily Beast, says that there are substantial fires in Ukraine near Chenobyl (closed to all visitors because of the coronavirus) and authorities blame “stalkers,” devotees of the Arkady and Boris Strugatsky novel Roadside Picnic, who are living on refuse left behind in the new sealed-off region, just like the “stalkers” in the Strugatsky brothers’ novel were scavengers who lived on refuse left behind by alien visitors.

…The Ukrainian state agency monitoring radiation levels has reported toxic lithium in the air, but the health minister reportedly says radiation levels are normal. Meanwhile, winds have brought the smoke in the direction of Kyiv, making hundreds of thousands of people under COVID-19 quarantine think twice before opening windows.

As often happens with wildfires, the cause of the blaze is not entirely clear. But in a truly strange twist, many in the region blame people who call themselves “stalkers,” inspired by characters in the classic science-fiction novel Roadside Picnic published back in 1972, in the Soviet era, by authors Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. 

It’s a story of how people on Earth deal with a visit by aliens who seem to have stopped off, paid little attention to the inhabitants, and, like irresponsible picnickers, left a lot of their junk lying around in half a dozen “Zones” on the planet. The aliens’ discarded refuse has enormous potential to change life on the planet, if only humans can figure out what it’s for. 

Most of the present-day stalkers are respectful of the Exclusion Zone around Chernobyl and some have even fixed up abandoned apartments in the abandoned town of Pripyat. But there are also criminals, and there are constant conflicts with what had been booming legal tourism in the area before coronavirus lockdowns began March 16.

“They hate us tourist guides and our tourists,” Olena Gnes from Chernobyl Tour told The Daily Beast. “Now, when no tourists can travel to Chernobyl’s zone, the ghost city and the villages around belong to them.” 

“The fire started right on the paths, where stalkers normally walk,” said Yaroslav Emelianenko, director of the Chernobyl Tour group, who saw the fire and visited burned villages Sunday, then returned to Kyiv to collect generators, respirators, and other aid for firefighters….

(13) SILVER SLATE. To make sure the Dragon Awards continue to enjoy the reputation they have today, Superversive SF signal boosted “Silver Empire’s Slate for the 2020 Dragon Awards”. Silver Empire publisher Russell Newquist’s stable includes all of these authors, plus John C. Wright and more.

Silver Empire’s Slate for the 2020 Dragon Awards

  • Best Sci Fi: Overlook by Jon Mollison
  • Best Fantasy (incl. Paranormal): Victory’s Kiss by Bokerah Brumley
  • Best YA: The Unbearable Heaviness of Remembering by L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright
  • Best Mi-SF: Justified by Jon Del Arroz
  • Best Alt History: This Deadly Engine by (Philip) Matt Ligon
  • Best Horror: Deus Vult by Declan Finn

(14) RHETORIC…ARISTOTLE…SOMETHING. Five years later (!), Chris Nuttall is still trying to reshape what the Sad and Rabid Puppies did into an argument he can win: “The Right to be Wrong”.

…For example, a few years ago, I attended a panel at a convention that touched on the Sad Puppies controversy.  One of the panellists put forward an argument that went a little like this: “Vox Day supports the Sad Puppies, Vox Day is a fascist bastard, therefore the Sad Puppies are evil.”  Quite apart from the sheer number of inaccuracies in the statement, it misses the fundamental point that [whatever] is not rendered right or wrong by whoever says it.  Just because Vox Day said something doesn’t make it automatically wrong.  That argument leads to logical fallacies like “Hitler was a vegetarian and openly promoted the lifestyle, therefore vegetarians are evil.”  I’m pretty sure that every last vegetarian would find that fallacy offensive.

The Sad Puppies affair does show, on a small scale, the problems caused by bad faith arguments.  No one would have objected to a statement that started “the Sad Puppy books are not Hugo-worthy” and gone on to give a calm and reasonable argument.  Even if the arguments were unconvincing, they would not have the corrosive effects of bad faith arguments like the one I mentioned above and many more. …

(15) AT THE CORE. “Astronomers saw a star dancing around a black hole. And it proves Einstein’s theory was right”CNN has the details.

… Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity suggested the orbit would look like an ellipse, but it doesn’t. The rosette shape, however, holds up Einstein’s theory of relativity.

“Einstein’s general relativity predicts that bound orbits of one object around another are not closed, as in Newtonian gravity, but precess forwards in the plane of motion,” said Reinhard Genzel, in a statement. He is the director at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany.

…Sagittarius A* is the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy. It’s 26,000 light-years from the sun. Our solar system exists on the edge of one of the Milky Way’s massive spiral arms.

Dense stars can be found around the black hole. One of them, the star known as S2 in this observation, passes closest to the black hole within less than 20 billion kilometers.

It’s one of the closest stars to be found orbiting the black hole.

And when it nears the black hole, the star is moving at 3% the speed of light. It takes 16 Earth years for the star to complete an orbit around the black hole.

“After following the star in its orbit for over two and a half decades, our exquisite measurements robustly detect S2’s Schwarzschild precession in its path around Sagittarius A*,” said Stefan Gillessen, who led the analysis of the measurements at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics.

(16) PYRAMID IN THE SKY. “Europe’s Cheops telescope begins study of far-off worlds”.

Europe’s newest space telescope has begun ramping up its science operations.

Cheops was launched in December to study and characterise planets outside our Solar System.

And after a period of commissioning and testing, the orbiting observatory is now ready to fulfil its mission.

Early targets for investigation include the so-called “Styrofoam world” Kelt-11b; the “lava planet” 55 Cancri-e; and the “evaporating planet” GJ-436b.

Discovered in previous surveys of the sky, Cheops hopes to add to the knowledge of what these and hundreds of other far-flung objects are really like.

…Kelt-11b has provided a good early demonstration. This is a giant exoplanet some 30% larger than our own Jupiter that orbits very close to a star called HD 93396. Kelt-11b is a seemingly “puffed up” world with a very low density – hence the comparison with expanded foam.

From the way the light from the star dips when Kelt-11b moves in front to make its transit, Cheops’ exquisite photometer instrument is able to determine the planet’s diameter to be 181,600km (plus or minus 4,290km). This measurement is over five times more precise than was possible using a ground-based telescope.

(17) MATTER OF IMPORTANCE. BBC reports “Biggest cosmic mystery ‘step closer’ to solution”.

Stars, galaxies, planets, pretty much everything that makes up our everyday lives owes its existence to a cosmic quirk.

The nature of this quirk, which allowed matter to dominate the Universe at the expense of antimatter, remains a mystery.

Now, results from an experiment in Japan could help researchers solve the puzzle – one of the biggest in science.

It hinges on a difference in the way matter and antimatter particles behave.

…During the first fractions of a second of the Big Bang, the hot, dense Universe was fizzing with particle-antiparticle pairs popping in and out of existence. Without some other, unknown mechanism at play, the Universe should contain nothing but leftover energy.

“It would be pretty boring and we wouldn’t be here,” Prof Stefan Söldner-Rembold, head of the particle physics group at the University of Manchester, told BBC News.

So what happened to tip the balance?

That’s where the T2K experiment comes in. T2K is based at the Super-Kamiokande neutrino observatory, based underground in the Kamioka area of Hida, Japan.

(18) VACCINE RESEARCH. “Global race to a COVID-19 vaccine” — a bit Harvard-centric, but a lot of detail on various approaches.

In Dan Barouch’s lab, many researchers have not taken a day off since early January, and virtually all are working nearly seven days week to develop a vaccine that could help end the coronavirus pandemic.

“Everybody wants to contribute to this global crisis as best they can,” said Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

The team hopes their work will be worth it. There is cause for optimism.

The lab developed a vaccine in collaboration with Janssen Pharmaceutical Cos., the drug-making arm of Johnson & Johnson. It plans to launch clinical trials in the fall as part of a joint $1 billion collaboration agreement announced by the U.S. government and Johnson & Johnson on March 30…..

(19) ALGOLRITHIM AND BLUES. “Coronavirus: Facebook alters virus policy after damning misinformation report”.

Facebook is changing how it treats Covid-19 misinformation after a damning report into its handling of the virus.

Users who have read, watched or shared false coronavirus content will receive a pop-up alert urging them to go the World Health Organisation’s website.

A study had indicated Facebook was frequently failing to clamp down on false posts, particularly when they were in languages other than English.

Facebook said the research did not reflect the work it had done recently.

The California tech firm says it will start showing the messages at the top of news feeds “in the coming weeks”.

The messages will direct people to a World Health Organisation webpage where myths are debunked.

The changes have been prompted by a major study of misinformation on the platform across six languages by Avaaz, a crowdfunded activist group.

Researchers say millions of Facebook users continue to be exposed to coronavirus misinformation, without any warning on the platform.

The group found some of the most dangerous falsehoods had received hundreds of thousands of views, including claims like “black people are resistant to coronavirus” and “Coronavirus is destroyed by chlorine dioxide”.

(20) WHAT GOES AROUND. The coronavirus has turned this bus into the “Dave Kyle says you can’t sit here” Express. (Reference explained at the link.)

(21) KEEP THEM DOGIES ROLLIN’. Digital Trends tells how “Stanford’s shape-shifting ‘balloon animal’ robot could one day explore space”.

The cool thing about balloon animals is that, using the same basic inflatable building blocks, a skilled person can create just about anything you could ask for. That same methodology is what’s at the heart of a recent Stanford University and University of California, Santa Barbara, soft robotics project. Described by its creators as a “large-scale isoperimetric soft robot,” it’s a human-scale robot created from a series of identical robot roller modules that are mounted onto inflatable fabric tubes. Just like the balloon animals you remember, this leads to some impressive shape-shifting inventiveness….

[Thanks to Contrarius, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cliff (this is the other half of a suggestion, the first part of which ran last year on June 15).]

85 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 4/16/20 And Faintly Falling, Like The Descent Of Their Last End, Upon All The Scrolling And The Filed

  1. (9) I was a big fan of the Tripod books (even though I inadvertently read them out of order) – also liked The Lotus Caves

  2. @9 (Amis): My first thought was that the whirlwind near the end of the exorcism was not subjective — but on second thought I realized that the priest didn’t seem to see anything happening, so maybe that was more in-Maurice’s-brain (or maybe the priest was just being his usual prattish self). Amis did have a third genre novel, orthogonal to the other two: in The Anti-Death League, the maguffin is a rifle that shoots bullet-sized atomic bombs. It is in some ways less sexist than his usual work, although it follows the structure that he tells us (IIRC in another novel) that a novel requires (framing with deaths of minor characters). I know I’ve read Russian Hide-and-seek, which is presumably in ISFDB as an alternate-history story, but I don’t remember thinking much of it — not just a cultural issue, I think, because I read and enjoyed a number of his mundane works set in England. I’d forgotten that prediction; I wonder what he said when someone braced him on it.

    @14 might be worth reading if the excerpt didn’t show him complaining about fans imitating Puppy behavior. Good editing!

    @15: seriously cool.

    @21: I’m not sure how much use that will be — ISTM that carrying anything delicate or complicated could be difficult — but the whole moving-by-reforming idea (not to mention the fact that it packs small) looks like an invitation to imagine things it can do.

    The BBC has a story aimed at middle-graders about NASA employees working from home using 3D-movie spectacles — goshwow tone, but a neat solution to a problem.

    And Bizarro tells us that even ‘toons get the blues

  3. Amis also wrote a small number of SFF short stories in the late 50s, as I recall (this could be an error on my part), and I believe that he edited at least one anthology with Robert Conquest. Maybe more – Conquest’s anthologies were a series.

  4. (7) Brian Dennehy reached the age of 81, not 91. I remember him best from non-genre roles, particularly Presumed Innocent and the first-season episode of Lou Grant where he was the lieutenant of the secretly Jewish neo-Nazi leader played by Peter Weller.

  5. (14) Chris Nuttall: No one would have objected to a statement that started “the Sad Puppy books are not Hugo-worthy” and gone on to give a calm and reasonable argument.

    Actually, dozens — possibly hundreds — of us read the Puppy works which were cheated onto the Hugo ballot and said exactly this, and explained why these works were mediocre or even execrable — and we were called liars and many worse things, and harassed and horrifically abused by the Puppies, for actually reading and posting genuine reviews of those works, and ultimately No-Awarding them, because they were crap.

     
    Chris Nuttall: The point is that you have to give them a fair hearing, and you have to refrain from punishing them for ‘bad’ opinions, even if you don’t like them. At best, you’ll be able to confirm your positions and make a show of open-mindedness; at worst, you’ll avoid disaster.

    What good advice, Chris. What a pity that the Puppies didn’t listen to you back in 2015 and 2016. They could have saved themselves a lot of humiliation.

    To this day, I just laugh and laugh whenever I see Puppies bragging about the Hugo nominations they got through cheating, as if they think it shows some actual accomplishment on their part. Isn’t it funny how those cheated nominations never got them the respect and esteem and sales that they expected to receive — because they were too greedy and unethical to understand that the respect and esteem and sales have to come first, and only then will the Hugo nominations follow.

  6. 9)/Andrew — I was also a huge fan of the Tripods books; I think they might have been my first SF? (Why, oh why, didn’t I obsessively document every book, movie, TV series, song and video game I ever read, watched, listened to or played over the years?) And I was also a fan of The Lotus Caves — that was one of the books that helped me grok the notion that books were actually written by people (because one of the characters in Lotus Caves was writing, or at least talked about writing, some kind of pirate adventure novel).

  7. Raskos says Amis also wrote a small number of SFF short stories in the late 50s, as I recall (this could be an error on my part), and I believe that he edited at least one anthology with Robert Conquest. Maybe more – Conquest’s anthologies were a series.

    One second while I check ISFDB. Five actually, plus The Golden Age of Science Fiction by himself. And about sixteen pieces of fiction depending on if you count his poetry in the total.

  8. (14) Chris Nuttall,

    Gah, this again? As a Worldcon member, I read the stories from the Sad Puppies slate, I went in prepared to to be wowed by the great storytelling, prepared to set aside that the works were there by slate action.

    Reader, the storytelling was not great. The prose was at best pedestrian, at worst, bad. The Sad Puppy finalists that were ranked below “No Award”? They deserved their ranking.

    (There were a few Worldcon Members who were willing to overlook the bad acting that got those works onto the ballot: “Why not just vote them based on the quality of the stories?” In the end we did not have to struggle with our votes: the works not Hugo-worthy.)

  9. (13) So, what are the books on this slate about? With JdA on the slate, I bet they are breathtaking premises.

  10. Gosh, Chris Nuttall must have been very busy in 2015 if he never saw any of that. I’m sure if he’d asked for pointers at the time we would have directed him to many reasoned critiques, or even produced some for him directly. We certainly did so for other Puppyish visitors.

    Re 13: I resent that they snaffled up perfectly good dragons for the name of their apparent self-promotion award.

  11. 9) It’s been a very long time since I read New Maps of Hell, but as far as I remember Amis’ argument was that the natural mode for SF is satire. Which isn’t really true (though probably more true in the 50s and early 60s, when there was a lot of satirical SF around) but is a useful perspective to include when thinking about what SF is and what it does.

    I read a lot of John Christopher when I was a kid, but that was only because his books were easy to find in school libraries. He was one of those vaguely technophobic authors who did a lot of post-apocalypse pastoral and “sterile, vaguely dystopian future discovers the Good Old Days”. I remember enjoying The Lotus Caves, though – though in hindsight it’s obviously the usual conservative skepticism about the post-war welfare state – and the last volume of the Tripods trilogy, which was more pulp and less pastoral in ways that appealed to me when I was ten.

  12. The slate works were certainly judged on merit and found wanting. I put whatever the Jim Butcher/Harry Dresden above No Award, since it was competently written, despite it being very much part 15 of a series. I can see why others would not.

  13. The movie No Blade of Grass, based on John Christopher’s The Death of Grass, is showing on TCM April 25. It’s an odd little film, brutal and downbeat, but so is the book. It’s worth a viewing.

  14. Thanks for the title credit!

    5) My wife tells me that Supernatural is shot in Vancouver. And I’m guessing the BBC got a good deal on the quarry they seemed to use so much in Dr Who and Blake’s Seven. Tax breaks play a huge role in where vfx contracts are awarded, too. Vancouver and London offer generous breaks which have resulted in the sad decline of the industry in LA and SF.

    9) I’m another who enjoyed the Tripod books and The Lotus Caves, which I seem to remember I borrowed from the school library.

    19) I’m glad they’re doing something, but I wonder how effective it will be? I have an old school friend on Facebook who is now a successful actor and singer, and has many followers. Every day she spreads many fake corona virus, G5, aniti-vax, global new world order etc videos. I’ve discovered it’s pointless to try and discuss this kind of stuff with them, because any counter evidence in their eyes is part of the conspiracy. And as facebook take down the videos, they cry ‘censorship’.

  15. Well, that’s a convincing defense:

    Facebook said the research did not reflect the work it had done recently.

    The California tech firm says it will start showing the messages at the top of news feeds “in the coming weeks”.

    Maybe if Facebook shares its time machine with the researchers, they will have known to give it credit last week for what it will have done next month. Along with an explanation of why Facebook didn’t use that time machine to go back and fix the problem last year, before it came to everyone’s attention.

  16. The inflatable robot was a pretty cool piece of technology I was glad to know about.

  17. I’m glad that JJ, Soon Lee, and Meredith have confirmed my memories of 2015, because I read the extract quoted at #14 and was worried about how badly I was misremembering something which happened so recently!

  18. @Raskos: thanks for bringing up the short work — it was in the back of my mind because I’d recently read a collection of his short fiction, IIRC mentioned by someone here, but disappeared as I was opining on his novels. (As I get older, I find that outlining can actually be useful.) I also remember the Spectrum anthologies fondly, for both their fiction contents (including a Godwin story that exploded the demand made in “The Cold Equations” that we all submit to bad physics) and their prefaces, which tended toward edge-uppermost answers to mundane ignorance and/or misrepresentation of the field. The prefaces were signed with both sets of initials, but based on other work I suspect that the acid was mostly Amis’s.

    @Cliff: ISTM that @19 is something like quarantining or isolation: your sick friend and her friends may not be curable, but cutting them off means the uninfected-but-infectable are less likely to be exposed. At some point Facebook might even decide to cut your friend off completely (e.g., for “abuse of service”), although I’m not betting on it.

    apropos of lies about the pandemic: the BBC mentioned in passing yesterday that there are indications that the balderdash about 5G towers spreading coronavirus could come from deliberate Russian disinformation rather random stupidity. (IIRC this was in a story about some 5G-supporting antenna towers being torched.

    wrt Birthdays: “John Christopher” (pseud of Sam Youd) also did Pendulum, a one-off about England being taken over first by anarchistic motorcycle gangs and then by religious fanatics. (I got this from the SFBC when I was ~16; didn’t run into his many YA works until several years later.) He thought it would take the travails of violent anarchy to make people look forward to religious overlords; that might have been true for England, but in the US it seems that merely the delusion of anarchy is enough to drive people into the sway of God-pounders.

  19. @1 looks deliberately pertinent — which makes it a bit depressing, because the rest of us have to muddle through with just-us instead a very-random factor like the Doctor for company. But I liked it; I wonder whether the containing-multitudes explanation will become canon.

  20. @11, a friend of mine has his own 3-D printer and (with his principal’s blessing) brought home the one in his (now-shuttered) high-school physics room (he’s the teacher); both printers are churning out face-shield holders 24/7 for hospital face-masks. (You know, the kind with the clear plastic front.)

    We all do what we can.

    @14, I read the puppy offerings. I gave them their fair chance, even Vox Dei’s story. They were all mediocre-to-terrible; the best of them was the Dresden book which was ok but not award-worthy. Most of the people I talked to at the time did the same. This is flat-out revisionist history.

  21. (14) There was one John Wrong story that resonated a bit for me. There was something there I wanted to like, though it was, um, not overall a rewarding reading experience. I gave it a two star rating on Goodreads–and got puppy harassment demanding that I change my rating to one star, because that was obviously what I really meant.

    Yes, I had obviously evil motives for giving it anything higher than a one star rating.

    And I am supposed to take their whining and bitching seriously? I am supposed to plead guilty to not reading and evaluating the works on their merits?

    Nuttall can go take a flying leap. I got harrassed for not doing what they were portraying us as doing.

  22. 14) I am on Chris’s email list and saw this a few days back. Thought about submitting it, but also thought a little discretion in trying times might be a better choice.

    Also….I’m a huge fan of his “Empire Corps” series. He knows how to write great MilSF.

    I took this piece as less about re-litigating past events and more about trying to learn from those events. He’s advocating for fewer disingenuous arguments, less name-calling, and more engagement with the arguments being presented. I think that’s a reasonable objective.

    Tangentially, I found quite a few of the SP/RP nominees underwhelming. IMHO, the RP nominees were over-represented in the underwhelming category. I also found several of those nominees worthy of being finalists.

    Conversely, since that time, I’ve repeatedly found underwhelming finalists in the categories in which I am interested. Maybe broadening the nominating pool would provide better finalists?

    In the above “underwhelming” might mean “bad” in a couple of cases, but mostly means “not worthy of being top 5/6 in the genre”. IMHO as always. YMMV.

    Regards,
    Dann
    People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf. – Richard Grenier

  23. Dann665: He’s advocating for fewer disingenuous arguments

    … by himself making a deeply ingenuous argument. I call that a Hard Fail.

     
    Dann665: I also found several of those nominees worthy of being finalists.

    Really? I’d love to hear which ones, and why you think they were worthy. Some of them were possibly non-objectionable as reading material, but I don’t think any of them rose to the level of exceptional, which is what I expect of a Hugo finalist.

  24. @Dann: Maybe broadening the nominating pool would provide better finalists?

    Well, that’s easy:
    1) Read widely.
    2) Buy a Worldcon membership so you can nominate the stories you think are great.
    3) Tell your friends!

    @Chip Hitchcock: If the Amis collection you’re referring to is Dear Illusion, that might have been me.

  25. @PhilRM —

    Well, that’s easy:
    1) Read widely.
    2) Buy a Worldcon membership so you can nominate the stories you think are great.
    3) Tell your friends!

    So much this. It has always mystified me that puppy types find these simple steps so hard to understand.

  26. 14) I’m another of the many Hugo voters who tried to read the 2015 puppy finalists, found the vast majority of them extremely underwhelming and voted accordingly. I think there were three puppy finalists which were not as bad as the others – the Drseden Files novel (I’m a regular reader of the series, though that was one of the weaker installments. I also strongly suspect The Drseden Files will get a best series nomination next year), the “brain in a jar” story (not exactly original, but decent) and the one about the alien cows (fluff, but at least amusing) – which I put above No Award. Everything else went under “No Award”, because it was not even remotely award worthy.

    I also recall a lot of discussion about the quality of the puppy finalists or lack thereof as well as several attempts to debate the more reasonable puppies, which usually ended in flouncing and namecalling, when their arguments were debunked, Somehow, Christopher Nuttall must have missed all of this.

    @Dann
    In the pre- and post-puppy years (and even during the puppy years), there have also been non-puppy Hugo finalists I found underwhelming. Sometimes, I can see what others like about them, even if they don’t work for me. In other cases, I have zero idea why they are so popular. I have deployed “No Award” every single year I have been voting for the Hugos and not just for puppy works either. If anything, the puppy experience has made me more ruthless about using “No Award”. Finalists I no awarded have subsequently won several times. Because Hugo voters are not a monolith and the majority evidently have different tastes then me.

    I also don’t see why we need to widen the pool of nominators. The pool is already big enough. Everybody can buy a Worldcon supporting membership and nominate/vote. If your tastes are rarely reflected on the ballot (which was how I felt in the late 2000s and early 2010s – lots of good books out there, but hardly any of them hit the Hugo ballot), the best way to change that is to nominate what you enjoy and hope that other people who share your taste will do the same.

  27. Contrarius: It has always mystified me that puppy types find these simple steps so hard to understand.

    It’s not that they don’t understand, it’s that they read
    3) Tell your friends!
    and think it means “Tell your friends to nominate the same things you do, so you can be guaranteed that your choices will make the ballot.”

  28. It’s not that they don’t understand, it’s that they read
    3) Tell your friends!
    and think it means “Tell your friends to nominate the same things you do, so you can be guaranteed that your choices will make the ballot.”

    Which had the effect of dramatically narrowing the pool of nominees.

    This entire thread is giving me deja vu. I’ve actually been rereading the posts from that time on Making Light, beginning from TNH’s guess that something unusual was up with the soon-to-be-announced short list, so the current talk of slating makes me feel I’ve been caught in some sort of time loop. The reread isn’t as rage-inducing as one might think; I know how things turn out, the Hugos were not destroyed, and there’s a lot of cleverness, kindness, and entertaining weirdness in those old conversations. (JJ and I had some enjoyable exchanges during that time!)

    Anyway, point being, it is super easy to verify that the latter-day pup at #14 has got it all wrong. It’s not like stuff posted on the Internet five years ago just disappeared or anything.

  29. @PhilRM: that’s it! My notes say I skimmed some of it, as the 1950’s-setting aren’t-all-army-officers-blighters stories got to be a bit monotonous — but there was some interesting genre stuff there I’d never heard of.

  30. (8) Thanks for the link to the episode! It was fascinating to see once again how much could be done in the days before expensive special effects.

  31. Bob Roehm wrote:

    The movie No Blade of Grass, based on John Christopher’s The Death of Grass, is showing on TCM April 25.

    Thanks for the tip! I enjoyed the novel, despite the weak, weak, weak ending.

    I have always enjoyed Kathryn Cramer’s anths, especially her recent work. We seem to have similar opinions about what sf can do. I think she’d have made a great Analog editor, but she may not have wanted such a gig.

  32. @ Chip – that’s a very good analogy. If she disappears completely from view, part of me will miss the crazy. I read her posts and the comments with much the same mixture of amazement, anger and relish that I get from certain puppy blogs. It’s a guilty pleasure. And an education.

  33. Also… re lies about the pandemic. Interesting that the BBC said that about 5G and Russian trolls – I hadn’t heard. But I had begun to suspect as much a while ago (my own conspiracy theory!). Much of the material my friend posts seems to have an agenda of disrupting society and/or infrastructure, criticizing left wing politicians and liberal philanthropists. Even anti-Fauci stuff, and he appears to be the only competent person in the current US administration.

  34. @Cliff: the BBC story talked only about the 5G myth — but since we know that Russia was aggravating discussion (by faked extreme postings on both sides) during the 2016 election, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that some of the stuff your friend is posting originated in Russia. (I wouldn’t be surprised if they were also at least assisting the “shut down the shutdown” protests that the Cheeto has been supporting.) ISTM there are other competents in the current administration, but they’re certainly not common; possibly the current Chief of Naval Operations will continue to show sense — although IIUC his best traditional-structure move, sacking the VCNO, isn’t possible as the VCNO is a presidential appointment.

  35. (3) VINTAGE ROLL. Cute. 🙂 My half-awake brain read one of the book titles as: Now We Are Six Feet Apart

    In re. puppies: It’s also fine to support the concept of “cheaters never prosper” by No Awarding cheaters flat out, whether you read them or not. And it’s fine to use one’s judgement to determine which items cheated onto the ballot may have gotten there on their own, and treat them differently – cf. later cheating popular works onto the ballot as some kind of idiotic “gotcha,” as if we were robots as opposed to thinking, reasoning humans, capable of understanding context. OMG that really strained my eyes with all the eye-rolling I had to do, IIRC, with the stupid Puppy expectation “hahaha you No Award things we slate, therefore we’ll slate something some of you claim to like!” ::massive eyeroll:: There, now my eyes hurt again. Oh it’s fun to walk down memory lane . . . Nuttall should try it, instead of walking down alt-history lane.

    Warning: I haven’t had a cup o’ tea yet, so I may be incoherently-ranty.

    ETA: Darn, WordPress eats my emojis for lunch & spits out “?” in their place.

  36. @ Chip – you’re right: I was way too broad with my remark about Fauci being the only competent one.

    One of the things that’s occurred to me here in the UK is that the Tory politicians, much as I dislike their policies in general, seem genuinely trying to do their best during this crisis. It’s nice to see that most of them are reasonable human beings. People such as Trump and Moscow Mitch, not so much.

  37. @JJ
    2016 – Fancasting category
    Cane and Rinse, The Rageaholic, and HelloGreedo. I thought all three were very entertaining for various reasons. Although TBH, I don’t know that I would want every fancasting nominee to adopt the persona of The Rageaholic. A little of that goes a long way.

    2106 – Novel
    Cinderspires (first place on my ballot). Aside from being a well-told story, it also contained subtexts in support of individual action and achievement. It presented a diverse society as a given without being some sort of sugar-coated utopia. It was also (at the time) the only steam-punk novel I had read that engaged me instead of just waving steam-punkium in my face and expecting me to just suck it up and move on. The “science/magic” made sense as a functional system within the confines of the story.

    Aaanndd…..sadly enough, I did not keep the emailed copy of my ballot from 2016. And I didn’t finish reviewing my vote via my blog. Additionally, I believe that Sebastien de Castell was done wrong by putting him below No Award. He had nothing to do with the RPs slating him onto the ballot. I maintain a modest bit of guilt because I think if I had not mentioned his name here, then the RPs would not have dragooned him into the affair. While I respect those that opted to put all slated entries below No Award as a matter of principle, I believe his work is good enough to be worthy of legitimate recognition.

    2015 – Novella
    Big Boys Don’t Cry by Tom Kratman (I put everything else below No Award, FWIW) This is one of the best novellas that I have read in years. The context of molding an asset…or a person…into an entity willing to kill along with the individual desire to serve with and protect one’s comrades make this top-shelf MilSF. Again, I respect those that put it below No Award as a matter of principle due to slating. IMO, this type of MilSF has been sorely lacking as a finalist in recent years.

    2015 – Novellete
    Ashes to Ashes…. by Gray Rinehart (I had 3 of 5 below No Award)

    2015 – Short Story
    Totaled by Kary English was very good. On a Spiritual Plain and Turncoat also made it above No Award.

    2015 – Fancasting
    Dungeon Crawlers Radio made it above No Award on my ballot. It was a good listen.

    [Thanks for asking. I had to hunt to find my write-up from 2015. I never posted it to my blog.]

    @PhilRM

    Indeed. I do those things. I also make sure to qualify that slating is an unacceptable tactic when doing #3.

    I would add a #4 – those that are already active need to be open to new people becoming active even when they have a different perspective. That’s good advice in all directions, IMO.

    @Cora Buhlert

    I also don’t see why we need to widen the pool of nominators. The pool is already big enough.

    I respectfully disagree. There are easily thousands of books (tens of thousands??) published each year. There are millions of readers. Less than 2000 people end up nominating for what is supposed to be the premier reader-voted award that covers everything in the SFF genre. The nomination could be an order of magnitude greater and I think the outcome would be improved.

    A larger pool of nominators might bring in an occasional bit of MilSF, horror, or grimdark. It might also bring in a broader range of authors/editors/creators. IMO, those would be beneficial results.

    At the very least, if the shift from having 400-800 nominators in the 90s to having 1500-2000 nominators produced a worthwhile shift in the resulting nominees, then wouldn’t a shift upward to 5k or so provide an improvement in the quality of the nominee pool?

    Regards,
    Dann
    I have never been scrolled by anything I didn’t file. – Calvin Pixeldge

  38. @Kendall

    re: emojis

    This site can be used to copypaste into the comments. You have to use the “HTML Dec Code” and insert a semicolon after each one. Then they will translate into your intended emoji on the site and in the comments.

  39. @Dann: Indeed. I do those things. I also make sure to qualify that slating is an unacceptable tactic when doing #3.
    I would add a #4 – those that are already active need to be open to new people becoming active even when they have a different perspective. That’s good advice in all directions, IMO.

    Your #4 makes it sound as though there is some kind of organized conspiracy to prevent anyone from joining in via steps 1 through 3 (and as a practical matter, step 2 is the only one required). There is not and never has been, no matter how much the Puppies want to pretend otherwise.

    …what is supposed to be the premier reader-voted award that covers everything in the SFF genre.

    That is not what the Hugos are. The Hugos are awards for the best SFF as voted on by the members of Worldcon. Full stop. They have never claimed to be anything else.

    ….wouldn’t a shift upward to 5k or so provide an improvement in the quality of the nominee pool?

    Again, see step 2. Or are you hinting that the ranks of Hugo voters should be expanded by some other means?

  40. @Dann:

    A larger pool of nominators might bring in an occasional bit of MilSF, horror, or grimdark.

    My impression is that a fair amount of MilSF or MilSF-related work are nominated for the Hugo. In this century there are all three Ancilliary novels (which are full of characters in the military), Singularity Sky, Old Man’s War (and other books in the series), this year’s Light Brigade, Ninefox Gambit, Cryptonomicon and no doubt a bunch of stuff that’s not coming to my mind at the moment (and I’m neglecting the military fantasy like “His Majesty’s Dragon”). I’ve never been that clear on the parameters of grimdark – would Windup Girl qualify?

  41. @Dann —

    Cinderspires (first place on my ballot). Aside from being a well-told story, it also contained subtexts in support of individual action and achievement.

    It also had incredibly annoying cat-things, and the plot beats could often be predicted way ahead of time. I did give it four stars for being fun, and I wouldn’t have NA’d it — but seriously, top of a ballot? Nope.

    Additionally, I believe that Sebastien de Castell was done wrong by putting him below No Award.

    I don’t remember this, and I’m not gonna go look right now, but if accurate I agree. I hug him and pet him and call him George. 😉

    I would add a #4 – those that are already active need to be open to new people becoming active even when they have a different perspective. That’s good advice in all directions, IMO.

    Ummm. I am a “new people”, having only started voting because of the puppies. And I have never been made to feel unwelcome, except by puppy types.

    Less than 2000 people end up nominating for what is supposed to be the premier reader-voted award that covers everything in the SFF genre. The nomination could be an order of magnitude greater and I think the outcome would be improved.

    What Andrew already said. Nope, nope, nope. The Goodreads awards are not vastly more significant or better just because they include a vastly larger number of voters.

    The Hugos are a very particular thing. They are voted on by people who do a helluva lot of reading, who are interested enough to pony up at least $40-$50 bucks every year for the chance to vote. That’s never gonna be a huge number of people, and that’s okay. Of course it’s great to get more people interested enough that they’re willing to invest that cash, but size isn’t everything.

    A larger pool of nominators might bring in an occasional bit of MilSF, horror, or grimdark.

    As has already been pointed out, there is no real lack of MilSF in the awards. And all three Jemisin novels were plenty grim and dark, with morally gray characters. The only thing they lacked to fit into “classic” grimdark was frequent swordplay. In fact, at least some puppies have castigated the Hugos for supposedly being TOO grim and dark.

    You can’t please everyone!

  42. Errata:

    My first credit (size of voting pool), should have gone to Phil, and the second one (MilSF) should have gone to Andrew. Apologies!

  43. Dann665: 2016 – Fancasting category – The Rageaholic

    This guy didn’t submit anything for the Hugo Voter Packet, so I went looking on YouTube. All I found were spittle-flecked political rants. There might have been some SFF material in there somewhere, but it was not immediately apparent. I thought his No Award was well-deserved.

     
    Dann665: 2106 – Novel – Cinderspires

    I read this whole novel. I thought it was phoned in; very predictable, lots of tropes, and inconsistencies up the wazoo (don’t even get me started on the ships; a windlass is a winch, not a type of ship or boat, the word he was looking for was “barge”; and WTF, you can’t call something with the dimensional proportions of a soup can a “spire”). At best it rose to the level of “beach read”; it was not innovative or in any way exceptional the way I expect Hugo finalists to be. I No-Awarded it (I also No-Awarded Seveneves, which had horribly wrong biology in it, and which was desperately in need of an editor with a chainsaw and the will to use it).

     
    Dann665: 2015 – Novella – Big Boys Don’t Cry by Tom Kratman (I put everything else below No Award, FWIW) This is one of the best novellas that I have read in years

    This was an okay but unremarkable story, but it was chock-full of tiresome political proselytizing. I had never read any Bolo stories before. When I subsequently did read a couple of Laumer’s stories — which were great — it was apparent to me not only what TK was going for, but that he didn’t come even close to that kind of good writing. That’s the danger in emulating famous works — if yours are not anywhere near as good, it will be glaringly apparent. I thought the No Award was well-deserved.

     
    Dann665: 2015 – Novellete – Ashes to Ashes…. by Gray Rinehart (I had 3 of 5 below No Award)

    This was a weird one. The story itself was okay — it had a bit of a Heinlein Sixth Column element to it — but the ending was clearly intended by the author to have a gut-wrenching impact… which it totally didn’t, for me, and which made the story fizzle out. I gather that this was the result of the author’s personal religious beliefs, and the fact that the impact would only exist for the people who share his beliefs seemed like a particular sort of cultural blindness on the part of the author.

     
    Dann665: 2015 – Short Story – Totaled by Kary English was very good.

    It was okay, but again, it suffered deeply from comparison to the original of this plot, Flowers for Algernon, and it bizarrely failed to explore the throwaway idea of insurance companies deciding who lives and who dies.

     
    I absolutely believe you enjoyed these things, but I also absolutely believe they were legitimately No-Awarded by a lot of Hugo voters, and they would never have made it onto the Hugo ballot by popular acclaim of Hugo nominators.

    As long as you continue to claim that the Hugo Awards should be taken away from Worldcon Members and become a public award, I really can’t take anything you say about the Hugos seriously. Worldcon Members are what have made the Hugo Awards so prestigious. I don’t see anyone claiming that the GoodReads Awards, which have tens of thousands of voters, are prestigious — because they’re not. There is a difference between quantity and quality.

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