Pixel Scroll 4/29/19 The Task Of Filling Up This Scroll I’d Rather Leave To You

(1) EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED. Ian Sales’ “Top five science fiction films” is a good post made even more interesting by the choice of John Carter (2012) as one of the five – not a movie many viewers would pick.

I saw someone recently tweet for requests for people’s top five science fiction films and I thought, I can do that. Then it occurred to me I’ve watched around 3000 movies in the past few years, and many of them were science fiction. So those films I think of as my favourites… well, surely I’d seen something that might lead to a new top five? Even if nothing sprung immediately to mind… True, I’m not that big a fan of science fiction cinema, and most of my favourite movies are dramas. And most of the sf films I have seen were commercial tentpole US movies, a genre I like even less…

I went back over my records, and pulled together a rough list of about fifteen films – it seems most of the sf films I’ve seen didn’t impress me very much – and then whittled that down to five. And they were pretty much old favourites. Which sort of rendered the whole exercise a bit pointless.

Or was it?…

(2) FILER SCORES SCALZI Q&A. While John Scalzi was in Hungary for the Budapest International Book Festival, he gave an interview to blogger Bence Pintér:

I will present an English version for my blog in a few days, but until then there is a short video interview at the end of the article, which is in English: “John Scalzi: A szélsojobbos trollok csak jót tettek a science fictionnel”.

(3) HELP ED NAHA. Lots of fans know Ed Naha as the creator and screenwriter for Honey I Shrunk The Kids, and a writer for Starlog, Fangoria and Heavy Metal. He also wrote scripts for the movies Doll, Trolls, and other horror/sf movies.

Paul Sanchez says, “Ed is facing an upcoming major life-threatening surgery. The great American health care system being what it is, it is not nearly enough (Shocking, right?)” So he’s launches a GoFundMe appeal —“Honey, I Shrunk Naha’s Medical Bills!”

In the first two days people have contributed $1,605 toward its $19,998 goal.

(4) ZHAO RETURNS. The author who pulled her book in response to a Twitter uproar now is ready for it to go to press.

The New York Times elaborates: “She Pulled Her Debut Book When Critics Found It Racist. Now She Plans to Publish.”

(5) WHY WAIT? “‘The Twilight Zone’ Renewed for Season 2 at CBS All Access” says The Hollywood Reporter.

CBS All Access and Jordan Peele will spend some more time in another dimension.

The streamer has renewed Peele and Simon Kinberg’s Twilight Zone revival for a second season. The pickup comes five episodes into the anthology’s run; new installments are released each Thursday.

(6) HORROR AT GETTYSBURG. Dann writes: “Via episode 216 of The Horror Show with Brian Keene, I learned about a new Con.”

The inaugural Creature Feature Weekend is scheduled to take place Labor Day weekend of 2019. (August 30 to September 1) In Gettysburg, PA. The con will feature the usual vendor’s room, autograph opportunities, nightly ghost/film location tours, and host an independent film festival.

Scheduled guests include Corey Feldman, Patty Mullen, Joe Bob Briggs, Geretta Geretta, Jason Brooks, Brandon Novak, Chalet Lizette Branna, Billy Bryan, David Eisenhauer John Russo, Glenn Ennis, and others.

Thought this might be of interest to fans of the horror corner of the genre pool.

(7) ANTHOLOGY ARCHITECTURE. In “Time Capsule: SF – The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy (1956)”, Nerds of a Feather contributors Adri Joy, Joe Sherry and Paul Weimer use a single work to focus their discussion of editor Judith Merril.

… Today we’re talking about Judith Merril’s first Year’s Best anthology: SF: The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy, originally published in 1956….

Paul: I am reminded that rights make it difficult to get many of these older anthologies except in falling-apart paperbacks. I do think there is something lost when these things fall out of print, because the notes make this more, in my view, than just the sum of the stories. There is value in reading this collection above and beyond the individual stories themselves.

On that note, one thing I did like in this anthology that you don’t get in a lot of modern anthologies is the “Sewing together” that Merrill does in providing explicit direction as to what she was thinking in placement of stories on subject and theme. I don’t think that gets enough play these days, and too often, anthologies seem to have stories in any old order without a sense of how they reflect and refract on each other. Merrill WANTS you to know what she is thinking. It’s a more “present” place for an anthologist than what you get these days.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 29, 1887 H. Bedford-Jones. Pulp writer of whom only maybe ten percent of his twelve hundred stories could be considered genre but some such as the Jack Solomon novels, say John Solomon, Argonaut and John Solomon’s Biggest Game are definitely genre. Like many of the early pulp writers, he used a number of pen names, to wit Michael Gallister, Allan Hawkwood, Gordon Keyne, H. E. Twinells and L. B. Williams. Wildside Press published in 2006 a collection of his short stories, The House of Skulls and Other Tales from the Pulps. (Died 1949.)
  • Born April 29, 1908 Jack Williamson. I’ll frankly admit that he’s one of those authors that I know I’ve read a fair amount by can’t recall any specific titles as I didn’t collect him. A quick research study suggests the Legion of Space series was what I liked best. What did y’all like by him? (Died 2006.)
  • Born April 29, 1923 Irvin Kershner. Director and producer of such genre works as the Amazing Stories and seaQuest DSV series, Never Say Never Again, RoboCop 2 and The Empire Strikes Back. By the way, several of the sources I used in compiling this Birthday claimed that was the best Star Wars film. (Died 2010.)
  • Born April 29, 1946 Humphrey Carpenter. Biographer whose notable output of biographies includes J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography; also did editing of The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, and is responsible for The Inklings: CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Charles Williams and their Friends. (Died 2005.)
  • Born April 29, 1955 Kate Mulgrew, 64. Captain Kathryn Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager. Other genre roles include voicing Red Claw on Batman: The Animated Series, Jane Lattimer on Warehouse 13 and Clytemnestra in Iphigenia at the Signature Theatre Company. 
  • Born April 29, 1968 Michelle Pfeiffer, 61. Selina Kyle aka Catwoman in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns. I saw it once which was quite enough. She was also in the much better The Witches of Eastwick as Sukie Ridgemont and was Brenda Landers in the “Hospital” segment of Amazon Women on the Moon. She played Laura Alden in Wolf, voiced Tsipp?r?h in The Prince of Egypt, was Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, voiced Eris in Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, was Lamia in Stardust and is playing The Wasp (Janet van Dyne) in Ant-Man and the Wasp
  • Born April 29, 1970 Uma Thurman, 49. Venus / Rose in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (Kage’s favorite film), Maid Marian in the Robin Hood starring Patrick Bergin which I highly recommend, Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin (bad, bad film) which she will follow by being Emma Peel in The Avengers, an even worse stinker of a film, and Irene in Gattaca.

(9) GAME OF ROT-13. BEWARE SPOILERS for last night’s Game of Thrones episode.The Mary Sue asks “Ubj va gur Jbeyq Pna Nalbar Fnl Neln Fgnex Vf n Znel Fhr?”.

Gvzr sbe zr gb erne zl htyl urnq va guvf pbairefngvba naq fgneg fpernzvat ng crbcyr, orpnhfr gur tebff pbafrafhf nsgre gur yngrfg rcvfbqr bs UOB’f Tnzr bs Guebarf vf gung Neln Fgnex, n jbzna jub qrqvpngrq ure yvsr gb pbzong genvavat, vf abj n Znel Fhr. Nsgre fur raqrq hc qrsrngvat gur Avtug Xvat ol fgnoovat uvz jvgu qentbatynff, zra ner znq gung n jbzna qvq vg vafgrnq bs gurve cerpvbhf Wba Fabj.

(10) QUICK, WATSON. Paul Weimer reviews a Holmes-inspired novel in “Microreview [book]: The Hound of Justice, by Claire O’Dell” at Nerds of a Feather.

By the end of A Study in Honor, the first in Claire O’Dell’s Janet Watson Chronicles, the writer had established the parameters of her world, introduced our two main characters in full, Dr. Janet Watson and Sara Holmes. These two queer women of color as posited are indeed this world’s versions of the classic detective duo, in a near future 21st century Washington D.C, where America, after the divisiveness of a Trump administration is wracked by something even worse: A new Civil War. The two meet, and a first step toward Watson engaging with the war-torn past that cost her an arm is the central mystery at the heart of that novel.

In The Hound of Justice (yet a second novel title in homage to Doyle)., Dr. Watson’s story continues…

(11) XENON. “Scientists witness the rarest event in the Universe yet seen” — at SYFY Wire, Phil Plait tells what made it possible.

Over a kilometer below the surface of Italy, deep beneath the Gran Sasso mountain, lies a cylindrical tank. It’s roughly a meter high, a bit less than that wide, and it’s filled with an extraordinary substance: three and a half tons of ultra-pure xenon, kept liquid at a temperature of almost a hundred degrees Celsius below zero.

The tank is part of an experiment called XENON1T, and scientist built it in the hopes of detecting an incredibly rare event: an interaction of a dark matter particle with a xenon nucleus, predicted to occur if dark matter is a very specific kind of particle itself. Should they see such an event, it will nail down what dark matter is, and change the course of astronomy.

Unfortunately, they haven’t seen that yet. But instead, what they have seen is something far, far more rare: the decay of xenon-124 into tellurium-124. The conditions need to be so perfect for this to happen inside the nucleus of a xenon-124 atom that the half-life* for this event is staggeringly rare: It’s 1.8 x 1022 years.

(12) SOURCE OF OLD EARWORMS. NPR’s “From Betty Boop To Popeye, Franz Von Suppé Survives In Cartoons” includes the cartoons mentioned in the headline.

On April 18, 2019, Franz von Suppé was born on 200 years ago in what is now Croatia, but he went to Vienna as a young man and built a successful career as a conductor and composer. And while you may never have heard of von Suppé, if you like movies, cartoons, or video games, odds are you’ve heard his music.

(13) BEFORE THE BREAKTHROUGH. BBC delves into “‘The Wandering Earth’ and China’s sci-fi heritage”.

The Wandering Earth has been billed as a breakthrough for Chinese sci-fi.

The film tells the story of our planet, doomed by the expanding Sun, being moved across space to a safer place. The Chinese heroes have to save the mission – and humanity – when Earth gets caught in Jupiter’s gravitational pull.

Based on Hugo Award winner Liu Cixin’s short story of the same name, Wandering Earth has already grossed $600m (£464m) at the Chinese box office and was called China’s “giant leap into science fiction” by the Financial Times. It’s been bought by Netflix and will debut there on 30 April.

But while this may be the first time many in the West have heard of “kehuan” – Chinese science fiction – Chinese cinema has a long sci-fi history, which has given support to scientific endeavour, offered escapism from harsh times and inspired generations of film-goers.

So for Western audiences eager to plot the rise of the Chinese sci-fi movie, here are five films I think are worth renewed attention….

(14) PLEASE TO RETURN TO SENDER. “Norway finds ‘Russian spy whale’ off Arctic coast”: BBC has the story.

A beluga whale found off Norway’s coast wearing a special Russian harness was probably trained by the Russian navy, a Norwegian expert says.

Marine biologist Prof Audun Rikardsen said the harness had a GoPro camera holder and a label sourcing it to St Petersburg. A Norwegian fisherman managed to remove it from the whale.

He said a Russian fellow scientist had told him that it was not the sort of kit that Russian scientists would use.

Russia has a naval base in the region.

The tame beluga repeatedly approached Norwegian boats off Ingoya, an Arctic island about 415km (258 miles) from Murmansk, where Russia’s Northern Fleet is based. Belugas are native to Arctic waters.

…A Russian reserve colonel, who has written previously about the military use of marine mammals, shrugged off Norway’s concern about the beluga. But he did not deny that it could have escaped from the Russian navy.

Interviewed by Russian broadcaster Govorit Moskva, Col Viktor Baranets said “if we were using this animal for spying do you really think we’d attach a mobile phone number with the message ‘please call this number’?”

(15) WHAT TO WANT. I learned something about Murderbot, and something about the reviewer, Andrea, in “Exit Strategy by Martha Wells” at Little Red Reviewer.

…When I first started reading Exit Strategy, I thought the plot was thin and weak. I felt like I wasn’t connecting with this book as much as I had with earlier entries, and that annoyed me. Call it user-error.  More on that later, I promise….

(16) WHERE’S OSHA DURING ALL THIS? It’s James Davis Nicoll’s turn to deconstruct a classic: “On Needless Cruelty in SF: Tom Godwin’s ‘The Cold Equations’”.

Science fiction celebrates all manner of things; one of them is what some people might call “making hard decisions” and other people call “needless cruelty driven by contrived and arbitrary worldbuilding chosen to facilitate facile philosophical positions.” Tomato, tomato.

Few works exemplify this as perfectly as Tom Godwin’s classic tale “The Cold Equations.”…

James has a good time, and doubtless some of you will, too. Teenaged me, on the other hand, considers his feelings mocked….

(17) TURNING UP THE LOST VOLUME. “Christopher Columbus’ son’s universal library is newly rediscovered in this lost tome”.

Hernando Colón, the illegitimate son of Italian colonizer Christopher Columbus, had an obsession with books. Colón traveled the world to attempt an ambitious dream: to collect and store all of the world’s books in one library. Summaries of the volumes he gathered were distilled in the “Libro de los Epítomes,” or “The Book of Epitomes” — that repository had been lost to history for centuries.

…This was right at the dawn of the era of print, so the number of books was rising exponentially. He realized that the idea of this library was a wonderful one, but of course, it might become unmanageable if he was just collecting the books and not finding a way to organize and distill them. So he paid an army of readers to read every book in the library and to distill it down to a short summary so that all of this knowledge could be put at the disposal of a single person.

It’s this book, the “Libro de los Epítomes,” that is described by his last librarian in a document at the end of Hernando’s life, but then disappears and isn’t really heard of for basically 500 years because it’s been sitting for at least 350 of those years in Scandinavia, where it was unrecognized….

Somehow this reminds me of Forry Ackerman’s answer to the question of whether he’d read all the books in his collection – “Every last word.” By which he meant he’d looked at the last word on the last page of all of them.

[Thanks to rcade, Rich Lynch,, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Tom Mason, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

45 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 4/29/19 The Task Of Filling Up This Scroll I’d Rather Leave To You

  1. (7) I own Merril’s SF 12, the final anthology in the series, from around 1968; the linked discussion reminded me that I need to get some of the other 11 as well. I also have SF: The Best of the Best, a selection from the first 6 or 7 years of the series, including two from the first volume – “Bulkhead” and “One Ordinary Day, with Peanuts” – as well as Brian Aldiss’ “Let’s Be Frank,” Mack Reynolds’ “Compounded Interest,” and Damon Knight’s “Stranger Station.” A truly great anthology (that also includes a few dated but forgivable clinkers).

    (8) Williamson’s much-anthologized novella “With Folded Hands,” which I first encountered as the concluding story in the Silverberg-edited anthology Men and Machines from the late 1960s/early ’70s, may be what he’s best known for. Memorable, surely.

    (Edit: First!)

  2. (1) I usually don’t have anything to say about anyone’s top-whatever lists, but since he picked The Untamed and it’s not well known, I’ll just say that I think The Untamed is a really interesting and well-made SF/dark fantasy film. It’s worth mentioning that the subject matter will be too squicky for a lot of people (there’s a sort of alien octopus that has no apparent intelligence and does absolutely nothing when left to its own devices, but is sexually irresistible to all humans, even though it may randomly decide to kill you)—but it’s played less as a prurient gross-out and more as something with emotional importance for the characters. I’ve heard it compared to Zulawski’s Possession, which I haven’t seen so I can’t comment on the differences, but it certainly doesn’t resemble anything else I’ve seen.

  3. 7) Appropriate numbering! Judith Meriril’s seventh year’s best might be the most influential SF book on my thinking. It changed me as a reader, a lot, for the better.

  4. (8) Favorite/recommended Jack Williamson works
    Lots of stories, borrow some collections from your library!
    I’ve recently (within the last year or 3) reread and enjoyed some that he co-wrote with Fred Pohl: The Cuckoo two-book series, and the REEFS OF SPACE 3-booker.

  5. For Hugo homework (Best Series) I’ve started Infomocracy, and I’m having trouble getting through it: not because of problems with the book, but because I’m basically getting flashbacks to the 2016 election. Essentially, it’s TOO REALISTIC.

    So: Is it best for me to keep pushing through, or should I skip to the end/read a summary, then move on to book #2? Or is this all going to be more dystopian realism than my frame can stand?

    I saw something …. somewhere … saying that all the Best Novel nominees qualify as “hopepunk”, and my reaction was “no shit, that’s what we NEED right now!”

    Just finished Charlie Jane Anders’ City in the Middle of the Night. I think it’s brilliant, but took a long time to get through because it’s not so much with the hopepunk.

    Hope feels very punk, these days.

  6. (12) I wrote a short appreciation of Von Suppe about 14 years ago, and it will be reprinted in the next issue of my archive-zine, My Back Pages.

  7. @8: aside from “With Folded Hands”, I think Williamson is charitably characterized as a way station on the path of early SF. I read The Moon Children in 1972 and found it a bit creepy even in my youthful naivety; ISTM his best novels may be his collaborations with Pohl, and the ones I’ve read aren’t particularly good for Pohl.

    @7: Merril’s anthologies introduced me to a number of fascinating authors, and stretched my ideas of what could be considered genre. It would be interesting to compare the reviewers’ complaint about gender imbalance with the raw numbers of published stories in that year; I wouldn’t expect Merril to go by numbers per se, but I’d expect her to have gone for the best stories regardless of the authors’ chromosomes.

  8. @Doctor Science

    So: Is it best for me to keep pushing through, or should I skip to the end/read a summary, then move on to book #2? Or is this all going to be more dystopian realism than my frame can stand?

    I won’t judge on whether you should push through Infomocracy, but for what it’s worth: I think the subjects of book 2 and 3 are sufficently different that it’s worth trying them, even if you think book 1 is too dystopic and realistic.

  9. @Chip Hitchcock: “aside from “With Folded Hands”, I think Williamson is charitably characterized as a way station on the path of early SF”

    Oh, I couldn’t disagree more! Seetee Ship and Seetee Shock are remarkably good books. (Unless the Suck Fairy has been by, but I doubt it.) There’s a genuine sense of cold horror in parts of Seetee Ship, and Seetee Shock is a full-throated optimistic advance on New Deal politics.

  10. 7) I have the whole series and avidly collected them years ago when I realized what a wealth of opinion, critique, analysis and commentary could be found in them. Wollheim and Carr had not done that in their series, nor Ditky, nor Conklin….Ellison would kinda sorta do that in DV.
    But my main point is, with one exception, (12), they are not “crumbling paperbacks”. In fact, they’ve held up pretty damn well, considering the oldest is a couple of years older than me and how often I cracked their pages.

    16). not just teenaged me, considering that Campbell was the one who presumably insisted on the morally questionable ending.

  11. 10) O’Dell’s novel, far more importantly than my review, got a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly. So if you understandably don’t trust my taste, that there is better data that the novel is good stuff.

    Oh and Bonus Meredith moment: if you want to try A STUDY IN HONOR, the first book in the series, it is available in ebook on major retailers for $1.99

  12. A couple of Jack Williamson’s fantasy novels from Unknown, Reign of Wizardry and Darker Than You Think held up pretty well to my re-reading a few years ago.

  13. Doctor Science: I’ve started Infomocracy, and I’m having trouble getting through it: not because of problems with the book, but because I’m basically getting flashbacks to the 2016 election… Or is this all going to be more dystopian realism than my frame can stand?

    I thought that Infomocracy started out well but really bogged down in the middle. I finished it, but was not enthused about it enough to read its sequels yet. I gave it 3.5 out of 5 stars and said this: “This is a pretty interesting book; it bears a lot of similarities to Genevieve Valentine’s 2015 novel Persona, but I liked this novel much better. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t love it. And it’s a little too close to real-world politics right now to make it pleasant reading.”

     
    Doctor Science: Just finished Charlie Jane Anders’ City in the Middle of the Night. I think it’s brilliant, but took a long time to get through because it’s not so much with the hopepunk.

    I thought the worldbuilding in that was really interesting, but that the story itself was pretty awful. (my comments on it) Between that and All the Birds in the Sky, I’m really starting to wonder if Anders writes all her characters the same (stupid and self-destructive, and never really learning any better during the course of the book) because she thinks that this is what every real person is like. I would say that she must surely have had a gutsful of such people and is making an acerbic point about them — but I get the impression that she intends for her characters to be sympathetic.

  14. @ Doctor Science. It remains amazing to me that Infomocracy was written before 2016. The book does have a happy ending, but things get worse before they get better. You don’t have to read it before book 2, book 2 is set in different parts of the world and deals with different issues – the challenge of introducing democracy in a place where it hasn’t existed. Just as realistic, but not as emotionally involved for a western reader.

    @JJ. I totally agree with this description of City in the Middle of the Night.

  15. 4) While I’d have preferred to read her original version, I pre-ordered this one….twice. (once before and once now)

    She should never have surrendered to the bullies.

    9) Well Twitter mobs don’t reflect the real world, so best to ignore the nonsense. (for clarity, I thought that was a great way to conclude that character’s story arc)

    13) It hasn’t been released on Netflix as of moments ago, but it’ll be on my TBW list as soon as it is. Sounds interesting.

    1) Interesting list. An interesting discussion that includes a lot of movies that didn’t make his list. Wish he had learned a bit about using actual numbers when making a numbered list!

    1- Alien
    2- François Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451
    3- Offret
    4- John Carter
    5- The Untamed

    I enjoyed John Carter immensely and can appreciate it being on someone’s top anything list.

    Regards,
    Dann
    “To have peace with this peculiar life; to accept what we do not understand; to wait calmly for what awaits us, you have to be wiser than I am” – M.C. Escher

  16. @Doctor Science
    I liked Infomacracy well enough, but when I started the sequel, I discovered I couldn’t sustain suspension of disbelief for some reason. This division of the world into “Centinels” could never happen, nor would anyone give such absolute power to the “Information” group. The first book just treated that as a fact to accept, but the second book kept making me wonder how it ever happened in the first place.

    Also, a lot of the second book depended on remembering what the characters had done in the first one, and by that time, I’d forgotten all of them. I usually have a pretty good memory, but for some reason the characters were very forgettable.

  17. 7) There’s a lot of Merril’s commentary preserved in the Aqueduct Press The Merril Theory of Lit’ry Criticism (ed. Ritch Calvin), and even more in the expanded e-book edition, which includes story intros from the Best series. Merril was an enormous influence on those of us who came up in the late 50s/early 60s because she managed to be both really about SF and really about its capacity to be real literature.

    Speaking of Jack Williamson–he’s remarkable not only for his longevity in the field but for the quality of his work right along. I got to review his last half-dozen books, and they were solid and sometimes rather dark and quite in line with the fiction he’d been writing since the late 1920s.

  18. @steve davidson: also, all of the Merril were published in HB as well as MMPB; I don’t know how well Gnome Press books were made, but the middle ones were published by Simon & Schuster and the last by Delacorte, so HB copies in good shape should be findable, if not as findable as MMPB.

    @Greg Hullender: IIRC, it’s clear fairly early that Information is an experiment out of something like desperation; it’s not necessarily a finished solution.

  19. I only finished Infomocracy because I was moderating a book discussion on it. I couldn’t suspend my disbelief; I couldn’t figure out a way to make the governmental system as outlined actually work in real life.

    Vs gur jbeyq vf n cngpujbex, fbzrgvzrf fgerrg-ol-fgerrg, bs qvssrerag tbireazragf jvgu qvssrerag ynjf, ubj qb lbh xabj jung ynj gb sbyybj nf lbh cnff vagb naq bhg bs cbyvgvrf? Vs gur ynj ba bar oybpx vf “ahqvgl vf svar” naq gur ynj ba gur arkg oybpx vf “rirel jbzna jvgubhg n urnqfpnes jvyy or neerfgrq” naq gura vg tbrf gb “bayl cbyvpr pna jrne checyr haqre cranygl bs qrngu”… be rira “thaf ner znaqngbel/thaf ner sbeovqqra”… ubj qb lbh jnyx qbja gur fgerrg? Vg frrzf gb zr gung lbh’q unir gb sbyybj gur zbfg qenpbavna ynjf va rssrpg ertvbanyyl be evfx fgenlvat vagb gur jebat fdhner oybpx… be vaqvivqhny cebcregl… naq orvat neerfgrq be rkrphgrq. Naq fbzr ynjf jvyy or zhghnyyl pbagenqvpgbel.

    A patchwork of representation, but the same legal framework, is fine, mind you. But if memory serves that is NOT how things work in Older’s world.

  20. Re Von Suppe – for some reason I’d always believed/thought that Jean Shepherd’s intro/outro music for his radio show was von Supp’s Poet & Peasant Overture… clearly not. Lo Internet says it’s Eduard Strauss’ Bahn Frei-polka (and a quick listen verifies that’s what I’d heard a few thousand times over the years…

    (Back in high school in NJ, a few fellow Shep fans and I managed to get Shep in as an assembly/event guest, that was fun, to hear him live.)

  21. I thought Infomocracy was pretty good, but I haven’t been in a hurry to read the sequels.

    I recently read Alec Nevala-Lee’s excellent Astounding. He says very positive things about Jack Williamson’s “The Legion of Time”, which appeared in the magazine in 1938. I haven’t read much of Williamson’s fiction myself, in fact the only thing I’m sure of is “With Folded Hands” which was in one of the “Science Fiction Hall of Fame” anthologies.

  22. I tried to read Infomocracy and bounced off it, when Malka Older was up for the Campbell Award in 2017. My problem with the book was that it seemed to be far more interested in the system of micro-democracies than in the characters and the plot. Besides, Too Like the Lightning came out in the same year and also had a world where you can pick your preferred political system, but it also had memorable characters and an actual plot, so Infomocracy was also overshadowed by an IMO more itneresting take on the same subject.

    I’ll probably take a quick look at the sequels to see if they’re more up my alley, but at the moment, I suspect that Infomocracy and sequels will join The Laundry Files (which I won’t bother with again, because after two or three tries, I know I don’t like the series) at the very bottom of my ballot.

    Regarding Jack Williamson, I read and enjoyed The Legion of Time, though that was many years ago. No idea if the suck fairy has gotten to it in the meantime.

  23. (8) The Reefs of Space, the first 1/3 of the Starchild Trilogy by Williamson and Frederik Pohl, is a wonderful piece of old-school SF (a world-controlling computer! A reactionless drive! A new take on the Frankenstein monster!).. the other two books are a serious letdown, but Reefs is fine as a stand-alone novel. Also nth-ing “With Folded Hands”.

  24. UK Filers: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss is currently 99p on Amazon. Characters from gothic literature, a conspiracy, and a funny framing device — one of the characters is in-universe writing the novel, and her companions have Opinions about what she writes (or doesn’t write). Very entertaining, highly recommend.

  25. Jack Williamson had an incredibly long career–first published in 1928, last book in 2005. So, just over 75 years as a published author. I don’t think anyone else in the field is close to that, but I haven’t actually checked.

    My favorites are his collaborations with Pohl, but he did some pretty decent solo stuff over the years. The last of his I actually read was Terraforming Earth (2001). It was a bit pulpy in style, but still fairly entertaining.

    I also got the impression, second- or third-hand, that he was a pretty nice guy too, and genuinely liked people. I’m a bit sorry I never got the chance to meet him.

  26. Curses, was so pleased to get the ereaderiq sales email about TSCotAD that I jumped the gun. Other stuff that’s 99p on Amazon UK today:

    The Wrong Stars, by Tim Pratt
    Ironclads, by Adrian Tchaikovsky
    Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, by Douglas Adams
    The Man in the High Castle, by Philip K Dick
    Enemy, by K. Eason
    The Mermaid, by Christina Henry
    Fireblood, by Jeff Wheeler
    Aurora Rising (previously published as The Prefect), by Alastair Reynolds.

    No summaries, sorry, been having a dizzy week. If any of you like any of these, feel free to add a rec!

  27. #3: Just contributed to the fund for Ed Naha. Back in the 1980s and into the 90s, he did a film and media column for my Science Fiction Chronicle, “Ed Naha’s Nahallywood.”

  28. @Meredith: I raved about the Goss here when I read it some time ago, and am still half-unhappy about the novels that beat it for the World Fantasy Award. I love the way it undercuts tropes; Gregory MaGuire could take lessons in how to do so without making the reader curl into a catatonic ball.

  29. @Chip Hitchcock

    Yeah, I really loved it (and I really did not like Jade City, so half-agree with you on the WFA — haven’t read The Changeling yet). Wasn’t quite so convinced by the follow-up, but TSCotAD is golden. Clever, entertaining, great characters, good plot.

  30. I read The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter and its sequel European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman with Cassy B.’s Book Group over at Forumania (former on Compuserve).

    I was really impressed with the way Goss researched the SFF of that particular time period (1890s) — much of it being of the “mad scientist” sort — and skilfully wove characters from quite a few of those books, as well as some real people who were alive at that time, into a cohesive story.

    The gimmick of these books is that they are manuscripts written by one of the characters, and all of the characters comment and quibble in the “margins”. While some of the other book club members really enjoyed this, I thought that it got old really fast, and by the end of the second book I was thoroughly tired of the bickering (which occurs freqently and, in my view, continually interrupts the flow of the story). It’s very much a Marmite device, I suspect — readers will either enjoy it or hate it.

    The strength of the books is that they place at front and center the stories of the women who have been experimented on by the mad scientists (usually their daughters) and the ethics of their situations, while the scientists who were the main characters in those Victorian-era novels are in the background here. We get to see women who have spent much of their brief young lives being controlled, manipulated, and physically-altered without their consent, finally learning to navigate the world on their own terms and taking back control over their lives (and solving some mysteries and defeating some Bad Guys while they’re at it).

    People who enjoy historical speculative fiction will probably really enjoy these books.

  31. @Cora —

    My problem with the book was that it seemed to be far more interested in the system of micro-democracies than in the characters and the plot. Besides, Too Like the Lightning came out in the same year and also had a world where you can pick your preferred political system, but it also had memorable characters and an actual plot, so Infomocracy was also overshadowed by an IMO more itneresting take on the same subject.

    Exactly this. I recently dnfed it for exactly this reason. TLTL has a similar (not identical) political system with an intensely interesting story and characters; Infomocracy is thrilled with its less believable political system and forgets to tell a story or make me care about the characters.

    I suspect that Infomocracy and sequels will join The Laundry Files (which I won’t bother with again, because after two or three tries, I know I don’t like the series) at the very bottom of my ballot.

    Awww, I mostly enjoy the Laundry Files. It won’t be at the top of my list, but I had fun listening to them.

  32. I actually found Goss’s first book through our local Little Free Library. (Streetside enclosures where people can randomly leave books, for those who aren’t familiar.) Far and away the best thing I’ve ever found there! Grabbed the second one as soon as it was available. They’re witty and well-written. Definitely recommended. Even if Victoriana isn’t really your thing (it’s not really mine), they’re still pretty fun.

    A lot of people complained about the length of the second book, but I didn’t find that to be a major problem. I mean, maybe a little more focus would have helped, but it was still a lot of fun. And a good story.

  33. (12) I’ve long said that THE SPINACH OVERTURE contains some of the most credible piano faking in animated cartoons. Indeed, more convincing than over 90% of the alleged piano playing in motion pictures, period.

  34. 16) I am rather proud of the comment I just left on that article. How proud? Enough to repeat the first paragraph here:

    This discussion has clarified for me why this story, which does have its appeal, is ultimately unsatisfying: It’s sentimental pap for people whose hard hearts cover soft minds. Pathos can be sentimental, like this, or tragic, as in Heinlein’s “Sky Lift”.

    But not so proud as to deprive James of a page hit or three, so follow the link.

  35. “Hard hearts cover soft minds.” One of those Ellisonesque reactions, going straight for the jugular, plus a kick to the balls, that some consider an essential part of their social media experience. Not me, though.

  36. @OGH: I myself got whacked in public by Harlan, just before I turned eighteen. In fairness, I did ask a silly (but not stupid) question.

    So I’m ambivalent about being called Ellisonesque. I wouldn’t say a thing like that on Facebook. That’s too personal. Or in public. There it seemed appropriate.

    I got very sick in that discussion of people defending that story beyond reason. It has its appeal; it sure stuck in my mind ever since I first read it, in Leslie Fielder’s In Dreams Awake anthology. And I have no quarrel with those who feel for the girl. I did. I still do. For the pilot, too.

    I value honestly earned emotion much more highly, while I try to follow Hal Mayne’s learning in not scorning anything. The way some folks love that story still gets under my skin. I am deeply wary of those who like hard decisions. We play to our strengths; that sort of leader gets you killed.

    I was too hard on Tom Godwin though, and “ad” was right to subtly call me on it. I’m going to take the penultimate paragraph out. I’m also pretty sure the beautiful, brilliant wife has that Baen anthology. If so, I’ll borrow it next time I see her. I now owe him a deeper reading.

  37. And I did get back, finally, and put those two caveats into the remark. I like it better now. I wish I’d left the penultimate paragraph out in the first place. It struck me as stylistically clumsy at the time, but I was in a hurry. If I’d thought more carefully about it, I might’ve seen the deeper flaw. Live and learn, I guess, unless the learning kills you.

  38. @Christian Brunschen: Returning from the past and/or future (not sure where I am) to thank you for the adaptation news about Rivers of London/Peter Grant! 😀

    @Paul Weimer: I read epic as a modifier to “fantasy drama,” as in, a fantasy drama that is EPIC, DUDE. 😉 Not as in a drama series that is from the epic fantasy genre. Hyphenating “fantasy-drama” would’ve made it clearer, though.

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