Pixel Scroll 4/6/21 A Pixel’s A Pixel, No Matter How Small

(1) CAN HORROR EXIST IN SPACE? [Item by Soon Lee.] It started with Freelance writer Elle Hunt’s Twitter poll on whether Alien is a horror film, and unsatisfied when most of the respondents ticked yes, said, “My argument: horror cannot be set in space.”

Unsurprisingly, it provoked a Tweetstorm of comments from people who disagreed. Amongst the responses was a wonderfully insightful thread by literary agent DongWon Song dissecting what we might mean by “genre”.

Thread starts here.

(2) FIVE THINGS. Alison Scott made one of the great aspirational speeches about what a convention chair should do, using disappointments about this year’s Eastercon as the text. Read the transcript at Ansible Links: “Eastercon 2023: What Really Matters to Us?”

Scott was compelled to deliver it as a bid presentation to gain the floor at the convention’s version of the annual open meeting.

…I was told that the only way I could speak here at this meeting was to bid. And so I’m bidding. Okay. I’ve had to tell the convention team very late that I was bidding; great apologies for that. But we have a 70 year tradition of this meeting, being an open meeting where any member of the convention can come and speak.

I felt that it was really important. We lost that last year because they had to do things very quickly. And I understand that. But I think that the fact that they haven’t given you a chance to speak in an open meeting this year, is actually disgraceful. It’s really undermining our community.

Then come the five things:

…I don’t think it’s possible to do a perfect job. I think it’s possible to do a good job in a lot of good ways and I see five things, which an Eastercon chair needs to do. And these are the five things that I think are really important.

(3) FIVE MORE THINGS. James Davis Nicoll has no trouble finding “Five Stories in Which Great Power Is Not Always Used Responsibly” for Tor.com readers. From the middle of the list —

Vicious by V.E. Schwab (2013)

Utterly convinced (despite the absence of concrete evidence) that ExtraOrdinary (EO) people—superhumans, to you and me—exist, ambitious college students Eli and Victor set out to determine how to artificially induce EO abilities. While trigging superpowers turns out to come with a good chance of simply killing the test subjects, neither Eli nor Victor are much inconvenienced by professional ethics or even ordinary caution. Victory is therefore assured!

Eventual success imbues both young men with abilities far beyond human ken. While Eli’s power of regeneration is self-focused and not immediately dangerous to others, Victor’s powers lend themselves to inadvertent misuse. Indeed, almost the first thing Victor does with his new power is accidentally kill Eli’s girlfriend Angie. The consequence? A vendetta of epic proportions.

(4) THE COLOR OF UBIK. LitHub encourages everyone to “Check out the Folio Society’s new (and very neon) Philip K. Dick box set”. My gosh!

The Folio Society‘s latest publication is a massive edition of all 118 of Philip K. Dick’s short stories, presented in this shockingly bright four-volume set. Their edition of The Complete Short Stories was designed by independent studio La Boca and includes original artworks commissioned from twenty-four different illustrators. 

(5) WINCING AT INVINCIBLE. “What Makes ‘Invincible’ a Superhero Show for Adults?” at The Ringer.

…The sequence is an awesome, grotesque (expensive-looking) demonstration of what a hacked-off Superman might actually do to the Flash once he caught up to him, among other things. It is a surprising explosion of violence, even in a violent show, made even more horrifying for the specificity of the sound design. Invincible emphatically earns its 18-plus rating in just under three minutes, and yet, outbursts like these are not what make Invincible feel “adult.”

…So far, Invincible also seems to be interested in whether the emissary of a hyper-advanced alien civilization, meant to be Earth’s “sole protector,” might have a bit of a god complex. JK Simmons is part of an incredible voice acting cast that includes the likes of Sandra Oh, Walton Goggins, and Mahershala Ali, and there are shades of Terence Fletcher in Simmons’s performance as Omni-Man. Consider how Fletcher first enters the dimly lit practice hall in Whiplash—he hangs his suit jacket on the door, revealing a tight black tee and an imposing physical stature. You immediately understand that his suggestions are demands, and that he enjoys being a big fish in a small pond. It’s the smirking gaze and the visible vein on his temple. Simmons brings the same kind of lurking monomania to Invincible, and it causes me to consider the paroxysm of force not just when Omni-Man is on the job, but when he’s at home, and when he’s speaking to service workers too. He yells at a hospital clerk and you wonder if he thinks she’s disposable. He makes demands on his wife’s time and you wonder whether he thinks of her as an accessory. He hits his newly superpowered son a little too hard while sparring and you wonder whether he feels somewhat threatened—perhaps afraid of obsolescence…. 

(6) TIME FOR WONDER. “Mexicanx on the Rise” is the theme of this week’s Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron. Register at the link.

Catch a rising star as five of the Mexicanx Initiative’s leaders spotlight some of the brightest new literary and art phenoms. They’ll share their latest endeavors furthering Mexicanx representation in SFF and the world at large. Joining Gadi and Karen will be John Picacio, Libia Brenda, Julia Rios, Andrea Chapela, and Héctor González. This Saturday, April 10th, at 3 PM Eastern Time.

(7) BEWITCHED, BOTHERED, AND BAUMANN. The Pink Smoke podcast’s sixty-sixth episode is a “Fritz Leiber Double Feature” with guest Rebecca Baumann, head of public services at Lilly Library, curator of the 2018 exhibition “Frankenstein 200: The Birth, Life and Resurrection of Mary Shelley’s Monster.”

“She is all merciless night animal…yet with a wisdom that goes back to Egypt and beyond – and which is invaluable to me. For she is my spy on buildings, you see, my intelligencer on metropolitan megastructures. She knows their secrets and their secret weaknesses, their ponderous rhythms and dark songs. And she herself is secret as their shadows. She is my Queen of Night, Our Lady of Darkness.”

In two books written nearly 25 years apart, “weird fiction” guru Fritz Leiber examined how ancient witchcraft and black magic continue to prey malignantly on unsuspecting contemporary characters deeply entrenched in the rational. Whether it’s faculty wives hexing a sociology professor in CONJURE WIFE or the paramental entities tormenting a writer in San Francisco in OUR LADY OF DARKNESS, Leiber sees modern life as a conduit for a “new science” of the supernatural, which we dig into with this horror-themed October episode!

Our guest is Rebecca Baumann, head of public services at Lilly Library, curator of the 2018 exhibition Frankenstein 200: The Birth, Life and Resurrection of Mary Shelley’s Monster and avid collector of genre fiction. Baumann shares her take on these essential “weird” tales as well as details of Leiber’s life that offer rare insight into his perspective on femininity. (Also on how to pronounce his name, which John gets wrong through most of the episode.)

(8) SPECTRAL DELIVERY. In “Ghosts and Narrators” on CrimeReads, Jessica Hamilton explains why she used a ghost as the first-person narrator of her novel What You Never Knew and the problems writers have writing fiction from the ghost’s viewpoint.

…For me, creating a dead protagonist was not what fueled me to write my novel What You Never Knew. It was necessary for me to kill off a character within the first few pages of the book, as it’s this event that sets everything else in motion. My only problem was that I still needed the perspective of the deceased character throughout the rest of the novel, which meant I had a dead narrator on my hands.

Using a dead narrator comes with its own special challenges. A hurdle that I found to be quite difficult was dealing with the spirituality that is connected to death and the afterlife. The religion behind dying is a big topic to tackle. Beliefs around it are varied, often tied to religious convictions and highly debatable, which makes it fragile ground to tread upon. I think the question authors must ask themselves before writing a deceased character, is whether they want to avoid using specific spiritual elements in their versions of death or reference them directly…

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 6, 1967 — On this day in 1967, Star Trek’s “City of the Edge of Forever” first aired on NBC. Though Harlan Ellison wrote the original script, the episode had several writers contribute to it including Steven W. Carabatsos, D. C. Fontana and Gene L. Coon with Gene Roddenberry making the final script re-write. Roddenberry and Fontana both consider it one of their favorite episodes, the latter ranking it up with “The Trouble with Tribbles”. Critics in general consider it one of the best Trek episodes done and many consider it one of the best SF series episodes ever.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 6, 1849 – John Waterhouse.  Known for painting women of Greek legend and the Matter of Arthur.  Here is The Magic Circle.  Here is Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus.  Here is Pandora.  Here is The Lady of Shalott.  (Died 1917) [JH]
  • Born April 6, 1924 – Sonya Dorman.  One novel, a score of shorter stories (one in Dangerous Visions), a score of poems.  Four contributions to Anne McCaffrey’s Cooking Out of This World.  Three reviews in Analog.  Outside our field in RedbookThe Saturday Evening Post; four collections of poetry that I know of.  Rhysling Award.  Tiptree Award (as it then was).  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born April 6, 1926 Gil Kane. Artist who created the modern look and feel of Green Lantern and the Atom for DC, and co-created Iron Fist with Roy Thomas for Marvel. I’m going to single him out for his work on the House of Mystery and the House of Secrets in the Sixties and Seventies which you can find on the revamped DC Universe app. (Died 2000.) (CE) 
  • Born April 6, 1937 Billy Dee Williams, 84. He is best known for his role as Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars franchise, first appearing in The Empire Strikes Back. Other genre appearances include being Harvey Dent in Batman and voicing Two Face In The Lego Batman Movie. He also co-wrote with Rob MacGregor two SF novels, PSI/ Net and Just/In Time. (CE)
  • Born April 6, 1938 Roy Thinnes, 83. Best remembered for his role of David Vincent in The Invaders. He was also in The Horror at 37,000 FeetThe Norliss TapesSatan’s School for GirlsBattlestar GalacticaDark Shadows (recurring role as Roger Collins) and Poltergeist: The Legacy. (CE) 
  • Born April 6, 1948 Larry Todd, 73. Writer and cartoonist, best known for the decidedly adult  Dr. Atomic strips that originally appeared in the underground newspaper The Sunday Paper and his other work in underground comics, often with a SF bent. In our circles, Galaxy Science FictionAmazing Science Fiction and Imagination were three of his venues. He also did some writing for If. He also did, and it’s really weird art, the cover art and interior illustrations for Harlan Ellison’s Chocolate Alphabet. (CE)
  • Born April 6, 1948 – Sherry Gottlieb, age 73.  Two decades proprietor of “A Change of Hobbit” bookstore.  Three novels, one collection of shorter stories.  Special Guest at Westercon 32.  [JH]
  • Born April 6, 1953 – Jerdine Nolan, age 68.  Half a dozen novels; several others outside our field, like this.  I. & J. Black Award, Christopher Award, Kirkus Best Book of the Year.  “It takes patience to get the right story…. to revisit and revise the work to make it the best that it could be…. so the words on the page have enough life … could stand up and walk around all on their own.”  [JH]
  • Born April 6, 1959 Mark Strickson, 62. Turlough, companion to the Fifth Doctor. He didn’t do much genre but he was a young Scrooge in an Eighties film version of A Christmas Carol. And like many Who performers, he’d reprise his character on Big Finish audio dramas. (CE)
  • Born April 6, 1976 – Tara McPherson, age 45.  Two covers, four interiors.  Four artbooks.  Posters, murals, Designer Toys.  In ElleEsquire (Esky Award for Beck in the Netherlands concert poster), Hi-FructoseJuxtapozLos Angeles TimesMarie ClaireNew York Times, Vanity Fair.  Designer Toy Award for a 10-inch (25 cm) Wonder Woman (“I even have her golden lasso of truth tattooed around my wrists”).  [JH]
  • Born April 6, 1977 Karin Tidbeck, 44. Their first work in English, Jagannath, a short story collection, made the shortlist for the Otherwise Award and was nominated for the World Fantasy Award. Their short story “Augusta Prima” was originally written in Swedish, then translated into English by them, winning a Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Award in the Short Form category. (CE) 
  • Born April 6, 1983 – Michael Boccacino, age 38.  Début novel got starred review in Publishers Weekly.  Avid baker.  Blames love of books on his father.  Has read Pride and PrejudiceFrankensteinJane EyreWe Have Always Lived in the Castle. [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) INSPIRED BY WHO. Animator/illustrator Elizabeth Fijalkowski did this piece on the 2003 animated “Scream of the Shalka” written by Paul Cornell and starring Richard E. Grant as Doctor Who.

(13) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter eyeballed this result on tonight’s installment of Jeopardy!

Category: Literary settings.

Answer: This Edgar Rice Burroughs hero first visited Barsoom, also known as Mars, in a 1912 tale.

Wrong question: “Who is Tarzan?”

No one else got, “Who is John Carter?”

(14) LUIGI MUST BE PROUD. “Sealed copy of ‘Super Mario Bros.’ sells for record price of $660,000” reports UPI.

… The classic Nintendo video game was purchased in late 1986 as a Christmas gift, but ended up being placed inside a desk drawer, where it remained untouched for 35 years, before being discovered earlier this year.

“It stayed in the bottom of my office desk this whole time since the day I bought it,” said the seller, who asked not to be identified. “I never thought anything about it.”

… Heritage Auctions, based in Dallas, said the copy of Super Mario Bros. that was sold as part of the Comics & Comic Art Auction during the weekend was part of a short run that was produced in 1986, before Nintendo switched from shrink-wrapped packaging to a sticker seal.

“Since the production window for this copy and others like it was so short, finding another copy from this same production run in similar condition would be akin to looking for single drop of water in an ocean. Never say never, but there’s a good chance it can’t be done,” Valarie McLeckie, video games director for Heritage Auctions, said in a statement.

(15) GAME OF THRONES 10TH ANNIVERSARY. Shelf Awareness says the celebration begins April 10 on HBO Max’s Game of Thrones Spotlight Page, “an in-app experience with curations for every level of fandom.”

Beginning April 10, HBO will launch the Game of Thrones MaraThrone, with all episodes of season one airing on HBO2, “challenging fans to continue to binge watch all 73 episodes of the series on HBO Max while raising money for select global charities,” HBO noted. For two weeks, GOT cast members will rally the fandom to contribute to one of 10 causes: Women for Women International, World Central Kitchen, Conservation International, International Rescue Committee, UNICEF, FilmAid International, SameYou, Royal Mencap Society, National Urban League and the Trevor Project.

Later in the month, HBO will surprise three couples who were married in Westeros-themed ceremonies with special anniversary gifts: GOT-branded barrels of wine, custom chalices and elaborate cakes designed in partnership with local bakeries to represent the GOT houses of Targaryen, Stark and Lannister. In addition, Warner Bros. Consumer Products and its licensing partners have teamed up to create a variety of special-edition products kicking off the Iron Anniversary. 

(16) HONEST GAME TRAILER. In “Ghosts n’ Goblins:  Resurrection” on YouTube, Fandom Games says this game is “one of the most unnecessary sequels of all time” to the classic arcade game of the ;80s and it’s so tough that playing it is like “running a triathlon after drinking three bottles of Nyquil.”

(17) HOW THEY DO THINGS DOWNTOWN. What will your stomach think? In the past week Downtown Disney has got patrons’ stomachs rumbling with the fried pickle corn dog! “Disneyland’s corn dog stuffed with a pickle is its new hot dog” at Today.

The parks of Disneyland Resort may be waiting to reopen, but at the Downtown Disney District, plenty of magic is being made.

Most notable is the commotion over the fried pickle corn dog, a hot dog stuffed into a dill pickle, then battered, panko-crusted, fried and served with a side of … wait for it … peanut butter.

While Disneyland closed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Downtown Disney area, a space with retail and dining locations that does not require a park ticket, was able to reopen some locations in July 2020.

In April 2021, the Disney Parks Blog announced the fried pickle corn dog would make its grand entrance at Downtown Disney’s Blue Ribbon Corn Dogs cart. 

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The Golem and the Jewish Superhero” on YouTube, Jacob Geller looks at the myth of the Golem throughout history, including adaptations o the legend by Ted Chiang, Jorge Luis Borges, Marvel Comics (particularly The Thing) and The Iron Giant.

[Thanks to Will R., Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Ben Bird Person, Mike Kennedy, James Davis Nicoll, rcade, Nicholas Whyte, Andrew Porter, Rob Thornton, John Hertz, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

30 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 4/6/21 A Pixel’s A Pixel, No Matter How Small

  1. First!

    Listening tonight to Simon Green’s The Best Thing You Can Steal, the start of his latest London based urban fantasy series.

  2. I never had the courage to see Alien, but I don’t see why horror can’t be combined with SF set in outer space. There is a fascinating passage in Stephen King’s book Danse Macabre (his excellent overview of the horror genre): ” ‘In space, no one can hear you scream,’ the ad copy read; it also could have said, ‘In space, it is always one minute after midnight.’ Dawn never comes in that Lovecraftian gulf between the stars.”

  3. (1) CAN HORROR EXIST IN SPACE?

    Of course horror movies can be set in space.

    My complaint is that way too many space movies are horror. I’m not a horror fan, and I’d really like to see a lot more adventure movies set in space.

  4. Heck, the terrible movie Dracula 3000 has the old Count himself aboard a spaceship in the far future–but he’s still a vampire. He still murders people and drinks their blood. He’s still undead and sleeps in a coffin. I think it’s pretty hard to argue that that one’s not horror! (Though I suppose someone could try if they were sufficiently dogmatic. And silly.)

    (8) For what it’s worth, the first season of the prime-time soap opera Desperate Housewives was also narrated by the ghost of a character who dies just before the series starts. (Although I think that’s pretty much the only thing about the show that might suggest that it’s genre in any way.)

  5. Of course horror movies can be set in space.

    My complaint is that way too many space movies are horror. I’m not a horror fan, and I’d really like to see a lot more adventure movies set in space.

    Exactly. Way too many sci-fi films fall back on the lazy horror film in space trope. There are sooo many great ideas that would make great movies that have nothing to do with horror.

    Any definition of horror that excludes SF is fundamentally broken.

  6. (1) That’s a very interesting thread, but while I agree with most of what he says about horror (of course horror can be set in space), I completely disagree with his idea of what constitutes SF: if all that makes your story SF is set dressing, then you’re doing it wrong.

  7. @PhilRM,

    Oh yes, but DongWon does say at the end that,

    “also disclaimer that I am being deliberately HUGELY reductive about genre and fiction to make a point. there are a billion edge cases that muddy the waters and, really, my whole point is that genre is fluid and fuzzy. so don’t @ me about what SF is or isn’t please.”
    https://twitter.com/dongwon/status/1379471939132096512

    Nuanced discussions are extremely difficult on a short form platform such as Twitter, but the assertion that Science Fiction isn’t about the cool toys alone won’t get any disagreement from me. I tend to be a lumper and multivariate: a story can be more than one thing, and category boundaries are blurry (sometimes to the point where they don’t exist).

  8. 1) That “argument” isn’t an argument, it’s a word fart.

    12) Inspired by whom.

  9. 1) I don’t think I agree, but if pressed I could make an argument that Alien functions more as SF than as horror, at least.

    In the general case, though, it’s obvious that “space” as a trope has plenty of horror potential. Isolation, fragility, vastness, the unknown… you need some kind of enclave of normality to contrast it with, but that’s hardly unusual. Works even better on film, too, where the imagery is stronger and there’s less pressure to explain.

  10. “Great North Road” by Peter Hamilton and “Leviathan Wakes” by Corey are two written works that leap to mind as ones that dip into horror tropes (unstoppable killing monster and vomit zombies).

  11. 4)Temptation!
    (and everyone knows that the color of Ubik is Octarine)

    Horror and SF: Adam Christopher’s THE BURNING DARK comes to mind.

  12. Meredith moment Paul J McAuley’s deeply weird deep time War of the Maps is on sale for 99? at the big river. Be right back – that one is worth owning.

  13. 1) “I argue that Horror can not set in space, because my definition of SF is “Something that can not include Horror ” QED.
    I

  14. 4) What’s shocking is not the colors [outside of the inexplicable failure to utilize the glory which is neon orange] but the price tag. US$745? Not in my budget, thankee kindly!

  15. No Scroll too large; No Scroll too small—and all amazingly Cheap! File 770. Dial F-I-L-E-7-7-0 P.S. WE ALSO STALK GODS.

  16. 1) Entertaining misreads: I read one of the tweets initially as “I’d argue that horcrux is as much a worldview…” and then was like “Wait, WHAT?”

    Magnus Archives did a brilliant sequence of events around a possessed space station that I defy anyone to say wasn’t horror.

  17. If shoggoths in Antarctica are horror, then werewolves in the International Space Station can be horror.

  18. And another Meredith Moment – Linda Nagata’s Snow Chanter is on sale for 99? at the big river.

  19. @Soon Lee: Yeah, I saw that, but I’m still not buying it: speaking as someone who thinks that slotting a work into some genre is likely to be the least interesting thing you can say about it, this isn’t about arguing “a billion edge cases” or “what SF is or isn’t”. To be equally reductive, he’s declaring (pace Fred Pohl) that the only difference between a Western and SF is whether the protagonists are carrying six-guns or ray-guns. To all intents and purposes, he’s declaring that there is no such thing as SF: it’s simply window dressing applied to some other genre. I call bullshit.

    I actually agree pretty much entirely with his statement: “Horror is a mode of thought, a mood, not a setting. And it encompasses many different approaches.” But I would counter that with: “SF is a mode of inquiry, not a setting. And it encompasses many different approaches.”

  20. For what it’s worth (not much, I know), I’d actually classify the first movie, Alien, as horror with SFnal elements, but the second one, Aliens, as SF adventure with horror elements.

    As for definitions of SF—I don’t do those. 🙂

  21. 1) Can humor exist in space? If something is SF, does that mean it can’t be funny? The question answers itself, I hope.
    And for further redundant examples of SF horror, there is George R.R. Martin’s Nightflyers, or A Song for Lya.

  22. Xtifr: The most succinct and accurate description I’ve heard is that Alien is a haunted house movie, and Aliens is a monster movie.

  23. I would argue that in space, at least within a solar system, it’s more often always noon. If it’s anything else, you’re not in space, you’re on a planet or at least closely adjacent to a celestial object.

    Fair enough if you’re in deep interstellar or intergalactic space, but relatively few stories take place in such a milieu.

  24. “A Song for Lya” was a horror story when it was written. Today it’s an uploading story with a very boring substrate (and uploading stories were done to death by 2000 anyway).

  25. Argh. I really, really don’t want to make time to sit down with a video. But I’m very interested in what “The Golem and the Jewish Superhero” has to say about Ted Chiang’s contribution to the topic. I’m assuming the story they’re considering is the one in the collection Stories of Your Life and Others, “Seventy-Two Letters” I think (not motivated to go find it on my bookshelf and look, sorry, you’ll see why) that posits a society powered in a large part by golems but in which Judaism is almost entirely absent. And I could see a story which engaged with such an incongruous absence in real toothy ways, but this was not this story. This story, while Doing Cool Things With Golems, just didn’t engage with Judaism at all. The only representative was a single character whose role was to deliver necessary information, be dismissed as a Kabbalist kook, and then get murdered. It enraged me and left such a bad taste in my mouth that I haven’t wanted to reread anything by the author–and I generally love his fiction!

    It is quite possible I entirely misread the story and missed something important. I’d quite like to hear that I did.

    Maybe I’ll make time for the video tomorrow.

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