Pixel Scroll 5/10/20 She Scrolls Like A Pixel, Dances Like A Nipped Out Cat

(1) SOUND CHOICES. AudioFile’s Candace Levy helps listeners “Discover 5 New Fantasy Audiobook Series”.

Feeling down because you’re all caught up with your current fantasy series? Be sad no more, because 2020 is overflowing with new characters and new adventures for audiobook lovers.

First on the list –

Camille Peters’s PATHWAYS, the first in the Kingdom Chronicles series, finds its roots in two classic stories—“The Princess and the Pea” and “Rumpelstilskin”—and contains many familiar fairy tale elements, such as an enchanted forest and a peasant girl who meets a prince. At the same time, the plot includes fresh twists, making it easy for teen listeners to relate to the budding romance, the magical woods, the secrets and betrayals, and the hope for redemption and a happily ever after. Our reviewer praised narrator Shiromi Arserio for her skill in conveying the full range of emotions felt by our heroine as she follows her destiny.

(2) WHAT THE SHOW’S ABOUT. Abigail Nussbaum, in “Deus Ex: Thoughts on Westworld’s Third Season”, begins her summary with an example:

There’s a moment in the third season premiere of Westworld that, though incidental, also feels like it encapsulates the entire show. Dolores, the former “host” at the titular park, who has gained awareness, escaped her enslavement, and vowed to destroy humanity in her pursuit of safety for her people, has arrived at a swanky party wearing a classic Little Black Dress. Striding onto the scene with elegant purpose as only the statuesque Evan Rachel Wood can, she tugs at a bit of fabric, and the dress transforms, unfolding and draping itself around her to become a glittery ballgown. It’s very pretty, and an impressive feat of dressmaking (presumably vying for an Emmy nomination for costuming, the show has even released footage of a test run for the dress transformation). But a moment’s thought can only leave you wondering what it was all for. Both dresses are appropriate evening attire. Neither one makes Dolores more or less noticeable. Neither one conceals her from pursuit (of which there appears to be none). It’s not even as if the LBD was particularly “practical”. The whole thing exists purely for the cool moment. Which is not a bad thing in itself, of course–what is on-screen science fiction for, after all, if not providing us with cool moments to GIF and meme? But it also feels like Westworld in a nutshell: it looks super-dramatic, but when you give it a moment’s thought, it means nothing….

(3) SPFBO BEHIND THE SCENES. Mihir Wanchoo’s post about the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-off at Fantasy Book Critic, “SPFBO 5: Conclusion & Some Thoughts”, includes a lot of “inside baseball,” but ends with these passionate thoughts about the contest’s mission —

Lastly I would like to clarify what the point of the contest is… Here’s what I think:
– It’s NOT about the authors.
– It’s NOT about the bloggers
– IT’S ABOUT THE READERS
– It’s about shining a spotlight on books that readers might have overlooked or never heard about. It doesn’t matter whether a book has a single Goodreads rating or 5K-plus because it can still reach more people by being in the contest.

I vehemently believe that every book should be judged on its own merit and not whether its author has won SPFBO or been a previous finalist or is a famous one (either traditionally published or self-published). Yes we can have rules about how frequently a previous winner or finalist can re-enter their new books (maybe with a cooling period of 2/3 years for a winner and a year for the finalist) but that’s a discussion to be had.

(4) THERE’S AN ART TO THIS KIND OF WRITING. Add NPR’s Steve Mullis to the list of people who adore the series: “Murderbot Makes A Triumphant (And Cranky) Return In ‘Network Effect'”.

…Wells’ latest, Network Effect, is the first full-sized novel featuring our favorite cranky, cynical, sentient, artificially intelligent robot. For those unfamiliar, I’ll give you a few minutes to catch up on the first four books. Done? OK, well that might not be long enough for a simple human, but for Murderbot, it would have been plenty of time to read the previous four volumes, watch an episode of future soap opera The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon and break into a security system to complete a mission.

(5) WRITE-IN. Marc Scott Zicree, creator of Space Command, makes headlines when Neil deGrasse Tyson joins the cast!

Mr. Sci-Fi shares how famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson suggested a story for Space Command and now is a character in the show!

(6) REGISTER FOR VIRTUAL WISCON. WisCon, the world’s first feminist sff convention, is preparing to hold its first ever all-online edition. WisCon 44 will run virtually over U.S. Memorial Day Weekend — May 22-25, 2020. Registration is now open.

Aqueduct Press is collaborating with the organizers to encourage registration with a book giveaway: the first 100 people to register for the online con will receive a digital copy of this year’s volume of The WisCon Chronicles (Vol. 12): Boundaries and Bridges. This year’s volume of the traditional series, which gathers thoughts and creations by WisCon attendees, is edited by Isabel Schechter and Michi Trota.

The volume features Charlie Jane Anders’s and G. Willow Wilson’s WisCon 43 Guest of Honor speeches and the Tiptree (now Otherwise) award winner Gabriela Damián Miravete’s speech and fiction, as well as essays by Alexandra Erin, Julia Rios, Nisi Shawl, John Scalzi, and more.

(7) COMPANY CLOSES AFTER COFOUNDER DIES. [Item by Steve Green.] Twilight Time, the boutique home video label founded in 2011 by Brian Jamieson and the late Nick Redman, announced today (May 10) that it will be shutting down this summer and has begun a ‘closing down’ sale of warehouse stock. Effective July 1, Screen Archives will be taking over remaining inventory. Press release: “It’s Twilight Time For Us!”

Redman died on January 17, aged 63, following a lengthy illness. During his time at the Fox Music Group, he oversaw such movie soundtracks as the 1996 boxset Star Wars Trilogy and the following year’s Star Wars: A New Hope. Thanks to his input, most of the Twilight Time releases had isolated music tracks.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 10, 1945  — Green Hornet’s “An Armistice From Death” was broadcast on WXYZ in Detroit. It has a cast of Bob Hall as the Green Hornet and Rollon Parker as Kato. The latter actor also voiced The Newsboy at the end of each episode who hawked the Extra edition of The Sentinel that carried the story of the weekly racket or spy ring being smashed. The story this time was that though the Nazis have surrendered, a team of a German agent and a Japanese spy plan to carry on the fight against America. The Japanese spy says, “Honorable Hitler never admit defeat!” The first step is to kidnap Kato, Next, they leave a bio weapon in the form of a fatal virus to attack the celebrating Americans. This broadcast followed the actual V-E Day by only 2 days! You can hear it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 10, 1863 Cornelius Shea. As SFE puts it, “author for the silent screen and author of dime novels (see Dime-Novel SF), prolific in many categories but best remembered for marvel stories using a fairly consistent ’mythology’ of dwarfs, subterranean eruptions, and stage illusion masquerading as supernatural magic.” To my surprise, only two of his novels are in the Internet Archive, though Complete Mystery Science Stories of Cornelius Shea which includes two of these Novels is available from iBooks  and Kobo. (Died 1920.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1870 Evoe. Brother of Ronald Knox, husband of Mary Shepard who illustrated Mary Poppins and whose father illustrated Winnie the Pooh and The Wind in the Willows.  Edited Punch 1932-1949 after contributing for years.  When in 1960 Punch ran a series “Authors in Space” – “Dickens in Space”, “Kipling in Space”, “Joyce in Space” – Evoe (a pen name) wrote “Conan Doyle in Space”. (Died 1970.) [JH]
  • Born May 10, 1886 Olaf Stapledon. Original and almost unimaginable. Last and First Men, his first novel (!) extends over two billion years – written in 1930.  Who could follow that?  He did, with Star Maker, over 100 billion years. Their range, imagination, and grandeur may still be unequaled.  He was, however – or to his credit – depending on how you see things – an avowed atheist.  Odd John, about a spiritual-intellectual superman, may be tragic, or heroic, or both; likewise Sirius, about a superdog, on this year’s Retro-Hugo ballot.  First recipient of the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award, 2001.  Science Fiction Hall of Fame, 2014. (Died 1950.) [JH]
  • Born May 10, 1895 Earl Askam. He played Officer Torch, the captain of Ming the Merciless’s guards, in the 1936 Flash Gordon serial. It’s his only genre appearance though he did have an uncredited role in a Perry Mason film, The Case of Black Cat, which is at least genre adjacent as the defendant is a feline! (Died 1940.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1899 Fred Astaire. Yes, that actor. He showed up on the original Battlestar Galactica as Chameleon / Captain Dimitri In “The Man with Nine Lives” episode. Stunt casting I assume.  He had only two genre roles as near as I can tell which were voicing The Wasp in the English language adaptation of the Japanese Wasp anime series, and being in a film called Ghost Story. They came nearly twenty years apart and were the last acting roles that he did. (Died 1987.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1900 Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin. Groundbreakingly proposed in her doctoral dissertation (first Ph.D. from Radcliffe, at the time women-only) that the Sun was mainly hydrogen and helium; proved right four years later.  First woman to head a department at Harvard.  Six honorary degrees.  Stars in the Making (non-fiction) reviewed by Schuyler Miller in the July 1953 Astounding. Biography, What Stars Are Made Of (D. Moore; just published 2020). (Died 1979) [JH]  
  • Born May 10, 1905 Alex Schomburg. One of our finest graphic artists. 130 covers 1939-1993 from Startling to Tomorrow, including Amazing, Astounding and AnalogF & SFGalaxyAsimov’s, books – and the Westercon 37 Program Book; 250 interiors; not that numbers are supreme. Worldcon Special Committee Award for Lifetime Achievement, 1989, and Chesley Award for Lifetime Achievement, 1987; First Fandom Hall of Fame, 1990.  Six years an Illustrators of the Future judge.  See him in Di Fate’s Infinite Worlds. (Died 1998.) [JH]
  • Born May 10, 1935 Terrance Dicks. He had a long association with Doctor Who, working as a writer and also serving as the programme’s script editor from 1968 to 1974. He also wrote many of its scripts including The War Games which ended the Second Doctor’s reign and The Five Doctors, produced for the 20th year celebration of the program. He also wrote novelizations of more than sixty of the Doctor Who shows. Yes sixty! Prior to working on this series, he wrote four episodes of The Avengers and after this show he wrote a single episode of Space: 1999 and likewise for Moonbase 3, a very short-lived BBC series. (Died 2019.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1963 Rich Moore, 57. He’s directed Wreck-It Ralph and co-directed Zootopia and Ralph Breaks the Internet; he’s has worked on Futurama. It’s not really stretching the definition of genre , so I’ll note that he did the animation for the most excellent Spy vs. Spy series for MADtv. You can see the first one here. [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1969 John Scalzi, 51. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve ever read by him. What would I recommend if you hadn’t read him? The Old Man’s War series certainly is fantastic with Zoe’s Tale bringing tears to my eyes as well as the Interdependency series are excellent. I really have mixed feelings about Redshirts in that it’s too jokeyfor my taste. I will note that his blog is one of a very few which I read every post of. [CE]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frazz wonders what else is in the universe.
  • Garfield enjoys a fan favorite.
  • Free Range plays with a skeptical rock climber.

(11) LINE BY LINE. Gideon Marcus surveys the state of the computing arts – in 1965 – for Galactic Journey: “[MAY 10, 1965] A LANGUAGE FOR THE MASSES (TALKING TO A MACHINE, PART THREE)”.

This is part three of our series on programming in the modern computer age.  Last time, we discussed the rise of user-oriented languages.  We now report on the latest of them and why it’s so exciting.

…These days, thanks to companies like IBM, Rand, and CDC, digital computers have become commonplace — more than 10,000 are currently in use!  While these machines have replaced de Prony’s human calculators, they have created their own manpower shortage.  With computation so cheap and quick, and application of these computations so legion, the bottleneck is now in programmers.  What good does it do to have a hundred thousand computers in the world (a number being casually bandied about for near future years like 1972) if they sit idle with no one to feed them code?

(12) WHEN JUPITER COLLIDES WITH MARS. Yahoo! News asks “Will Coronavirus Kill Astrology?” Are they kidding?

If ever there was one, Susan Miller would be a blue-chip astrologer. So in January, when she appeared on CBS New York and predicted that 2020 would “be a great year, and it will be a prosperous year,” people listened.

People listened when she said Capricorn would be the year’s “celestial favorite,” Cancer was the most likely to wed, Libra was set to score in real estate, and Taurus could expect a calendar full of international travel.

And then people got mad because — it probably doesn’t need pointing out — things didn’t exactly go according to the stars’ plan….

(13) ONE PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND BRICKS. Apartment Therapy introduces fans to “The New Harry Potter LEGO Collection [which] Includes Tiny Mandrake Plants and a Giant Hedwig”.

The Harry Potter universe is expanding, with six new LEGO sets coming this summer. They include scenes from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, as well as the house on Privet Drive where Harry spent his childhood and a large Hedwig that can move its wings with the turn of a crank.

The LEGO world of Harry Potter is already vast. The first sets came out in 2001 along with the first film, and 19 years later, you can find LEGO versions of everything from the Hogwarts Castle to Diagon Alley, with niche sets dedicated to moments in the books and films.

See them all at the LEGO site, including the Hogwarts Astronomy Tower.

(14) CAPALDI PITCHES IN. “Peter Capaldi on For The Love of Scotland Livestream 22/4/2020” is a segment Capaldi did (including reading Kurt Vonnegut) for the “Masks for Scotland” fundraiser held on April 22. He quips, “My life is mostly unchanged because i avoid people anyway.”

(15) LEM BACK IN PRINT. Brendan Byrne makes “The Case for Stanislaw Lem, One of Science Fiction’s Unsung Giants” at Medium.

Since his death in 2006, the work of Polish science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem has slowly slid from view. While his impact upon on American audiences was always softened by the Iron Curtain — he was was in peak form during the ’60s and ’70s — and an often tortured translation process, Lem was at one point “the most widely read science fiction writer in the world,” at least according to Theodore Sturgeon, an eminent writer of SF’s so-called Golden Age.

Lem was acknowledged, especially by fellow authors, as an especially important figure in the genre, but of late he seems to be primarily remembered as the author of the novel Solaris, the base material for the 1972 film by Andrei Tarkovsky and the 2002 version by Steven Soderbergh. This is a poor fate for an author who, for the latter half of the 20th century, skipped nimbly between SF sub-genres, with occasional excursions outside SF. While his sphere of influence was massive — he sold 45 million books worldwide — Lem’s refusal to settle into some comfortable little niche is distinctly unusual in a contemporary marketplace which today sections writers into increasingly sub-sub-genres.

Lem was simultaneously a moralist, stylist, and semi-professional scientist (a teenage inventor who trained as a physician). He managed to write hard science fiction that engaged with contemporary developments in science, medicine, and philosophy without ever condescending to his audience or engaging in specialist-speak (unless he was satirizing it).

Fortunately, the MIT Press has seen fit to help rejuvenate Lem’s oeuvre — they recently republished six of his key books, and, in the process, made the case for a Lemian resurgence — just in time for his 2021 centenary….

(16) THE END IS NEAR. The wait is over. “Here Comes the Droughtlander! Everything You Need to Know About Outlander Heading into the Season 5 Finale” in Parade.

…“Almost anybody can write a good love story, in which people meet and fall in love and get married or run off together,” Gabaldon says, adding, “It’s much harder and thus more interesting to find out what it takes to be married for 50 years. I had never seen anybody do that, so that’s what I decided I’d like to do.”

The Starz series that follows the heroic journey of Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) is such a success that the term “Droughtlander” has been coined for the period of time in between seasons. And we will be heading there shortly. The season five finale airs May 10, and according to Heughan, it’s going to be “big.”

(17) NOT QUITE AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT. [Item by David Doering.] From the Truth is Stranger than Fiction department, here’s the tale of how SF turned fact gave us the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution and banned slavery. “The $60,000 Telegram That Helped Lincoln End Slavery”.

…Statehood looked promising, particularly for Nye, who had great political ambitions. He preferred living on the East Coast and saw his post in Nevada as a way to launch himself into what he really wanted to be — a Senator. Nye was charismatic and known for his “winning friendly face,” but his countenance changed rapidly when a telegram arrived the evening of Tuesday, October 25, 1864. The head of the California Pacific Telegraph passed on a telegram to him, which said, “The President has not received a copy of your constitution.” The deadline for the materials was just a few days away. There wasn’t enough time to mail it to the President. If Nye was going to get 175 pages of this official document to Abraham Lincoln, he was going to have to use the new technology that was just installed three years prior — the telegraph.

…When these electrical impulses finally reached the last leg of their journey, they were sent to the telegraph office of the War Department. This transmission was of such importance that intelligence from the warfront was put on hold for five hours to make way for Nevada’s telegram. Hodge’s and Ward’s message took two days to get to Lincoln and the cost of sending the message was $4,303.27 ($60,000 today). Nevada’s electric constitution reached Lincoln on the evening of October 28 and he proclaimed it a state on the 30th. On the 31st of October, Nevada officially celebrated its statehood, which gave it the right to participate in the election a week later on November 8….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Inside The Making of Dr. Strangelove” on YouTube is a 2000 documentary about Dr. Strangelove that includes interviews with production designer Sir Ken Adam, Kubrick biographer John Baxter, and James Earl Jones, who made his debut in the film.

[Thanks to Microtherion, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Darrah Chavey, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Lise Andreasen, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

40 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 5/10/20 She Scrolls Like A Pixel, Dances Like A Nipped Out Cat

  1. First!
    9) I know better Evoe’s brother Dilly (Alfred Dillwyn Knox), who broke the Zimmermann Telegram and began the breaking of Enigma.

    The Knox brothers were an interesting lot. Wilfred was an Anglican priest. Ronald was a Catholic priest.

    And apparently, they published a family fanzine.

  2. typo alert: That’s Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin (no “r”)
    And a happy birthday to all the Birthday People!

  3. (9) Stapledon is great and has been greatly influential (on Clarke, obviously, but also Julian May).

    Scalzi’s SF mysteries (Lock In and Head On) are also of note. I’m looking forward to the next one.

  4. Alex Schomburg. One of our finest graphic artists. 130 covers 1939-1993 from Startling to Tomorrow, including Amazing, Astounding and Analog, F & SF, Galaxy, Asimov’s, books – and the Westercon XXXVII Program Book…

    If you haven’t seen the Westercon 37 (not “XXXVII”) program book, there’s a very good image at
    https://www.harlanellisonbooks.com/product/westercon-37-the-program-book-of-29-june-3-july-1984/

    The book was a digest-sized homage to F&SF and even included an ad for the Science Fiction Book Club on that back!

  5. Mike, it’s interesting that on this scroll, the image at the top is part of the Lego set. I hadn’t noticed it on previous scrolls.

  6. (9) Ghost Story is loosely based on the Peter Straub novel. Good cast, but somewhat below average movie. Does Finian’s Rainbow count as genre? He was also in the film adaptation of On the Beach which I’ve been thinking about too much recently.

    It’s Donovan’s birthday. Does he get in for Atlantis?

    All you gotta do is get a post into the mix
    When you need a fix
    Come back filers
    Pixel Scroll never forgets

  7. Well, if Donovan doesn’t get in for “Atlantis,” there’s always his early-’70s track “The Intergalactic Laxative” [from his LP Cosmic Wheels, whose title track is also about (imagined) space travel].

  8. @12
    No, nothing will convince people to stop believing in astrology.

    @1

    Feeling down because you’re all caught up with your current fantasy series?

    Is that possible?

    @9
    I love Schomburg’s style. He was enjoyed.

    I also enjoy Scalzi’s blog, and his non-fiction in general. His prose is clean, which–as you all know, Bobs–is really, really hard to do. His fiction is meh for me, but not disagreeable.

  9. (17) Territorial Governor (later Senator) James Nye is the person for whom Nye County, Nevada (whose county seat is Tonopah, host of Westercon 74) is named. (We also have him to thank for Mark Twain’s trip west that led to Roughing It and much of Twain’s other stories, on account of his brother Orion Clemens secured an appointment as Nye’s secretary and his brother Sam tagged along on the trip.)

  10. @Kevin
    Like Territorial Governor (later Senator) Alvin Saunders got Saunders county, Nebraska named for him. (He’s approximately a first cousin of a great-grandmother.)

  11. Stapledon is one of the most astounding exceptions to the usual rule that outsiders are bad at SF. (A rule were discussing just a day or two ago.)

  12. @Xtifr

    I think that’s because contes philosophiques – even the chilly scientific kind – have their own literary tradition, so Stapledon wasn’t really in any kind of conscious relation to genre SF. Or if that seems too strong, that he was part of a distinct literary tradion that the American pulps borrowed from but didn’t influence.(*)

    (*) Though popular SF published in magazines also pre-dated the American pulps, of course. But that’s a tangent.

  13. @Sophie Jane: Sure, but folks from, say, the so-called “literary fiction” milieu generally make a complete botch-up when they try “slumming” around with SF, stumbling into stale cliches because they don’t have enough respect for the genre to investigate what its cliches might be, or, in fact, realize that it might have ever had stories more sophisticated than Buck Rogers. (Not to knock Buck Rogers.)

    So I don’t think it was just the fact that he wasn’t in a conscious relationship with the genre. But I think you may have hit the nail on the head with the distinct traditions for philosophical fiction. That makes a lot of sense. I can definitely see a line of sorts leading from Voltaire to Stapledon, with stops at Swift and Wells and Verne along the way. (Stapledon did know Wells well enough to correspond with him.) And, of course, Wells and Verne had their own influence on the genre, so it all fits.

  14. @Jack Lint: Fred Astaire was in an adaptation of the Straub novel? I’m off to learn more….

  15. crashed early last night after an interestingly-staged but over-long and overwrought NTLive production of Anthony and Cleopatra, so a lot of catch-up:

    @2: not having seen any of the show, I can’t directly counter Nussbaum’s opinion — but I wonder whether the example is a bit contrived; while either dress might have been acceptable at the event, the LBD is more practical to travel in and a full-on ball gown is more flash on site (with no worries about (e.g.) getting it into and out of a cab). Do any Filers share her deprecation of the show?

    @3: and have any Filers read any of the SFPBO finishers? I know self-publishing doesn’t have to mean bad — I’ve been very impressed by a few of the AO3 pieces I’ve been referred to — but I have enough on my TBR that I’m reluctant to spend time on a book judged solely against other self-published books.

    @9: another great set of blasts from the past!

    @9 (Astaire): as @Jack Lint notes, he was also in Finian’s Rainbow (1968); the plot began as satire rather than genre, but IMO that doesn’t let it out, given that a leprechaun’s pot of gold provides three clearly-not-subjective wishes: a girl long known as mute speaks, and a bigoted southern Senator is turned Black and back again. The movie was advertised at the time as his last dancing role; one can argue about whether dancing with Kelly in a documentary some years later is a role.

    @9 (Payne-Gaposchkin): She’s one of the five principle characters in The Women Who Mapped the Stars , a play about the women who analyzed the piles of data generated by Harvard’s observatories — and who often made connections the overpaid men they answered to didn’t see.

    @9 (Scalzi): I thought Old Man’s War was trivial and (at least at the start) offputtingly male-gazey (not surprising given the title); some of his later work is more substantial, although ISTM his style is still so breezy it grates occasionally. Like @Andrew, I thought Locked In and its sequel Head Off more worthwhile; they give interesting pictures of disability (and how great a force is needed before society will make room for it), but I don’t know how people who aren’t typically-abled feel about them.

    @15: I remember Tales of Pirx the Pilot as being heavy-handed slamming of Russians (understandable from someone living in ~occupied Poland, but now a period piece unlike (e.g.) Swift); I tried to reread The Cyberiad (in an old translation that IIRC was recently lauded here) and gave up after the inventiveness bogged down in a series of lengthy descriptions of tyrants supported by secret police (similarly understandable, but ephemeral in way even 1984 is not). I haven’t read any of the books republished by MIT, so I’ll have to pick one to try.

    @17: that’s a great story — I wonder whether my-mother-the-history-teacher (who hand-corrected an error-of-nomenclature in the book she gave me about the first transatlantic telegraphs) knew of it, although I wonder about the overheated frame: Lincoln’s re-election didn’t scrape by as shown — he won 55% of the popular vote and ~90% of the Electoral College. And @Kevin Standlee provides a neat fannish connection!

    @Xtifr / @Sophie Jane: it’s also possible that the tradition of mundanes botching genre is part of the more recent general mundane belief that genre isn’t utter slumming (but isn’t worthwhile reading enough to understand how … unoriginal … they’re being). I’d love to hear counter-examples, but my recollections of (e.g.) the 1960’s are mostly bad-science ~contemporary thrillers that at least hadn’t been outdone a decade or more before, rather than works ripped from genre movies that cliché tells us were 20 years behind; Stapledon was long before this.

  16. (9) Fred Astaire played the Devil ala Madison Avenue who also puts on various impersonations and disguises (ala Alec Guinness/Peter Sellers) to tempt a moral suburbanite businessman in the Alfred Bester scripted “Mr Lucifer”, a 1962 episode of “Alcoa Premiere”. It’s available on Youtube

  17. Re: Stapledon–It’s been a long, long time (grad school seminars with Mark Hillegas), but the first half of the 20th century produced a string of books in the UK (mostly but not entirely novels) that “belong” to SF without being part of the American popular tradition. Stapledon is part of it, as are J. D. Bernal (The World, the Flesh and the Devil), J. B. S. Haldane (“The Last Judgment”), E. M. Forster (“The Machine Stops”), and eventually C. S. Lewis. There’s a clear connection back to the late-19th-century scientific romance and future-war sub-traditions and particularly to Wells, but Bernal is probably as important as Wells as a worker-out of future scenarios and deviser of motifs. Hillegas (who was originally a 19th-century specialist) got started on Wells and dystopias and worked his way through the whole UK-centric family tree that extended into fantasy writers such as Tolkien and Charles Williams and even Dorothy Sayers (included via the Inklings–we read Gaudy Night next to Out of the Silent Planet and All Hallows’ Eve).

    (One can track these interconnections through the entries in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, which I use to jog fifty-year-old memories.)

  18. 15) I read Lem’s “Memoirs Found in a Bathtub” a while back. Thematically it was pretty good. Some of the execution was a little sterile and/or dry.

    Regards,
    Dann
    History, in general, only informs us of what bad government is. – Thomas Jefferson

  19. @Chip Hitchcock:

    (2) No, I don’t agree with her at all. I thought the point of the dress switch was a stylish reveal of the sort of effortless technology that’s available to the elite of that world (which is quite pointedly not made available to everyone). Although the show has occasionally stumbled (I thought the revelation of the Man in Black’s (Ed Harris) motive at the end of season one was pretty lame), on the whole I’ve really liked the series, and think it’s had a lot of interesting things to say.

    (15) I highly recommend His Master’s Voice, which is one of the great ‘First Contact’ novels. (The reason for the quote marks will be obvious if you decide to read the book.)

  20. Chip Hitchcock: @3: and have any Filers read any of the SFPBO finishers?

    I just am not that interested in fantasy, unfortunately. I downloaded the free SPFBO sampler last year (I think that’s when) and have looked at a few things. The writing itself was good — the question I can’t personally answer is whether any of the winners is satisfying as a complete book. But it should not be overlooked that you can easily find 10 reviews of the winner that will tell you what it’s about and how well the writer did, because that’s inherent in the competition.

  21. @Chip —

    @3: and have any Filers read any of the SFPBO finishers?

    This is another thing that I keep meaning to get around to, but haven’t yet.

    I have read several books by two of the previously finalist authors, if that counts — Craig Schaefer and Harry Connolly — and both of them are very good. Coincidentally (or not), they both write dark UF. I was sad when Connolly’s publisher dropped him mid-series; his book that got to the finals was epic fantasy, not UF.

  22. 2016 – The Grey Bastards (winner) – a really engaging tale of half-orcs that are “allowed” to defend the lands of the humans from rampaging orcs. Lots of really engaging twists that I don’t want to give away. They all relate to why the half-orcs are in that position and whether it is in their best interests to remain that way. Some of the casual sex scenes can be a little “rough”, FWIW. Hard recommend.

    2017 – Devil’s Night Dawning (finalist) – A top-shelf story of a world where the devil is looking for ways to take over and a small priesthood serves to protect the world. A young boy begins his study within the priesthood. His mentor is a former knight who turned monk when he could no longer stand what the knighthood asked of him. Again, there are some sex-related scenes that might cause some difficulties. [This is book 1 in a series. Book 2 was a half step backward, but book 3 is also top-shelf stuff.] Hard recommend.

    The Crimson Queen (finalist) – Well told but pretty standard sword/sorcery tale. Intriguing world-building. Not quite so hard recommend. I was engaged throughout the book, but at the end of the day, there wasn’t anything remarkable about it.

    2018 – Orconomics – (winner) – A really fascinating tale that takes the idea of leveled characters, guilds, raiding parties, and the other common tropes of DND gameplay seriously. The story then turns those concepts on their head with a subtextual narrative on the nature of markets and corporate greed. The author’s tongue must also have been almost continuously stuck in his cheek. Hard recommend.

    I would put all three of the “hard recommends” up against the Hugo finalists in each of the appropriate years with the expectation that they would compare favorably. (Not necessarily win, but be considered in the same class.)

    The one issue is that self-published authors seem to be engaged in writing series based fiction. The competition is limited to either standalone novels or books that are first in a series. The hard recommends all did a good job of telling a single, concluded story arc so a reader could walk away satisfied if they weren’t interested in what comes next.

    Regards,
    Dann
    Me on Goodreads.

  23. Oh, PS!

    I finally got to start Murderbot this morning, and it has already made me very happy. 🙂

  24. (4) Finished Network Effect this weekend and loved it! Murderbot was on form as usual. I hope Martha Wells decides to keep writing this series.

  25. Dann665 on May 11, 2020 at 11:09 am said:
    2016 – The Grey Bastards (winner) – a really engaging tale of half-orcs that are “allowed” to defend the lands of the humans from rampaging orcs. Lots of really engaging twists that I don’t want to give away. They all relate to why the half-orcs are in that position and whether it is in their best interests to remain that way. Some of the casual sex scenes can be a little “rough”, FWIW. Hard recommend.

    I’m with you on this one, I blasted through it it in short order.

  26. @OGH (and anyone else with a comment on @3): the reviews of the winners that I can see are done mostly by just 3 people who don’t seem to have reviewed anything else on the site (a 4th sometime-reviewer has done some other reviews), so I don’t know whether they gush over everything; what am I missing? (I don’t see a search panel that would let me see whether there are additional reviews of a title.)

  27. I have read and enjoyed a few SPFBO participants and also featured several at the Speculative Fiction Showcase. Though I’ve read comparatively few of the eventual winners, because SPFBO tends to award the kind of fantasy I don’t much care for.

  28. For me, it does not help that indies are far less likely to put out audiobooks than authors who have actual publishers. Sigh — it’s always something!

  29. Well to be fair, audiobooks are expensive to produce and often don’t recoup costs. And programs like ACX, which allow for a royalty share between author and narrator, are only available in some countries.

  30. @Cora —

    Oh, I’m not blaming the authors — audiobook production is expensive, as you say! It’s just another example of how indie authors operate at a disadvantage because they don’t have the resources of a publisher behind them.

    Incidentally, this scroll item got me interested enough that I checked through all the SPFBO finalists for the last three years. Turns out I do already own two of them in audio — Orconomics and Sufficiently Advanced Magic — and two that I do not own have been recorded by outstanding narrators: The Way Into Chaos (by Harry Connolly, narrated by Michael Kramer) and Aching God (by Mike Shel, narrated by the inimitable Simon Vance). That greatly increases the chances that I may eventually get around to listening to them.

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