Pixel Scroll 5/12/20 If Pixels Be The Scroll Of Life, File On

(1) DRAWING A LINE IN THE SILICON.  Tor author S.L. Huang, in “Genre Labels: What Makes A Book More Thriller Than Sci-Fi?” on CrimeReads, says “I’ve been a science fiction and fantasy nerd for as long as I can remember,” and that a book is more of a thriller than sf if “the science-fiction elements feel more realistic,” the book is in a contemporary Earth setting, and the book is written at a thriller pace with many short chapters rather than a sf pace.

4. Making the science fiction a single switch flip.

Lots of science fiction books have a broad array of speculative elements—worldbuilding, culture, technology, language, and advancements in science are just a few elements science fiction writers consider when building intricate other universes. But it’s not the only way to do science fiction. And a lot of the speculative stories that feel more mainstream have that “switch flip” element—that single, isolated “what if” that sets off everything.

What if we could extract viable dinosaur DNA from amber? What if a disease like this got out? What if this person switched bodies?

Then, after that one, singular leap of faith, the rest of the book logic plays out identically to how our real-world logic would work, with only that fundamental beginning change….

(2) STREAMING PLAYGROUND. Of necessity, Escape Room L.A.’s business has gone virtual. They’ve created two Escape Room scenarios for groups to play on Zoom, at $15 per person.

These live-hosted games feature both audio and visual clues. Your host will verbally describe your surroundings while showing you a series of images and puzzles, letting you know how you can interact with everything you see. It will be up to you to work together to solve the fun clues and tricky challenges! Can you escape in one hour or less?

There’s “The Lost Pyramid” and “Escape from Planet X.” The description of the latter is –

A vacation in outer space takes a wrong turn when your spaceship crash-lands on an uncharted alien planet. You discover that all of the crew have disappeared and the aliens are getting restless! In this fun, wacky adventure, it’s up to you to find a way to get the spaceship up and running and escape from Planet X before the aliens attack.

(3) THE BOOKS THEY DECIDED TO DISCUSS. In “Positron 2020 Report: Analyses of Chicagoland Speculative Fiction Book Clubs”, Jake Casella Brookins runs the numbers on Chicago-area sff book club selections, looking at race/gender balance in selected titles, genre changes over time, most-read authors, and how the various clubs’ lists of choices compare. “Pretty niche stuff,” says Brookins, “but SF/F scholars, readers, booksellers & librarians might be interested.”

His introduction to the report begins —

In-person book clubs are necessarily tied to very real and geographic communities. As I write this, Chicago is entering its second month of lockdown due to Covid-19. While many groups and organizations are successfully shifting to online meetings, the future of our clubs, bookstores, and libraries are uncertain. Ironically, this lockdown has given me the first chance to take a deep look at Chicago’s SF book clubs since Positron’s inception.

This report focuses entirely on book club meetings. While data from book sales and library loans would paint a much larger picture of reader behavior and preferences, there are a few advantages to using book club discussions as the unit of analysis, even beyond privacy and logistic concerns. At the most basic level, selection for a book club indicates that the book was definitely read, by at least some members. Furthermore, book club members are a distinct class of readers, committing not only to read books in community, but to share their opinions, a behavior that likely spills beyond the group itself. Through their recommendations, it is likely that book club members have an outsize influence on readers generally.

For me, joining a few SF book clubs was a huge part of adjusting to life in Chicago. They led me to massively important books I might not have otherwise discovered, and introduced me to my spouse and many friends. The clubs certainly have a direct influence on many bookstores and libraries. And, at the level of SF as a culture, the importance of book clubs is easily overlooked, and could provide a window into the specifics of how books, authors, and ideas move through the reading community….

(4) FALLEN SNOW. Entertainment Weekly issues an invitation: Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes: Listen to the first 11 minutes of the Hunger Games prequel’.

Centered on the original trilogy‘s antagonist, the story follows an 18-year-old Snow as he prepares for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the 10th Hunger Games. He’s up against it, though: His family has fallen on hard times, and he’s forced to guide the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Suddenly, their fates are intertwined.

The audio clip is here at Soundcloud.

(5) BEWARE OF FALLING HOUSES. Connie Willis just read a book about the making of The Wizard of Oz movie and is eager to share what she learned about “The Ruby Slippers And The Wizard’s Coat”.

…One of the most fascinating sections was about the ruby slippers, which, in case you’ve forgotten, belonged to the Wicked Witch of the East and which Glinda the Good Witch gives Dorothy after the house falls on her (the Witch, not Glinda) and kills her. The ruby slippers protect Dorothy from the Wicked Witch of the West (sort of.) At any rate, the only way to take them off her is to kill her, which makes Dorothy quite a target. (You’d think Glinda would have thought about that.)

They also hold the secret to Dorothy’s getting home. All she has to do is click the heels together and say three times, “There’s no place like home” to be magically transported back to Kansas. That means they’re central to the plot and in many ways the heart of the movie. After Toto, of course.

Like everything else involved in the making of the movie, the ruby slippers were more complicated than they looked. In the first place, the book had specified “silver shoes”, but Louis B. Mayer wanted to show off his Technicolor so he decided they should be red–and that they should “sparkle.”…

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

May 12, 1989 The Return Of Swamp Thing premiered.  The follow-up to Swamp Thing, it was directed by Jim Wynorski, with production by Benjamin Melniker and Michael E. Uslan. The story was written by Neil Cuthbert and Grant Morris.  It starred Dick Durock and Heather Locklear who replaced Adrienne Barbeau as the female lead which Barbeau was in Swamp Thing.  Louis Jourdan also returns as a spot-on Anton Arcane. Like its predecessor, neither critics nor the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes liked it so it had a poor twenty seven rating. The original Swamp Thing series which also Durock in contrast has an eight three Percent rating among audience reviewers! [CE]

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 12, 1812 – Edward Lear.  With us in fantasyland for his nonsense poems, he was famous in his day as a painter and illustrator.  First major bird artist to draw from live birds; look at this parrot.  Here are some Albanians.  Here’s Masada.  His musical settings for Tennyson’s poems were the only ones Tennyson approved of.  It may be that a grasp of reality makes his nonsense cohere – it holds together.  We may never see an owl dancing with a pussycat, but they do in his creation – in a hundred languages.  (Died 1888) [JH]
  • Born May 12, 1828 – Dante Gabriel Rossetti.  Put his third name first in honor of The Divine Comedy.  Founded the Pre-Raphaelite school of art because he thought Raphael (1483-1520) had ruined things; see how this led him to imagine Proserpine.  His poetry too was fantastic.  He is credited with the word yesteryear.  He loved wombats.  (Died 1882) [JH]
  • Born May 12, 1902 – Philip Wylie.  His novel Gladiator was an inspiration for Superman.  When Worlds Collide (with Edwin Balmer) inspired Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon.  No doubt he was a prolific pulp writer with quite a few of his novels adapted into films such as When Worlds Collide (co-written with George Balmer) by George Pal. Columnist, editor, screenwriter, adviser to the chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee for Atomic Energy, vice-president of the International Game Fish Association.  Wrote “Anyone Can Raise Orchids” for The Saturday EveningPost.  In The Disappearance a cosmic blink forces all men to get along without women, all women without men.  (Died 1971) [JH/CE]
  • Born May 12, 1907 – Leslie Charteris.  Born with the surname Yin; his Chinese father claimed descent from the Shang Dynasty emperors.  Passenger on the maiden voyage of the Hindenburg.  A hundred books, also films, radio, television, about his character Simon Templar, the Saint; also “The Saint” Mystery Magazine; others wrote some too, Vendetta for the Saint is by Henry Harrison.  Detective fiction is our neighbor, and both ISFDB and ESF list the series with the latter noting that “Several short stories featuring Templar are sf or fantasy, typically dealing with odd Inventions or Monsters (including the Loch Ness Monster and Caribbean Zombies.” The Last Hero really is SF, with a disintegrator and a scientist who doesn’t care who gets it.  (Died 1993) [JH/CE]
  • Born May 12, 1928 – Buck Coulson.  Applauded by fanziners  – we have costumers and filksingers, don’t we? –  for Yandro, ten times a Best-Fanzine Hugo finalist, winning once, co-edited with his wife Juanita – speaking of filksingers.  Together Fan Guests of Honor at the 30th Worldcon; the Coulsons to Newcastle Fund sent them to the 37th.  With Gene DeWeese, Buck wrote Now You See It/Him/Them loaded with allusions to fans, including Bob Tucker whose doing this himself led to calling the practice “tuckerism”; Juanita is not left out.  Two Man from U.N.C.L.E. books with DeWeese, translated into Dutch, French, Hebrew, Japanese.  Book reviews for Amazing.  Active loccer (letters of comment to fanzines).  Two terms as as SFWA Secretary (first Science Fiction Writers, then Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers, of America).  Mildly described as having an acerbic writing style.(Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born May 12, 1942 Barry Longyear, 80. Best known for the Hugo- and Nebula Award–winning novella Enemy Mine, which became a film by that name as well. Gerrold would later novelize it. An expanded version of the original novella as well as two novels completing the trilogy, The Tomorrow Testament and The Last Enemy make up The Enemy Papers. I’m very fond of his Circus World series, less so of his Infinity Hold series. (CE)
  • Born May 12, 1968 Catherine Tate, 52. Donna Noble, Companion to the Eleventh Doctor. She extended the role by doing the Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Adventures on Big Finish. She also played Inquisitor Greyfax in Our Martyred Lady, aWarhammer 40,000 audio drama, something I did not know existed. [CE]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) SUPERHERO PREVIEW. “DC’s Stargirl: New Images Offer the Best Look Yet at Doctor Mid-Nite and Hourman” at ComicBook.com.

In just under a week, a new generation of justice comes to DC Universe when DC’s Stargirl premieres on the streaming service on Monday, May 18. The series, which follows high school sophomore Courtney Whitmore as she moves to Blue Valley, Nebraska following her mother’s marriage to Pat Dugan and becomes the hero Stargirl and inspires an unlikely group of young heroes to help her stop the villains of the past. Now, ComicBook.com has an exclusive look at two of those young heroes ready to fight for justice in their super suits: Doctor Mid-Nite and Hourman.

(10) HAPPY BIRTHDAY ESCAPE POD. Hugo-nominated sff fiction podcast Escape Pod has reached a major milestone — “Escape Pod Turns Fifteen!” The celebration includes creation of a book — Escape Pod: The Science Fiction Anthology.

Escape Pod has been bringing the finest short fiction to millions all over the world, at the forefront of a new fiction revolution. Specializing in science fiction, the podcast gives its audience a different story each week that’s fun and engaging, with thought-provoking afterwords from its episode hosts.

The anthology, assembled by editors Mur Lafferty and S.B. Divya, gathers original fiction and audience favorites from:

  • Maurice Broaddus
  • Tobias Buckell
  • Beth Cato
  • Tina Connolly
  • Cory Doctorow
  • Greg Van Eekhout
  • Sarah Gailey
  • Kameron Hurley
  • N. K. Jemisin
  • Mary Robinette Kowal
  • Mur Lafferty
  • Ken Liu
  • Tim Pratt
  • John Scalzi
  • Ursula Vernon

Preorder now from Titan Books, Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA, and Forbidden Planet.

(11) RETRO BLAST. Cora Buhlert continues to review the best of 1944 in “Retro Review: “City” by Clifford D. Simak”.

“City” is a science fiction novelette by Clifford D. Simak, which was first published in the May 1944 issue of Astounding Science Fiction and is a finalist for the 1945 Retro Hugo. The magazine version may be found online here. “City” is part of Simak’s eponymous City cycle and has been widely reprinted….

Warning: Spoilers beyond this point! …

(12) FASHION REPORT. Aliette de Bodard understandably likes this style.

(13) NOT HOME ALONE. In “Creativity in the Time of Shutdown”, Mad Genius Club’s Amanda S. Green tells how everyday life is squeezing her writing time, and the commenters chime in about their own challenges.

…All this has made me wonder how the writers out there who have been used to having their alone time to write have coped with suddenly having their kids and spouses/partners home. With schools and businesses closed, our isolated work styles have been impacted by having people home all the time. A number of us have had to transform into teachers and tech advisors as our kids try to navigate their school classes through Zoom and similar programs. We’ve had to adjust to our spouses/partners invading our work area as they work from home.

Sooo many people in our spaces again.

And we can’t even escape to the library or the coffee shop because they’re closed too….

(14) STILL INFLUENTIAL. The Detroit News explains why “Octavia Butler’s prescient sci-fi resonates years after her death”.

…A revolutionary voice in her lifetime, Butler has only become more popular and influential since her death 14 years ago, at age 58. Her novels, including “Dawn,” “Kindred” and “Parable of the Sower,” sell more than 100,000 copies each year, according to her former literary and the manager of her estate, Merrillee Heifetz. Toshi Reagon has adapted “Parable of the Sower” into an opera, and Viola Davis and Ava DuVernay are among those working on streaming series based on her work. Grand Central Publishing is reissuing many of her novels this year and the Library of America welcomes her to the canon in 2021 with a volume of her fiction.

(15) PUTTING A GOOD FACE ON THINGS. Cheering viewers up while we’re stuck at home.“Lincolnshire make-up artists lifting lockdown spirits” – BBC video.

A group of make-up artists in Lincolnshire are painting themselves as superheroes and cartoon characters to pass the time during the lockdown.

They have been getting together online and setting each other make-up challenges to keep busy.

(16) LEARN FROM THE MASTER. “Studio Ghibli artist teaches anime fans how to draw Totoro” – video.

An anime film producer from Japan’s Studio Ghibli has given fans a quick lesson on how to draw one of its most famous characters: Totoro.

According to Toshio Suzuki – the secret lies in the eyes.

(17) FUN TO BE WITH? BBC introduces us to “The robot that helps before you ask it to” — short video.

A project led by Ocado Technology has developed a robot to work alongside people. Using advanced artificial intelligence, it can follow the motions of its human colleagues, and offer to help them before they even ask for assistance.

(18) STRIKING A PERFECT MATCH. Back in the days of black-and-white TV, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore treated their fans to puppet parody in Superthunderstingcar.

(19) THESE CHAIRS ARE MADE FOR TALKING. Past Aussie Worldcon chairs David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss talk about their favorite sff on the small screen in “TV or not TV?” at their latest Two Chairs Talking podcast. Their favorites include The Expanse, The Outsider, For All Mankind, and Star Trek: Picard.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Sea You” on Vimeo, Ben Brand finds the backstory of the fish a widow has for dinner.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes ti File 770 contributing editor of the day Kevin Harkness.]

45 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 5/12/20 If Pixels Be The Scroll Of Life, File On

  1. The other one that Coulson wrote with DeWeese is “Charles Fort Never Mentioned Wombats” – set in Australia. (Mostly. Part is on a plane flight to Australia.)

  2. Fourth First (which is bigger than the First First). Sorry, Camestros!

  3. (7) The Disappearance is one of the rare SFmovels explicitly referred to by characters in another SF novel: Sturgeon’s *Venus Plus X”

    Surely someone has suggested this but I’ll try anyway “File, you fools!”

  4. (7) Ooo another Science Fiction/Double Feature tie-in. When Worlds Collide, said George Pal to his bride…

    Charteris, which I can never spell correctly and which he supposedly took from a phone book, also wrote the Sherlock Holmes radio scripts (with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce). He was also an early member of Mensa.

    It also is Burt Bacharach’s birthday who of course wrote (with Mack David) the theme for The Blob.

    Bruce Boxleitner who was in Tron, Babylon 5, several movies based on Kenny Roger’s The Gambler, and Pandemic.

    And Emilio Estevez who was Otto Maddox in Repo Man and was defeated by a video game boss in Nightmares.

    (13) Most days I go out and walk around the park for an hour. There’s a parking lot there that’s not really being used since the park is mostly shut down and I often see people sitting in their cars reading or working on laptops/tablets. I thought it was kinda strange, but I live by myself and don’t need to get away from anybody.

    Beware of the pix, it scrolls and rolls, and files for miles

  5. @1: …and the book is written at a thriller pace with many short chapters rather than a sf pace. So Modesitt’s books (which at least used to put each scene in a separate chapter) are thrillers?

    @5: I’ve read the Smithsonian’s account of what a pain it was to conserve/restore its set of “slippers”, but hadn’t known that they were shedding even on the set. The story about the coat is wonderful.

    @7 (Charteris): I’m not surprised at the contention that some of his stories spill over into genre; IIRC a number of writers did that, e.g. Margery Allingham, whose “Albert Campion” dealt late in life with a small device that supported telepathy.

    @7 (Coulson): Fancyclopedia confirms my understanding that a Tuckerism is the use of a name without any of the characteristics; since the two DeWeese/Coulson books (2nd mentioned by @P J Evans) are set in&around real-world events (1974 and 1975 Worldcons) and include fans as themselves, not unlike (e.g.) Asimov’s appearance in Murder at the ABA, Tucker isn’t Tuckerized in them. Also: I remember Tucker having a brief appearance in the later book (teaching a planeload of fans to smoooooth), but IIRC the narrator did not recognize him; where does he appear in the earlier work (noted in this Pixel)?

    @7 (Longyear): he is also known for setting the record for shortest interval between winning the now-Astounding (Astounding?) Award and winning a Hugo; it took him ~15 minutes (shortening the 2 years it took Cherryh, who shortened the 3 years it took Spider Robinson). The movie of Enemy Mine is not recommended; it was interesting hearing him and Gary K. Wolf comparing novel-to-movie experiences (Longyear’s was not pleasant), given that Wolf’s work was more fundamentally changed but came out much better.

    @Jack Lint: today I am among the 10,000; I never knew that Hal David had a big brother, let alone that Bacharach collaborated with him also.

  6. @Chip Hitchcock What I learned today was that Mack David and Jerry Livingston wrote “This is It,” the theme for The Bugs Bunny Show.

    And oh what sites we’ll hit! On with the scroll this is it!

  7. “What Makes a Book More Thriller Than Sci-Fi?” I am forever indebted to TNH for this simple dividing principle:

    A techno-thriller features the President of the United States. A sci-fi novel does not.

  8. @Glenn —

    A techno-thriller features the President of the United States. A sci-fi novel does not.

    Errr…. Independence Day springs to mind. Though maybe it doesn’t count since it wasn’t a novel?

  9. Come to think of it, Seveneves also springs to mind! And The Calculating Stars…..

  10. In 1982, Greenberg and Waugh put together a collection of 6 Charteris sf and fantasy stories called The Fantastic Saint.

    Incidentally, while it’s well known that Harry Harrison wrote Vendetta for the Saint (because Harrison claimed the credit), and after that Charteris credited all his ghosts, before that there were apparently a number of Saint stories written by others who didn’t receive credit. Cleve Cartmill reportedly wrote some. There was a Saint fan who said he had a complete list, which he was not giving out because he was saving it for his biography of Charteris, but he never wrote the biography.

  11. “Look, Gracious Host! A scroll in a pixel!” “Fan mail from some filer?”

  12. @glenn

    A techno-thriller features the President of the United States. A sci-fi novel does not.

    No, that doesn’t really work. I can think of countless books that I’d label as squarely in the SF camp (although some of them do have elements of the thriller about them). Jack McDevitt and Kim Stanley Robinson spring to mind immediately.

  13. 7) Rossetti is a major character in Tim Powers’ Hide Me Among the Graves, as is his sister. And the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood inspired (somewhat tongueincheekedly, I take it) the Pre-Joycean Fellowship.

  14. Books read:
    A Maze of Stars – Brunner
    This book talks a lot about the risks of infections coming in from other planets, something I couldn’t help noticing. It is fascinating speculation on the different kinds of culture that could develop. The ending doesn’t work though, I wish I could excise the last chapter and leave some things unexplained.

    The Lightning Brigade – Kameron Hurley
    I understand this was originally a novelette, I think I would have liked the novelette a lot. There is a great central idea here. But when expanding it to novel length, you can’t just add words, you need to add substance (more plot, more characterization, something).

    Middlegame – Seenan McGuire
    The plot, characters, writing, all the parts of the book are good. Put together though, it just didn’t engage either my mind or my heart.

    Shorefall – Robert Jackson Bennett
    This book gets really dark, with things ending on a low note. Not uncommon for the middle book of trilogies, but not something I was in the mood for.

    Oddjobs – Heide Goody
    I wonder if Huang would classify this is a thriller or a fantasy – it could go either way. The plot is thrilling, the dialogue is funny. The characters are interesting, though not realistic; but that is clearly deliberate. And I would like to apologize to any redheads I have stereotyped.

  15. I think I’ve mentioned before my way of distinguishing a techno-thriller from science fiction – in a technothriller, the resolution returns the world to status quo (ready for the next adventure to start from a world recognizable as ours), while in science fiction, the events of the book have changed the world. Tom Clancy writes technothrillers, in which nuclear or biological terrorism is defeated and the world goes back to normal; when Frank Herbert has biological warfare, it transforms society (note: this is why (I suspect) that sometimes SF fans are dissatisfied by the climaxes of technothrillers – the characters act as if the world is about to go back to normal, but we the readers can’t quite believe that it will).

    (keep watching the skies)

  16. I think a case could be made that somewhere around Debt of Honor or maybe Executive Orders (the one where Jack Ryan becomes the actual president of the United States), Clancy started transitioning from technothriller to almost a sort of alternate history with full-on multi-theater wars &c.

  17. That Peter Cook and Dudley Moore sketch was funny but what show was it from?

  18. @Contrarius & @rochrist: It’s not a perfect metric– nothing really is when defining sf, ask Damon Knight. But it’s a handy sorting device, and speaks to the sensibility of the matter.

  19. @Andrew
    I hadn’t thought of Clancy’s books in that way, but you’re right: once he got past “Red October”, the events wouldn’t allow the world to go back to the way it was. Bigger, more explosive (frequently literally) climaxes, and nothing changing? My disbelief fell through the floor.

  20. I think Sum of All Fears (the one where he nuked Denver) was the first book where Clancy really started to diverge from “actual” events; and as I recall, somewhere in one of the books that immediately followed it, they referred to it as the “Denver Incident”, which seemed to kind of downplay the significance it would’ve had.

  21. @bookworm1398: I read The Lightning Brigade a few weeks ago; ISTM you’re right about the lack of novel-length substance — there was a lot of running-around-in-circles and drawing-out-of-realization.

    @18: some good moves in that sketch — notice the way Cooke’s mouth simply flaps, with poorly-sync’d dialog added on?

    A couple of reading comments (links are to Locus reviews in case people want more detail):

    Yangsze Choo, The Night Tiger. 2 very-differently-situated YA characters in 1931 British Malaya start to cross paths as they’re entangled with local and Chinese-imported beliefs; is there or isn’t there a weretiger? The British are a spectrum with assorted histories (some readers may think they should have been more uniformly brutal, but the end notes suggest the author has read enough history to be accurate); the two leads cope plausibly. I’d have put this on the 2020 recommendations page for Lodestar, but the copyright is 11/2019.

    James Cambias, The Initiate. Man whose family was murdered by something-not-of-this-world apprentices with the secret magical masters of this world. DiFillippo raved over this, comparing it to Powers; I found it better than my summary sounds, but mostly oriented toward action and mechanisms rather than really picking up Powers’s sense of the strange impinging on the everyday, and I figured out the ending early enough that other Filers may find it too obvious. Reads like a setup for more books, which I may pass on; I wonder whether Cambias has dumped his interestingly odd work for something that sells.

  22. @joe H.
    I had trouble with “Patriot Games”. But yeah, even a failed nuke at the Super Bowl would have resulted in a lot more than just an “incident”.

  23. As far as reading goes, I finished my revisit of Louise Cooper’s Time Master trilogy, which I still enjoyed, and started Lorelei of the Red Mist, the second Haffner Press collection of Leigh Brackett’s planetary romances. Man, she could write!

  24. In Hugo reading:

    I forgot to mention the other day that I finished Empire of Sand and Realm of Ash by Tasha Suri a couple of days ago.

    I don’t really understand why a lot of people are rabid about these. I’m just not quite getting it. I don’t dislike them, and some of it is nice writing, but it’s as much romance as it is fantasy and the worldbuilding often feels hollow and/or arbitrary to me. And especially the first book is rather YA, with lots of fraughtness. They’re intensely character focused, which I like, and they’ve got worthwhile messages about being true to oneself and about not profiting from the suffering of others, but they don’t seem in the same class as either Kuang or Lyons.

    Is there anyone here who wants to tell me what I’m missing?

  25. 5) The book Connie Willis read, “The Making of the Wizard of Oz” by AlJean Harmetz, was given to me by a long ago boyfriend for my birthday–it’s a fascinating read and chock full of odd tid-bits. Kept the book but the boyfriend has disappeared into the mists.

    7) I keep waiting for Hollywood to discover a need to remake “When Worlds Collide”. After all, they can’t keep re-doing “War of the Worlds” forever, can they?
    I read somewhere that George Pal tried to interest people but couldn’t get a meeting. And Harlan Ellison had the idea of blending it with “One in Three Hundred” but kept putting it off until it was too late.
    “The Disappearance” was captivating back when I read it in the 60s-I was big into end-of-the-world stuff– but, Jesus, if it was re-released now it would take some major editing and re-writing.

  26. I remember seeing When Worlds Collide on broadcast TV when I was young. I also read an omnibus edition of When Worlds Collide/After Worlds Collide multiple times thanks to the local public library when I was still young.

  27. I can’t seem to not to fill up with facts
    My pace is nervous and it can’t relax
    You can’t sleep ’cause the world’s on fire
    Don’t read me if you’d prefer The Shire
    Techno Thriiller
    Qu’est-ce que c’est?
    Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-far better
    Run, run, run, run, run, run, run this way oh oh

  28. Camestros Felapton: Love that Techno Thriller lyric. Could there be another verse that mentions The President? (Thinking of TNH’s comment quoted here.)

  29. /me high-fives Camestros! 😀

    Anyway, my take on the “sf vs techno-thriller” thing is (as so often in such debates): why not both?

    (15) I ended up following several of the contestants from SyFy’s Face Off on social media, and at least a couple of them having been doing some excellent stuff during lockdown, including some really wild face masks! (Face Off, for those not familiar, was a show where makeup artists competed to impress a panel of movie FX pros. It is basically the only “reality show” I ever watched regularly.)

  30. Techno thriller, qu’est-ce que c’est?
    Not Fa-fa-fa-fa, fa-fa-fa-fa-fantasy
    Better run, run, run, run, run, run, run away
    Oh, oh, oh, oh, aye-ya-ya-ya-ya

    [Verse 2]
    You save the president, the assassin can’t even finish him
    He’s talking a lot, but still not saying anything
    Is there’s a conspiracy? his lips are sealed!
    Invent something once, why invent it again?

    Techno thriller, qu’est-ce que c’est?
    Not sci, sci, sci, sci, s-sci,sci-fi
    Try to run, run, run, run, run, run, run this way
    Oh, oh, oh, oh, aye-ya-ya-ya-ya

    Ce que j’ai volé hier soir
    Ce que l’ordinateur a dit ce soir-là
    Réalise mon erreur
    J’ai cassé mon gadget,
    Aye-ya-ya-ya-ya-ya-ya-ya-ya-ya-ya-yeah
    We are slick and we like to fight
    We shoot minions who are not polite

    [guitar break]

    Macguffins and spurious facts
    New gadgets hacking server stacks
    No cyberpunk because were to clean
    Can’t touch this, it’s a secret machine

    Techno thriller, qu’est-ce que c’est?
    Not cyber, cy, cy, c-cy, cyber-punk
    Better, run, run, run, run, run, run, run this way
    Oh, oh, oh, oh, aye-ya-ya-ya-ya

  31. PJ/Joe H: Yeah. “Hunt for Red October” is plausibly something that doesn’t affect the world at large, but an attempt to nuke the Superbowl is going to make things change. At any rate, I don’t mean to pick on Clancy. Something like “Raise the Titanic” is a technothriller. They’re looking for a magic alloy that could change the balance of the Cold War – but the story is over when the stuff is found – it’s not about changing the balance of the Cold War, it’s about returning to a state of normalcy. See also Raiders of the Lost Ark (in which the Ark is hidden away, rather than changing the course of history).

  32. The Hunt For Red October (and Red Storm Rising) were written in collaboration with Larry Bond who I expect restrained some of Clancy’s more outlandish impulses. But where he really lost the plot was with Rainbow Six (with the insane environmentalist trying to destroy the world) and The Bear and The Dragon which was essentially a 1200 page screed about filthy Chinese abortionist (and by extension Democratic abortionists). That one was pretty much unreadable.

  33. Mike Glyer on May 13, 2020 at 3:56 pm said:

    Camestros Felapton: Love that Techno Thriller lyric. Could there be another verse that mentions The President? (Thinking of TNH’s comment quoted here.)

    OK, this is weird. I saw your comment and wrote some more and I thought I posted it but now I can’t see it…and I’ve got a horrible feeling I’ve posted it somewhere else..

  34. @Cam: That explains the weird chryons I saw on the BBC a little while ago.

  35. @rochrist
    I think the last one I read at all was the one with the jet crashing into the Capitol. (The one that Patterson did with Clinton was far more believable, mostly I think because Clinton knows how the WH works.)

  36. Camestros: Found it in the spam — don’t know why it was snatched there.

  37. @P J Evans — that was Debt of Honor, the one where the US gets into a shootin’ war with a Japanese/Indian/Chinese alliance, which I think was the first Clancy that really started to go off the rails (although there were … issues with many of his earlier books).

  38. @andrew:

    Tom Clancy writes technothrillers, in which nuclear or biological terrorism is defeated and the world goes back to normal; when Frank Herbert has biological warfare, it transforms society (note: this is why (I suspect) that sometimes SF fans are dissatisfied by the climaxes of technothrillers – the characters act as if the world is about to go back to normal, but we the readers can’t quite believe that it will).

    This makes me think of the shift between the first of Kate Wilhelm’s “Death Qualified” books and the rest of them. Events of the first book should change the world. Events of the later books are consequential, but not in that world-changing way. One story touches a senator. That’s about it for the truly powerful–the money is strictly local.

  39. Mike Glyer on May 13, 2020 at 8:10 pm said:

    Camestros: Found it in the spam — don’t know why it was snatched there.

    You have no idea what a relief that is. I normally don’t check work emails on this machine but I was in a comfy spot and didn’t want to move to where the work laptop was…so I’d flicked between work emails and making up parody Talking Heads lyrics on my self imposed coffee break. So…I wasn’t entirely sure if WHERE I’d sent those lyrics…

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