Pixel Scroll 5/19/18 For Once A Goof In A Pixel I’ve Provided Wasn’t Introduced By Me

(1) #NEBULAS2018. Cat Rambo is ready for the banquet:

(2) #NEBULAS2018. Tell me this doesn’t send a shiver down a writer’s spine:

That comes from a thread with livetweeted highlights of a Nebula Conference panel.

(3) #NEBULAS2018. Pin at the Nebula banquet.

(4) UNWASHED MASSES. Don’t tell this to writers, but Jimmy Kimmel has been prowling the streets asking strangers, “Can You Name a Book? ANY Book???”

According to a recent study from the Pew Research Center, almost one in four Americans has not read a book in the past year. So to find out if that is true, we sent a team to the street to ask pedestrians to name a book, and here are the very sad results.

 

(5) STARSHIP TROOPERS AS SPAGHETTI WESTERN. Fabrice Mathieu has done an incredible job with his new mashup called Far Alamo (Vimeo Staff Pick) in which John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and other Sixties western stars meet the world of Paul Verhoeven when the Alamo is attacked by BUGS!

(6) LATE ARRIVAL. Jeb Kinnison wants to convince you “Why ‘Arrival’ is Bad Science Fiction”.

The value of science fiction: narratives predicting science and technology and effects on future society. Stories enabled by the new, that help readers grasp what is to come and where they might place themselves to affect the outcome of their own stories. These can be more or less inherently entertaining, but the fascination of young people (especially young men) for them is in dreaming of mastery: to understand and control Nature, to vanquish enemies and nurture their families through something other than brute force and violence (though a blend of both is often very popular!)

“Junk science” is those beliefs promoted to persuade or entertain that have either been shown to be false or are simply unsupported by empirical tests. The media world is flooded with it, with sober studies making one small data point on some topic oversimplified and promoted as a breakthrough, to get clicks or publicity for research funding. “Junk science fiction” is therefore a story that borrows the authority of science to make unsupported or frankly false claims as part of a narrative, which nonscientists will accept as plausible or possible. And Arrival is junk science fiction.

(7) NOT EASY BEING GREEN. Tor.com’s Brandon O’Brien says “It’s Time to Talk About Marvel’s Gamora Problem”. Were you running out of things to criticize about Avengers: Infinity War? This will restock your cupboard.

To be clear, this is not me saying that that the movie is bad, or unenjoyable in a general sense. The action was engaging for the most part, and there are some character progressions that I think elicited real dramatic effort from the film. I like how it sets up Tony Stark’s pained, traumatic franchise-long journey from selfish, egotistical brat to responsible, self-sacrificing, if conflicted leader, which I hope they go all in on in upcoming installments. Thor, being my absolute favourite character from the franchise in general, has one really committed throughline, from losing everything that ever mattered to him in two back-to-back genocides to literally taking a beam of white-hot suffering through his body just to regain trust in his own heroic potential. Individual moments, like when Captain America, Black Widow, and Falcon have their first fight with Thanos’ Black Order goons in Scotland, are delightful to look at, visually. And some of the more unlikely on-screen team-ups, like Tony with Doctor Strange, or Thor with Rocket, actually make room for really interesting dialogue.

But ultimately, there’s one aspect of the film that I simply can’t get past. We need to talk about what happens to Gamora….

(8) CAPTAIN MARVEL. The promise of Carol Danvers – What Culture makes a case for “Why Thanos Should Fear Captain Marvel.”

She is one of Marvel’s all time most beloved and powerful characters, especially in more recent years.  Since then, she’s had a new look, gone in various new directions, and has been at the absolute forefront of everything the company has tried to do.  A transition into the MCU was inevitable.

…Even Kevin Feige has said Danvers is as powerful a character as we’ve ever put in a movie.  Her powers are off the charts, and when she’s introduced, she will be by far the strongest character we have ever had.”

 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY

  • Born May 19, 1944 – Peter Mayhew

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy learned from Pearls Before Swine how bookstores can compete against Amazon. Turns out it may be hard on the customers, though.

(11) DON’T STEAL THAT SMELL! Apparently they just got around to this, 62 years after the product went on the market: “Hasbro officially trademarks Play-Doh smell”.

Toy maker Hasbro announced it has trademarked one of the most recognizable aspects of one of its most iconic products: the smell of Play-Doh.

The Pawtucket, R.I., company announced Friday that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has officially recognized the distinctive Play-Doh smell as a registered trademark of the brand, which first hit stores in 1956.

(12) CURIOSITY. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination presents “Why: What Makes Us Curious, with Mario Livio” on June 11.

June 11, 2018
6:00pm
Roth Auditorium
Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine
UC San Diego

The ability to ask “why?” makes us uniquely human. Curiosity drives basic scientific research, is the engine behind creativity in all disciplines from technology to the arts, is a necessary ingredient in education, and a facilitating tool in every form of storytelling (literature, film, TV, or even a simple conversation) that delights rather than bores.

In a fascinating and entertaining lecture, astrophysicist and bestselling author Mario Livio surveys and interprets cutting-edge research in psychology and neuroscience that aims at exploring and understanding the origin and mechanisms of human curiosity.  As part of his research into the subject, Livio examined in detail the personalities of two individuals who arguably represent the most curious minds to have ever existed: Leonardo da Vinci and Richard Feynman. He also interviewed 9 exceptionally curious people living today, among them Fabiola Gianotti, the Director General of CERN (who is also an accomplished pianist), paleontologist Jack Horner, and the virtuoso lead guitarist of the rock band Queen, Brian May (who also holds a PhD in astrophysics), and Livio presents fascinating conclusions from these conversations.

(13) GRANDMASTER’S TRADING CARD. Walter Day presented SFWA Grandmaster Peter S. Beagle with his souvenir trading card during tonight’s Nebula ceremony.

(14) A CHARMING CONVENTION.

(15) GAIMAN ADAPTATION. NPR’s Chris Klimek says it’s OK: “London Calling (Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft): ‘How To Talk To Girls At Parties'”. Last year at Cannes this was being called a disaster; no word on whether it’s been reworked.

Men Are From From Mars, Women Are From Venus, a best-selling early-’90s relationships guidebook argued. How to Talk to Girls at Parties, a sweet, slight comic fantasy expanded from an early-aughts Neil Gaiman short story, knows the truth is far more complex: Men and Women Are from Earth, Members of an Advanced Extraterrestrial Species on a Reconnaissance Mission Here While Temporarily Wearing the Bodies of Men and Women are from…. well, we never find out where they’re from, exactly. But every planet has its misfits.

(16) STILL READY PLAYER ONE. Did I already link to Glen Weldon’s review of this movie? Just in case: “Arcade Firewall: ‘Ready Player One’ REALLY Loves The ’80s”.

There will be grunts.

Grunts of recognition, that is. If you watch Steven Spielberg’s solidly built sci-fi phantasmagoria Ready Player One in a crowded theater, there will be grunts aplenty, so prepare yourself for them.

You can’t, you won’t — but try.

Every time any beloved or at least recognizable nugget of 1980s popular culture turns up onscreen, one or (likely) more of your fellow audience members will let out a low, pre-verbal phoneme, a glottal unh, to signify that they do, in fact, recognize said nugget and wish to inform those around them of this key development. This grunt, by the way, is a subspecies of the one heard at live theater, whenever a given patron wishes to express their comprehension of, and/or amusement at, some passage of dialogue they find particularly trenchant (that one’s more an amused hm!).

(17) VEGGIES IN ORBIT. GeekWire headline: “Small seeds could lead to a giant leap in space farming”.

The next Orbital ATK delivery to the space station will carry several strains of seeds for Arabidopsis, a flowering plant that’s closely related to cabbage and mustard. These will be grown in the Final Frontier Plant Habitat which was delivered on an earlier mission. The same genetic variants will be grown on Earth and used as baselines to compare harvested specimens sent back from the space station. You may recall that an earlier experiment in the overall mission to test growing of plants (including crops) in space involved lettuce, which was actually consumed by astronauts onboard the station.

When Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket launches a robotic Cygnus cargo spaceship toward the International Space Station, as early as Monday, it’ll be sending seeds that could show the way for future space farmers.

The Antares liftoff is currently set for 4:39 a.m. ET (1:39 a.m. PT) on Monday from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, with an 80 percent chance of acceptable weather. NASA’s live-streaming coverage of the countdown begins at 1 a.m. PT Monday.

More than 7,200 pounds of supplies, equipment and experiments will be packed aboard the Cygnus. One of the smallest payloads consists of seeds for the Final Frontier Plant Habitat — part of a $2.3 million, NASA-funded initiative that involves researchers from Washington State University, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the University of New Mexico and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The automated habitat was delivered during previous cargo resupply missions and set up for planting. Once the Cygnus’ cargo arrives, astronauts can proceed with the habitat’s first official science experiment, which is aimed at determining which genetic variants of plants grow best under weightless conditions.

(18) STAND BY TO SCORCH YOUR CREDIT CARD. Ars Technica delivers a “Peek at LEGO’s upcoming sets: Star Wars crafts, Hogwarts, Ninjago city, and more”, sharing pics of LEGO’s upcoming summer and holiday 2018 sets, including:

  • Jedi Starfighter ($19)
  • Collector Series Y-Wing Starfighter ($199)
  • Snoke’s Throne Room ($69)
  •  Star Wars X-Wing Starfighter ($79)
  • Sandcrawler ($139)
  • Kessel Run version of the Millenium Falcon ($169)
  • Hogwarts Express ($79)
  • Hogwarts Great Hall ($99)
  • Quidditch Match ($39)
  • Ninjago City Docks ($229)
  • Ninjago Destiny’s Wing ($19)

Non-genre sets pictured include:

  • Arctic Supply Plane ($79)
  • Cargo Train ($229)
  • LEGO City Passenger Train ($159)
  • Creator Expert: Roller Coaster set ($379)
  • Mobile Stunt Show ($49)

(19) CATS SITTING WITHIN SF. Cory Doctorow discovered “Bandai is manufacturing armored cats”. Here’s an example. More photos at the link.

(20) DEADPOOL’S HISTORY. ScienceFiction.com explains how “‘Deadpool 2’ Mocks Marvel’s 10-Year Anniversary Video” in “Deadpool 2 – The First 10 Years.”

The clip chronicles the history of the ‘Deadpool’ franchise from 2008 to 2018, also giving it a 10-year history like Marvel Studios’ MCU – it even has the same format, aesthetic, as well as the use of dramatic background music. Clocking in at just over a minute, the clip features only Deadpool, unlike the MCU’s version which had commentaries from several key players in the film series, as he narrates what happened in the last decade that led to the creation of the upcoming sequel. The clip is filled with the character’s signature brand of humor as he honestly speaks about Reynolds’ starring in ‘Green Lantern’ and ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine,’ which certainly didn’t help their cause, as well as Fox’s multiple rejections of the project

 

(21) DEADPOOL IS HISTORY. Mark Kermode’s review of Deadpool 2, “…not as bad as Kick Ass 2” ouch.

Main problem in his view is it has tried to be more than the first and lost what he liked about the first one.

[Thanks to IanP, Jayn, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Iphinome, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Mark Hepworth, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Chip Hitchcock.]

113 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 5/19/18 For Once A Goof In A Pixel I’ve Provided Wasn’t Introduced By Me

  1. Robina Reid:

    Sapir-Worf hypothesis

    I’ll just point out quietly that there’s a difference between Worf and Whorf…

  2. @Ferret Bueller: In any case, all fiction is based on what is not true. I can see this as a general point, but where would you place (for instance) Mary Doria Russell’s Doc? IIRC, she states in the surrounding material that the only thing in the book that is not known to be true is the mixed-blood child — who could easily have slipped through the cracks. Do we know enough about the principal characters to be sure they didn’t do what the story says, or is it a lie simply to say someone did something when we’re not certain? (This would contrast with the logic I learned in geometry class, where “P implies Q” was considered true if P were false (regardless of Q) because we couldn’t know it was untrue.)

  3. @ JJ: That’s another good guess.

    @ Stoic Cynic: Yeah, it’s easy to read it as derogatory. It’s trying to read it as non-derogatory that’s my problem. Maybe it’s along the lines of “They call me that as an insult, but I wear the label proudly,* but that’s just another guess.

    @ Karl-Johan: The reason Avengers 4 (with a later release) went into post-production while Captain Marvel (with an earlier release) was still filming is that Avengers 3 and 4 were filmed simultaneously.

    Captain Marvel apparently became the Big Deal when Kelly Sue DeConnick was writing her. I’ve bought the trades of Kelly Sue’s run, but haven’t read them yet.

  4. Robina Reid:

    Not enough speculative fiction really focuses on language and translation issues in any serious way (see: Universal Translator!). I am a fan of linguistic sf, and here are my major favorites:

    I can’t think of enough examples, really. People often start by mentioning Piper’s “Omnilingual,” and while I quite like it, it’s more philology than linguistics (and philology gets even shorter shrift than linguistics everywhere). Zelazny’s “A Rose for Ecclesiastes” has somewhat the same trait–it also has more philology than linguistics proper involved. The Languages of Pao has already been mentioned; it was the first Vance I ever read (“Moon Moth” was second) and I liked (and like) it a lot.

    The linguistic parts of Mary Doria Russell’s Sparrow duology ring true. I found the characters on the whole a bit much of a smug muchness for my tastes, but at least she captured the, shall we say, slightly oblivious jerkiness of linguists analyzing languages in the field quite well. (What’s sad is when that slightly oblivious jerkiness is based on notes that you misread because you ran out of space on the paper and just wrote whatever you could wherever it would fit and ended up analyzing part of the verbal system the opposite way to how it actually works.)

    I have a copy of Marjore B. Kellogg’s Lear’s Daughters in a box somewhere, and I gather it has a linguist as a major protagonist, but I haven’t read it. Also, I keep feeling I am missing a really good example, but I just can’t get my brain to cough it up.

    In any case, if you want to get an idea what field work on languages is like, Bob Dixon’s I am a Linguist is just the ticket, though good luck retaining all your limbs to acquire it.

  5. (8)

    So I was also very surprised to see that Carol Danvers has apparently morphed into an awesome character in the meantime. I am looking forward to the movie, though.

    About ten years ago or so, someone (I want to say Brian Bendis, but I could be wrong) asked himself “Which hero is the female standard-bearer for the Marvel Universe?” There are a lot of popular female characters, certainly, but not who fill that sort of role that Wonder Woman fills in DC.

    And then he asked himself, “Shouldn’t it be Carol?”

    So then there were stories about Carol asking that question to herself, and getting her act together.

  6. @Andrew, @Ferrett, @Robin
    For those wanting to know more about the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (and no, they’re not Klingons, in spite of the name) and its use in science fiction, here is a recording of the Alien Language in Science Fiction panel at WorldCon 75, featuring Lawrence M. Schoen, David J. Peterson, Stephen J. Potts, our very own Heather Rose and my humble self. Among many other things, we talk about Arrival, Babel-17 and probably also Languages of Pao. Not sure about the last one, I remember talking about it with David Peterson, but I’m not sure if it was during or after the panel.

  7. Regarding Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers, I think she is the perfect example that even a second or third-rate character (and that’s what she was in the 1980s and 1990s) can work in the hands of the right writers and artists.

  8. For those of us who love (me) and hate (most folks) 😉 any sort of foundational reading list stuff, here’s one from author Randy Henderson. He includes some notes on why he included various works. It’s broken up into modern works, foundational classics, foundational classics that’s more difficult reads (only a few), and honorable mentions.

    NOTE: He’s not saying “you should’ve read this.” Someone asked him for entry books into the fantasy genre, so he came up with a rec list based on what he’s read that fit the question and remembered when creating the list, focusing on high/epic/secondary world fantasy. So, the answer to any “OMG why’d he leave off X” is presumably either he hasn’t read it, he forgot it when he made the list, it didn’t fit his high/epic/secondary world focus, or he had something else that fit the bill. Just a personal list.

    Anyway, there’re a lot of books on the list that I read/loved, but plenty I’m familiar with but (shockingly) haven’t read. I haven’t read most of his Honorable Mentions list. I see one or two books I DNF’d. I liked seeing a few my other half liked a lot but that I haven’t read yet (the Tiger & Del books, J.V. Jones’s “Book of Words,” & Dragonlance). I’ve read about half his main list [ETA: and some others languish in Mount TBR], but almost none of his honorable mentions.

  9. Sapir-Worf hypothesis. This was actually an acronym for Some Aliens Possibly Improve Ratings – Worf: the assertion that the addition of Michael Dorn’s Klingon character to the cast of Deep Space Nine would be beneficial to the show. It proved to be completely accurate.

  10. I actually tend to make the mistake the other way around and spell everybody’s favourite Klingon Starfleet officer like the linguist.

  11. @Chip Hitchcock: This would contrast with the logic I learned in geometry class, where “P implies Q” was considered true if P were false (regardless of Q) because we couldn’t know it was untrue.

    It’s a bit more complicated than that. One point of propositional logic is that operators (like “if-then”) should have truth values dependent only on the truth values of the inserted statements. Since there are clearly true statements (“If this mammal is a tiger, then it has stripes”) in which the antecedent is false and the consequent true (“Surprise! It’s a zebra!”) or the consequent false (“It’s a lion!”), if “if-then” is to be a truth-functional operator, we must declare “If F, then T” and “If F, then F” to be T.

    The real point is that if-then really only comes into its own when it’s quantified: “If a mammal is a tiger, then it has stripes” is a true statement about all mammals, whether they be striped tigers, striped zebras, or non-striped lions.

    (Don’t give me any crap about albino tigers, OK?)

  12. @ Kendall

    For those of us who love (me) and hate (most folks) ? any sort of foundational reading list stuff, here’s one from author Randy Henderson. He includes some notes on why he included various works. It’s broken up into modern works, foundational classics, foundational classics that’s more difficult reads (only a few), and honorable mentions.

    Sorry, this list is not working for me. For example, Tolkien is not present. Others like Leiber are missing too.

  13. @Rob Thornton: It helps to read his actual introduction, not just skim the list. E.g.:

    “. . . (and we will just assume Lord of the Rings is somewhere in there).”

    [ETA: Somehow in editing, I nuked a line where I said people should read his intro/explanation, whoops; but really, that should be a given.]

  14. @ Kendall

    Thanks, mea culpa. But others besides Leiber are missing, such as Moorcock, Anderson, McKillip, Vance, and so on.

  15. I was going to post some scathing comments about #6, but I see that others have very capably beaten me to the punch. So instead, I’ll just add my agreement.

    Re: Captain Marvel: “Her powers are off the charts, and when she’s introduced, she will be by far the strongest character we have ever had.”

    Only because they haven’t done a Squirrel Girl movie yet! 😀

  16. Most of my linguist friends from UW were pretty excited about “Arrival.” Not because it got everything right–it clearly did not–but because so much of it really was on target. I got similar comments from AI folks about the movie “Ex Machina.” Yeah, it’s got stuff that makes you throw up your hands (or just throw up), 🙂 but it’s got lots and lots of real terminology used correctly. We’re just not used to that in movies at all. So these two were well above the average and, I claim, enjoyable by a majority of linguists/AI experts, despite their problems.

    There’s a bigger discussion to be had over what things in a story break suspension of disbelief beyond repair. Asimov, in his introduction to “Fifty Short Science Fiction Tales,” claimed that an SF author was entitled to one totally false element per story (not counting FTL). That readers would swallow that for the pleasure of seeing how that “what-if” made the world different. But, if the author does it more than once, then the reader rejects the story. Or so I remember him saying, anyway. (I think he analyzed every story in that anthology on this basis.)

    Having tried to apply that rule at Rocket Stack Rank over 3.5 years of stories, I think it’s probably a little too strict, but it’s in the right ballpark. (It also works better if the author “lampshades” the contrary-to-fact element by calling attention to it. E.g. “I thought the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis had been rejected.” “Yes, but my brain- scan research was an attempt to rehabilitate it, and I think this is even better proof!”)

    In my view, the epic fails are stories that include scientific details unnecessary to the plot and get them all wrong. A typical soft SF story doesn’t need the author to explain how the antigravity works, but it’s really bad if he/she “explains” that it’s based on the same principle that causes spaceships to spiral into the sun if their engines go out. (But, of course, spaceships aren’t like airplanes; they don’t need their engines to stay in orbit, and a spiral isn’t a possible unpowered orbit in the first place.)

    In the case of “Arrival,” the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is key to the plot, so it’s not a blunder, and it’s just about the only contrary-to-fact thing you have to swallow. However, to enjoy the story, you have to be able to suspend disbelief over that point; if you can’t, then the story fails for you. In this case, I suspect this is a pet peeve of the reviewer’s, and that makes it impossible for him to enjoy it.

    I used to think reviewers couldn’t afford to have pet peeves, but I got over that idea too. I do think we should own up to them, though. E.g. I have often written reviews with language to the effect of “My background in AI makes it almost impossible for me to recommend a story with an emotional AI in it.” One might still disagree with me, but at least I’m being honest.

    I think that’s the real sin in this review of “Arrival.” The reviewer isn’t admitting that his objections are the result of a pet peeve; instead, he’s trying to argue that there’s a larger issue when there really isn’t one.

  17. @Rob Thornton: Yes, well, again – it’s a certain type of book, that he’s read, that he remembered while making the list. Everyone’s list is different.

    I might include McKillip’s “Riddle-Master” trilogy, if I made a similar list (not sure if that’s the one you meant). I’ve read Vance, though I’m not sure I’d think of it for a list like this. If I were making a similar list for RPGers, though, I hope I’d think of Vance. I haven’t read any Moorcock, so he only makes it onto an “I should read something by him” list, for me. 😉

    Which Anderson do you mean – Poul Anderson? (I haven’t read anything by him.) (Blush.)

    I’m not sure what I’d put on the “modern” part of the list.

  18. I’m with Charlie on that one. More than once I’ve answered someone trying to defend a bad piece of fiction by saying, “but it was realistic,” with, “perhaps, but life makes lousy art!”

    No, I’d go even further than Charlie — when you’re comparing it to a clean and workable fictional narrative, reality almost never makes sense! It is far too complicated, busy, and arbitrary. The only way you get a good narrative out of it is streamlining the hell out of it and rewriting the bits that don’t really make sense in terms of the story you’re trying to tell.

    Reality is messy and confused. Fiction that is the same is usually a failure.

    I wasn’t surprised by the study published in Nature that showed that lies propagate six times faster than truths. A lie can be crafted and fine tuned to be a narrative that engages and appeals. That’s at the core of good fiction writing. Factual reality hampers your ability to do that — understatement!

    Parallel note — Sheila Finch wrote a whole series of stories about the Xenolinguistic corps. I don’t know if the linguistics in it was any good, but it had linguists as protagonists.

    – pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. Dragon Dictate in training! ]
    ======================================
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery. http://ctein.com 
    — Digital Restorations. http://photo-repair.com 
    ======================================

  19. Vicki Rosenzweig on May 20, 2018 at 7:14 am said:
    If causality doesn’t hold, I don’t know what happens, because just about everyone’s ordinary world view, most formal philosophies, and a lot of ethical systems depend on it. On the practical level, we assume things like “if you push something off the table, it won’t just hang in the air” and “if you put a pan of water on a hot stove, it will heat up, not freeze or turn into a cube of purple gelatin.” (ObSF: Le Guin, “Schrodinger’s Cat.”)

    I agree with this in the weakest sense of causality – that is given a set of physical circumstances we can infer other physical circumstances. But you don’t need much more than that for physics and chemistry to work. The cause and effect that the writer is concerned about is the broader idea of A causing B i.e. an event that preceded B being the reason why B occurred – and that’s a lot squishier as an idea. The first, by itself, doesn’t preclude time travel or generate its own paradoxes whereas the second does make time travel weird and, as you point out, is important for ethics.

  20. @ Kendall,

    Vance’s Dying Earth books are stone cold classics in my book, and at least the first book is a must-read. Yep, I was indeed referring to Poul Anderson and he did write quite a bit of fantasy. I was specifically referring to Three Hearts and Three Lions. As for Moorcock, his Eternal Champion concept has been very influential, especially Elric and his black soul-sucking sword Stormbringer, who have inspired hordes of imitators. By the way, I think Howard and Conan weren’t on the list either.

  21. @Rob Thornton: Thanks! And I’ve heard of Three Hearts and Three Lions; I’m poorly read in classic fantasy from before I was born (1967) or reading fantasy (teen years? younger? when did the SFF bug bite me???). I wouldn’t be surprised if Henderson hasn’t read some of those either (I may be wrong, but I believe he’s younger than me). Anyway, groovy names for classic fantasy, all of those. Thanks.

  22. Thanks, mea culpa. But others besides Leiber are missing, such as Moorcock, Anderson, McKillip, Vance, and so on.

    Yeah, truthfully, I didn’t think much of the list. Seemed kind of just random ‘oh, here’s a bunch of stuff I read’. Eddings doesn’t really belong on a ‘Foundational Fantasy’ list. Xanth? Shannara?

  23. @Marshall Ryan Maresca

    Or perhaps a number of people at Marvel where looking around and noticed that pretty much all the popular female Marvel characters were part of the X-men, Spider-man, Fantastic Four, or Hulk families which was problematic. So they tried to make one. For the same reasons they tried to replace the X-men with the Inhumans. With somewhat greater success in Carol’s case since they had stronger material to work with.

  24. Dear Darren,

    “I’d like to see Sapir-Whorf fight Dunning-Kreuger”

    No, I wanna see their children!

    ~~~~

    Dear Vicki,

    Putting on my physicist hat for the moment, causality may not strictly hold. We know from experiments that one of the principles of local reality — objectivity, repeatability, or causality — is not always true. At this point we don’t know which one, and it could be two or even all three of them. Physicists have strong opinions about which one (or two or three), but there’s no data and no consensus. It’s up for grabs.

    Not so incidentally, backwards-directed time travel does not break causality in its broadest sense. It makes things look appallingly weird, but there is still, in the general case, a chain of events that goes from A to Z. But that chain may become invisible to the external observer. It’s easy to construct situations that look weird, it’s very hard to come up with one that is a true physical paradox.

    From a pragmatic point of view, a breakdown of causality may not be a big deal at all. The evidence is that the failure would be limited in its scope… or we’d see it! It may not much impact our daily lives except in artificial circumstances, the same way Newtonian, classical physics satisfies us most of the time. Sure, quantum mechanics and general relativity are part of our technology ( e.g., our computers and GPS’s), but it’s not like any of us have a Schrödinger’s cat as a pet… or don’t have, as the case may be.

    Swapping to a philosopher’s hat…

    You brought up Calvinism, as an example- “… if my eternal fate was determined before I was born, I might as well ignore the question of damnation, because my decisions can’t affect it. …”

    That isn’t not a philosophical system so much as the starting point for one. Given that the question of damnation is not relevant to how you live your life, where do you go from there? That gets you to philosophical and ethical systems.

    We are a very long way from the origins of Calvinism and today’s version has little to do with what drove its creation, but at the time it was created, it could be considered a “liberation theology.” It was a reaction to the corruption in the Church: the selling of indulgences and the idea that tithing would buy your way into heaven. In other words, that you could lead as crappy a life as you wanted to on earth and still be Saved.

    Calvinism said, nope, you can’t do that because that’s already been decided. So, if you’re going to lead a good life, do it because it makes your life on this earth better rather than because you think Daddy will give you a lollipop later (or you can bribe Him into giving you one). Because, if this is as good as it gets, make it as good as possible.

    That is the exact opposite of hopelessness. (You can also run the other way from the same starting point.)

    It still doesn’t tell you whether making life on this earth as good as possible means making it good for others or making it good for you.

    Many possible philosophies and ethical systems.

    It seems to me that the presence or absence of causality doesn’t much constrain one’s philosophies and ethics either. It just changes how you have to think about it.

    Philosophers will have to cope. Philosophers are very good at coping.

    – pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. Dragon Dictate in training! ]
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  25. Or perhaps a number of people at Marvel where looking around and noticed that pretty much all the popular female Marvel characters were part of the X-men, Spider-man, Fantastic Four, or Hulk families which was problematic. So they tried to make one.

    Which again makes me lament that I was watching the majority of Ant-Man and wondering why they simply just didn’t have it be Wasp instead. I am glad the second movie will hopefully live up to trailers and make them equals…but they could have done that from the start.

  26. @rochrist (re @Kendall): that was also my reaction; it’s nice he approves of some of the earthshaking new stuff, but there’s an awful lot of 3rd-rate work there. I’d add Kushiel and Dragonlance to your list, but that would be a bit tendentious because comments about them have been sufficiently poor that I haven’t been willing to read them.

  27. @Ctein

    That’s an interesting take I hadn’t considered. Not having been raised in a Calvinist tradition I had always taken predestination as an invitation to nihilism ( at least philosophically, if not in people’s actual behavior).

  28. With regard to (6), I feel the need to quote Le Guin:

    Predictions are uttered by prophets (free of charge); by clairvoyants (who usually charge a fee, and are therefore more honored in their day than prophets); and by futurologists (salaried). Prediction is the business of prophets, clairvoyants, and futurologists. It is not the business of novelists. A novelist’s business is lying.

  29. Or perhaps a number of people at Marvel where looking around and noticed that pretty much all the popular female Marvel characters were part of the X-men, Spider-man, Fantastic Four, or Hulk families which was problematic. So they tried to make one. For the same reasons they tried to replace the X-men with the Inhumans. With somewhat greater success in Carol’s case since they had stronger material to work with.

    Possibly true. I thought a bit more about the timelines, and it was more like 15 years ago, so this pre-dates the MCU. The work in rehabilitating Carol’s character really got started in New Avengers and House of M. Definitely at a point where they were still considering any Marvel-character movie as good publicity for the comics.

  30. 6) What Kinnison (and a more ironic choice of nym to use for this… item… I find difficult to imagine) seems to have lost track of is the phrase “willing suspension of disbelief”. Nobody is asking him to buy the premise of the story for any longer than it takes to read and enjoy it. Basically, Chiang is asking “what if the strong Sapir-Whorf hypothesis were true?” and running with the idea.

    @ Kendall, re 4): Yeah, I do wonder how many people they had to quiz to get that many “blank stare” results. Hell, even people who only watch Oprah on TV are going to be aware of the names of books! Not citing the Bible, OTOH, does make some sense to me; many people mentally store it in a different conceptual slot from “book”, so it might not spring to mind. Ditto cookbooks.

    @ Andrew: Thank you for that link. That story is almost as hard to wrap my brain around as The Man Who Folded Himself.

    @ Cora: I’d have sent him packing for a different reason, and much earlier. But apparently she considered the good results of her choice worth paying the price for them.

  31. Dear Stoic,

    Can’t take more than partial credit– I learn from my sweeties.

    I think it says something important that the positive philosophical spin seems to have gotten lost along the way. I’m not smart enough to suss out what, though.

    pax / Ctein

  32. @ Ctein / Stoic Cynic: This is something atheists have to deal with all the time — people who think that without religion there can’t be morality or ethics. The reality is IMO the reverse; if you know that there is no “afterlife”, then you have to accept that what you do right here, right now, is your only opportunity to make a difference. And if you’re any sort of decent person, you strive to make a difference for the better.

  33. @Marshall Ryan Maresca

    Yes it was after the House of M (2005) when she came back with memories of being the biggest hero in the world that the push started which was before the MCU. However it was not before the planning for what would become the MCU started in 2003 and it lines up with the “de-emphasis” of the Fox controlled properties which started even before that.

    Perlmutter had been having fits about how little money Marvel was getting from it’s licensed movies from the start and had made several attempts to get all Marvel characters back under his control. Fox executives laughed in his face which lead to the bad blood that ended up tanking the Fantastic Four.

  34. @Magewolf: “And after Civil Wars 2 I think she [Captain Marvel] usually turns up in the most hated hero lists.”

    Her role in CW2 was deliberately polarizing, as was Tony Stark’s. It’s difficult to have a battle over principles without a champion on each side, and that was the part they played… just as Stark and Rogers did in the first Civil War series.

    As a result, those inclined to side with one principle over the other are bound to dislike the opposing side’s champion, at least to some degree. Add to that the facts that Danvers is a much more powerful being than Stark and that she’s a girl, and… well. I’m not exactly shocked that the trifecta put her on some most-hated lists. I would even wager that this would be the case if she and Stark had been cast in each other’s roles, with her championing “no preventive detention” and him saying crimes that can be prevented should be.

    (My chief complaint with the CW2 storyline was completely different, a matter of core continuity that multiple characters should have brought up. Ng gur gvzr bs Hylffrf’f ivfvba bs gur Uhyx’f enzcntr, Onaare jnf vapncnoyr bs Uhyxvat bhg. Nznqrhf Pub unq genafsreerq gung novyvgl gb uvzfrys, orpbzvat gur Gbgnyyl Njrfbzr Uhyx naq yrnivat Onaare cbjreyrff. Guvf jnf xabja gb ng yrnfg fbzr bs gur fhcreurebrf cerfrag. Gurersber, gur jubyr fubjqbja ng Onaare’f cynpr jnf ragveryl cbvagyrff, naq Onaare’f qrngu (naq Unjxrlr’f gevny!) qbhoyl fb. Fbzrbar unq gur xabjyrqtr gb chg nyy gubfr snpgf gbtrgure naq cbvag bhg gung Hylffrf’f ivfvba jnf fvzcyl abg cbffvoyr ng gung cbvag va gvzr, naq lrg vg qvqa’g unccra. Abg rira Pub, va uvf bja frevrf. But that would’ve defanged the dilemma, and never mind that it could’ve been handled by merely using a different character for that plot point. Grrr…)

  35. @Lee

    I’ve never understood that one. It seems to me – as a Christian – that only refraining from sin because of fear of consequences in the afterlife is no true morality at all. We’re supposed to aspire to a bit more than that, I think.

  36. Ctein:

    So, if you’re going to lead a good life, do it because it makes your life on this earth better rather than because you think Daddy will give you a lollipop later (or you can bribe Him into giving you one).

    Interesting – this is roughly the conclusion I learned at my mother’s knee from the belief that God loves all of us and takes all of us to herself in the end, without detours to Hell or Purgatory. Which goes to show that the details of belief don’t always affect behavior.

    Meredith on May 20, 2018 at 10:26 pm said:
    @Lee

    I’ve never understood that one. It seems to me – as a Christian – that only refraining from sin because of fear of consequences in the afterlife is no true morality at all. We’re supposed to aspire to a bit more than that, I think.

    Agreed.

  37. Meredith:

    @Lee

    I’ve never understood that one. It seems to me – as a Christian – that only refraining from sin because of fear of consequences in the afterlife is no true morality at all. We’re supposed to aspire to a bit more than that, I think.

    Nodding in agreement here.

  38. @Greg Hullender: “A typical soft SF story doesn’t need the author to explain how the antigravity works, but it’s really bad if he/she “explains” that it’s based on the same principle that causes spaceships to spiral into the sun if their engines go out.”

    Argh. I rewatched Star Trek: Nemesis over the weekend, and your comment reminds me of the ludicrous plot device of having the Scimitar – floating in space – apply all engines in full reverse to detach itself from the Enterprise after the ramming maneuver. I mean, was Q hiding there to hold the Enterprise in place? Had to be something like that, otherwise the ships would simply stay entangled, but now with added motion!

    @various, but quoting Ctein: “backwards-directed time travel does not break causality in its broadest sense. It makes things look appallingly weird, but there is still, in the general case, a chain of events that goes from A to Z. But that chain may become invisible to the external observer.”

    Yes, this. Plus, what known mechanism exists to handle the ubiquitous “personal keepsake changes to reflect new timeline” trope? I mean, sure, it’s a useful plot device, but it’s utterly ridiculous. One might as well say that time travel nullifies gravity around the traveler; that makes no less sense in terms of the laws of physics.

    More generally, my position has long been that traveling back in time neither violates causality nor causes paradoxes. It’s merely futile. The arrival splits off a new timeline, such that the original timeline is unchanged and the new one contains the time traveler plus a copy of the original timeline up to that point.

    The futility comes in with the realization that not only can you not make the changes you wanted (well, maybe you can, but not to the original timeline), but you can’t get back to your original starting point. Even if you rigged a foolproof return mechanism, your trip was a huge waste of time for you and did nothing for those you presumably went back to help. Worse, you’ve created a new universe and are arguably responsible for all the misery its inhabitants will ever experience. Great job, dude!

    (Don’t even get me started on the theological implications.)

    To cast this in the traditional “kill Hitler to prevent WWII” frame, you go back and take your shot, but if it works, you’ve killed New Hitler, not Hitler Classic. WWII Classic unfolded exactly as it always did in your history books, but if Hitler wasn’t actually the uniquely charismatic force he’s painted as, you may have just condemned New Earth to suffer through New WWII and all of its horrors (which may be even worse), only with a different German leader. Congratulations!

    @Paul Weimer: (strong Marvel women and movie rights)

    Is She-Hulk actually covered by the Universal/Hulk rights, or is it Banner-the-character rather than “the Hulkverse”? (And if the latter, does anyone know if the Marvel/Universal deal extends to her?)

    @Lee: (How many interviews to get all those blank stares?)

    You might be surprised at how many people’s brains lock up when you point a camera at them and ask them a very broad question. I’d bet a lot of that gear-grinding was “what kind of book?” or some similar quest for a context in which to formulate an answer. Then again, a few were probably attempts to not say “Fifty Shades of Gray.”

  39. So this is a bit off-topic and more political than religious but the current conversation reminded me of this quote which is apparently by Irvine Welsh:

    “When you’re not doing so well, vote for a better life for yourself. If you are doing quite nicely, vote for a better life for others.”

  40. Is She-Hulk actually covered by the Universal/Hulk rights, or is it Banner-the-character rather than “the Hulkverse”? (And if the latter, does anyone know if the Marvel/Universal deal extends to her?)

    It doesn’t seem the precise rundown of characters covered by the various franchising deals is publicly known. It seems plausible that the She-Hulk rights are bundled with Hulk, if you consider the evidently wide-ranging nature of the X-Men and Spider-Man deals.

    (Also, Universal now only has film distribution and not film production rights.)

  41. In Catholic Sunday school, I was taught that the moral impulse comes first. That if you don’t have that, religion can’t make you a good person; it just becomes a set of rules to control your behavior. If you do have that basic moral sense, you may become a good person anyway, whether or not you find religion.

    When I went to a Catholic college, they were even clearer that God was more likely to welcome into Heaven an atheist who heeded that moral sense, than an ostensible believer for whom religion was just a set of rules you could get in trouble for breaking.

  42. When I went to a Catholic college, they were even clearer that God was more likely to welcome into Heaven an atheist who heeded that moral sense, than an ostensible believer for whom religion was just a set of rules you could get in trouble for breaking.

    @Lis: How did they reconcile that with “the only path to God is through Christ”?

  43. @Lee

    As an atheist ( with the occasional agnostic leaning) it’s exactly what struck me: the similarity in calculating ethics.

    @Meredith et al

    I was raised in a fundamentalist strain of Christianity. They were big on god’s punishment for sins. Lots of hellfire and brimstone and anger…

  44. @Jeff Smith–

    [Me]When I went to a Catholic college, they were even clearer that God was more likely to welcome into Heaven an atheist who heeded that moral sense, than an ostensible believer for whom religion was just a set of rules you could get in trouble for breaking.

    [Jeff]@Lis: How did they reconcile that with “the only path to God is through Christ”?

    That a sincere and moral atheist has a far better chance of reaching Christ than a nominal Christian without natural moral sense. And that the Church serves Christ, not Christ the Church.

    Note that these were Jesuits, and a teaching order of nuns teaching at the college level. You shouldn’t necessarily push this line with your parish priest or a randomly selected Dominican. Catholic theology is a lot more diverse than it looks from the outside.

  45. Catholic theology is not keen on blanket statements like “the only path to God is through Christ” since you don’t get to put limits like that on God.

  46. @Rev. Bob

    My problem with both CW and CW 2 is that they were both just excuses to get Heroes punching one another. And it seemed in both cases that they started out with lists of who they wanted to fight and assigned them to opposite sides at random, previous characterization be damned.

    But to be fair, I was predisposed to dislike CW since it started by throwing The New Warriors under the bus and then setting them on fire.

  47. Dear Rev. Bob,

    Further, on the subject of backward-directed time travel, viz. your post:

    http://file770.com/?p=42295&cpage=2#comment-807274

    Yes, that’s one way it could physically work — your decision to kill/not-kill Hitler creates a fork where one timeline has the consequences of you doing that and the other has the consequences of you not-doing that. It doesn’t create any causality problems because the chain of events remains clear to the internal observer. For that matter, even if it doesn’t fork and you simply have one timeline afterwards where it did or didn’t happen, there still isn’t a causal problem.

    In the timeline where you did kill Hitler (in either physics scenario), things look very weird to the external observer, as in “where the hell did YOU come from?” but that’s because some events are invisible to them. you can think of them as being the macroscopic equivalent of virtual particles. We know they exist, because they produce observable consequences, you just can’t see them.

    There’s (at least) one more possibility, which is some flavor of the Everett-Wheeler “many worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics. Every time a decision gets made, on the quantum level, in the universe, timelines fork off from that. All possible possibilities exist on different timelines. In which case, your forking over killing Hitler is just one particular decision point (well, actually a gazillion of them which different slight particulars all the way down to the quantum level).

    This doesn’t speak to free will in any way. The physics doesn’t care how that decision was made. It could be free will, a random firing of synapses in the brain, a quantum mechanical bit flipping. Doesn’t matter.

    I understand your point about it making it seem futile, if it’s deterministic like this, but that’s a philosophical position. It’s only futile if your ethical and moral systems are built entirely on results. To create a simpler (because it’s more extreme) thought experiment, suppose you could do something that would kill off 2 billion innocent people on the planet, but give you everything you ever wanted in life — would you do it?

    An entirely result-based system would say that under the “many worlds” interpretation, why not? That timeline already exists: you deciding to kill off all those people only indicates that you’re okay with living in that world — you didn’t actually kill them. On that timeline they were already dead. It is not actually your fault, in fact it’s futile to choose not to kill them, because that probability line still exists. Unless all possible quantum mechanical flavors of you would make exactly the same decision.

    So how do you feel about that? Would you be okay living on that timeline as someone who killed off 2 billion people for their own personal gain?

    I didn’t think so. To put it tritely, it goes to character. Not to results.

    – pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. Dragon Dictate in training! ]
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