Pixel Scroll 5/16/17 Will No One Pixel Me This Troublesome Scroll?

(1) CLOSE THE GAP. David Dean Bottrell, Producer, Sci-Fest LA, is asking people to help support The Tomorrow Prize, due to be presented this weekend:

Although Sci-Fest LA has been temporarily side-lined our amazing short story competitions continue!! Unfortunately, a grant we were depending on, has fallen through at the last second, and the awards are this coming weekend! We need your help to make up a $500.00 gap IMMEDIATELY needed to award the prizes to our winners!

Donate at:  http://www.lightbringerproject.org/support/

You can make a donation via our new non-profit sponsor, LIGHTBRINGER PROJECT. Please add a note during the payment process for what the donation’s for — You can mention Sci-Fest, Tomorrow Prize or Roswell Award.

(2) INDIGENOUS VOICES. Silvia Moreno-Garcia has posted an update about her efforts to fund and launch an Emerging Indigenous Voices Award. (This would not be an sff award, but was prompted by the Canadian literary controversy reported here last week.)

I’ve gathered $4355 in pledges from people who wish to make this a reality. I’ve also e-mailed Robin Parker, who has also obtained pledges for a similar drive. We could be talking about more than $7,000 if we pool those resources together.

I have sent an e-mail to folks at the UBC Longhouse asking for some guidance.

I feel that if an award does become a reality, it must be managed by an Indigenous organization. I aim merely to help funnel money to them.

It may take some time to sort things out. I am putting together documentation tracking who pledged, how much, etc.

In the meantime, you can fund or support local organizations which represent Indigenous people in your community.

We should not turn to Indigenous and marginalized groups only when bad stuff happens and there are ways to support them that don’t involve donations. Read and review Indigenous literature. Suggest Indigenous artists as guests of honor at conventions. If you have access to a platform, invite them to write op-eds, guest posts, etc….

(3) ESCHEW CHRONOLOGICAL SNOBBERY. L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright raised her voice in defense of Anne McCaffrey at Superversive SF — “When New Is (Not) Best–The Degradation of Grand Master Anne McCaffrey”.

People talk about strong female characters today. Sometimes they mean kickbutt fighters. But when the term first got started, it meant females who held their own, who acted and achieved and accomplished, female characters who were smart.

Lessa was all that. To me, she was the sole female character in SF who really had the qualities I wanted to have. I adored her.

Recently, I was in a store and I picked up a copy of Dragonflight, the original Pern book. I remember thinking, Huh, it probably wasn’t that good. I’ve just glamorized it. Let me see… After all, some of her later books were a bit fluffy. Maybe this early book was just fluff, too, and I had just not noticed. I started flipping through it.

I read an astonishing amount of it before I realized I was standing in a bookstore and embarrassedly put it down.

It was still that good.

(4) THEY KNOW WHEN YOU’RE AWAKE. An author tells about eavesdropping on fan sites in “The Big Idea: Megan Whalen Turner” at Whatever.

As a newbie author, I was self-Googling like mad and just before The King of Attolia was published. I found a livejournal site dedicated to my books. I lurked. I did tell them I was lurking, but I knew right from the start that having authors around is a great, wonderful, exciting thing—right up until they make it impossible to have an honest conversation about their books, so I was careful not too lurk too often. In return, I got to watch these smart, funny people pick through everything I’d written and I became more and more convinced that they didn’t need my input, anyway. Everything in my books that I hoped they’d see, they were pointing out to one another. Watching them, I decided I should probably probably keep my mouth shut and leave readers to figure things out for themselves. That’s why when they got around to sending me a community fan letter, I’m afraid that my answer to most of their questions was, “I’m not telling.” Over the years, it’s hardened into a pretty firm policy.

(5) SPACE OPERA WEEK. Tor.com has declared: It’s Space Opera Week on Tor.com!

Alan Brown has a handle on the history of the term: “Explore the Cosmos in 10 Classic Space Opera Universes”.

During the Golden Age of Science Fiction, there was a lot of concern about the amount of apparent dross being mixed in with the gold. The term “space opera” was originally coined to describe some of the more formulaic stories, a term used in the same derisive manner as “soap opera” or “horse opera.” But, like many other negative terms over the years, the term space opera has gradually taken on more positive qualities. Now, it is used to describe stories that deal with huge cosmic mysteries, grand adventure, the long sweep of history, and giant battles. If stories have a large scope and a boundless sense of wonder, along with setting adventure front and center, they now proudly wear the space opera name.

Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer discusses why she embarked on her Vorkosigan Saga reread series for Tor.com in Space Opera and the Underrated Importance of Ordinary, Everyday Life

The Vorkosigan series is space opera in the really classic style. There are big ships that fight each other with weapons so massive and powerful that they don’t even have to be explained. The most dramatic conflicts take place across huge distances, and involve moving people, ideas, and technology through wormholes that span the Galactic Nexus, and watching how that changes everything. So it’s also about incredibly ordinary things—falling in love, raising children, finding peace, facing death.

And Cheeseman-Meyer’s latest entry “Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Borders of Infinity covers a lot of ground, but I must applaud this comment in particular —

At this point, I suddenly realize how little time we really get to spend with the Dendarii Mercenaries, who have now appeared as a fighting force in only two of the seven books in the reread.

Liz Bourke, in “Sleeps With Monsters: Space Opera and the Politics of Domesticity”, reminds readers that relationships are the web that connect the infinite spaces of this subgenre.

Let’s look at three potential examples of this genre of… let’s call it domestic space opera? Or perhaps intimate space opera is a better term. I’m thinking here of C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series, now up to twenty volumes, which are (in large part) set on a planet shared by the (native) atevi and the (alien, incoming) humans, and which focus on the personal and political relationships of Bren Cameron, who is the link between these very different cultures; of Aliette de Bodard’s pair of novellas in her Xuya continuity, On A Red Station, Drifting and Citadel of Weeping Pearls, which each in their separate ways focus on politics, and relationships, and family, and family relationships; and Becky Chambers’ (slightly) more traditionally shaped The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit, which each concentrate in their own ways on found families, built families, communities, and the importance of compassion, empathy, and respect for other people’s autonomy and choices in moving through the world.

But lest we forget the reason Tor.com exists, Renay Williams plugs the franchise in “A Plethora of Space Operas: Where to Start With the Work of John Scalzi”.

101: Beginner Scalzi

If you’re brand-new to Scalzi’s work, there a few possible starting places. If you want a comedic space opera adventure, you’ll want to start with Old Man’s War and its companion and sequel novels, The Ghost Brigades and The Last Colony. If you’re in the mood for straight up comedy SF, then Agent to the Stars is your entry point. And if you want some comedy but also kind of want to watch a political thriller in your underwear while eating snack food and don’t know what book could possibly meet all those qualifications at once, there’s The Android’s Dream, which is the funniest/darkest book about sheep I’ve ever read.

(6) AMEN CORNER. The celebration also includes a reminder from Judith Tarr: “From Dark to Dark: Yes, Women Have Always Written Space Opera”.

Every year or two, someone writes another article about a genre that women have just now entered, which used to be the province of male writers. Usually it’s some form of science fiction. Lately it’s been fantasy, especially epic fantasy (which strikes me with fierce irony, because I remember when fantasy was pink and squishy and comfy and for girls). And in keeping with this week’s theme, space opera gets its regular turn in the barrel.

Women have always written space opera.

Ever heard of Leigh Brackett? C.L. Moore? Andre Norton, surely?

So why doesn’t everyone remember them?

Because that second X chromosome carries magical powers of invisibility.

And having read that, who would you be looking to for an “Amen!” Would you believe, Jeffro Johnson at the Castalia House Blog? Not from any feminist impulse, but because it fits his own narrative about the Pulp Revolution — “The Truth About Women and Science Fiction”:

…Yes, the “Hard SF” revolution did turn the field into something of a boy’s club. The critical frame that emerged from it has unfairly excluded the work of a great many top tier creators that happened to be female. And much as it pains me to admit it, feminist critics do have a point when they complained about women being arbitrarily excluded.

However… when they treat the Campbellian Revolution as the de facto dawn of science fiction, they are perpetuating and reinforcing the real problem. If you want creators like Leigh Brackett and C. L. Moore to get the sort of attention they deserve, you have to recover not only the true history of fantasy and science fiction. You have to revive and defend the sort of classical virtues that are the root cause of why they have been snubbed in the first place.


Sea Monkey Day

The history of sea monkeys starts, oddly enough, with ant farms. Milton Levine had popularized the idea of Ant-farm kits in 1956 and, presumably inspired by the success of his idea, Harold von Braunhut invented the aquatic equivalent with brine-shrimp. It was really ingenious looking back on it, and ultimately he had to work with a marine biologist to really bring it all together. With just a small packet of minerals and an aquarium you’d suddenly have a place rich with everything your brine-shrimp needed to survive. So why sea monkeys? Because who was going to buy brine-shrimp? It was all a good bit of marketing, though the name didn’t come about for nearly 5 years. They were originally called “instant life”, referencing their ‘just add water’ nature. But when the resemblance of their tails to monkeys tails was noted by fans, he changed it to ‘Sea-Monkeys’ and so it’s been ever since! The marketing was amazing too! 3.2 million pages of comic book advertising a year, and the money just flowed in the door. So what are Sea Monkeys exactly? They’re clever mad science really. Sea Monkeys don’t (or didn’t) exist in nature before they were created in a lab by hybridization. They’re known as Artemia NYOS (New York Ocean Science) and go through anhydrobiosis, or hibernation when they are dried out. Then, with the right mixture of water and nutrients they can spring right back into life! Amazing!

Wait a minute, that sounds a lot like Trisolarians!


(9) COMIC SECTION. Daniel Dern recommends today’s Candorville: “We already knew the creator’s a Star Trek geek, clearly he’s also a (DC) comic book fan…”

(10) DOCTOROW. This is the book Cory Doctorow was promoting at Vromans Bookstore when Tarpinian and I attended his joint appearance with John Scalzi a couple weeks ago. Carl Slaughter prepared a summary:

Cory Doctorow
April 25, 2017

Hubert was too old to be at that Communist party.

But after watching the breakdown of modern society, he really has no where left to be?except amongst the dregs of disaffected youth who party all night and heap scorn on the sheep they see on the morning commute. After falling in with Natalie, an ultra-rich heiress trying to escape the clutches of her repressive father, the two decide to give up fully on formal society?and walk away.

After all, now that anyone can design and print the basic necessities of life?food, clothing, shelter?from a computer, there seems to be little reason to toil within the system.

It’s still a dangerous world out there, the empty lands wrecked by climate change, dead cities hollowed out by industrial flight, shadows hiding predators animal and human alike. Still, when the initial pioneer walkaways flourish, more people join them. Then the walkaways discover the one thing the ultra-rich have never been able to buy: how to beat death. Now it’s war – a war that will turn the world upside down.

Fascinating, moving, and darkly humorous, Walkaway is a multi-generation SF thriller about the wrenching changes of the next hundred years…and the very human people who will live their consequences.


  • “Thrilling and unexpected….A truly visionary techno-thriller that not only depicts how we might live tomorrow, but asks why we don’t already.” Kirkus
  • “Doctorow has envisioned a fascinating world…This intriguing take on a future that might be right around the corner is bound to please.” ?Library Journal
  • “Memorable and engaging. …Ultimately suffused with hope.” ?Booklist
  • “The darker the hour, the better the moment for a rigorously-imagined utopian fiction. Walkaway is now the best contemporary example I know of, its utopia glimpsed after fascinatingly-extrapolated revolutionary struggle. A wonderful novel: everything we’ve come to expect from Cory Doctorow and more.”?William Gibson
  • “Cory Doctorow is one of our most important science fiction writers, because he’s also a public intellectual in the old style: he brings the news and explains it, making clearer the confusions of our wild current moment. His fiction is always the heart of his work, and this is his best book yet, describing vividly the revolutionary beginnings of a new way of being. In a world full of easy dystopias, he writes the hard utopia, and what do you know, his utopia is both more thought-provoking and more fun.”?Kim Stanley Robinson
  • “Is Doctorow’s fictional utopia bravely idealistic or bitterly ironic? The answer is in our own hands. A dystopian future is in no way inevitable; Walkaway reminds us that the world we choose to build is the one we’ll inhabit. Technology empowers both the powerful and the powerless, and if we want a world with more liberty and less control, we’re going to have to fight for it.”?Edward Snowden

(11) LITFEST PASADENA. In addition to the Roswell Award  and Tomorrow Award readings, this weekend’s LitFest Pasadena includes these items of genre interest:


Famed afro-futurist writer Nalo Hopkinson (The Chaos) joins the Shades & Shadows Reading Series for an evening of dark fiction from noir mystery to sci-fi.


Popular comic book and TV writer Brandon Easton (Agent Carter), joins fellow comic book writers to discuss “Manga Influences on American Culture.”

(12) SPEAKING PARTS. Pornokitsch shows why someone could argue “Middle Earth Has Fewer Women Than Space”.

This research is from April 2016. The folks at The Pudding analysed thousands of screenplays and did a word count of male and female dialogue.

Unsurprisingly: Hollywood skews heavily in favour of dudes talking.

Naturally, I looked for all the nerdiest films I could find. This was a lot of fun, although the results were… pretty bleak. …..

There follows a whole chart about genre films.

2001 is literally a film about two dudes floating in space, and it has a higher percentage of female dialogue than two of the Lord of the Rings films.

(13) IOU. Jon Del Arroz thinks I should be paying him when I put him in the news. Now there’s an innovative marketing mind at work.

(14) PANTHER UNPLUGGED. Ernie Estrella at Blastr demands — “So why did Marvel pull the plug on Black Panther & The Crew after just two issues?”

How long should a comic book aimed at reaching a more socially aware audience be given latitude before it’s canceled? According to Marvel Comics, just two. Marvel is canceling one of two monthly titles that Ta-Nehisi Coates writes, Black Panther & The Crew. After two issues have underperformed in sales, the title has been abruptly put on notice. Marvel had seen enough and was not satisfied by the early numbers to stick with a title while it finds its audience. Coates told Verge that issue #6 will be the series’ finale, wrapping up the storyline that was introduced in the debut issue, which came out in this past March.

Coates co-writes the series with Yona Harvey, and together they crafted a story starring Black Panther, Storm, Misty Knight and Luke Cage investigating the murder of a civil rights activist who died while in police custody, Ezra Keith. Relevant to America’s current societal problems facing inherent racism, Coates and Harvey’s story also dives into the main four heroes and tries to look deeper at their varied experiences as black people in the Marvel Universe….

(15) NEW GRRM ADAPTATION. George R.R. Martin gives fans the background on developments they’ve been reading about in the Hollywood trade papers — “Here’s the Scoop on NIGHTFLYERS”.

In 1984 I sold the film and television rights to “Nightflyers” to a writer/ producer named Robert Jaffe and his father Herb….

This new NIGHTFLYERS television series — actually, it is just a pilot script at present, still several steps short of going on-air, but I am told that SyFy likes the script a lot — was developed based on the 1987 movie, and the television rights conveyed in that old 1984 contract. Robert Jaffe is one of the producers, I see, but the pilot script is by Jeff Buhler. I haven’t had the chance to meet him yet, but hope to do so in the near future.

Since I have an overall deal that makes me exclusive to HBO, I can’t provide any writing or producing series to NIGHTFLYERS should it go to series… but of course, I wish Jaffe and Buhler and their team the best of luck. “Nightflyers” was one of my best SF stories, I always felt, and I’d love to see it succeed as a TV series (fingers crossed that it looks as good as THE EXPANSE).

[Thanks to Greg Hullender, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ingvar, with an assist from Camestros Felapton.]

126 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 5/16/17 Will No One Pixel Me This Troublesome Scroll?

  1. @3, “kickass women” If her “Prospero’s Daughter” trilogy is any indication, I do not think that word means what Lamplighter thinks it means.

  2. And I never until this very minute realized that the Mieville novella is titled This Census Taker …

  3. 3) Sigh. It’s not “chronological snobbery” to recognize that books often age out of relevance (which, although Lamplighter et al. automatically define it as “political,” can just as easily be “aesthetic” or “cultural” or “sexual” or you-name-it). It’s the nature of the game: very few cultural artifacts have had the resources to speak to subsequent generations, and even many of those that do have only survived due to luck (e.g., Beowulf, which came within seconds of burning to ashes in 1731). For every Homer who remains relevant, there is a Quintus Smyrnaeus or Apollodorus or Proclus who does not. In the sixteenth century, the three great poets of England were Chaucer, Gower, and Lydgate; only Chaucer is still read by the general literary public. Several years ago the conservative ACTA tried to gin up rage against English Departments by exposing John Dryden’s displacement from syllabi by Toni Morrison; the world yawned.

    So it should come as no surprise that many Grand Masters of Science Fiction will meet the same fate. Politics will of course be part of this process (but then again, Lydgate’s expulsion from the canon was partly due to anti-Catholic Protestant agitation—a politics far more heated than the current moment). But so will other factors—I suspect the flat prose and cardboard characterization of much early SF has more to do with this than any amount of political correctness.

    Not all of Anne McCaffrey’s books are going to make it to her 100th birthday and beyond as relevant classics of the field. But yesterday’s thread makes it pretty clear that Dragonsong and Dragonsinger at the very least have a good shot at continued reception and appreciation. I would suspect that Dragonflight and Dragonquest will also reach readers going forward: I reread them recently, and, rapey-ness aside (and it’s a big aside), they’re still good, compelling books.

    If I’m wrong about this, well, that’s the nature of literary history. Anne McCaffrey will have to get at the end of a very long line of “unjustly” forgotten and/or neglected authors. And then it will be up to future readers to rediscover her and reestablish her relevance.

  4. John: The poster-child for that point is Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Utterly brilliant and, with one possible exception, unread between its inscription ca. 1400 and its recovery in the early 1800s.

  5. I’d like to second the giant SQUEE! for Lovecraft Country; the book was great, the person who wants to adapt it is coming off a critically acclaimed horror movie that was also very successful at the box office (and didn’t shy away from examining racial issues, which is going to be important for any good adaptation of Lovecraft Country); this is all just magical to me.

  6. @Rob Barett
    True words. McCaffrey will be known in the future for Pern, but how long? Im a Pernfan, have read everything on it written by her (Didnt like Dragonblood), but even I notice her strength (absolute gift for writing pagetuners) and weaknesses (clearcut good and evil characters) in her writing.
    And then: When my parents renovated the cleared out boxes with books (donations to the library), including lots and lots of Barbara Hambly. I remember that I liked her and Ive read them all, but could remember very little. My estimate would have been, that I read maybe 5 or 6, but the evidence pointed to more than twice that number. So Hambly, while surely a good writer (as I said I cant judge because I remeber little) is on the verge of being forgotten -at least by me. Thats not a sign of quality (or lack thereof) but just a sign that the World turns.

  7. 6.

    However… when they treat the Campbellian Revolution as the de facto dawn of science fiction, they are perpetuating and reinforcing the real problem. If you want creators like Leigh Brackett and C. L. Moore to get the sort of attention they deserve, you have to recover not only the true history of fantasy and science fiction. You have to revive and defend the sort of classical virtues that are the root cause of why they have been snubbed in the first place.


    Christ, what an asshole


    Aaaaaaaaand……Christ, what an asshole

  8. 3- Arguing how good the books were when Lamplighter was young and picking up then putting a book featuring a story of McCaffery’s back on the shelf may not be a good defense to use about how she’s still relevant.

    She linked Del Arroz’s post which I hadn’t read the other day and reading that one is funny as it ends with claiming that the focus on the new is the reason the Hugos are tarnished. Well, yeah, I mean isn’t that how most yearly awards work, awarding what came out within the last year?

    While they’re very concerned I believe McCaffery’s legacy is strong enough that a critical tweet does not degrade it in any way.

  9. Quick question: Will I be lost if I read Death’s End without reading or re-reading the previous books? I read The Three Body Problem for that year, but skipped book 2. Is familiarity with the plot of TBP enough?

    I just received my ink and paper copy of Death’s End–of course the full book is in the packet!

  10. @Peer – Hambly is a good example of a well-reviewed and well-received writer who didn’t sell well enough to stay in print long enough to catch on long-term. Although I did buy the ebook of Ladies of Mandrigyn when it came out, suggesting that digital might be the saving grace of a lot of midlist stuff.

  11. Beth in MA: I think reading 3BP is enough grounding. Whether you’ll like the third book won’t have much to do with the lack of info you would get from book two.

  12. Re: McCaffrey, place in the cannon.

    I do think that Dragonflight and Dragonquest will last as at least worthwhile reads even if not classics because they are well written, the concepts are interesting, and the rape-y parts haven’t prevented people from still reading The Stars My Destination, either. Bester’s not out of the cannon; the best of what he’s read is just read with an awareness of its limits. McCaffrey would likely get much the same.

  13. @TYP: I’d rank Bester higher because he does more with his prose, but I think your assessment is right on.

  14. @TYP: “place in the cannon”

    Might I suggest that putting classic authors into pieces of artillery is likely to turn out badly for all concerned? 😉

    (The word you want is canon.)

  15. @Rob Barrett: hey, I’ve got Quintus Smyrnaeus on my Kindle… but I am someone who deliberately reads obscurities, so, if anything, that only reinforces your point.

    @Beth in MA: I agree with OGH – everything you need to know is recapped sufficiently in Death’s End, you don’t need to read The Dark Forest to be able to follow it. (I’d say The Dark Forest is worth reading, though. If you have the time. Which I suspect many of us don’t, now.)

  16. Rev. Bob: Might I suggest that putting classic authors into pieces of artillery is likely to turn out badly for all concerned?

    Be a great act for a convention. Like firing Robert Silverberg into a net on stage at the Hugo Awards, just before he presents one of the awards.

  17. @Rev Bob

    Well, a great big gun would be outreach to the Puppies… But I plead autocorrect.

  18. You have to go to NetGalley for the 10 novels.

    Assume I am a technically inept idiot with a NetGalley account. What unspoken steps are there once I sign on?

  19. @James Davis Nicoll: I followed a link in a pdf in the packet, logged in, and I was right at a page for the book/omnibus. That page had buttons to get the books in either kindle or epub format – either send the book to my kindle account (which it seems I had already set up last year), or download an .acsm file for Adobe Digital Editions.

  20. Soon Lee on May 16, 2017 at 8:38 pm said:


    As someone raised by a woman with a penchant for puns and word-play, I decided when I was fairly young, that the three types of rocks are: indignant, sentimental, and metaphoric. 🙂

  21. (3) Ms Wright appears to be struggling with the sad fact that books, like people, have lifespans of varying lengths. yesterday many Filers talked about how much McCaffrey’s work meant to them when published, and regretted that it has not aged well, ironically in part because of the further advances her work prompted. That merely means that it’s dated, not irrelevant.

    The very best work lives a long time: Shakespeare is doing well, in part because he worked in a highly adaptable art form, but many of his contemporaries are now rarely performed. Jane Austen refused to reread Mrs Edgworth’s Belinda, a huge hit of the day, while working on Emma, for fear of being influenced. People still voluntarily read Emma, while Belinda remains in print but largely of academic interest. That’s not degradation; that’s artists inspiring each other, a process that inevitably leaves some behind.

    Looking over my bookshelves, I see favorites originally published up to a century ago (Mitchison’s The Corn King and the Spring Queen, Merilees’ Lud in the Mist, Wright’s Islandia and MacDonald’s The Light Princess), but they’re the survivors from a huge number of books and markers of my individual tastes. I’m delighted they did well enough for me to have found them. McCaffrey has a spacious place in SF history, inspired many other writers and still speaks to many readers. Sounds pretty good to me.

  22. Ooh, “Lovecraft Country” TV show! Awesomeness! (I had it on my ballot) And by Peele, who’s good.

    Re: Net Galley, a rando internet pal of mine gets books there all the time. He gets ’em one at a time and writes up really good reviews. They’re all indie or small pub, so they are available to us randos and really appreciate the reviews.

    @Schnookums: succinct but correct. That’s a meme which is really useful.

    And really, is McCaffrey’s best-selling, awards-winning, decades-long career at risk of being forgotten thanks to ONE person Tweeting a few mild criticisms? I think not. Isn’t Todd still producing work in that universe? It’s not like she’s been gone for hundreds or thousands of years, either; many of us fondly recall meeting her.

    There’s no predicting what’ll stand the test of time. Look at the bestsellers 30, 40, 50, 70 years ago, for example. How many have you heard of, much less read? Now discount the ones that were made into movies… bupkis.


    (Look at 1982. #1 was the novelization of E.T.)

    Here’s the “good old days” of 1955:

    Anyway, I gotta finish downloading…

  23. 3). It’s not exactly to the point, but one of the things that annoys me about those that venerate “old stuff” and continuously complain about the quality of “new stuff” is that they seem to have not considered the fact that we only love “Classic Rock” today because we’ve spent the last thirty or forty years forgetting about all the garbage.

  24. Very happy to hear about Lovecraft country!
    A fair question about McCaffrey’s Pern novels might be: if the series started out depicting an autocratic, misogynistic society, then what was that society like at the end of the series? She was, IIRC, writing about a world changing rapidly under the threat of burning space worms (spores?). They go from medieval to scientific in a generation, droit du signeur to telescopes and spaceships. What if she was depicting the worst so she could show it changing for the better – especially for women in that world? Otherwise, why the victories of Menolly in Dragonsong/singer?

  25. Kevin Harkness

    What kills your argument was the retconning in her later Pern novels. I don’t believe that she had an overall plan or she wouldn’t be changing the earlier books by what she wrote in the later books…

  26. @lurkertype:
    I fondly remember meeting her. This was at Contradiction 7 in Niagara Falls, 1987. Robin Wood was there as well, back when she was just starting the ‘People of Pern’ series of paintings. So was Tanya Huff, who was still writing as T.S. Huff, and who hadn’t quite published her first novel yet.

    All the guests were given gifts in small boxes. I still remember Anne McCaffrey opening hers up, holding up a chain and looking at the charm at the end of it (behind the box lid so nobody in the audience could see it), and then the way her face lit up before she lifted it up high and exclaimed gleefully, “It’s not a dragon!”

    Of course, I maintained even back then that Anne McCaffrey was ‘really’ a romance writer who just happened to like using science fiction and fantasy settings. That’s not meant as a dis, either; as others have noted, she wrote great page-turners.

    (I have a signed copy of The Year of the Lucy somewhere, and had her ask me at the time if I realized that this wasn’t a science fiction book. Yes, I had known that already.)

  27. @World Weary

    It’s been decades since I read them. Could you give me an example?
    I don’t mind killing my argument: Murdering characters has made me savage.

  28. @ ryan

    …we only love “Classic Rock” today because we’ve spent the last thirty or forty years forgetting about all the garbage.

    Funny story: I can clearly remember the first time I heard a Beatles song. It was “Yellow Submarine” and my aunt was raving about this great new sound. And I distinctly remember disliking it as cacophanous and noisy and unmelodic. (I was quite the little music snob at 8 years old.) And now, of course, one of the things I love about the Beatles music is how musically rich and melodic and complicatedly harmonious it is.

  29. I’d also like to contribute to the harmony of squee noise that is Peele involved in a Lovecraft Country adaptation.

    Also for those who either are fans of Polish fantasy or enjoy western style RPG video games The Witcher is being made into a series by Netflix

    Which I’m both excited and cautious about because the author will be creative director and is a complete asshole to the people who did an amazing job adapting the series into a video game, and one of the few or possibly the only novel(s) where I’d consider the video game adaptation superior to the novels.

  30. I’ve read six of these books from the fifties. Sweet Thursday is a huge favorite of mine.

    On The Beach and Atlas Shrugged both haunt me, but in different ways. I rather like Rand’s descriptive writing. She had a really good eye for the physical world. Those two books have a certain amount in common. And I’ve read a lot of those writers, but not those particular books which were selling then.

    ETA: Changed it to five. How could I have forgotten The Catcher in the Rye and The Old Man and the Sea?

    ETAA: Six. Lady Chatterly’s Lover. But neither that nor TOMatS are favorites by the authors.

  31. @Rob Barrett: Hambly has 2 series going in the UK, both reflecting her PhD in history (one fantasy one mimetic); I think she may have run out of ideas for mainstream fantasy.

    @ World Weary / @ Kevin Harkness: I didn’t keep on with Pern far enough to see retconning, but I very much doubt she was thinking of changes; as noted above, she was also a mainstream romance writer, and I think she carried that over to SF — especially since she sold the first dragon stories to the most reactionary magazine in the field AND (by acounts I’ve quoted in a previous thread) had to have the rest of the first book dragged out of her bit by bit — she wasn’t thinking at first about worldbuilding.

  32. 6) AMEN CORNER – I read Jirel of Joiry as a teenager and it started a long hunt for more science fiction and fantasy by women. I haven’t really stopped hunting and the majority of my reading is still of women authors.

    @John A Arkansawyer – I’ve read six of these books from the fifties. Sweet Thursday is a huge favorite of mine.

    Sweet Thursday remains my favorite of Steinbeck’s novels. I’m not sure what it means that I’ve read nine of the 10 for 1959. Also, I’ve read more than one Frank Yerby book.

  33. Mark on May 17, 2017 at 5:15 pm said:

    It’s at least reasonably interesting-looking. (Although some of the stuff I don’t buy.)

  34. Right back atcha, Bob!

    I would never have learned to juggle if it hadn’t been for Lord Valentine’s Castle


    Atlas Shrugged is an obvious one for me, I suppose. I also greatly enjoyed Leon Uris’ Battle Cry. That led me to Armageddon: A Novel of Berlin from 1963. Another great read. I highly recommend it. I haven’t read any of Michener’s work from that era, but I read some stuff from the 70s and 80s and enjoyed them a great deal.

    I have the sneaking suspicion that these kinds of lists can have a self-reinforcing element. Why did an author make the list? Because they are popular enough to get actively marketed by publishers. Why are they popular enough to get actively marketed? They made the list last year. Wash, rinse, repeat….


  35. @Chip Hitchcock, @Kevin Harkness

    I mentioned this in the other thread, so apologies for repeating myself.

    The retcon that annoyed me the most and made me stop reading her Pern books published thereafter was The Masterharper of Pern. This one offended me because, in this storyline, there are/have been women harpers. IIRC correctly, the last one retires or dies. One of the characters keeps saying something to the effect “We better get some more women harpers. People might believe that women aren’t welcome at the Harper Hall!” Since part of the point of Dragonsinger was that women weren’t accepted as apprentice harpers before Menolly, and that her getting in was a combination of her great talent and Robinton’s desire to reform all of Pern, I threw the book down every time it came up, which was more than once. This retcon completely destroys the Menolly timeline and, therefore, I am unable to forgive it.

    In the very first novella Weyr Search that became the first part of Dragonflight, Lessa has powers that disappear and are never mentioned again, like mind control and disguising herself in plain sight.

    In the early books, no one can survive threadfall outside. Only bare stone keeps you safe, etc. Menolly only survives because she finds a very small cave. Later, we get a whole clan of nomadic traders who live outside during Threadfall. Though that didn’t annoy me the way that eliminating Menolly’s achievements did.

    There are more, of course, but there are some examples for you. I agree with Chip – I just don’t think worldbuilding was on her mind. She just wanted to tell a good story (in her earlier work). In her later work, I feel that she cared more about what others thought, so things were retconned to make Pern perfect. Also, I think she wasn’t trying as hard in her later books, and the characters are more cardboard. This disappointed me greatly as she was my favorite author, by far, from about the time I was 11 years old through college.

    When I reread Pern, I generally read Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, The White Dragon and All the Weyrs of Pern. Sometimes I read the other ones, but skim the parts that I don’t enjoy as much.

  36. @John A Arkansawyer – I’ve read six of these books from the fifties.
    Both of the Auntie Mames; “On the Beach” and “Atlas Shrugged” on sitting on my shelves right now. I’ve probably read another half dozen or so from that list.
    And even though I haven’t read it yet (saw the movie), “The High and the Mighty” is sitting on the shelf because my mother once told me she and my dad were at the movies watching it when she went into labor with me.

    And checking out other decades was illuminating–the 70s and 80s I had hardly anything from their list while the 60s I seemed to have read either Susann or Fletcher Knebel books from the list.

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