Pixel Scroll 5/21/17 What A Strange Pixel — The Only Winning Scroll Is Not To File

Just an appetizer Scroll today, as my cold has devolved to the flu.

(1) DEMON MEME. And I‘ll make the first course of this appetizer “Occult sandwiches”. No excerpt (can’t get more lo-cal than that) because it looks to be one long Imgur graphic. Its style of humor will reward the attention of anyone who likes the kind of wordplay indulged in by Gaiman and Pratchett.

(2) THE REAL ATWOOD. Years ago all the focus was on Margaret Atwood’s insistence that she didn’t write science fiction. It kept us from learning so many very interesting things about her, as illustrated by this Guardian profile about “Margaret Atwood: a high priestess of fiction who embraces the digital age”.

At 77, Atwood combines the loftiness of a high priestess who does not suffer fools gladly with an unstinting generosity to those she deems not to be foolish. She is a passionate environmentalist, with a particular interest in birds, which she shares with her husband, Graeme Gibson.

If her determination to live by her principles occasionally seems incidentally comic — as when she embarked by boat on an international tour of a stage show publicising the second novel of her MaddAddam trilogy, The Year of the Flood — she also brings to her politics a healthy dose of intentional humour.

On a recent visit to her Toronto home, her longtime UK publisher Lennie Goodings was surprised to meet her carrying a paper bag bulging with four large rubber turkeys. “She showed them to me with that funny, head on a tilt, wicked smile of hers. They squawked when she pressed them.” It turned out that she and Gibson were about to present the prizes at an annual RSPB competition. “The winners each receive a rubber turkey from Margaret, at which point she conducts them in a squeezing squawking choir.”

Atwood traces her concern with the environment back to a childhood spent criss-crossing the forests of Canada with her entomologist father. She was the second of three children, and the family’s itinerant lifestyle meant that she did not go to full-time school until she was eight years old. She began publishing her poetry while a student at the University of Toronto, won her first major literary prize for a poetry collection published in 1964, and three collections later diversified into fiction in 1969 with The Edible Woman, about a woman driven mad by consumerism

(3) I KNOW I DIDN’T VOTE FOR IT. Edmonton’s Hugo Award Book Club blog just came online in May and they’ve attracted attention with their verdict:

1973: The Worst Hugo Award

1973 was a very good year. Income inequality was at its historical lowest in America, union density was at its highest, major victories were happening in civil rights.

But in the world of science fiction, it was the year that one of the worst novels ever to win the top Hugo award was honoured for all the wrong reasons.

And, yes, they already took into account the traditional loser in the debate.

(4) ELVISH. Greg Hullender (via Nicholas Whyte’s website) discovered Carl F. Hostetter’s “Elvish as She Is Spoke” [PDF file] and he enthusiastically forwarded the link with a flurry of comments.

It’s a linguistic assessment of attempts to flesh out Tolkien’s two Elvish languages.

The first key point is that Tolkien obviously wasn’t fluent in either language himself, partly because he kept changing them both, and partly because he doesn’t seem to have ever worked out all the details of the syntax. He doesn’t seem to have been trying to construct a language like Esperanto that anyone would actually use; he was simply having fun. So this is why he didn’t leave a lot of examples of Elvish text behind: he had difficulty writing anything in Elvish himself.

Second, the “neo” languages that people have tried to construct from Tolkien’s work are terribly naive, and often contradict some of the little bits of Elvish that Tolkien actually left us. The author compares it to the hilarious 19th-Century work “English as She is Spoke.” (If you don’t read anything else, skip to page 249, starting with “Elvish as She is Spoke.”)

That said, I think the author is a little hard on the neo-Elvish folks. Tolkien simply didn’t leave enough behind for them to do what they want to do. Lacking that, they’ve tried to be inventive. In the process, they’ve produced something that at least has a very Elvish “feel” to it, and (judging from the movies) sounds very nice. Also, the things that would make it more realistic (e.g. irregularity and polysemy) would make it much harder for native English speakers to learn. Even though neo-Elvish doesn’t withstand close study, it’s good enough for most people to suspend disbelief. That’s probably the most you can reasonably ask of a fantasy language.

Carl Hostetter is part of the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship which has spent decades having scholarly fun exploring Tolkien’s languages.

(5) COMIC SECTION. Wiley in Non Sequitur today comments on the cartoonists’ favorite award, the Reuben.

(6) REUBEN AWARD. The National Cartoonist Society will present the Reuben Awards on May 278. The 2016 Cartoonist of the Year nominees were announced March 2.

LYNDA BARRY is a cartoonist and writer. She’s authored 21 books and received numerous awards and honors including an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from University of the Arts, Philadelphia, two Will Eisner Awards, The American Library Association’s Alex Award, the Washington State Governor’s Award, the Wisconsin Library Associations RR Donnelly Award, the Wisconsin Visual Art Lifetime Achievement Award, and was inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 2016. Her book, “One! Hundred! Demons!” was required reading for all incoming freshmen at Stanford University in 2008. She’s currently Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Creativity and Director of The Image Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison were she teaches writing and picture-making. Lynda was nominated for Cartoonist of the Year for 2016 and will be the recipient of the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award at the 71st Reuben Awards dinner in Portland Oregon this year. You can follow Lynda on Twitter at @NearSightedMonkey.

STEPHAN PASTIS is the creator of the daily comic strip Pearls Before Swine, syndicated by Universal Uclick. Stephan practiced law in the San Fransisco Bay area before following his love of cartooning and eventually seeing syndication with Pearls, which was launched in newspapers beginning December 31, 2001. The National Cartoonists Society awarded Pearls Before Swine the Best Newspaper Comic Strip in 2003 and in 2006. Stephan is also the author of the children’s book series Timmy Failure. Stephan lives in northern California with his wife Staci and their two children. This is his ninth nomination for Cartoonist of the Year. Visit Stephan’s blog and the Pearls Before Swine website.

HILARY PRICE is the creator of Rhymes With Orange, a daily newspaper comic strip syndicated by King Features Syndicate. Created in 1995, Rhymes With Orange has won the NCS Best Newspaper Panel Division four times (2007, 2009, 2012 and 2014). Her work has also appeared in Parade Magazine, The Funny Times, People and Glamour. When she began drawing Rhymes With Orange, she was the youngest woman to ever have a syndicated strip. Hilary draws the strip in an old toothbrush factory that has since been converted to studio space for artists. She lives in western Massachusetts. This is Hilary’s fourth nomination for the Cartoonist of the Year. You can visit Rhymes With Orange online here.

MARK TATULLI is an internationally syndicated cartoonist, best known for his popular comic strips Heart of the City and Lio, which appear in 400 newspapers all over the world. He currently has written three books in a children’s illustrated novel series titled Desmond Pucket, which has been optioned for TV by Radical Sheep. He also has two planned children’s picture books coming from Roaring Book Press, an imprint of McMillian Publishing. The first, Daydreaming, will hit bookstores in September 2016. Lio has been nominated three times for the National Cartoonists Society’s Best Comic Strip, winning in 2009. Lio was nominated for Germany’s Max and Moritz Award in 2010. This is Mark’s third nomination for Cartoonist of the Year. You can follow Mark on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mtatulli/ and find his Lio strips here http://www.gocomics.com/lio.

ANN TELNAES creates editorial cartoons in various mediums- animation, visual essays, live sketches, and traditional print- for the Washington Post. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 2001 for her print cartoons. Telnaes’ print work was shown in a solo exhibition at the Great Hall in the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress in 2004. Her first book, “Humor’s Edge”, was published by Pomegranate Press and the Library of Congress in 2004. A collection of Vice President Cheney cartoons, “Dick”, was self-published by Telnaes and Sara Thaves in 2006. Other awards include: The National Cartoonists Society Reuben division award for Editorial Cartoons (2016), The National Press Foundation’s Berryman Award (2006) — The Maggie Award, Planned Parenthood (2002) — 15th Annual International Dutch Cartoon Festival (2007) — The National Headliner Award (1997) — The Population Institute XVII Global Media Awards (1996) — Sixth Annual Environmental Media Awards (1996).

Telnaes worked for several years as a designer for Walt Disney Imagineering. She has also animated and designed for various studios in Los Angeles, New York, London, and Taiwan.

Telnaes is the current president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) and is a member of the National Cartoonists Society (NCS). This is Ann’s first Cartoonist of the Year nomination.You can visit Ann’s website, http://www.anntelnaes.com, and follow her on twitter at @AnnTelnaes.

And there are 45 nominees in 15 NCS Divisional Categories. Needless to say, it’s a lot more entertaining to look at the illustrated lists over at the NCS site.

(7) BATTLE OF THE BOTTLES. Ommegang Brewery is coming out with an additional three beers in its Game of Thrones series, this time in a new line called “Bend the Knee”.

Bend the Knee:

When fans last gripped their glasses at the end of Game of Thrones’ sixth season, the great houses of Westeros were on the brink of an epic conflict. Cersei had ascended to the Iron Throne as the first queen of Westeros, Jon Snow and Sansa Stark had just reclaimed the North, and Daenerys Targaryen had set sail for the Seven Kingdoms. To commemorate the coming melee in the Emmy® Award-winning show’s epic seventh season, Brewery Ommegang and HBO Global Licensing are excited to announce a new beer in their collaborative series: Bend the Knee Golden Ale.

Paying homage to the struggle for control of the Seven Kingdoms, Bend the Knee will be available on draft and in a series of three collectible 750ml bottles, all finished in matte black and adorned with one of the three Great House sigils: Stark, Targaryen, or Lannister.

And while the show returns on July 16, fans can mark their calendars for the official nationwide release of the beer, which will be on shelves around Memorial Day.

(8) A CARD OF HIS OWN. At last night’s Nebula Award ceremony veteran SFWA volunteer Steven H Silver was given a great surprise — he has been added to the Science Fiction Historical Trading Cards Series.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Greg Hullender, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]

147 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 5/21/17 What A Strange Pixel — The Only Winning Scroll Is Not To File

  1. but I can’t forgive Willis for having a character who is a history graduate from the UK and yet somehow unfamiliar with the concept of a cryptic crossword.

    And revolving doors.

    She took their hands and led them over to the entrance. And stopped, stymied. There was no door, only a sort of glass-and-wood cage, divided into vertical sections. “Ain’t you never seen a revolving door?” Alf said, and darted into one of the sections, pushing on it to make it turn, followed by Binnie, giving a running commentary on how to do it.

    The time travellers come from a period only 43 years away, no more distant from us than Nixon’s resignation, but somehow in that time every revolving door in Britain has been uninstalled and all knowledge of them erased.

  2. I reread The End of Eternity not too long ago and didn’t like it at all. In fact it turned me off rereading Asimov. Clarke seems to me much more readable/rereadable these days. I haven’t reread The Foundations of Paradise but I thought it was excellent on my original reading. The only 1973 Hugo nominee I’ve read recently is Dying Inside which (I agree with others) is a very good book. I did read Roadside Picnic for the first time just a few weeks ago and it seemed to me to be a real classic, very interesting. I also found Blackout/All Clear unreadable and bailed pretty early. Hominids is the only Sawyer novel I’ve read. I thought it was ok light sf but wasn’t moved to read any of the author’s other work. — Just a few quick comments on works mentioned.

  3. The trouble I have with Hominids is that it’s badly written. The author apparently never learned “show don’t tell” and he’s not ashamed to use as-you-know-Bob dialog. When I did my own read through the past Hugo winners, this one really stuck out. There are a few winners that are awfully long and dull, and a few with enormous plot holes, but this was the only one with genuinely bad writing. (I still haven’t read “They’d Rather be Right” though.)

    It does require a special mention for the gratuitous rape scene. One of the main characters gets raped in chapter 2 or 3, but this ends up having almost zero effect on the rest of the book. It’s as though the author changed his mind but then forgot to delete the scene.

    There’s nothing wrong with Blackout/All Clear on a page-to-page basis. It’s only as the pages add up and you start asking yourself “where is this going?” that you begin to realize that something is wrong. Likewise, in The Gods Themselves, you end up feeling like you read three separate stories that were hastily glued together.

    But in Hominids, the defects are in your face on almost every single page. One wonders how it even got published–never mind how it won an award.

  4. @Nicholas Whyte: I would be hard-pressed to pick from the list you link to; I like much of Willis’s work but think Blackout/All Clear was a horribly-overlong mishmash topped off with a glob of ridiculous mysticism (gung gur havirefr vgfrys fb noubef gur Anmvf gung vg jvyy gjvfg vgf uvfgbel gb znxr fher gurl qba’g jva — fbeg bs gur vairefr bs “N Tha sbe Qvabfnhe”), and my over-40-years-back recollection of Rendezvous with Rama is that it’s more of a docent’s museum tour than a novel.

    @3 generally: Their description of the book as “a stitch-together of three short stories” is incorrect. I read it as it came out in magazines; the original serial was unusual because the middle part was in a different magazine (from the same editor and publisher) — but it was always intended as a book (as described by the magazine editor in a forward to the first part), unlike (e.g.) The Deep Range or Childhood’s End (extensions of shorter works under the same titles) or City (a set of stories only slightly more connected than Heinlein’s “Future History”. If, where the middle part was published, was described by Pohl (in The Way the Future Was) as being used partly so he could buy everything from certain authors, even the work he didn’t think as much of — with the side-effect that If got a reputation for being more ~experimental (and won best-magazine Hugos for 1966-68); I’m blanking on whether Jakobsson’s forward alludes to the middle part being too weird for Galaxy, and on whether / how much the material was reordered when it came out in a single volume.
    I can understand readers of TGT balking at the blatant gender partitioning (“this type does only this”, not just physiologically but emotionally), but TRBR is all of Clifton’s “You humans are so SCREWED UP! (which he could be funny about on his own) combined with a ridiculous solution, clunky dialog, blatant preaching…. I also don’t see When Harlie Was One as that worthwhile even in the revision, let alone the original; “Oh look! Let’s explain relationships to the \n\e\i\l\a computer!” was already old then, and it hasn’t improved since. (I haven’t read much Gerrold, but I wouldn’t argue against this being his best novel; I was thoroughly unimpressed by Jumping off the Planet, and a lot of his work looks like blindingly unoriginal media-tiein or alien-shootemup wordwooze.)

    @JJ: IIRC, due to my reaction to Hominids, I refused to more than skim (if that) Humans; after the latter, I felt free to ignore any Sawyer novels. (I think I’ve read some of his shorter work.) I know people have reactions to Cherryh (possibly my all-time favorite), but she at least thinks about her societies instead of positing the sort of blatant construction that would make Thomas More tear down Utopia and rebuild it more mechanically.

    @Jack Lint: those look like a blatant cash-in; I wonder if they’ll be worth even half what they’re selling for, or just Two-Buck Chuck under a fancy label. I’ve thought the beers were well-done, but those are from an established (if small&peculiar) brewery. (Small pleasure on a recent trip: pointing out Take the Black Stout to fellow dead-dog diners, and telling the waitress “You don’t have to explain; we’re from the [World] fantasy convention up the street.”)

  5. That forty-three years from now younger people will be unfamiliar with the idea of a revolving door seems to me totally possible. They are disappearing to a large extent. And it’s surprising how quickly the memory of a thing can disappear. (Think of all the people who would have no idea what a police box was if it were not for Doctor Who.)

    Cryptic crosswords – that’s more surprising. It seems to me improbable that they will die out. I can believe that they will become less widely known, though. Perhaps they are doing so. In the heyday of print journalism, The Newspaper which everyone read contained a crossword, which you would be aware of even if you didn’t do it. In the online age, you have to be actually looking for them to find them.

  6. @Greg “There’s nothing wrong with Blackout/All Clear on a page-to-page basis.”
    I suspect that’s easier for non-British people to say (though I don’t know where you’re from, but certainly in general the problems with the writing seem more noticed by British people). On pretty much every page something stuck out as bad writing, whether Willis’ ignorance of the class system, her tin ear for British idioms, her ignorance of geography, and in general the way that all of her characters, who are supposed to be British historians from a world-class university, talk, act, and think like their only experience or knowledge of Britain comes from US-made TV shows where the characters go on a trip to England and meet the Royal Family or something.

    There were many, many, individual sentences — several per page — that I found downright offensive in the patronising way in which they treat British people and culture, the way they insult the audience’s intelligence, or both. And I’m not someone who offends easily.

  7. I’m not British (Canadian; lived in London for a year as a student in the 70s) but I agree completely with Andrew Hickey’s comment on Blackout/All Clear.

  8. I haven’t noticed any revolving doors disappearing from buildings here in the Twin Cities, and especially during the winter, I see signs asking people to use the revolving doors instead of the regular ones.

  9. @Chip: David Gerrold did write The Man Who Folded Himself, which comes closer to making sense than any other time travel story (of significant length) that I can think of.

  10. @Greg, re: Hominids:

    It does require a special mention for the gratuitous rape scene. One of the main characters gets raped in chapter 2 or 3, but this ends up having almost zero effect on the rest of the book. It’s as though the author changed his mind but then forgot to delete the scene.

    Having read the entire trilogy (whyyyyy?), I can tell you that the rapist is an important character in book 3. Also ugh and pass the brain bleach.

  11. It does require a special mention for the gratuitous rape scene.

    I recall that I read Hominids, but it made so little impression on me that I completely forgot about this scene. Even having been reminded of its existence, I cannot remember anything about it.

  12. @Andrew M That’s possible for society in general, but the specific characters are history postgrads – are we to believe they’ve never seen a photo of a 20th/early 21st century shop with a revolving door? I get there’s supposed to be a “they are tunnel vision academics who totally don’t pick up on details!” thing going on, but my experience with tunnel vision academics in the early 21st century is that they would have a wealth of weirdly specific knowledge of their area of study- including common door types and newspaper puzzle formats- and be comparatively less capable of functioning in their own present day.

    @Andrew Hickey: I’m now mildly worried that I didn’t pick up as much Americanisation as you mention at the time of reading… now I’ve apparently started accepting “noddlehead” as a reasonable thing for one Cockney child to say to another, maybe that’s a sign I’ve been out of the country too long?? Best to just leave it in my memory as a nice, slow piece of holiday reading and not interrogate this further, I guess.

    (Having read less than half of the Hugo winners at this point, I can’t contribute to the overall Worst Winner debate, but the book I’m personally most bewildered by is The Wind Up Girl, which I thought was a horrifying mess of racial stereotyping and rape fantasies with nowhere near enough inventiveness to make that worth sitting through. For some reason I did read the whole thing but it now makes me SO angry every time I think about it or see it get prominent shelf space over here because of the Thai setting.)

  13. I apologise for unaccountably omitting Blackout/All Clear from my list of awful Hugo winners!

  14. There has definitely been worse Hugo winners than The Gods Themselves, IMO, which I consider a decent if mostly forgettable work but I can’t think of another case where the gap in quality between the winner and another of the nominees from that year was that huge. Dying Inside is for my money one of the best works SFF has ever produced.

    I’ve read something nearly all Best novel winners of the Hugo and IMO the worst of them by far is Redshirts. It’s a novel which tries desperately to be really funny on every page (except in the codas) but fails utterly at it for me.

  15. I read Hominids and thought it was okay at the time. It was only after reading the second and especially the third book that its awfulness is manifest and you realize how much of it is a guided tour of Sawyer’s insufferably perfect model society, and the third book ends with a profoundly ridiculous plot device that I cannot believe got printed. But it gets most apparent as it goes on, so I don’t know if book one deserves being called the ‘worst’.

    I liked The Gods Themselves, and I would guess people at the time were really excited for Asimov’s output when he had been gone from the genre.

    Blackout/All Clear… I don’t know. I don’t doubt the questionable historicity and cultural portrayal people have complained about, but I found Blackout fairly engrossing anyway. What kills it is the resolution, and a lot of All Clear suffers from that. I question why Willis thought she could tell a such a lengthy, meandering time travel story with such a deathly serious tone when she already undermined the stakes of her time travel for laughs in To Say Nothing of the Dog. I’d put it as one of the worst, but not the top spot.

    I also seriously dislike Rainbows End, but that doesn’t seem to be a common ‘worst Hugo’. If we’re complaining about the obsoletion of revolving doors, how about the obsoletion of writing within 20 years of 2006?

  16. Arifel: Well, I was responding to James’s question about ‘is it possible that in the next forty-three years all revolving doors will be ripped out and their memory lost?’, and saying that yes, it’s totally possible, and indeed is happening to an extent now. (In the UK: perhaps not elsewhere, where extremes of climate are more of an issue.)

    As for graduate students: in my experience it’s possible to become a graduate student in a subject while being unaware of large aspects of it. There is no doubt someone in the Oxford history department who has a large and detailed knowledge of door types; I wouldn’t bet on everyone doing so.

  17. Adding my dislike of Blackout/All Clear – I read it as it was a Hugo winner, and spent most of my time going “wut?” at the coincidences, plot holes, non-Britishness and general awfulness. I assume it was a lifetime achievement award, and the voters hadn’t read it.

  18. Mike, get well soon.

    I enjoyed Occult Sandwiches.

    Atwood as a person is someone that I respect less the more often we hear from her. She has a lot of opinions but they never seem to be considered ones. To be fair, I am apt to dislike any SF author who claims not to write SF. Pretentious snobs, the lot of them!

    I was surprised at the hate for Blackout/All Clear as I rather enjoyed them, though thought it would have had much more punch at 1/2 or even 1/3 the length. As an USian, I didn’t notice the issues that our British or even simply more cosmopolitan Filers hated so much. I was going through a very difficult family period at that time, so found this statement from one of the characters quite moving, and made the book emotionally satisfying despite the flaws that I did notice (paraphrase as I don’t have time to look it up):

    Vg’f abg n fnpevsvpr vs vg’f fbzrguvat gung lbh jnag gb qb.

  19. Andrew M on May 22, 2017 at 10:15 am said:
    They’re nice in non-extreme climates, also. I worked in a building with revolving doors at both entrances – they got locked closed when it rained. I will say they’re harder to go through with a wheely-case or if you have a lot of stuff you’re carrying; then you’re better using the regular doors (which in that building needed to be balanced better – they were hard to open).

  20. @Andrew Hickey

    @Greg “There’s nothing wrong with Blackout/All Clear on a page-to-page basis.”
    I suspect that’s easier for non-British people to say (though I don’t know where you’re from, but certainly in general the problems with the writing seem more noticed by British people). On pretty much every page something stuck out as bad writing, whether Willis’ ignorance of the class system, her tin ear for British idioms, her ignorance of geography, and in general the way that all of her characters, who are supposed to be British historians from a world-class university, talk, act, and think like their only experience or knowledge of Britain comes from US-made TV shows where the characters go on a trip to England and meet the Royal Family or something.

    There were many, many, individual sentences — several per page — that I found downright offensive in the patronising way in which they treat British people and culture, the way they insult the audience’s intelligence, or both. And I’m not someone who offends easily.

    Yep, I’m an American. I’ve been to the UK a lot of times for work and pleasure, and read lots of UK-based novels, but I wouldn’t pretend to understand the ins and outs of the culture. I’m surprised it was that bad for you, though. I don’t remember noticing anything amiss at all in that regard.

    I have a hierarchy of badness when it comes to writing, and the stuff you’re talking about is in the “breaks suspension of disbelief for a reader who knows anything about the topic” category. I put that one next to the bottom, but I don’t count it as being as bad as the “elementary writing errors” category, which generally spoils a work regardless of what you know about the topic.

    Things related to the plot (or lack thereof) go into the category above disbelief busters. They can still spoil a story, but they don’t bother you on every single page of it.

    But, of course, this can vary from person to person. For example, I have a very hard time enjoying many AI-based stories since I know too much about the current state of the art. I’m perfectly happy with a far-future AI which just works by magic, but a near-future AI that depends on “reprogramming its neural nets” just drives me nuts.

  21. Campbell Reading:
    J. Mulrooney “An Equation of Almost Infinite Complexity” from the VD list.

    The book’s fans on Amazon: “sophisticated sense of humor”, “reminiscent of Adams, Pratchett and Gaiman”, “a true work of literature”.

    Sample of that humor:
    “… used the word ‘heretical,’ but I don’t know what hair has to do with it.”
    “Does that mean the funny haircuts those monks used to have?”
    Not exactly my idea of funny, but taste differs.

    Later this gem:
    “The suicide bomber is Islam’s one truly original contribution to world culture this last four hundred years.”

    Will stay DNF and off my ballot.

  22. @James Davis Nicoll Literally the only part of [Rainbow’s End] I remember is how they digitize the library.

    Ditto, plus a vague recollection of a dystopian society where rich people get to jump the queues and Marx is only available from heavily-censored archives.

    (I was OK with how they digitised the library, myself. Seemed eminently practical.)

  23. I am obviously weird in that I’m British, I enjoyed Blackout/All-Clear and really disliked The Gods Themselves.
    I disliked it when my father encouraged me to read it aged 13, and disliked it when I actually read it a couple of years ago.

  24. Nice demon sandwiches story.

    I enjoyed Blackout/All Clear. I know next to nothing about British culture, or the layout of London, etc., so that probably helped. I did think it meandered too much and was overly-melodramatic in tone at times, but I always find Willis’ writing compelling and fun.

    I also enjoyed Wind-Up Girl, though I can understand the criticisms.

    I wonder if I re-read those works I’d discover the suck fairy has been beating them to pulp?

    Hugo reading: finished TLTL!!!! Ultimately, a well-written, interesting, densely-packed world-build-arama that isn’t really my thing. I may pick up the next book. I’m torn. This would have been the ideal book for me to read just out of college, when I really wanted to get back into reading just for fun but felt that I had to read “important” books. TLTL is almost painfully-literary at times. It also doesn’t shy away from pop culture references. Weird book. Lots to digest.

    I grabbed the massive packet, but I think I’ll go on to book 2 of Rivers of London next. I may check out some of the short stuff, instead, to get that taken care of.

    Really stoked to get all the October Daye books in one massive volume. That’s going to save me some effort.

  25. I was a bit disappointed with Rainbows End the first time I read it, since it wasn’t the far-flung space opera I was hoping for. But then I went back and re-read it a few years later, and was stunned at how many insanely awesome things Vinge managed to cram in! It suddenly went from a book I thought was ok to a book I loved. But not till that second reading.

    The protagonist was a bit of a dick, but that was clearly intentional. And on re-reading, it struck me that the guy might have been modeled on some of Vinge’s academic colleagues who sneer at his “sci-fi crap”. And I kinda get that.

    It’s also a spiritual successor to his novella “True Names”, which I also love, so that might have helped.

    There’s only a couple of Hugo winners I haven’t read (including the infamous second winner). Of the ones I have, I’d have to say that Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang was my least favorite. Which doesn’t mean it’s bad–just not my cuppa. I was pretty “meh” about Hominids, too. But I haven’t read the rest of the series–and from what others are saying, I don’t think I’ll go out of my way to correct that.

  26. Oh,The Windup Girl let me count the ways I hate you.

    It is a classic example of a idiot plot in that if even one of the major characters had acted like they had a brain in their heads the whole thing would have fallen apart.

    It tries to be edgy but only succeeds in being juvenilely prurient.

    The world building is some of the worst I have ever read. Pretty much every mention of science, engineering, or economics is just flat out wrong. Perhaps the most egregious example of which was the magic springs.

  27. Really stoked to get all the October Daye books in one massive volume

    This might be a question for Rev Bob, but is there an easyish way of automagically splitting an omnibus like this back into individual volumes? My ereader (a Nook ST) barfs on long epubs like this and the Wheel of Time omnibus from a while back and some of the Campell samplers.

    Technical Level: I used to professionally mangle XML using XSL transformations…

  28. Bonnie McDaniel on May 21, 2017 at 7:46 pm said:

    In other news, I just went and downloaded the Hugo packet, and whoever designed that page should be given an award and hired to do the Worldcon websites for the forseeable future. It’s easy to use and looks great.

    The DevOps Division team is here on Worldcon 75’s web page. I’ve been quite happy with nominations and voting as well. Kudos!

    ETA: It would be up to the WSFS Division for Worldcon 76 in San Jose if they want to use the same software next year. (I think it’s available to future Worldcons, but admit I do not know for sure.)

  29. nickpheas: I am obviously weird in that I’m British, I enjoyed Blackout/All-Clear and really disliked The Gods Themselves.

    Now that you’ve made a public confession, I hope there’s someplace you can flee to for literary asylum.

  30. I have read the first two Toby Daye books and am partway through book 3.
    It will certainly go above No Award on my ballot. I’ve got two other series to read at least part of before I can be more definitive. I suspect ALL of the series will be above No Award on my final ballot.

  31. Now that you’ve made a public confession, I hope there’s someplace you can flee to for literary asylum.

    The Island of Misfit Fans?

  32. @Anthony

    This might be a question for Rev Bob, but is there an easyish way of automagically splitting an omnibus like this back into individual volumes?

    The extent of my dealing with epub internals is attempting to clean up or slightly reformat them in Calibre. Rev. Bob would seem the most likely person for this question.

  33. I have an inelegant but effective solution to split epub omnibusses; save it multiple times in Calibre and delete the bits you don’t want. (For book one, delete all files after book one. For book two, delete all book one files and all files after book two….)

    It’s kludgy but it works.

  34. @Magewolf

    The world building is some of the worst I have ever read. Pretty much every mention of science, engineering, or economics is just flat out wrong. Perhaps the most egregious example of which was the magic springs.

    I talked with him about this a little when he was in Seattle a few months back. He’s firmly of the opinion that industry never solves big problems–only small ones, and that’s what he’s trying to show in his stories. Unfortunately, it means he’s given his characters all the technology they’d need to solve their big problems but their society is just too stupid to use it.

    For example, the “spring” devices are nano-tech springs that can store huge amounts of energy. By itself, this isn’t all that far-fetched. However, if we had energy storage that cheap and that efficient, we’d run the whole world on solar and wind today. Instead, he’s got people using animal power to wind them up.

    Likewise there’s the stilpack (or whatever it was called) that could filter urine and produce fresh water using no power other than gravity. So cheap that even poor people had them. And yet the American west was dying in the middle of a drought. Apparently no one thought to use this to reprocess sewage and sea water.

    When I pointed these two out to him, he largely conceded the point, but told me no one had brought it up before.

  35. Arifel: the book I’m personally most bewildered by is The Wind Up Girl, which I thought was a horrifying mess of racial stereotyping and rape fantasies with nowhere near enough inventiveness to make that worth sitting through. For some reason I did read the whole thing but it now makes me SO angry every time I think about it or see

    That was another book where I kept thinking, “Why the f*$# is this shit on the Hugo ballot??? I saw people posting that no, really the forced sex thing is a commentary on rape and rape fantasies — but I don’t buy that at all. It read to me as gratuitous rape fantasies.

  36. The gratuitous rape in Hominids was a significant, but far from the only, problem I had with the book. I thought it was put there (in a poor attempt) to explain why the main character couldn’t bear to have a relationship with a human, but that a Neanderthal was different enough for her to be okay having a relationship with him.

    She had to be one of the most inconsistent, badly-written female characters I’ve ever read.

    I was so, so thankful that Sawyer’s fans didn’t manage enough combined nominations to get Hybrids on the ballot (or perhaps by that time, even they had realized it was dross), so that I don’t have to read it to complete my read all the Hugo and Nebula finalists and winners challenge.

  37. @Greg Hullender,
    Thanks for answering the question I was too lazy to google myself. So Klingon as a language is more “real” than Elvish then.

    Soon Lee: Out of interest, does the same apply to Klingon? I mean, in both instances, there are only a few canonical phrases (if you include the TV seasons & movies only).

    In this case, Paramount paid linguist Marc Okrand to create a real language for Klingon because Nimoy and others wanted the Klingons speaking something better than nonsense syllables. As a result, Klingon has a fairly complete grammar.

    @Ghostbird,

    (I was OK with how they digitised the library, myself. Seemed eminently practical.)

    You fiend!

    As an aside, I’m meh about Robert J. Sawyer’s writing (I’ve read several of his books). I think it’s because he writes more for a mainstream reader than a SF reader. He has a tendency to explain in detail things a regular SF reader would already know, which comes across like he’s talking down to me.

  38. @Ghostbird
    (I was OK with how they digitised the library, myself. Seemed eminently practical.)

    It’s precisely analogous to how genomes are (or at least were at one time) sequenced https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shotgun_sequencing

    I’ve ended up reading a lot of Robert Sawyer’s works, because I keep thinking that the premises sound interesting enough that I can deal with the other issues – and I’m always wrong, and I end up feeling very petty because all sorts of small errors end up irritating me greatly (the pop culture errors really get to me, because Sawyer has a habit of including a lot of 1960s and 70s pop culture references in his novels).

    In addition to the rape in “Hominids” there’s a completely gratuitous rape in “End of an Era.”

  39. I had the flu back in the 80’s, and was telling myself it wasn’t that bad, it was just a cold, no big deal. Then I realized I could not follow the plot of the episode of “The A-Team” that was on my TV. It was too complicated. I took fluids and OTC meds, then went to bed for a week, then went to the ER because it left pleurisy behind.

    One thing you can say in favor of “The Gods Themselves” is, it didn’t have any Dianetics in it. And I could accept it as a “lifetime achievement” thing, whereas “Hominids” was like, bwuh? IIRC I had it below NA or at least last.

    As for Vinge: Joan da, Vernor nyet.

    I also hated “The Wind-Up Girl”. It made no sense as well as being creepy rapey, patronizingly racist, and completely ignorant of physics, biology, engineering, and physics. Below NA. Not SF but fantasy.

    There was a read-along on io9, where the author came in to comment, and several people pointed out that elephant-variations couldn’t possibly provide enough power to be worth feeding in a world that literally measures everything in calories. Also, metal springs Do Not Work That Way, like @Magewolf said. A commenter asked “Why no waterwheels? Thailand has a lot of rain, you can make ’em out of junk, tested technology.” The author went “Uh. Um. Because?” and finally admitted it had never crossed his mind till then. Till an internet rando asked. 🙄 🤦

    ETA @Greg: People mentioned those things too, at the time the book came out. So he was lying a few months ago when he said nobody’d said that to him before.

    @WorldWeary: I genuinely teared up at that.

    As for this year’s: “Monstress” by head and shoulders and tentacles. It’s the kind of thing I usually don’t care for, but I love it. K.A. Wilson seems to be constitutionally incapable of sticking the landing; I’ve never read anything of his that has. At least he’s better than Heuvelt, who I’m glad to see didn’t make it this year. Even when he was the only non-Puppy the year he won, he also went beneath NA. 50 years from now, when people have forgotten Puppies, they’re going to wonder how he won.

    (4) I forgot to mention how great this article was, particularly the “As She…” part, and the stuff about the supposed words that disappear in a puff of derivation.

    Thinking it’s a good thing I have the first several Toby Daye in hard copy, b/c my Nook is also going to barf at a file that long. And I’m not going to figure out Calibre before the deadline. It’s liable to choke on the Gladstone too.

    I like almost everything about how they’re doing the Hugos this year, but would REALLY have appreciated being able to load each work separately. Get the books in individual files that will load up, skip loading the things I already have, and avoid apologizing to my computer for inflicting Puppy poo on it (Is there computer brain bleach?). Hope San Jose goes back to one work at a time.

    The voting page itself, however, is the hotness and should be kept like that. The automatic rearranging is bestest. I’ve already shuffled Series and Graphic Novel.

  40. Greg Hullender on May 22, 2017 at 4:57 pm said:

    Very relevant criticisms of The Windup Girl and The Water Knife .

    Bingo.

    On the kink springs, I’ve read the criticisms and his response and he admits he drug most science, engineering, etc. , out behind the chemical shed and shot them to get the story he wanted. So yeah, he’s heard them.

    And I thought that about the Water Knife as well. If I have a simple, cheap, portable and effective still like that, shit water crisis solved except for pumping the salt water and sewage to the stills.

  41. @lurkertype that was the place I saw it. And in some sort of criticism and response.

    Is it wrong for me to want to see a novel that explores the kink springs and their impact? Or the stilpack? Or both?

  42. @Lowell: a fair point — and another reason not to consider WHW1 his best novel, especially considering that TMWFH was also a Hugo nominee. I’m not certain it makes more sense than “All You Zombies” or There Will Be Time — but it may be the most tangled novel-length work that doesn’t obviously fall apart.

    @howloon: perhaps Willis thought that her previous serious time-travel works meant she could return from humor to serious? The last time I read “Fire Watch” I was still blown away by it (after completely missing the point on first reading, and having to reread after learning about the mentioned stone).

    Xtifr: Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang was described by another author at the time as being wired for the award; Wilhelm was hugely respected but not widely published. It’s her only book covering a large chunk of time (generations instead of a few months); it was a worthwhile try that couldn’t quite stay taut over that period.

    @Andrew: shotgun sequencing as described requires several copies of the same stretch of DNA, isolated from copies of any other stretch; neither of these applies to Vinge’s description of library conversion.

  43. I also hated “The Wind-Up Girl”. It made no sense as well as being creepy rapey, patronizingly racist, and completely ignorant of physics, biology, engineering, and physics. Below NA. Not SF but fantasy.

    Shit SF isn’t fantasy. It’s shit SF. Just because the book is terrible along every possible axis it could be, save one [1], does not move it from one subgenre to another. It just means it’s a terrible example of its subgenre.

    1: It single-handedly kept Night Shade afloat for years.

  44. Greg Hullender: When I pointed these two out to him, he largely conceded the point, but told me no one had brought it up before.

    Another entry in the proud fan tradition.

    Like back when Flieg Hollander explained why the Ringworld was inherently unstable. In that case Niven incorporated a workaround in a later book.

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