Pixel Scroll 6/26/18 Eliminate The Inscrollible, Whatever Remains, However Impixellable, Must Be The Fifth

(1) AMAZING’S SUBMISSION SYSTEM, TAKE TWO. Jason Sanford sent a link to his open post on Patreon, “Amazing Stories rejection emails and why I report on the SF/F genre”.

Last week File770 covered my reporting on Amazing Stories and their submission system. Steve Davidson commented on that Pixel Scroll article and it lead to some discussions between he and I. I published an update this morning and figured I’d pass it along in case you were interested in it…

Sanford recounts an unnamed author’s description of problems they had getting the status of a submission to Amazing Stories, and how he put it to the test.

…After talking with authors like the person above and seeing comments from many other writers who said they didn’t receive rejections, I decided to do more digging into the Amazing Stories submission system. I set up two test accounts of my own in their system, one using a Yahoo account and the other a Gmail account. I didn’t receive either of the initial email verifications for these accounts or the multiple password resets I requested. These emails didn’t even arrive in my spam folders.

I also examined the email header and code from one of the Amazing Stories rejections which an author did receive and forwarded to me. This rejection email was sent through the Amazing Stories submission system using a Gmail account as the send-from address with a separate reply-to address using the amazingstories.com domain. (Note: I won’t publish these email addresses to respect the privacy of the people working on Amazing Stories.)

The author quoted above used Gmail, as did some of other authors who said they didn’t receive their rejection emails. One of the test accounts I set up was also a Gmail account. Google should not block emails sent between valid Gmail accounts, so the failure of these emails to arrive into other Gmail accounts strongly suggests something was wrong with how the Amazing Stories system was set up or sending out emails.

After doing these tests I spoke with Steve Davidson about all this. His complete response is quoted below. Steve said he’d pass along the information about the email verification and password resets to his webmaster to be investigated and, if needed, fixed.

A few hours after Steve said his webmaster would look into the issue, I again tested the password resets. They now worked and I received the emails in my Yahoo and Gmail test accounts. Another author also confirmed they now worked where they hadn’t before.

In short, shortly before I raised this issue with Steve the emails wouldn’t arrive from their system. After Steve said he’d let his webmaster know about the issue, the emailed worked. This alone strongly suggests there was an issue with Amazing Stories’ system.

I hope this means the issue the Amazing Stories submission system is fixed. I personally want to see Amazing Stories succeed with their relaunch and believe most people in the genre feel the same. And there’s no shame with admitting a new submission system had some issues. Galaxy’s Edge recently had a major submission glitch with a number of subs being lost. They posted a message explaining the issue and even authors whose submissions were lost appeared to be cool with everything….

Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson responded on Facebook.

…While we investigated and then explained that the issue(s) were on the recipient’s end of the email chain (spam folder, settings that were overly sensitive to automated messages originating with our server’s email program) we nevertheless have changed the system to originate from a Gmail sending account, which ought to make it past nearly everyone’s electronic censors.

We are also adding an FAQ and a direct contact button on our submissions page; we’ve re-written the rejection notice and have re-examined our internal policy for when more personalized rejection emails will be sent.

One “issue” that apparently exacerbated this situation for some was the fact that we were not made aware of the problem(s) for some authors directly, which we believe ought to have been the first step on the part of people having issues. We received over 200 submissions the first day we opened and have processed several hundred more since; the number of direct queries we received regarding failed communications can be counted on one hand.

Each of those was handled on an individual case bases and, from our end, did not appear to rise to the level of a “systemic” problem that needed to be looked into more deeply.

In point of fact, our native email server was sending out the appropriate status update messages (it was checked numerous times), but some recipient email servers were rejecting the messages, most likely because they originated from an unfamiliar source (our email server) AND were automated status updates.

From our end, everything appeared to be working as it should and, lacking feedback to the contrary, we were in no position to do anything about it.

Once we were made aware of the problem, we thought that an explanation would prompt users to look into their email servers and address the issue with their providers. Since this largely seems to not have been done and we continued to receive complaints, we have taken the steps outlined above.

If you continue to have an issue with email communications from our website, we STRONGLY request that you contact us directly.

(2) BEYOND COCKYGATE. Elsewhere, Jason Sanford has surfaced another interesting trademark claim. The thread starts here.

(3) BUSTED. Is it true that JDA has a lot more followers in Twitter than he did a few days ago?

(4) NERO AWARD. The “Nero” is presented annually by The Wolfe Pack for the best American Mystery. The award criteria include:

  • written in the tradition of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe stories
  • first published in the year preceding the award year
  • originally published in the United States

The 2018 Nero Award finalists are:

  • The Dime by Kathleen Kent, (Mulholland Books / Little, Brown)
  • The Lioness is the Hunter by Loren D. Estelman (Forge)
  • Gone to Dust by Matt Goldman (Forge)
  • August Snow by Stephen Mack Jones (Soho)
  • Blood for Wine by Warren C. Easley (Poisoned Pen Press)

(5) CAMPBELL. Analog has posted a lengthy excerpt from Alec Nevala-Lee’s forthcoming book ASTOUNDING: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction.

“The Campbell Machine” plumbs the obsessions behind several of his ideas about the human mind.

…In “Design Flaw,” Campbell had argued that the solution to highway hypnosis lay in “a solid engineering job,” and psionics was his attempt to frame the project in terms that he thought would appeal to his readers, prompting them to collect data that would illuminate the unexplored aspects of consciousness that had resulted in Joe’s accident. The editor had once held out similar hopes for dianetics, but now his motives were far more personal. He had been unable to avenge his stepson directly, so he would overthrow all of physics and psychology instead.

If he proved unable to stick with it for long, this only reflected a pattern that had been evident throughout his life. In his article on Joe’s death, Campbell had claimed that some people had “an acquired immunity” to highway hypnosis, but he didn’t mention that he included himself in that category, or that he attributed it to the hell of his youth. On the day after the crash, he had written a long letter to his father, explaining why he was impervious to hypnotic trances. The drivers who were the most at risk, he wrote, were the ones who were good at concentrating, and Campbell was “not just intellectually afraid of it—deeply and effectively afraid.”

He placed the responsibility for this squarely on his parents: “You and Mother so disagreed that I had a hell of a time trying to satisfy the requirements which both of you placed on me; doing so was inherently impossible, and it was damned uncomfortable. But you did give me a life-long immunity to highway hypnosis!” His childhood had taught him to survive, but at a devastating cost: “You and Mother between you gave me immunity to many things that neither one of you could have; either of you could have crippled me. . . . At the time, of course, I felt a vast injustice; I do not forgive you, because that’s a useless and arrogant thing.”…

(6) LUND OBIT. Land of the Giants actress Deanna Lund, 81, died June 22. The Hollywood Reporter obituary begins —

Deanna Lund, who played one of the seven castaways trying to survive in a world of large, unfriendly people on the 1960s ABC series Land of the Giants, has died. She was 81.

Lund died Friday at her home in Century City of pancreatic cancer, her daughter, actress and novelist Michele Matheson, told The Hollywood Reporter. She was diagnosed in September.

Lund starred as Valerie Scott, a selfish party girl, on the Irwin Allen-created series, which aired for two seasons, from September 1968 until March 1970.

Set in the year 1983, 20th Century Fox’s Land of the Giants revolved around the crew and passengers of the spaceship Spindrift, which on the way to London crashed on a planet whose humanoid inhabitants were hostile and unbelievably huge. The show was extremely expensive to make, costing a reported $250,000 an episode.

The sexy Lund had appeared as a redheaded lesbian stripper opposite Frank Sinatra in Tony Rome (1967) and as Anna Gram, a moll working for The Riddler (John Astin), on ABC’s Batman, leading to her being cast on the show….

(7) NOT MY SPACE LEADER. Vice Motherboard is sorry you missed it: “The Space Nation of Asgardia Inaugurated Its First Leader in an Incredible Ceremony”. Asgardia, a self-proclaimed space-based democracy, has “inaugurated” its first head of “state” — namely Igor Raufovich Ashurbeyli, the billionaire providing what appears to be the bulk of the backing for the “state.” Ashurbeyl, a native of Baku, Azerbaijan, has made his fortune on weapons and related aspects of the Russian military-industrial complex. He has also been said to be a “true patriot and believer in the strong [Russian] state.”

Mike Kennedy sent the link with an observation: “So, a Russian oligarch is heading up a ‘space-based democracy’ which is to be ‘a united supra-national space state open to all people on Earth.’ What could possibly go wrong?”

The space nation held an incredible ceremony on Monday inaugurating its self-declared leader Igor Ashurbeyli as its head of state. Ashurbeyli is a Russian billionaire whose money comes from weapons systems. His backing has allowed Asgardia to thrive and he wants the country to join the UN, but to do so it must have a functioning government. It elected a parliament in April (a motley collection of international characters between the ages of 40 and 80, as specified by the Asgardian constitution) followed by Ashurbeyli declaring himself head of state.

To celebrate the momentous occasion, the Asgardians held a fantastical celebration at the 13th century Hofburg palace, the former principal imperial palace in the center of Vienna, Austria. It was creepy. It was beautiful. It was elegant and magical in a way that Terra-based ceremonies no longer are and it began with children introducing cosmonaut Oleg Artemiev who shared a very special message from the International Space Station.

(8) FIRST STAN, NOW BUZZ. What’s the use of being a babe magnet if your adult children get in the way? The Independent has the story: “Buzz Aldrin sues his children for trying to take control of his finances after claiming he suffers from dementia”.

Astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin has sued two of his children and former business manager for trying to take control of his finances and accused them of “slander” for saying he suffers from dementia.

The 88-year-old said in a lawsuit that Janice Aldrin, Andrew Aldrin, and former manager Christina Korp are included in the lawsuit which claimed they took control of millions of dollars of “space memorabilia” and his company finances “for their own self-dealing and enrichment”. Mr Aldrin owns BuzzAldrin Enterprises and a charity group called the ShareSpace Foundation.

He has also accused the three of elder exploitation for “knowingly and through deception or intimidation” keeping him from his property as well as stifling his “personal romantic relationships”.

(9) SYNDROME ROUNDUP. Carl Slaughter picked these out —

(10) VALE BOB NEWBY. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Emmys: How the ‘Stranger Things’ VFX team brought Sean Astin’s bloody death to life”, says that Sean Astin’s death on this show was a shocker and the Stranger Things vfx crew deserves credit for making the on-screen death plausible.

It’s the moment that had Stranger Things fans screaming: adorkable Radio Shack manager Bob Newby (played by geek icon Sean Astin) uses his technical savvy to save the day, only to become chow for the monstrous Demodogs. Bob’s shocking death scene is arguably the biggest highlight of the show’s second season, replacing #JusticeForBarb with #JusticeForBob as a trending Twitter topic. It also provides some of the best evidence of the show’s Emmyworthy special effects, overseen up by husband-and-wife F/X team of Paul and Christina Graff.

(11) THEY BLINDED ME WITH SCIENCE. H.P. posted this Venn diagram at Every Day Should Be Tuesday:

He says it illustrates this idea:

A story can be good but be neither superversive nor pulp.  A story can be pulp but be neither superversive nor good.  A story can be superversive and good but not pulp.  A story can be all three (easier said than done).  A story can be none of the three (easy enough—the real trick is figuring out how to win awards for it).  And so on.  Think of it as a Venn diagram.

However, the Filer who sent it to me says what the diagram shows is that most superversive and pulp fiction isn’t good.

Who’s right?

Regardless, what H.P.’s trying to do is define the characteristics of “superversive.”

People associated with Superversive Press have written several posts that I will be drawing from that attempt to pin down just what the term means.  The best are by Tom Simon, Corey McCleery, and L. Jagi Lamplighter.  Each identifies particular traits of a superversive story.  Simon points to moral high ground and courage.  McCleery insists that superversive stories should be aspiring/inspiring, virtuous, heroic, decisive, and non-subversive.  Lamplighter argues that, for a story to be superversive, it must have good storytelling, the characters must be heroic, and the story must have an element of wonder.

These are good starting points.  You can probably guess which trait I like least.  “Good storytelling” isn’t useful as a trait because it conflates superversive with good.  The only other term I really don’t like is “non-subversive.”  If you are defining superversive in contrast with subversive, as Simon does, then it is no more than a truism.  And a superversive work may subvert, indeed, it probably should.

(12) SPEAK HUP. Will Seuss Inc. sue the BBC? Verse illustrates the Beeb’s article “The haughty history of the letter H”.

Throughout history, those with social clout have set the standards for what’s the more acceptable pronunciation….

Like Dr. Seuss’ Star-Belly Sneetches and Plain-Belly Sneetches, there are two types of creatures — haitchers with H on their 8th letter name and aitchers with “none upon thars”.

That H isn’t so big. It’s really so small. You might think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all.

But it does — the tiny H on “(h)aitch” divides the nation. The pronunciation has become something of a social password, a spoken shibboleth distinguishing in-groupers from out-groupers. Those with social clout set the standards for what’s “in” and what’s “out” — no H has the stamp of approval.

The best kind of people are people without!

Shibboleths die hard — the opprobrium attached to haitch probably derives from its long association with Irish Catholic education. There’s no real evidence for this, mind, as Sue Butler points out, but never let facts get in the way of a good shibboleth.

(13) A CAT ON THE RAILS. The BBC has pictures: “Japan unveils Hello Kitty-themed bullet train”

It is enough to wake the tired eyes of the groggiest commuter. A striking white and pink bullet train themed around the Japanese cartoon character and marketing phenomenon Hello Kitty.

The bespoke train will begin a three month run between the western cities of Osaka and Fukuoka on Saturday.

It was unveiled by the West Japan Railway firm which hopes the use of a famous local export will boost tourism.

Hello Kitty branding features on the windows, seat covers, and flooring.

(14) CASH FOUND BEHIND THE SEAT CUSHIONS. But not the currency you’d expect: “Hoax ‘devil coins’ found in Bath Abbey”.

Two “devil coins” that were hidden in Scandinavian churches as part of an elaborate hoax in the 1970s have been discovered in the unlikely setting of Bath Abbey.

Dusty odds and ends, including an order of service from 1902, were found in the abbey when stalls were removed for restoration work.

The most intriguing discovery, however, was two coins bearing a picture of Satan and the legend Civitas Diaboli on one side and 13 Maj Anholt 1973 on the other.

Experts figured out the coins were linked to the story of a Danish eccentric who perpetrated an elaborate 40-year hoax that was only discovered almost a decade after his death.

(15) YOUR OWN MARTIAN ODYSSEY. Red Rover, Red Rover send HiRISE right over… SYFY Wire reports “A Mars video game developed from NASA data now exists, and it’s pretty far out”. Developer Alan Chan has a new Mars rover driving game available for the Steam gaming platform. It features terrain developed from NASA data gathered by the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. It also features a “ridiculously overpowered Mars rover” which is even equipped with jump jets. You can careen across (or even a bit above) Mars’ Victoria Crater, Western Cerberus, South Olympus, Jezero Crater, Bequerel Crater, Hibes Montes, Candor Chasma, Aeolis Streams, and Noctis Labyrinthus at speeds far beyond any yet achieved on Mars.

Quoting the article:

“The HiRISE camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is the most powerful one of its kind ever sent to another planet,” states HiRISE Principal Investigator Alfred McEwen of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona. “Its high resolution allows us to see Mars like never before, and helps other missions choose a safe spot to land for future exploration.”

…Red Rover is now available on Steam for $4.99, and it even supports Oculus Rift for the ultimate immersive VR experience.

 

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

60 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 6/26/18 Eliminate The Inscrollible, Whatever Remains, However Impixellable, Must Be The Fifth

  1. Is anyone here really well-versed in Michael Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius stories? There’s a novella in the series coming out this year, so I got The Cornelius Chronicles (4 novel omnibus) from the library. I’m halfway through the first novel, The Final Programme (1968), and it’s… not good.

    Looks like I’m too late to do any good, but I’ll weigh in anyway. I like them. The first book, however, is a bit of an in-joke that really only makes sense if you’ve read the first Elric novel. After that, however, he drops that, and the books get progressively weirder and wilder and experimental, and I think they’re a lot of fun. There are a number of SFF authors who owe a lot to those books, the most obvious one being Hal Duncan.

  2. Regarding bounce notifications for email:

    A lot of major servers started actively not providing bounce notices years ago, for a couple of reasons:
    1) The bounce notices were being used as a test tool by spamming sites: they could throw random email addresses in and narrow their lists based on the response.
    2) Once spammers started using somebody else’s valid email address on the ‘From:’ line (to get around sites that checked for valid source addresses) any invalid To: address would cause the bounce response to be sent back to the completely uninvolved and now-confused person at the From: address. It was getting to the point where a non-trivial amount of the email being sent around was actually the bounce notifications to spam being sent to someone else, and a lot of people were complaining about it.

    The end result was that nowadays most bounce notifications are either not sent in the first place or treated as spam themselves.

  3. @Cassy B: “Never ascribe to malice what can be explained by bad luck or lack of competence.”

    Amazing Stories would look much better right now if Steve had taken that approach. He should have taken Sanford’s original report seriously and investigated then, rather than denouncing it as a malicious hit job and prompting Sanford to dig deeper and produce solid evidence. Now Steve looks shady and Sanford looks virtuous.

    Notice, though, that I have not ascribed AS’s email issues to malice. I have simply pointed out that fixing those issues is AS’s – and Steve’s – responsibility, and that trying to duck that responsibility has turned what could have been a minor, quickly-fixed technical issue into a more prominent story which damages the brand. A publisher which cannot reliably deliver email to its submitters does not look reputable… and Steve has played into that perception by the way he handled the original story. I know I would have second – or third – thoughts about submitting to AS after this debacle; denying that a problem exists and attacking those who report it is what publishers frequently do when on the verge of failure. (“Of course everyone’s getting their royalty checks!”) Not a good look.

    Having important messages sent as spamlike emails from a bot is also bad practice, for exactly this reason. Stuff that looks like spam is frequently treated as spam. Expecting such a message to reach the person’s mailbox is foolishly optimistic, and we are now seeing the results of that assumption.

    @Jenora Feuer: “A lot of major servers started actively not providing bounce notices years ago, for a couple of reasons:”

    That’s one subset of bounces, and you’re entirely correct about that. However, technical issue bounces are generally another story. I’ve gotten a couple of those within the last few months.

  4. @Hampus: Eulerian, perhaps? Or is Eulur a mathematician my feeble Google-fu can’t find?

  5. John A Arkansawyer: In my time getting a math degree, I have never seen a Venn diagram that posits proportional relationships among the things being grouped.

    I’ve seen them in various professional contexts, and have used them myself in presentations a couple of times. Proportional Venn diagrams are not uncommon.

  6. I thought I knew math was a very wide field, and I keep getting reminded I don’t know that. I’m convinced people–especially in statistics–use Venn diagrams which are roughly proportional to what’s contained in them. I liked analysis–what graduate work I did was mostly analysis–and they would generally be misleading for that purpose.

    If there isn’t a convention that equally-proportioned, symmetrical Venn diagrams are assumed not to necessarily be proportional unless otherwise stated, there should be.

  7. Since I was chided once that in a “properly done” Venn Diagram, shading in the overlapping section was the formal convention for indicating that section is empty (every layperson I know just draws two non-overlapping circles, and there are even zingers based on that assumption), I’ve thrown up my hands and conceded that common sense is not even as much a part of a basic Venn Diagram as I thought. I’m certainly not inclined to assume that the proportions are meant to indicate anything unless specifically told otherwise.

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