Pixel Scroll 6/26/16 You Oughtta Be In Pixels

(1) A VIKING LOOKS FOR MARTIANS. Joel Achenbach has a piece in the Washington Post about the 40th anniversary of the Mars Viking mission.

They had placed three science experiments on board the Viking 1 lander, each of which would analyze Martian soil for signs of microbes. The lander also featured two cameras, which were life-detection instruments in their own right. A single image might solve the ancient mystery of extraterrestrial life. No one could completely rule out the possibility that a Martian creature might go hopping by.

Sf author Gentry Lee, who said he “spent seven years averaging 60 hours a week on Viking,” is interviewed in depth.  There are also Carl Sagan references; he wanted the Viking landers to have external lights “because Martian creatures might be attracted to it.”

(2) LIMERICK WRITER. On Saturday, Nigel Quinlan was at an event commemorating Irish Gothic and ghost story writer Joseph Sheridan LeFanu’s connection to Co Limerick, where Quinlan grew up. He wrote about it in “Me, Murroe, And LeFanu”.

Quinlan adds, “In the interests of helping pronunciation, the title can be sung to the refrain of ‘Me and you and a dog named Boo.’ There are a lot of images and nostalgia and possibly a mild mid-life crisis.”

From 1856 until his death in 1873 he lived in Merrion Square. I, er, used to eat my lunch in Merrion Square a lot. (I was working In Fred Hanna’s Bookshop on Nassau Street. A brisk hike to get to the Square and back at lunch hour, but worth it.) His reclusive habits and night-owl work hours earned him the nickname ‘The Invisible Prince.’ I don’t think my brisk hiking to the Square and back for my lunch hour earned me a nickname. That I know of….

(3) PROTEST VOTE. So does this imply there will be a Chuxit voting bloc for the Hugos? Well, Chuck can count on J.K. Rowling’s support in any case.


(4) FLIPPER. Jim C. Hines continues to experiment with gender-swapping sf/f clichés in “If We Wrote Men Like We Write Women (Part I)” and “If We Wrote Men Like We Write Women (Part II)”. The posts, says Rose Embolism, “take a look at the gendered, and quite frankly creepy way women are often portrayed in classic SF and Fantasy.”

Along the way, Hines sparked a long and vigorous Metafilter conversation with classic comments like this one from “Eyebrows McGee.”

My life will be complete the day that I read in a high fantasy novel — in place of, “She felt her breasts bouncing underneath her tunic as she hurried across the courtyard” or whatever, where a female character spends the whole walk thinking about her own boobs for no reason — a male character walking across a courtyard thinking to himself, “He felt his testicles jostling in his codpiece as he hurried across the courtyard.”

“It must be cooler weather than I realized,” he thought to himself, “they’re awfully small and high up today …”

(5) WHY INDIE AUTHORS AREN’T GETTING RICH. At Mad Genius Club, Fynbospress curates a fascinating collection of graphs and quotes from Data Guy about the May Author Earnings report.

A breakdown on why there aren’t more indie authors making a living:

Americans spend about $15 billion a year on trade books of all formats. After retailers and publishers take their cut, at most $3 billion actually lands in author pockets. Divided up perfectly evenly, that $3 billion could theoretically support 60,000 authors at the $50,000 level…

But instead, it’s getting divided up among at least 1,000,000 authors, if not more… including the estates and heirs of deceased authors. (I can see at least a million author names in our Amazon ebook data and top-selling Amazon print-book data, and that doesn’t even start to include the 32 million(!) lower-selling print book titles listed on Amazon right now, whose sales are too low to be captured in one of our scrapings.).

But lets imagine that there were only a million authors sharing the $3 billion right now. Which is an average of $3,000 each, if it were evenly distributed — but of course, it isn’t evenly distributed. Not even close.

The numbers are eye-opening, however, Fynbospress warns against drawing certain types of conclusions about them:

The fixed-pie fallacy is a fallacy. There is no fixed amount of wealth in the system. Becoming a bestseller will not force someone else off “The List” and into poverty. Indie publishing has no limit to the number of its publishing slots, and publishing your book will never mean that somebody else “can’t get a publishing slot.” Selling a copy of your book to a reader doesn’t mean that somebody else just lost their turn to sell a book.

(6) FILE SEVENTY-FIVE. Ann Patchett’s choices for “The 75 Best Books of the Past 75 Years” for Parade has more sf/f than you might expect. The choices for the 1950s – Bradbury and Asimov, E.B. White and T.H White. For the 1960s – Vonnegut and Madeleine L’Engle. After that the picks seem surprising or highly idiosyncratic.

(7) GAIMAN INTERVIEW. The LA Times’ Tyler Malone talks with “Neil Gaiman on making art, mistakes and his ‘View from the Cheap Seats’”.

In “Credo,” which opens the first section of the book, you write, “I believe I have the right to think and say the wrong things.” Do you find that in today’s society — especially because of social media and the 24-hour news cycle — that we don’t let people be wrong enough?

What I tend to see happening more and more is people retreating into their own corners. People seem scared to get things wrong or be shouted at so they form villages in which they agree with every other member, and maybe they go out and shout at the people in the next village for fun, but there’s no interchange of ideas going on. I think we have to encourage the idea that you’re allowed to think things. I have thought a great many stupid things over the years, and I can tell you that there’s not one stupid thing that I ever thought where I changed my mind because someone shouted at me or threatened to kill me. On the other hand, having great discussions with good friends, possibly over a drink, has definitely changed my mind and made me try to do better. You’re allowed to do better, but we have to let people do better.

(8) THEY WERE EXPENDABLE. My fashion consultant, Mr. J.K. Tarpinian, says, “This would look good under a sport coat for anybody going to the Hugos.”

Red Shirt ale shirt

Okay, as long as I get a bottle of the stuff, too.


  • June 26, 1904 — Peter Lorre.

Observes John King Tarpinian, “Here is an actor who lives on because of his vocal styling.  How many times in animation is the creepy guys voice an imitation of Lorre? Same goes for a cartoon monster being Karloff.”

(10) POP-UP POTTER. “We MUST GET to this incredible ‘Harry Potter’ pop-up store” declares Yahoo! News.

If you’re a fan of the Harry Potter movies (um, who isn’t?), you’ve probably noticed that the world is wonderfully detailed, right down to every sign, map, newspaper, and storefront. Those intricate elements are the vision of graphic designers, Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima, who met back in 2001 on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. 

They became great friends and collaborators, and we’re proud to announce that these two designers now have their own pop-up shop in London! It’s called House of MinaLima, and it includes exclusive Harry Potter art prints and awesome HP stationery.


(11) STUNT DOUBLE. John King Tarpinian asks, “I wonder if they use this for the Batmobile?” — “This is how car commercials are filmed without the actual car”.

Car commercials do an excellent job of making vehicles look almost too good to be true. As it turns out, they probably are… at least, if the Blackbird is involved.

The Blackbird is a visual effects stand-in for vehicles featured in commercials and movies. As Gizmag notes, its wheelbase, width, suspension travel and even engine response can be dialed in to match nearly any production vehicle while its onboard 360-degree cameras are used to create perfect reflections when the actual car body is overlaid in post-production.

Why go through all that trouble? Why not film the actual car being marketed in the commercial?

Auto commercials are often shot before the vehicle has even been manufactured. As such, some small visual details might not have been decided on yet so with CGI, you can add those in with ease. What’s more, auto makers typically keep the details of their new cars a closely guarded secret. Filming with something like the Blackbird gives the auto paparazzi nothing but a set of wheels to go on.


[Thanks to Rose Embolism, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, and Chip Hitchcock. for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jim Henley.]

64 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 6/26/16 You Oughtta Be In Pixels

  1. I am sad to have not known today was Peter Lorre’s birthday, especially given my bad impressions of him that have shown up on Skiffy and Fanty podcasts from time to time…

    And First!

  2. 5) While there’s not a fixed amount of wealth in the system, there is a finite amount of money the average person is able (or willing) to spend on something discretionary. Thus, it is extremely unlikely that the majority of the authors out there will make anywhere approaching a comfortable living from writing fiction. That’s reality.

  3. (10) Too bad they couldn’t get a fractional address, for example 25 1/2. (Does London do fractional addresses?)

  4. @Robert Reynolds: the questions you ignore are (1) how much discretionary money is available and (2) whether a broader selection of books can increase the fraction of this money spent on books. My SWAG is that book purchases represent only a tiny fraction of discretionary spending, so we wouldn’t even have to beggar a Hollywood mogul to feed quite a few authors.

  5. I think I’ve seen it mentioned here once or twice, but I want to add to the chorus and say y’all really ought to check out the AMC series Preacher. I just watched ep 5 and I think it’s turning into something really good. It is graphically violent in spots and needs a heavy Content Note of Blood and Gore, so be aware. (I also hope they’ll figure out how to release a soundtrack for the season. I’d snap that right up.)

  6. (10) @David Shallcross: (Does London do fractional addresses?)
    It depends whether or not you believe 221B Baker Street was a separate house and not, in fact, the flat on the first floor. (Sorry, this is a personal bugbear of mine. 🙂 And yes, I know that’s fictional as well.)

    As for the shop, I went to their original exhibition last year which was fabulous; glad to see something similar back again.

  7. Peter Lorre was a damned fine actor. His performance in M is a clinic on acting.

  8. @Paul_A: Totally agree, but my faves are him acting with Greenstreet and Bogart.

    Too Many Authors: Possible Gaiman-Stupid thought #1. This is what happens when every author who was kept out of the market by (insert adjectives here) traditional publishing gatekeepers does an end run around them.

    PG-S #2: maybe one of those long-tail authors will lift themselves out of the low end with a novel about an indie author serial killer targeting other low-selling indie authors. (The “catch-me-if-you-can” clues are hidden in the author’s book titles, at least one of which includes the words “Pounded” and “Butt”….and the investigator on his tail has got to be named “Chuck”.)

    I wonder how many of those millions of authors are NOT after earning a living from scribbling? With that large a sample, some decent portion have got to be everything from “one hit wonders”, to “had a book in me, had to get it out” and “I did it just to prove I could”.

    Finally on this subject: A: I DO support indie publishing and B. I DO also suspect that something closely bordering on the Sturgeon equation is responsible for, ummm, at least 90% of those millions. (The REAL question embedded in Sturgeon’s Law is: would the 10% exist without the crud?)

    @Gaiman: Fellow Filers will know that I subscribe to this notion with the added thought that sometimes offering up something “stupid” can reveal a lot about the responders.

    But yes: at the same time that the world globalizes, it is also tribalizing.

    #4. Hines gets it right, but after seeing this suit of armor at the Tower of London exhibit, I have to believe that its occupant did have thoughts similar to those presented here.

  9. (Does London do fractional addresses?)

    not afaik. If you squeeze in an extra house on a row, it becomes 14a rather than 14.5

  10. I’m so glad my kindle unlimited subscription doesn’t run out until the end of this month. With its terrifying vision of a dystopian future mitigated only by the power of love, I think Pounded by the Pound could be the short story I’ve been waiting for for my 2016 ballot.

    Or, you know: same Chuck, different living object.


    Is Paramount cracking down on Trek infringing products like this? BBC did so with Doctor Who products once the current Who started airing in the States as one local comics shop was informed when suddenly a lot of Who tshirts, posters and such stopped being available…

  12. (3) I actually know that “Amazon Customer”, and they are vacillating between being utterly thrilled that they were referenced by both Chuck Tingle and J.K.Rowling, and being crushed that they didn’t properly sign in with their actual name.

    I told them its just as well, internet fame is a dicey thing these days.

  13. @Steve Davidson: “(The REAL question embedded in Sturgeon’s Law is: would the 10% exist without the crud?)” Snarky response: in art, contrast is everything. Straight response: where does the 10% come from? It used to be that almost everybody got published because some print manager took a chance on a story that had promise (or at least an interesting voice/idea/…), and worked with the author on it. (How much work would vary, but AFAICT the ready-for-publication first work is very rare.) How many authors were lost because they didn’t get this chance/coaching? Conversely, how many authors were lost because they didn’t have the energy to get out their million bad words (cliche count) before coming up with something printable; how many of those will now be able to learn their trade by getting \some/ reaction online to works that nobody is willing to risk the large outlay of printing on?

  14. On the Hugo Reading Front: I finally found time to finish Aeronaut’s Windlass early last week (most of my current time is spent with work, then night classes, then home repairs). While I found the book really quite enjoyable, I was ready for it to end well before the actual end. And as much as I liked Rowl and the cats, there’s only so much of him saying how great he is that I can handle. Oh and jura qb nal bs gur punenpgref, rfcrpvnyyl Tevzz, fyrrc? Tevzz gnyxf nobhg ubj gverq ur vf, gura gurl ehfu bs gb onggyr, gura gurl ehfu onpx gb uvf fuvc gb punfr qbja gur rarzl, naq ur zntvpnyyl frrzf svar naq shyy bs raretl.
    I then started The Fifth Season on Friday afternoon. To be honest, this was the book I was least wanting to read and was kind of dreading it, for no good reason. But, man oh man, is this book excellent! I nearly finished the thing this weekend, including staying up too late last night (which, as a rule, I just don’t do anymore) to keep reading. And, maybe based on some comments around here I have been expecting it to be really brutal and intense…but I’m really not finding that to be the case. Sure, there’s some violence and sadism, but I’m just finding it all so interesting and engrossing.
    V whfg tbg gb gur puncgre jurer Qnznln fnlf fur’f pubfra Flravgr nf ure arj anzr. Znlor V’z gur bayl bar jub’f fubpxrq ol guvf naabhaprzrag, ohg V qvqa’g ernyvmr gung gur guerr qvssrerag ivrjcbvagf jrer ng qvssrerag gvzrcrevbqf hagvy gung zbzrag. V unq jbaqrerq jul Flravgr/Nynonfgre jrera’g gnyxvat nobhg gur nfu naq evsg…abj vg znxrf frafr.
    Maybe I wasn’t expecting anything to come anywhere close to touching Ancillary Mercy on my ballot…but Fifth Season might. And I still have Uprooted to read.

  15. correction: I suspect there have always been print publishers that simply took the least-bad of what they were offered without doing significant work on it; whether their selections learned anything from this is questionable. Contra this, just being in the ~fraternity of published authors sometimes meant something in terms of advice from other authors; various {,auto}biographies make clear how much feedback early SF writers in NYC got from each other. But putting material on the net has to offer more room for comment, some of it useful, than print-only publishing.

  16. @Soon Lee

    If it doesn’t follow a power law graph (you get a small handful of titles/authors that sell like hotcakes & represent a big chunk of the total, with a very long tail), I shall be disappointed.

    According to the article, it’s a Pareto Distribution, which is the continuous equivalent of a Power-Law distribution.

    When you’re dealing with small numbers, as in the Hugo Nominations, it makes sense to model it as a Power Law distribution, but when you’re talking millions of data points, it’s far easier to work with a continuous distribution like Pareto.

    Anyway, you shouldn’t be disappointed; it matches your expectations. 😉

  17. My take on Sturgeon’s Law is that every level of filtering removes 90%; I was applying it to fanfic at the time, so where Sturgeon was talking about what makes it out of the slush pile and past an editor, fanfic sites don’t have that so it’s more like 99% crud. The numbers on ffn seemed to bear it out – a fandom with a mere 100 stories might have one that was awesome, another 9 that were readable, and 90 double-crud .

  18. @k_choll, Fifth Season spoilers:
    V tbg gung gurer jrer frcnengr gvzryvarf, ohg V qvqa’g cvpx hc ba gurz orvat sebz gur fnzr punenpgre – gurer jnf n cbvag va na rneyl Flravgr frpgvba jurer V gubhtug “Qnznln jbhyq’ir orra qvfgehfgvat rabhtu gb cvpx hc ba gung” – ohg ol gur raq, vg znqr frafr gung rirelguvat Qnznln jrag guebhtu jbhyq’ir ghearq ure vagb fbzrbar jub jbhyqa’g dhrfgvba guvatf rira jura fur bhtug gb.

  19. (7) Being wrong

    The thing that makes me uneasy about analyses like this is that getting threatened or beat up (often physically) for saying “wrong things” is not at all a new phenomenon, nor one tied to the internet. And people forming communities organized around being able to say things to each other without the fear of repercussions for saying “wrong things” is hardly a new development.

    What, after all, was closeted gay culture if not a “village in which they agree with every other member” that it should be possible to say things like “I love you, I desire you” without worrying about having to “change your mind because someone shouted at you or threatened to kill you”?

    What, after all, was a literal “old boys club” if not a “village in which they agree with every other member” that it should be possible to express opinions about women and Jews and blacks without worrying about having to “change your mind because someone shouted at you or threatened to kill you”?

    [Pronouns and verb tenses have been altered from the original quotes.]
    [No moral equivalence between the two scenarios is implied. Warranty void where prohibited.]

    The only “new” thing I see in proclamations like Gaiman’s is that people who have previously been able to ignore or shut out the people telling them they were saying “wrong things” are now less able to do so. And they are muchly taken aback.

    It doesn’t matter whether any of the things being said are technically wrong, or right, or impossibly subjective. The issue is who is worrying about possible negative consequences for their speech or opinions, and how entitled they feel to be free of consequences.

  20. Sturgeon himself would probably argue that the 10% evolves from the bad, and that the bad is necessary to distinguish the good, as in his review of Spinrad’s “Solarions” for “The National Review”:

    “Spinrad, who in this example falls in that great 90 per cent of all fiction (and indeed all things) which gives good fiction (and things) something on which to stand and be noticeable”

  21. I read the Novelette nominees yesterday. Thought Folding Bejing was rather cool (It sure is good to see VD promoting social justice themed writing). Obits was well written, though the SF/Fantasy conceit seemed a bit thin for an SF/Fantasy award nominee.

    I continue to be underwhelmed by the quality of the There Will Be War selections. At their best, they read like something last year’s Campbell nominee Rolf Nelson could write if he ever reached sentience. At least the two entrants in this category lack the dehumanization and genocidal glee of Seven Kill Tiger.

    While I don’t consider myself unduly burdened by puritanical instincts, I just couldn’t make it past the first third or so of “And You Shall Know It By The Trail of Dead”. The bombardment of foul language, and repetitive, uncreative foul language, at that, was just too much of a turn-off for me.

  22. Quick review – Every Heart a Doorway Seanan Mcguire.

    Echoing what JJ (I think) said yesterday – this is really really good. I was surprised by the depth and complexity which got folded into such a short book.

    Gur jnl va juvpu rnpu Snvelynaq jnf qvssrerag, jvgu fbzr pneqvany qverpgvbaf naq n qrfver gb pngrtbevmr/znc gurz nyy jnf ernyyl vagrerfgvat. Gur qrfpevcgvbaf bs Anapl’f Unyyf bs gur Qrnq naq gur culfvpny vzcnpg bs vg ba ure jnf jryy qbar, nf jryy nf Fhzv’f punenpgre. Wnpx jnf qvfgheovat, gur qnapvat fxryrgbaf, gur trareny qvfybpngvba naq jrveqarff jrer nyy jryy qbar, nybat jvgu gur fnqarff bs bar qbbe orvat zvffrq. Ernyyl jryy qbar.

    She could have spun this out to trilogy length, but I think it’d have lost the impact at that length.

  23. @Microtherion
    Many of the reviews of “And You Shall Know It By The Trail of Dead” also objected to the language. I didn’t mind the language at all because it felt very true to the character and the setting. Most of the people I know who use “foul language” use it repetitively and uncreatively. I loved the ending and thought it was good enough that I nominated it for a Hugo.

  24. Does it count as a typo catch if I note that the link in #4 is labelled as a “metafiler conversation” without the t?

  25. Will do! I just happen to have a growler of Dandy Oyster Stout in the fridge. Although I’d like to try that red ale, too.

    I started wondering what a meta-filer thread here would look like. Analysis of rot-13 patterns? Counting the average of puns per post?

  26. Cath, it’s a meta typo! Nice catch!

    So Disney Princesses were mentioned the other day, and today I saw a story referencing a study about the effects of engagement with Disney Princesses on gender stereotypes, body esteem, and prosocial behaviour in children.

    From the abstract:

    Longitudinal results revealed that Disney Princess engagement was associated with more female gender-stereotypical behavior 1 year later, even after controlling for initial levels of gender-stereotypical behavior.

    With the mention of “body esteem” and seeing a reference to the glam Princess Merida from Brave, I realized that there has not been a Disney Princess that is short or stout. They’re all wasp-waisted and willowy. Hey Disney! Nevermind giving Elsa a girlfriend, how about making a princess with a different body type?

    I remember reading a story a year or two ago, that I can’t locate atm, saying that originally Elsa and Anna from Frozen looked very different. I seem to recall that Anna design being shorter and heavier. And then they just got turned into palette-swapped sameface characters.

    (Side note: I went into a Disney Store a couple weeks ago, and they were hawking Finding Dory merch. The greeter asked me if there was “anything I was fishin’ for today” and I had to ask her to repeat herself because I couldn’t parse it at first. She had to deliver that corny pun while gesturing to the display to everyone who walked into that store. Every time I go to the Disney Store I’m reminded why I avoid the Disney Store.)

    ETA: whoops! Wrong palette! How does one swap palates anyway?

  27. @ Dawn Incognito

    It would be oogie, but all of us who wore braces as teenagers could exchange retainers…

  28. Also,

    Pixels, scrolls, Roddenberry and time
    A simple pixeltory scrollipic

    Going back to lurking now.

  29. The Flight of the Dragonfile

    Earth Scrolls Are Easy (an improvement of the original, if you ask me!)

    Scroll on the Water, Fire in the Sky

    All Blogs Go To Heaven

    And for topical puns, Filing Dory

  30. Hi, all! I’m back from relatively internet-free travels abroad. So, what’d I miss?

    oh god

  31. Welcome back Kyra! It occurs to me that you could be trolled with all manner of nonsense at the moment and might be susceptible. But hey, if you want a break from Brexit and whatnot, check out this mornings SCOTUS rulings.

  32. Kyra: *blush* A double dose of ellipsis, right in front of the internet and everyone.

  33. (7) and tangential to Heather: Gaiman too often says things that ruin his image as a hoopy frood who’s woke, to mix my jargon. I’m going along with him fine and then, urgh, I have to cringe as he shows his complete SWM upper-classness. (Is it worse since he got married, or is it just that I notice it more b/c the Mrs. shows her SWF economic privilege a lot?)

    Even in this link! Boo-fucking-hoo, his dad’s been dead for a year so he wanted to sulk in his big house on his huge acreage, but he HAD to go to the Oscars, poor diddums. I couldn’t even afford to go to my dad’s actual funeral.

    People need safe spaces. People clap back. The internet hasn’t changed human nature one iota.

    @Matthew Davis: I had to read that twice to pick up on the insult. I miss Sturgeon and was glad I got to see him at one con.

    @Ita: That Vox article says this book isn’t written in typical Tingle style. That makes me more interested in reading it. I dig what Chuck’s doing with the persona, but I can’t read pages of it. Am not interested enough to buy it, though.

    @Kyra: hey! Welcome back. Sorry your vacation had to end.

    Any other year, I probably would have voted “Ancillary” #1, but “Fifth Season” shot to the top of my list instantly and stayed there. It’s just that good. Mind-bogglingly good. “Ancillary” gets #2.

Comments are closed.