Pixel Scroll 7/2/20 When There’s Evil On The Hat Rack, You Can Rest Knowing They Got Your Back

(1) AND INTRODUCING GUY FLEEGMAN. Looper chimes in about “Sci-fi shows ruined by terrible endings”. (Wait a minute – as far as I’m concerned ALF started out ruined!)

These sci-fi series are perfectly awful examples of this lamentable phenomenon. For some, the finale retcons fans’ understanding of everything the show did up until that point. For others, the finale serves as a sad reminder of what could have been, had the show been given another chance. Some leave dozens of loose ends dangling. Some attempt to wrap things up too neatly. Some are tonally inconsistent. All of them are disappointing — and all of them loom large in fans’ understanding of the show as a whole. We’re here to examine the worst finales in sci-fi television, no matter how much it makes us shudder. Spoiler warning: We’re going to reveal every last detail of these shows’ endings, in an effort to fully explain why they’re so darn detestable.

Here’s one of the shows they named:

Quantum Leap leaves Sam in limbo

… Despite its poor time slots, Quantum Leap’s blend of humor and social commentary garnered a fanbase. But due to declining viewership, it ended after five seasons. In the series finale, “Mirror Image,” we learn that Sam can return home if he chooses — but instead, he decides to go back in time and save his friend Al’s marriage. In doing so, Sam willingly makes it so he and Al never met, trapping himself in a paradox and giving up the life he so desperately wished to return to throughout the duration of the series. Sam’s fate is finally revealed in the show’s last frame: “Dr. Sam Beckett never returned home.” 

This ending changes the mood of the show entirely. Instead of being wacky misadventures, each episode is reframed as one man’s fruitless quest to return home. He will, apparently, just keep going through these motions… forever. That’s not just bleak — it’s horrifying.

(2) FLESHLESS THINGS. NPR’s Jessica P. Wick reports that a fellow NPR contributor’s “Pitch-Perfect ‘Mexican Gothic’ Ratchets Up The Dread”.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic is a thoroughly enjoyable, thought-provoking novel. I want to discuss it around tea, preferably while in the mountains, preferably somewhere well-lit. I remember placing my bookmark in the book and thinking, I should not have read this before bed.

I was afraid of what I might dream.

Noémi’s cousin Catalina writes a strange letter begging for help. She claims her new husband Virgil Doyle is poisoning her, that “fleshless things” and ghosts trouble her, that “they will not let me go.” Noémi — self-assured, chic and stubborn — leaves the glamor of 1950s Mexico City for the countryside, still depressed after a mining bust and fecund with secrets, to determine whether Catalina needs rescue.

Reader, she does. The situation is more complicated and sinister than the initial fear of just a con artist husband isolating his new wife and convincing the world she’s mad so he can steal her money.

(3) REPRESENTATION IN GAMING. BBC follows as a “Trailblazing Muslim superhero goes gaming”.

“It’s the representation in gaming I’ve waited for my whole life.”

Marvel’s Avengers are assembling once again, not on the big screen, but for a blockbuster video game.

It features many of the superheroes you might expect, including Iron Man, Hulk and Captain America. But they are joined by a new addition: Kamala Khan.

The Muslim-American teenager of Pakistani heritage, who has shape-shifting abilities, is the latest character to adopt the Ms Marvel moniker.

When the game’s publisher Square Enix announced that Marvel Avengers would include Kamala Khan as one of its main playable characters and make her central to the plot, it garnered praise from both fans and industry insiders.

“I first heard of Ms Marvel from the comics a few years ago,” says Maria Afsar, a 25-year-old gamer.

“I immediately thought it was so cool when read her background was like mine, being Pakistani, Muslim and a girl.

“When I saw the announcement she is going to be in the game and one of the main characters, I just thought I’ve literally been waiting for something like this my whole life. I saw nothing like this when I was younger.”

(4) CONZEALAND INITIATIVE. The 2020 Worldcon boosted the signal for the “CoNZealand Chairs’ Colonised, Marginalised and Historically Underrepresented People Inclusion Initiative”.

The Chairs of CoNZealand are pleased to be able to offer a Membership upgrade initiative to support inclusion of colonised, marginalised and historically underrepresented people in at Worldcon.

With the pandemic affecting job security, the financial ability to participate in conventions and the fan community is becoming increasingly difficult for many fans. 

Marginalised communities are overrepresented in the group suffering the greatest fallout from this pandemic, and as such, we want to ensure that our community does not suffer a loss of its hard-won diversity. We want to lower the barriers for participation for those from underrepresented communities. 

…The initiative upgrades eligible members from supporting to attending memberships. There Is no requirement for the supporting membership to be purchased before grantees are notified. 

Eligible members who are already fully paid, but would like some income relief are also invited to apply. 

In return, we ask that successful applicants willingly participate in our community. Whether that be through programme, art show, or volunteering is up to the individual and how they enjoy participating in this community. 

Applications can be made on this google form: https://forms.gle/4odYVgwvuvL8naLy5

Grantees will be chosen by the chairs. As long as there is a good plan for participation, we expect to grant applications. The grantees will be notified as soon as practical, and we will continue to announce grantees at least weekly as long as upgrades last.

Questions about this initiative can be mailed to inclusion@conzealand.nz.

(5) GLASS BELL. The winner of Goldsboro Books 2020 Glass Bell Award was not one of the genre works on the shortlist, but the tale of a fictional ’70s rock band, Daisy Jones and the Six.

(6) DOOMED. Here’s a promising subject – James Davis Nicoll lists “Five Doomed Armies in Science Fiction” at Tor.com.

…Armies sacrificed for no obvious purpose and meaningless wars are not entirely unknown in speculative fiction. Here are five examples from that golden age of such stories, the Vietnam War era, and its literary aftermath.

(7) LIBERTARIAN FUTURIST SOCIETY AT NASFIC AND WORLDCON. The LFS told members about their plans to participate in two of the summer’s virtual sff cons.

Their scheduled presence at the Columbus 2020 North American Science Fiction Convention will migrate online with the rest of the virtual con. There will be a back-to-back Prometheus Awards ceremony and Prometheus-Awards-themed panel discussion, free and widely available to watch live.

Novelist F. Paul Wilson, previously confirmed by NASFiC as their and LFS’ Prometheus Awards Guest of Honor, will participate in the awards ceremony by presenting the Best Novel category, which Wilson was the first author to win in 1979. Wilson also will be a panelist in a “Visions of SF, Liberty, Human Rights: The Prometheus Awards Over Four Decades, from F. Paul Wilson and Robert Heinlein to Today”. So will Sarah Hoyt, the 2011 Prometheus Award Best Novel winner for Darkship Thieves, LFS co-founder Michael Grossberg and newspaper journalist Tom Jackson.

During CoNZeland’s virtual convention, LFS will put on a panel “Freedom in Science Fiction: Four Decades of the Prometheus Awards, From F. Paul Wilson and Robert Heinlein to Ursula LeGuin, Vernor Vinge, Cory Doctorow, Neal Stephenson and Today.” Tom Jackson will moderate, joined by F. Paul Wilson and others to be announced. The Worldcon online program will initially be accessible that weekend for viewing only by registered Worldcon members.

(8) HISTORY OF SF. It’s Quilette, and if that doesn’t tell you what to expect, the first paragraph of “The Libertarian History of Science Fiction,” by Jordan Alexander Hill will make everything clear.

When mainstream authors like Eric Flint complain that the science fiction establishment, and its gatekeeper the Hugo Awards, has “drift[ed] away from the opinions and tastes of… mass audience[s],” prioritizing progressive messaging over plot development, the response from the Left is uniform: Science fiction is by its very nature progressive. It’s baked into the cake, they say. This is a superficially plausible claim. With its focus on the future, its embrace of the unfamiliar and other-worldly, and its openness to alternative ways of living, it is hard to see how the genre could be anything but progressive. In fact, studies indicate that interest in SF books and movies is strongly correlated with a Big Five personality trait called openness to experience, which psychologists say is highly predictive of liberal values.

But openness to experience also correlates with libertarianism and libertarian themes and ideas have exercised far greater influence than progressivism over SF since the genre’s inception. From conservatarian voices like Robert Heinlein, Larry Niven, Vernor Vinge, Poul Anderson, and F. Paul Wilson to those of a more flexible classical liberal bent like Ray Bradbury, David Brin, Charles Stross, Ken McLeod, and Terry Pratchett, libertarian-leaning authors have had an outsized, lasting influence on the field. So much so that The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction has deemed “Libertarian SF” its own stand alone “branch,” admitting that “many of libertarianism’s most influential texts have been by SF writers.”

…Although he began his career as a utopian socialist working for Upton Sinclair’s 1934 gubernatorial campaign, Heinlein underwent a political transformation and became known for the rest of his career as a libertarian “guru” of sorts. Scott Timberg at the LA Times describes him as a “nudist with a military-hardware fetish” who “dominated the pulps… and became the first science fictionist to land on the New York Times bestseller list.” A four-time Hugo Award winner, Heinlein is credited with helping to elevate SF from its ray-blaster and tentacled space-monster phase to a more serious, respectable prominence, penning such classics as Stranger in a Strange Land and, Milton Friedman’s favorite, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, a book that reads like an anarcho-capitalist blueprint for revolutionary uprising. Friedman even named his 1975 public policy book after the novel’s slogan TANSTAAFL (“There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch”).

…Perhaps this is why so much of SF expresses itself as dystopian fiction, a genre which, by its very nature, cannot but take on a libertarian flavor. Totalitarianism, war, and wide-scale oppression is almost always carried out by state force. Liberation, accordingly, must come in the form of negative rights—that is, “freedom from”—and voluntarism: “[I]n writing your constitution,” Professor de la Paz instructs, “let me invite attention to the wonderful virtues of the negative! Accentuate the negative! Let your document be studded with things the government is forever forbidden to do.”

(9) TODAY’S DAY.

July 2 UFO Day. And “Has E.T. Gone Home?” asks Statista.

There is some controversy as to whether World UFO Day falls on June 26 or July 02 with people seemingly celebrating it on both days. The occasion is an awareness day for UFOs coinciding with the Roswell incident’s anniversary. It is getting increasingly popular as UFOs have been making headlines again lately, notably due to the “Storm Area 51” event which went viral last year. That’s on top of The New York Times running an interesting article about several U.S. Navy fighter pilots encountering mysterious objects near the southeastern coast of the United States. The high-profile story remains unexplained and so do plenty of other UFO sightings reported by members of the public every year like strange lights crossing the night sky or orange disks hovering in the distance.

The National UFO Reporting Center which is based in the U.S. maintains statistics about global UFO sightings. Notably, they are ticking up again….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 2, 1877 – Hermann Hesse.  You’ll expect me to celebrate The Glass Bead Game (also published as Magister Ludi), and I do, subtle, profound, satirical, moving, the first Nobel Prize SF novel, to my surprise and delight reaching the Retrospective Hugo ballot.  Other books of his in or near SF and more in line with the Hesse fad are SteppenwolfSiddharthaJourney to the East.  (Died 1962) [JH]
  • Born July 2, 1908 Rip Van Ronkel. Screenwriter who won a Retro Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at Millenium Philcon for Destination Moon. He also produced the earlier Destination Space movie for television, andwrote the screenplay for The Bamboo Saucer. (Died 1965.) (CE)
  • Born July 2, 1914 – Hannes Bok.  Under this name (from Johann S. Bach) and in a short life he was one of our masters.  First Hugo for Best Cover Artist, shared with Emsh (Ed Emshwiller).  A hundred covers, his many monochromes maybe even better.  See how well he could work when he wanted to do without his famous weirdness (he turned down hundreds of commissions he didn’t want): Lest Darkness Fall; the Nolacon I Program Book (9th Worldcon); F & SF under Davidson (yes, I know those are covers).  Author too, novels, two dozen shorter stories, poems published posthumously as Spinner of Silver and Thistle.  See Petaja’s biography and flights of angels, and Ned Brooks’ index.  (Died 1964) [JH]
  • Born July 2, 1935 – Doug Hoylman, Ph.D.  I hope I know when Our Gracious Host has done better than I can.  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born July 2, 1946 – Arnie Katz, 74.  He’s done much.  Fundamentally a fanziner, he’s contributed to clubs and cons.  I might not be luxuriating in APA-L (alas, this Fancy 3 article has not caught up with Fred Patten) if AK hadn’t been a forerunner with APA-F.  He owes me a chicken dinner, but he’s quite fair about what I must do to collect.  Anyway, I pray for his prosperity.  And see here.  [JH]
  • Born July 2, 1948 – Larry Tucker.  How bodacious July 2nd has been for the birth of nearly unbelievable brothers (sisters too! it just happens I’ve come to another brother).  This Titan took fanzines to video  – took fanzines to video early on, while the tech was still truculentUncle Albert’s Video Fanzine (he had in mind this Uncle Albert; alas, I never asked if he also thought of, less directly or even less fairly, this one (but look who has the cigar).  LT co-founded the Ann Arbor SF Ass’n and the SF Oral History Ass’n; he didn’t start, but always inspired, the Stilyagi Air Corps and the well-named ConFusion.  The photo here is by Mark Olson; speaking of Leah Zeldes Smith (see no. 8 here), I’ve just recommended one of her stories.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born July 2, 1948 Saul Rubinek, 72. Primarily of interest for being on Warehouse 13  as Artie Nielsen, though he does show rather often on genre series and films including EurekaMasters of HorrorPerson of InterestBeauty & the BeastStargate SG-1The Outer Limits and Star Trek: The Next GenerationMemory Run and Death Ship seem to be his only only genre films. His latest genre role is in For all Mankind as Rep. Charles Sandman in their “He Built the Saturn V“ episode. (CE)
  • Born July 2, 1949 Craig Shaw Gardner, 71. Comic fantasy author whose work is, depending on your viewpoint, very good or very bad. For me, he’s always great.  I adore his Ballad of Wuntvor sequence and highly recommend all three novels, A Difficulty with DwarvesAn Excess of Enchantments and A Disagreement with Death. Likewise, his pun filled Arabian Nights sequence will either be to your liking or really not. I think it’s worth it just for Scheherazade’s Night Out. (CE)
  • Born July 2, 1950 –Stephen R. Lawhead, 70. I personally think that The Pendragon Cycle is by far his best work though the King Raven Trilogy with its revisionist take on Robin Hood is intriguing. And I read the first two of the Bright Empires series which are also very much worth reading. (CE)
  • Born July 2, 1956 Kay Kenyon, 64. Writer of the truly awesome The Entire and the Rose series which I enjoyed immensely as a listening experience a few years back. I’ve not read his Dark Talents series, so opinions please. (CE)
  • Born July 2, 1962 – Laura Benedict, 58.  Nine novels, a few shorter stories; anthologies.  “You don’t look like a person who writes scary stories.  I hear those words often and it makes me laugh every time.”  She put them next to this photo for good reason.  Three anthologies (with Pinckney Benedict, who – never mind, it’s not his birthday notice) are called Surreal South, for good reason.  [JH]
  • Born July 2, 1970 Yancy Butler, 50. Detective Sara Pezzini on the  Witchblade series which would’ve been awesome with current CGI. She was later Avedon Hammond in Ravager, Captain Kate Roebuck in Doomsday Man, Angie D’Amico in Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2, Reba in Lake Placid 3 and Lake Placid: The Final Chapter, Officer Hart in Hansel & Gretel Get Baked (also known as Black Forest: Hansel and Gretel and the 420 Witch) (given the latter, a career low for her) and Alexis Hamilton in Death Race 2050. Series work other than Witchblade wasa recurring role as Sgt. Eve Edison in Mann & Machine inher first genre role. (CE)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Shoe answers a history quiz. Spectacularly wrongly.
  • Two Incidental Comics by Grant Snider.

(12) UMM, ROBOT LITMUS TEST? This line occurred recently in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Coulson was trying to identify who on a bus might be a time-traveling robot from the future and he came out with this:

(13) THE MARCH OF FUR. Coming July 3, The Fandom is a feature length documentary about the furry community from its origins in sf and anime fandoms up to present day.

The Fandom explores the history of animation fans who brought anime to the western world in the 1970s, Disney animators who faced threats to their careers, sci-fi fans who started the first furry conventions, and why furries became early adopters of the 1980s internet. It contrasts that with the modern fandom covering how it became a haven for the LGBT community as well as a positive economic and artistic impact on major US cities.

The production earned praise from blogger Patch O’Furr: “The Fandom movie: Furry paws seize the media”.

…I keep an eye out for all media about furries, and often call the Furry 101 kind boring. The Fandom raises the bar by giving an intimate tour with quality and heart. It’s 95% positive celebration.

Documentaries can show more drama or criticism or bad sides than this really does. But how much negativity do you need in these times? Not to say that this documentary has no opinion — it’s strong advocacy.

(14) GRRMTM. George R.R. Martin told readers he’s working on his videos for the virtual Worldcon.

The toastmaster wears many hats at worldcon, but probably the single biggest part of the gig is hosting the Hugo Awards ceremony.   I am going to be doing that with a combination of live streaming and pre-recorded videos, which we will (I hope I pray) edit seamlessly together.   This week I have started recording some of those videos.   It has been fun, if a little surreal, to be reading off the names of this year’s Hugo finalists when voting has not actually started yet.   And trying to be amusing (one hopes) while talking into a camera without the feedback of laughter (or moans, boos, or soul-chilling silence) from an actual audience is challenging as well.   But so it goes.

…((And before anyone starts to panic, “oh my god he is making videos in place of writing,” OF COURSE I am still working on WINDS OF WINTER as well.   That really should go without saying, yet somehow I need to say it, or someone might make stupid assumptions.   I am also doing some editorial work on three new Wild Cards books, reading scripts and making notes on a couple of exciting Hollywood projects, texting with agents, editors, and friends about this and that, eating several meals a day, watching television, reading books, and from time to time using the toilet.   Just because I do not mention it in every Not A Blog does not mean it is not happening)).

(15) BE YOUR OWN CTHULHU. This bit of Lovecraftian solipsism has been making the rounds:

(16) ON HOLD. BBC reports “Perseverance launch pushed back again”.

The launch of Nasa’s Mars rover Perseverance has been pushed back again to 30 July at the earliest.

In an update, the US space agency said a technical issue needed to be investigated, prompting the delay.

The robot rover will search for signs of past life on the Red Planet and also carries a drone-like helicopter which will demonstrate powered flight in the Martian atmosphere.

It is scheduled to land in February 2021.

In its statement, Nasa said: “A liquid oxygen sensor line presented off-nominal data during the Wet Dress Rehearsal, and additional time is needed for the team to inspect and evaluate.”

The mission’s original launch window extended from 17 July to 11 August.

But the rover will now get more time to launch.

“Flight analysis teams have expanded the mission launch opportunities to August 15 and are examining if the launch period may be extended further into August,” Nasa said.

(17) EXCERPT. SYFY Wire invites fans to “Read An Excerpt Of Sam Maggs’ Debut, Con Quest!”

Sam Maggs is no stranger to SYFY FANGRRLS. She’s got her hands in some of our absolute favorite properties of all time, from Spider-Man to Star Trek, and we’re so thankful she’s there to represent our, well, fangirling. But now, Maggs is back with something brand new on her plate: original fiction! Her debut novel Con Quest! came out just last week. 

Con Quest! is a comics convention adventure for young readers about fandom, family, and finding your place in the world!

Cat and Alex are excited to be at the world’s most popular comics convention — and they’re even more excited to compete in the Quest, a huge scavenger hunt run by their favorite nerdy celebrity. The big prize: a chance to meet him!

(18) REALLY FAUX GAIMAN. “Neil Gaiman–Bad Gaiman Challenge–Wits” on YouTube is an excerpt from a 2014 episode of the public radio show Wits where Gaiman read the winners of the show’s “Bad Gaiman challenge.”

We asked you guys to submit their worst versions of a Neil Gaiman-style short story. Hundreds responded to the call. Here, read by Neil Gaiman himself, are the worst of the worst.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, JJ, John Hertz, Chip Hitchcock, Jenifer Hawthorne, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Stoic Cynic.]

45 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 7/2/20 When There’s Evil On The Hat Rack, You Can Rest Knowing They Got Your Back

  1. (1) I took the QL ending as more positive – Sam had been a hapless victim of circumstances stuck jumping around time and space, but now is a volunteer choosing to devote his life to doing good, not for the reward of going home, but for its own sake.

  2. 13) I’m interested in checking out this documentary, and I hope they include coverage of some Furries Of Color, like Dominique “SonicFox” McLean (On-again-off-again Dragon Ball FighterZ champion with Goichi “GO1” Kushida)

  3. @5: did anyone read The Lost Ones and if so what did they think? I liked the Morgenstern a lot but found descriptions of the other genre Glass Bell nominee somewhat offputting.

    @10: I’d mostly known Bok from pulp interiors, with the limitations that implies; the de Camp cover is stunning.

    @10 bis: I remember Doug Hoylman from APA:NESFA and IIRC Apaloosa; he was the only person who took the trouble to do his zines double-column, which added readability to the clarity of his writing.

    @11 (Shoe): considering what passes for culture, I wouldn’t say this is that wrong….

    @12: So Coulson’s first name is not “Agent” but “Rick”?

    edit: Fifth!

  4. And UK scientists report that they can tell when COVID-19 is somewhere in a community by looking at sewage — a couple of assays to know whether thousands of nose swabs are called for. I wonder how many US red-state communities would be surprised by their results…

  5. Chip Hitchcock says And UK scientists report that they can tell when COVID-19 is somewhere in a community by looking at sewage — a couple of assays to know whether thousands of nose swabs are called for. I wonder how many US red-state communities would be surprised by their results…

    Being in-hospital for an extended period of times, I’ve now had three Covid-19 tests done while conscious.. I can say that, though short lived, it is one of the most unpleasant experiences I’ve ever had. Shudder!

    Counting my pre-surgery test which I was unconscious for, I’ve had four such tests and every single one has been negative.

  6. 18) One of the entrant’s names Gaiman reads off is David Malki, who from both the name and style of writing I’m guessing is the same David Malki who does the Wondermark comic. Wonderfully surreal and offbeat strangenesss and wit. (I think one of the Wondermark strips was included in a Pixel Scroll recently, iirc.) I’m wearing my “Piranhamoose” t-shirt as I type..

  7. In Sweden, we have monitored sewage for COVID-19 since February. In April, there was a warning about increase of virus load in Gothenburg, just one week before we got an increase in hospitalisations. So if number of tests is lacking, monitoring the sewage could work as an early warning system. They hope it will help to detect a possible second wave.

  8. (10) I’m always surprised to learn that I must either love or hate someone I don’t particularly have strong feelings about. In this case, Craig Shaw Gardner, whose work I find moderately enjoyable. The Wuntvor books are probably my favorites.

    @Bruce Arthurs: A bunch of people are probably familiar with David Malki!* from his now-famous comic about the annoyingly persistent sea-lion which added the term “sea-lioning” to our language.

    Note: he prefers to spell his name with an exclamation mark, and I see no particular reason to object to this quirk.

  9. (1) SFshows in general are seem to be doing quite well, if these are the only examples, and they include two cancellations (on a side note: Why they used a picture that shows Ruby Rose who was just a guest star on one episode instead of the rulars is anyones guess. ESpecially since the episode was from the first season and had nothing to do with the final. Yes, Im still sad it got canceled, the third season was much better than the hit&miss of the second.)

    15) Very good!

  10. I’ve been looking at that Wondermark with new eyes lately and have rethought the first panel. Suppose it said:

    “I don’t mind most people. But <minority group>s? I could do without <minority group>s.”

    If you’re going to anthropomorphize sea lions, then you should consider what sort of anthro you’re morphizing them into.

    Or you can leave them strictly as sea lions–very much an other for any human I know–and disregard the mild exterminist insult that began the conversation. Assuming we want to keep our focus on that poor man who really would rather sea lions just didn’t exist at all, rather than on the sea lion’s continued existence.

  11. John A Arkansawyer: Assuming we want to keep our focus on that poor man who really would rather sea lions just didn’t exist at all

    Where does he say that he’d rather they just didn’t exist at all?

    He says he could do without them [bothering him and taking up his time and energy, which is what sealions do].

  12. 1) THE END OF THE PRISONER WAS BRILLIANT AND I WILL ACCEPT NO OTHER OPINION

    (puts hands over ears, sings All You Need Is Love very loudly for no obvious reason)

  13. @Kyra: Concur. For one thing, the first Prisoner was the two part finale.

    Unrelated item: I was just listening to a Great Course on chemistry and the lecturer was enthusing about the Periodic Table; he closed with the statement that “If we ever meet aliens, the first thing we might do to communicate with them is to exchange Periodic Tables” – but sadly, he didn’t make the required reference to Omnilingual.

  14. @JJ: “He says he could do without them [bothering him and taking up his time and energy, which is what sealions do].”

    I’m sure he could. That’s what the people on top always say. They’d rather those whom they disdain would stop bothering them and taking up their time and energy.

    If the only problem he has is heading their voices in the night, he’s got time to burn.

    Quite possibly he has that time and energy because the sealions he could do without are migrant agricultural workers of the sea. Their work bringing in the shrimp and kelp enables his leisure. But they’re big and fat with bad teeth and smell funny, and object “politely” when people–people who matter, not “sealions”–disrespect them.

    He could do without them. Nothing personal. He’s not a bigot, you know.

  15. John A Arkansawyer: I’m sure he could. That’s what the people on top always say. They’d rather those whom they disdain would stop bothering them and taking up their time and energy.

    The cartoon is about an invasive pest who follows people back into their homes and bedrooms with the express intent of being a time-and-energy sucker, not with the intent of doing anything constructive.

    You’re making a nice attempt at an equivalency here, but it’s failing miserably.

  16. @JJ: An “invasive pest” is almost exactly the language I’ve heard used to describe migrant farmworkers. The word “invasion” gets used a lot.

    The folks who don’t like sea lions have a nice bourgeois existence. They’ve got a topless hoopty, they live in a neighborhood with nice houses, they can afford separate bedrooms. The sea lion doesn’t have any of those things. All he’s got is the ability to call her out for being a bigot against sea lions.

    And really, do you believe her when she says “I don’t mind most marine mammals”?

  17. @JJ: I don’t know what you did to cause it, but something you said bumped my head into a very interesting place, and I have you in part to thank for this:

    Owed to my wife who edits copy

    Her hands, unClaptonlike, fly through corrections.
    Her tendons carp and cry to meet a surgeon.
    The subtlest mistakes seek her inspection.
    She missed a deadline. Once. When she was birthing.

    She’s learned to let the storyteller run
    On too long when story’s left to tell.
    She knows the tale’s not told until it’s done,
    And when it’s done, the readers have their fill.

    If only she could work on my own story
    The miracles she works against the deadlines!
    The clarity she manufactures daily!
    I’d give her all my notebooks, drafts, and by-lines

    For one last pass. A manuscript. And then fire,
    With love. Fire. Love. Fire. The great refiner.

    I’ve always wondered if she or the kid lurks here. This isn’t the worst way to find out.

  18. @John A. Arkansawyer–

    I’m sure he could. That’s what the people on top always say. They’d rather those whom they disdain would stop bothering them and taking up their time and energy.

    If the only problem he has is heading their voices in the night, he’s got time to burn.

    Quite possibly he has that time and energy because the sealions he could do without are migrant agricultural workers of the sea. Their work bringing in the shrimp and kelp enables his leisure. But they’re big and fat with bad teeth and smell funny, and object “politely” when people–people who matter, not “sealions”–disrespect them.

    He could do without them. Nothing personal. He’s not a bigot, you know.

    Nice try at false equivalency.

    The sealions are the people who are superficially very, very polite, but they always have another question. And another. And yet another. No answer, no matter how patient, reasoned, and complete, is ever enough. And if you get fed up and say so, well, why are you being so rude when they were being so very polite?

    The sealions are usually the people wanting to know how “All Lives Matter” can possibly be offensive, since after all it’s more inclusive? Or why it’s offensive to say there are only two sexes? Or, why don’t the migrants come in legally?

    And no amount of explanation will ever satisfy them, not even to the point of deciding mutual understanding is not happening and maybe they should stop.

    As for who the people objecting to the sealions are: My 63rd birthday is approaching, in August. I live on SSDI. I live, now, in a tiny studio apartment, in a very scruffy part of an old Massachusetts mill town, which is to say, the industry that built this town is long dead. My neighbors are, for the most part, the people those very polite sealions assume came here illegally. For years, I was a homeowner in a different old mill town, not far from here, and I worked hard to own that house and maintain it. And then, the economy derailed and my disability got out of control, and I wasn’t functioning anymore, and I lost my house. I won’t detail everything that happened, because it’s not your business, but eventually, I was giving up my beloved shih tzu, Abigail, because I was going into a homeless shelter and only my service dog, Dora, could come with me. (Yes, Abigail is safe and loved, and has her very own fenced yard. I’ve seen it, and met her new mom. She’s safe.)

    And even a good shelter is hell to live in, when you have my mental health issues combined with my physical health issues.

    I’m one of those people the sealions have endless ever so polite questions about, why we can’t just get jobs, if things are so tight why do we have pets at all, and really, they know service dogs are all Labs and Goldens and German shepherds, so I’m really getting away with something, saying Dora is my service dog, and they can see that I’m not really “disabled,” so can I please explain…

    No. I mean, yes, I could, if there were any point, but there isn’t, because the sealions will never be satisfied and will always have “just one more question.”

    How does that match up with your theory of who the people who don’t like sealions are? (Plucked from email notifications that came in while I was typing this.)

    The folks who don’t like sea lions have a nice bourgeois existence. They’ve got a topless hoopty, they live in a neighborhood with nice houses, they can afford separate bedrooms. The sea lion doesn’t have any of those things. All he’s got is the ability to call her out for being a bigot against sea lions.

    Studio apartment. No separate rooms except that bathroom. A “nice neighborhood” if you look at the behavior of the people here, but not what people like you mean by “nice neighborhood,” at all at all. I don’t even know what you mean by “topless hoopty.”

  19. Meredith Moment:

    Touch by Claire North is currently available for $2.99 at all the usual US suspects.

  20. John A Arkansawyer: An “invasive pest” is almost exactly the language I’ve heard used to describe migrant farmworkers. The word “invasion” gets used a lot. The folks who don’t like sea lions have a nice bourgeois existence. They’ve got a topless hoopty, they live in a neighborhood with nice houses, they can afford separate bedrooms. The sea lion doesn’t have any of those things. All he’s got is the ability to call her out for being a bigot against sea lions. And really, do you believe her when she says “I don’t mind most marine mammals”?

    Look. The cartoon is about a very specific phenomenon: that of the emotional vampire, the person who gets off on sucking away the time and energy of other people with endless “polite” questions without ever having the slightest intent of actually having a meaningful dialogue, or from learning from the responses they’re given.

    This phenomenon exists. It is a real thing. The people who do this for a hobby are a real thing.

    So you can go on indefinitely pretending that this cartoon is about something else entirely, but all you’re doing is making yourself look like… a sealion, the sort who gets off on sucking away peoples’ time and energy with spurious arguments rather than with genuine engagement. And sealions are almost always the bourgeoisie, the privileged white people. Everybody else has more important and meaningful things to do with their time.

    Seriously, dude. Step back and take a hard look at yourself. 😐

  21. @JJ: “Look. The cartoon is about a very specific phenomenon:”

    Look. The cartoon came along at a moment in history when social media made that phenomenon literally possible. It was, somewhat coincidentally, also when you and others needed a way to deflect not-always-untrue arguments made tactically and in bad faith. It was the perfect metaphor and I’m glad you made use of it.

    Now you feel so strongly about it that my disagreement with the meaning of the cartoon is has become exactly what you find the cartoon itself warns against.

    There is nothing in the cartoon itself that indicates whether the sea lion is from the rich part of town and slum-taunting the couple, or whether he’s the wrong sort of immigrant–unlike those nice Ruritanians, who know their place and watch their mouths–and the couple votes for the Anti-Sealion party, strictly for economic reasons.

    There is no reason in the text itself for you to pick a side. The reasons you have found are external to the text. So is mine:

    I’ve noticed how easily real people with actual questions can be sealioned into silence.

    I don’t like that tactical bad-faith use of a not-entirely-invalid metaphor any better than I like the tactical bad-faith use of a not-entirely-untrue argument.

  22. @Lis Carey: I should have written more clearly! I meant specifically the two people in the cartoon when I wrote this. Your reading of it applying more generally is very reasonable. I wish I’d written in a way that discouraged that reading. I’m sure it’s not true of you or of many people; I am sure it’s true of others.

    “The folks who don’t like sea lions have a nice bourgeois existence. They’ve got a topless hoopty, they live in a neighborhood with nice houses, they can afford separate bedrooms.”

    The “topless hoopty” is the car without a top. A “hoopty” (which I’m not sure I’ve ever seen written) is slang for a car, slang about as old as that car looks to be. I was looking at the houses in the background of the text, and inferring the woman’s husband wasn’t in the room (I could be wrong). This is all about the text.

  23. @John A. Arkansawyer–The cartoon was created in a context, yes.

    And that context hasn’t gone away. If anything, it’s gotten more extreme. Trump, who assures us he’s a billionaire, who grew up rich, attended Wharton, and inherited millions, presents himself as a self-made man, and Just Folks in solidarity with “working class” people–specifically, white working class men.

    People like me, with an advanced degree, and unembarrassed about being politically progressive, regardless of income, are the “coastal elite,” enemies of the “working class” white men who regard Trump as their hero–especially the ones who have, and have always had, far higher incomes than mine. Even when I was functioning fairly well, and was pretty well-paid by the standards of my profession.

    And the “polite” ones never run out of “just one more question” about my strange and even bizarre views, which in real life are mostly grounded in understanding and respect for science, and in respect for other people, and my father’s deeply held belief that everyone is entitled to be safe in their homes and neighborhoods no matter where they choose to live and why, to work at what they were able to do properly, fair pay, fair treatment, and to be called what they wanted to be called. Even if he didn’t approve of some of their personal choices. And he said nobody picks up their entire family and moves to a foreign country where they don’t speak the language or know the customs, unless they’re desperate, so be kind.

    Lots of his views would, today, be recognized as racist and sexist. But everything he taught me was against the endless sealioning of other people’s choices, or of science the sealion doesn’t like the results of. He deliberately raised me to be less racist than he was because he knew some of his views didn’t match up with reality.

    And I am so done with people pretending they don’t understand and just have one more question.

  24. Oh, and I’ve never owned a topless car, or heard a car called a hoopty, and I don’t fucking know why it matters whether the woman’s husband was in the room or not.

  25. @John A Arkansawyer: I see what you’re trying to say, and I agree that the first panel, out of context, could be misinterpreted. But I think the rest of the strip provides sufficient context to clarify. Sea lions, initially, seem like a bizarre and arbitrary thing to dislike, but the rest of the strip makes it clear that the behavior of the sea lion justifies that dislike. Thus, the humor of the strip.

    Now, I admit that it is possible to interpret the whole thing as being about racism, but that seems to undermine the humor. Furthermore, the unpleasant behavior is so far from what is typically attributed to disliked races by racists that the connection seems very unlikely.

    But I admit that “very unlikely” is as far as I can go. I can see what you’re getting at, if I squint and look sideways. It’s not impossible. But it does strike me as extremely implausible.

  26. ETA: In any case, no matter what the artist may or may not have intended, the standard interpretation of the strip which gave rise to the term “sea-lioning” still works. Death of the author and all that.

    But I’m pretty sure the author intended what most of us read into it. In part because I’ve read a lot of other strips by the same author.

  27. @Lis Carey
    I’ve heard cars called hoopties, in one particular context: the 24 Hours of Lemons car races. (They have a maximum spending limit of a couple of thousand dollars. Including the car, not including safety equipment. “Buy a hoopty and race that mofo” is the usual line.) It’s a bit fannish, in that racing teams have been known to wear costumes (at least part of the time) and some of the cars are decorated in interesting ways.

  28. @Xtifr: I agree that David Malki!* probably meant exactly what you and the other folks here are claiming as its meaning.

    But: Death of the author, right?

    I see “sealioning” used against people who are innocently asking 101-level FAQs in public forums. The conditions that make sealioning possible also make it hard to have public forums sliced up demographically. They cause people not trying to obstruct or talk tactically to be pushed away, presumed guilty of trolldom.

    That’s a good strategy for polarization**, but sucks rocks for organizing.

    When I viewed it like that, the meme shifted meaning, to become a content-neutral tool used in conversational power games. Once I viewed it that way, it shifted easily to the more content-laden one I’m putting forward. I think my view will catch on over time, because I think it describes an actual phenomenon that its targets don’t like.

    *!’d do !t !f !’d thought of !t!
    **which works and is the proper strategy for some but not most situations.

  29. I will add only that the 1996-97 UPN series Homeboys in Outer Space referred to the two main characters’ vehicle as a “Space Hoopty.” (The series was much derided, and justifiably so.)

  30. why is John cosplaying as a sealion? Is this a meta-thing I don’t understand?

  31. Damn, missed an opportunity to fourth-level sealion in a conversation about sealions because I was sleeping. Curse you timezones!

    Anyway, I like the way Malki! makes the sea ion character in the cartoon initially sympathetic. It’s not the relative position of the characters or even the sea lion’s questions that are the problem. It is barging into a conversation or barging into a conversation that is already over…oh, um…right…

  32. (10) Saul Rubinek was also excellent in the Outer Limits episode mentioned: “Tribunal” – the best time-travel Holocaust story ever committed to film. (Both Rubinek and the episode’s writer had lost family members to the Nazis.)

  33. John A Arkansawyer: They’d rather those whom they disdain would stop bothering them and taking up their time and energy.

    John A Arkansawyer: I’ve noticed how easily real people with actual questions can be sealioned into silence.

    So are you claiming that real people with actual questions are being sealioned, or that real people with actual questions are accused of being sealions? Because you’ve argued both, which looks like you’re reaching to make an argument here for the sake of argument, without any real clarity of purpose.

    As xtifr has said, if one turns one’s head horizontal to the ground and squints really hard, a shred of validity to your argument might be glimpsed briefly before reason re-asserts itself.

     
    John A Arkansawyer: I think my view will catch on over time

    I don’t. Because I think this latest conclusary leap of yours doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. It’s not actually germane to the cartoon under discussion, it’s just a pretext for trying to turn something around and then yelling triumphantly, “AHA! GOTCHA!”

  34. hoopty or hooptie dates back to about 1969, but its etymology is a mystery. (Got some pop culture exposure in the 1990s.) Might be from the much older hoopy/hoopie which was for a car that just barely ran. Something was said to be hooped when it was no longer worth expensive repairs and so you did whatever you could to keep it working.

  35. @JJ:

    So are you claiming that real people with actual questions are being sealioned, or that real people with actual questions are accused of being sealions?

    The latter. What I’m saying is this:

    The same material conditions which gave rise to the concept of sealioning–the huge virtual public forum without the norms or feedback cycles inherent to physical forums–also bring people with extremely wide ranges of understanding together in that forum.

    Malki!’s cartoon flattens the virtual forum and the physical forum together. The woman with the bigoted views toward sea lions doesn’t think of personal interactions carried out in a public forum as a matter for public discussion. That was the old norm, which is being erased by new capabilities and material conditions, as she learns.

    But another flattening happens: The flattening of ranges of understanding in a large virtual forum means people with questions are all on a level surface. The same question which comes from a sea lion as a matter of tactics can come from someone who sincerely cares and wants to be on your side.

    But when every questioner is a sea lion, every question is an attack. And when the person being questioned is a scumbag, there is very little stopping them from calling the sincere questioner a sea lion as a matter of tactics. That’s a worst-case scenario. Most often I think it’s people sincerely failing to understand.

    I poked directly at the interpretation you (and most folks here, I believe) have of the sea lion cartoon because the cartoon itself is open to more interpretations, including the one I put forth. Malki! probably intended your interpretation; I don’t blame him for retconning it if he didn’t. It’s his cartoon.

    Because I think this latest conclusary leap of yours doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. It’s not actually germane to the cartoon under discussion, it’s just a pretext for trying to turn something around and then yelling triumphantly, “AHA! GOTCHA!”

    In the lead up to my religion’s annual General Assembly, there is an annual crisis. It’s gotten very boring and predictable. It takes place in a virtual public forum, very lightly moderated. And I have watched exactly what I’ve said going on there: People with different levels of understanding and different belief systems, along with what looks like the occasional troll, asking questions and being told they are sealioning. It’s a useful sorting mechanism, I guess, the same way using university physics as a stress test to wash out poorly prepared students was useful–except not to the students who got washed out, or the questioners who finally got the message of “Shut up!”

    You are welcome to believe I say this just to argue.

    That was said about me twenty-five years ago when I wrote a long piece on Arkansas politics, “Fulbright or Faubus”, which went after the liberal veneration for Fulbright Senator William J, the sort of cultured, educated man whose highly intellectual career they loved by ignoring his support for the southern segregationists without whom.*

    Just this week, history caught up with me, as local discussion about renaming the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences broke out, as did discussion of Fulbright’s proper place in our history. I failed to break the taboo on discussion of the latent (and sometimes not-so-latent) racism in our recent history, but at least my aim was true.

    I’m not sure I’d stand by everything I wrote in that piece today–I was under deadline pressure and I had a full page to fill–but I’d been thinking about it and related themes for a long time. I am quite certain that the gist of it was a correct view of history and I am gratified to see myself justified. I failed at my aim but it was still a worthy effort.

    And I think I’m right about this, too: The same tools which can be used to defend against tactical anti-conversation can be used to produce it.

    You’re welcome to pick at that. I just wrote it in that form. I’m sure it could be better stated. There are undoubtedly exceptions. It’s an overstatement. Go at it!

    But I’m not putting it out there to confuse you. I honestly believe these things and find them sufficiently germane to what we talk about to bring them up.

    *Not that many people said those things to my face. I’m pretty sure I overestimate how many people read it. I’m discovering this week how many people I know who I didn’t know knew the man and have strongly differing views about him, so it’s also possible people just chose not to bring it up because they were appalled but liked me.

  36. @John A Arkansawyer — if you are aware of any anti-racist, anti-sexist, or otherwise progressive tools that cannot be taken up and (mis)used by racists, sexists, or fascists, please please tell me about them, because I would be grateful for such.

    In any case, I’m not going to abandon useful tools because someone has noticed that my opponents might find a way to use them.

  37. @John A Arkansawyer,

    Perhaps one could read the notes that David Malki! wrote and which are in fact linked from the cartoon itself (see the phrase “Also, a clarification on the sea lion character” under the cartoon image):

    #1062; The Terrible Sea Lion

    It has been suggested that the couple in this comic, and the woman in particular, are bigots for making a pejorative statement about a species of animal, and then refusing to justify their statements. It has been further suggested that they be read as overly privileged, because they are dressed fancily, have a house, a motor-car, etc. This is, I suppose, a valid read of the comic, if taken as written.

    But often, in satire such as this, elements are employed to stand in for other, different objects or concepts. Using animals for this purpose has the effect of allowing the point (which usually is about behavior) to stand unencumbered by the connotations that might be suggested if a person is portrayed in that role — because all people are members of some social group or other, even if said group identity is not germane to the point being made.

    Such is the case with this comic. The sea lion character is not meant to represent actual sea lions, or any actual animal. It is meant as a metaphorical stand-in for human beings that display certain behaviors. Since behaviors are the result of choice, I would assert that the woman’s objection to sea lions — which, if the metaphor is understood, is read as actually an objection to human beings who exhibit certain behaviors — is not analogous to a prejudice based on race, species, or other immutable characteristics.

    My apologies if the use of a metaphorical sea lion in this strip, rather than a human being making conscious choices about their own behavior, was in any way confusing.

    As for their attire: everyone in Wondermark dresses like that.

    So your misreading of the comic isn’t even particularly novel.

  38. @Christian Brunschen: I can’t disagree with an author’s statement of intent. I take this one at face value. It’s not his fault he created something that’s better than he thinks.

    As Malki! says, the sea lion “is meant as a metaphorical stand-in for human beings that display certain behaviors.” I’m sure he’d like to define those certain behaviors in a way that limits the meaning to the one he intended. I once saw a galley of Love and Rockets on which Gary Groth had made a very intelligent editorial observation, which I later saw Gilbert Hernandez had worked in–into a little three-panel tier which was already as crowded as shit and still worked after he’d fixed it. Perhaps he’d like to revise it with protagonists who don’t have every sign of upper class power and a sea lion who doesn’t resemble this guy.

    By the way, Malki! anticipates one of my objections and says something which is not a matter of interpretation to defend against it:

    As for their attire: everyone in Wondermark dresses like that.

    That is misleading at best. Everyone in Wondermark is dressed for that period, but they don’t all have nice clothes, good homes, and horseless carriages. Top hats with knocked-out tops and turned-out pockets are also seen. That couple is clearly marked as having a comfortable living. I will continue to read them in that way.

  39. @Vicki Rosenzweig: “I’m not going to abandon useful tools because someone has noticed that my opponents might find a way to use them.”

    Good for you! You absolutely should not do that, any more than you should scruple at owning a gun for self-defense because so many scumbags own guns. You got a right.

    But what I would like to see people do is treat their verbal weapons with the same muzzle discipline they exercise with their physical weapons, and stop pointing the goddam things into every goddam face they don’t recognize and yelling “STFU or I’ll meme your ass from here to Timbuk3” as they pull the goddam trigger.

    Even glitter gets in your eyes.

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