Pixel Scroll 7/7/19 Just A Small Town Scroll, Living In A Pixel World

(1) PENRIC RETURNS. Lois McMaster Bujold has finished another Penric and Desdemona novella – see “The Orphans of Raspay cover sneak peek” at Goodreads.

When the ship in which they are traveling is captured by Carpagamon island raiders, Temple sorcerer Penric and his resident demon Desdemona find their life complicated by two young orphans, Lencia and Seuka Corva, far from home and searching for their missing father. Pen and Des will need all their combined talents of mind and magic to unravel the mysteries of the sisters and escape from the pirate stronghold.

This novella follows about a year after the events of “The Prisoner of Limnos”.

E-publication before the end of the month, I’m pretty sure; this week or next, maybe. I still have some last polishing and fretting to do on the text file, and then there is the vexing question of a map.

(2) GAINING INSIGHT. Jonathan LaForce advises writers looking to base their stories on lived experience “How to Talk with Veterans” at Mad Genius Club.

Last month, we talked about telling the stories of combat veterans as they really happened. Without whitewashing or varnish. Without embellishment. Without lies.
In the third-to-last paragraph, I make mention of sitting down and talking with veterans. Over the last month I’ve been looking around and realizing nobody has ever explained how to talk with veterans, as a writer looking for technical (and personal) knowledge about the profession of arms. Today, we’re gonna start down that road.

(3) THE OLD EQUATIONS.

Sylvia Spruck Wrigley’s article “Throw Grandma Out the Airlock: Representation of Old Women in Science Fiction” appears in SFRA Review #217, published by the Science Fiction Research Association.

This project started because I was wrong. My initial premise was that speculative fiction relegated women “of a certain age” to very specific roles: the crone, the wise woman, the meddling mother, the friendly innkeep. This seemed such an obvious truth that it was barely even worth stating. We’ve seen these women all our lives, in fairy tales and epic fantasy, and of course in Terry Pratchett’s wonderful parodies of old women in all of their cliched roles.

However, when pressed, I discovered that there was one place where we do not see these women: in science fiction novels. Old women are a rarity in science fiction and when they do exist, they inhabit a very different space. We don’t have innkeeps, we have immortals. We don’t have crazy cat ladies, we have body snatchers. There’s a distinct lack of old ladies who love solving cozy mysteries, but we do have a greater than-normal number of politicians. 

(4) UNREAL ESTATE. What are “The Most Terrifying Buildings in Literature”? Riley Sager has a little list at Crimereads.

Building: The World’s Fair Hotel

Book: The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson

“I was born with the devil in me.” So said H.H. Holmes, one of America’s most notorious serial killers. Holmes began construction of his so-called hotel as Chicago was gearing up for the 1893 World’s Fair. Far from your normal bed and breakfast, the building included soundproofed rooms, maze-like hallways and, in the basement, a crematorium and acid vats. Although the number of people he killed there is unknown, it was more than enough to give the building a different name—“The Murder Castle.” 

(5) WRITERS AT SEA. FastCompany’s Apollo 11 commemoration series revisits “The celebrity cruise to celebrate the end of the Moon landings was a delightful train wreck” – “The voyage set sail powered by the hot air of macho writer Norman Mailer, and it was precisely the 1970s freak show you’d expect.”

…But perhaps the oddest Moon-related cultural experience was one that happened on the occasion of the launch of Apollo 17, in December 1972, the last Apollo mission to the Moon. It was a Caribbean cruise on Holland America’s ship, the S.S. Statendam, and anyone with the money for a ticket could mingle with NBC newsman Hugh Downs, science fiction legends Isaac Asimov and Ben Bova, novelist Katherine Anne Porter, and yes, Norman Mailer himself. This curious collection of luminaries also organized events and panels as part of the ship’s entertainment. The cruise lasted almost as long as the Apollo 17 mission itself: nine days, starting with a seaborne view of Apollo 17’s launch from seven miles off Cape Kennedy….

(6) DECALCOMANIA. The family that cosplays together….

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 7, 1907 Robert Heinlein. So what do you like by him? I’m very fond of The Moon is A Harsh Mistress. And I like Starship Troopers despite the baggage around it. The Cat Who Walks Through Walls is on my occasional re-read list as I find a fun read in a way that Friday isn’t. Time Enough for Love is, errr, self-indulgent in the extreme. Fun though. (Died 1988.)
  • Born July 7, 1919 Jon Pertwee. The Third Doctor and one that I’ll admit I like a lot. He returned to the role of the Doctor in The Five Doctors and the charity special Dimensions in Time for Children in Need. He also portrayed the Doctor in the stage play Doctor Who – The Ultimate Adventure.  After a four year run here, he was the lead on Worzel Gummidge where he was, errr, a scarecrow. And I must note that one of his fist roles was as The Judge in the film of Toad of Toad Hall by A. A. Milne. (Died 1996.)
  • Born July 7, 1931 David Eddings. Prolific and great, with his wife Leigh, they authored several best-selling epic fantasy novel series, including The Belgariad, The Malloreon and The Dreamers to name but three of their series. They’ve written but one non-sriracha novel, The Redemption of Althalus. (Died 2009.)
  • Born July 7, 1948 Kathy Reichs, 71. Author of the Temperance Brennan series which might be genre adjacent, she’s also the author of Virals, a YA series about a group of a young adults with minor super powers. 
  • Born July 7, 1959 Billy Campbell, 60. There are some films so good in my memory that even the Suck Fairy can’t spoil them and The Rocketeer in which he played stunt pilot Cliff Secord is one of them. BTW,  IDW did a hardcover edition called Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures and Amazon has it for a mere twenty-five bucks! 
  • Born July 7, 1968 Jeff VanderMeer, 51. Ok I’ll admit that I’m ambivalent about the Southern Reach Trilogy and am not sure if it’s brilliant or not. I will say the pirate anthology he and his wife Anne did, Fast Ships, Black Sails, is quite tasty reading. 
  • Born July 7, 1969 Cree Summer, 50. Voice performer in myriad series such as as Spider-Man: The New Animated SeriesJustice League UnlimitedStar Wars: The Clone Wars, and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. She’s playing a number of the cast in the current Young Justice series including Madame Xanadu and Aquagirl.
  • Born July 7, 1987 V. E. Schwab, 32. I’m very pleased with her A Darker Shade of Magic which explores magicians in a parallel universe London. It’s part of her Shades of Magic series. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Free Range is there when an important discovery is made about the dark side of the moon.

(9) FINDING RETRO NOMINEES. Ian Moore advises about “Finding the 1944 Retro Hugo finalists online” at Secret Panda. Lots of archival links.

Soon in Dublin the winners of this year’s Hugo Awards will be revealed, including the winners of the Retro Hugo Awards for science fiction published in 1943. This year unfortunately there is no voters packet for the Retro Hugos. However most of the publications in which the finalists appeared are available on the Internet Archive, where they can be read online or downloaded by Hugo Award voters. See below for links to where the various works can be found. Voting closes at midnight on 31July, so get reading.

(10) NOW IN BLACK AND WHITE. Missed out on this when it first came around in 2015 – a takeoff on “Batman v Superman” courtesy of a “Vulture Remix” of two 1940s serials.

These days, superhero movies are all about bombast — take, for example, the upcoming “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” But there was a simpler time, when superheroes looked terrible and were more charming than scary. We imagine what a Batman/Superman matchup would’ve looked like in the era of the first serial films about the characters from way back in the middle of the century.

(11) POWER OF THE PRESS. Another Superman stalwart is getting an update this month – the New York Times has the story: “Lois Lane Fights for Justice in a New Comic Series”. “Lois Lane stars in a new 12-issue series focusing on her career as a reporter.”

Revoked White House credentials, the mysterious death of a journalist and a conspiracy to profit from the separation of migrant families at the border. This looks like a job for … Lois Lane, the Daily Planet reporter.

The character, who, like Superman and Clark Kent, first appeared in 1939, is starring in a 12-issue comic book series that begins on Wednesday. The story, written by Greg Rucka and drawn by Mike Perkins, focuses on Lois Lane as she tries to find out more about the death of Mariska Voronova, a journalist who had been critical of the Kremlin.

(12) NOTES FROM SPIKECON. David Doering sent a couple of short news items from the NASFiC/Westercon:

Joy Day’s fabulous ASFA award, a vibrant spherical interpretation of a Black Hole, got lost enroute to Layton in the Black Hole of the USPS…

While I hoped for one or more of our locals who were nominated to win, but those that did were very worthy.

Sadly, not one winner was in attendance. We need to elevate the appreciation of art. Cover art and illustrations are often the cause of us picking up a book or magazine in the first place.

I still associate Lord of the Rings with the gum drop tree cover art from 1965…

Then, this morning, Dave was able to check another box on his fannish bucket list:

I earned the dubious honor tonight  of having our room party shutdown  for being too noisy. Who knew that LTUE  and World Fantasy crowd could be so boistrous? 

(13) ALSO SEEN AT SPIKECON. Tanglwyst de Holloway was encouraged by John Hertz to share this photo, as it was the first time John had seen it done:

(14) VASTER THAN EMPIRES. In the July 7 issue of the New York Times Book Review, author Charles Yu reviews Neil Stevenson’s new book:

His latest, “Fall; or, Dodge in Hell,” is another piece of evidence in the anti-Matrix case: a staggering feat of imagination, intelligence and stamina. For long stretches, at least. Between those long stretches, there are sections that, while never uninteresting, are somewhat less successful. To expect any different, especially in a work of this length, would be to hold it to an impossible standard. Somewhere in this 900-page book is a 600-page book. One that has the same story, but weighs less. Without those 300 pages, though, it wouldn’t be Neal Stephenson. It’s not possible to separate the essential from the decorative. Nor would we want that, even if it were. Not only do his fans not mind the extra — it’s what we came for.

Also, New York Times Book Review’s Tina Jordan conducts a brief interview with Neal Stephenson about Fall, which debuted at No. 14 on the paper’s New Fiction list.

“Unlike some of my hard science fiction books, such as ‘Seveneves’—where I sweated the details of orbits, rocket engines, etc.—‘Fall’ is meant to be read as more of a fable,” Stephenson explains. “I’m not making any pretense in the book that the neuroscience and computer science are plausible. My approach was to take a particular way of thinking around brains and the uploading of human consciousness into digital form, and just say, ‘Suppose this is all true; let’s run with it and see where it takes us on a pure storytelling level.’”

(15) BANK EARNS NEW INTEREST. A key player in many older SF novels, “Jodrell Bank gains Unesco World Heritage status”.

Jodrell Bank Observatory has been declared a Unesco World Heritage Site.

It has been at the forefront of astronomical research since its inception in 1945 and tracked US and Russian craft during the space race.

The site in Cheshire is part of the University of Manchester. It is dominated by the landmark Lovell Telescope.

It joins the ancient Iraqi city of Babylon and other locations that have been added to the prestigious list.

…Scientific research began at Jodrell Bank Observatory in 1945 when the physicist Sir Bernard Lovell came to the University of Manchester.

The site pioneered the then new science of radio astronomy, which used radio waves instead of visible light to understand the universe.

(16) BESIDE THE SEA. SYFY Wire tells how people looking for rarities found one: “Canadian gemstone miners discover prehistoric sea monster skeleton”.

Enchanted Designs Limited miners digging at Alberta’s Bearpaw Formation for rainbow-shaded ammolite gemstones, which are created by the fossilized shells of extinct marine mollusks called ammonites, discovered the nearly complete remains of the “T-rex of the Seas” in soft black-shale mudstone. The impressive specimen measured in at between 20 and 23 feet long.

(16) PITCH MEETINGS. Beware spoilers in ScreenRant’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home Pitch Meeting.”

Marvel Studios wrapped up Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Avengers: Endgame — except wait no, they squeezed another Spider-Man movie in there before closing the curtains. Spider-Man: Far From Home is Tom Holland’s second “solo” outing as Peter Parker, and the character is still heavily influenced by the recently departed Tony Stark AKA Iron Man. Far From Home raises a lot of questions. Like what exactly is Mysterio’s long-term plan? What’s going on with all the other living Avengers? How does Spider-Man get his Peter Tingle back? Why are the mid-credits and post-credits scenes the most memorable parts of this film? To answer all these questions and more, step inside the pitch meeting that led to Spider-Man: Far From Home! It’s super easy, barely an inconvenience!

 [Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Nicholas Whyte, Tanglwyst de Holloway, Alan Baumler, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Rob Thornton, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

86 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 7/7/19 Just A Small Town Scroll, Living In A Pixel World

  1. Admittedly, I’m not a Stephenson fan, but the following passage in a BOOK REVIEW is utterly insane:

    To expect any different, especially in a work of this length, would be to hold it to an impossible standard. Somewhere in this 900-page book is a 600-page book. One that has the same story, but weighs less. Without those 300 pages, though, it wouldn’t be Neal Stephenson. It’s not possible to separate the essential from the decorative. Nor would we want that, even if it were. Not only do his fans not mind the extra — it’s what we came for.

    No, no it’s not an impossible standard to expect a book to not contain a 1/3 of its length in useless prose that the author is obsessed with! It’s like reading a fan apologist writing a comment defending their favorite author here, not a book reviewer good lord. Would another author get this same benefit of the doubt? I bet many wouldn’t!

    Just a flabbergasting part of a review.

  2. (16) Heh. I saw the movie tonight and immediately came home to watch the Pitch meeting.

  3. (9) Excellent! I may get to read more of the Retro nominees!

    (14) It’s Neal Stephenson, not Neil Stevenson.

    Hey, I’m never quick enough to be the one to catch a typo! Yay, or something!

  4. 8) My first Heinlein was Dad’s copy of Red Planet — the Ace paperback with the red cover, which I only relatively recently found out dates from the early 1970s and so is younger than me, and must’ve actually been relatively new when I sat down and read it cover-to-cover one afternoon the summer after 2nd grade, I believe. It’s still one of my favorites, although these days I think either Space Cadet or Citizen of the Galaxy takes the top spot. I haven’t done a major Heinlein binge in probably 15+ years, so I may be getting overdue …

    (And, in relation to item 3, I’d point out Grandma Hazel in Heinlein’s The Rolling Stones as a fine example of an old woman in SF.)

  5. (7) The Southern Reach Trilogy is profoundly ambiguous but I am not at all ambivalent about its excellence. Whatever the hell it is, it’s really good.

  6. (12) The word I heard yesterday was that a gathering of Jehovah’s Witnesses had booked much of the party hotel from Saturday night, and they were much less tolerant of fannish exuberance then whoever had the rooms previously. I suspect going door-to-door handing out SF novels, as I whimsically suggested, would have gone poorly. 🙂

    I was at the Tonopah victory party; it wasn’t shut down but did get a noise complaint. (If memory serves you were allowed three before consequences started happening.) As I headed out around 11:40ish I noticed a number of fans had decamped to a “lobby party”. Somebody there for more than a few seconds would be more equipped to fill in those details.

    (8) Ironically Cat was my first Heinlein and as a result I didn’t touch him again for a decade. I suspect it may fare better upon a re-read as an adult. (This is why unspecifically recommending authors to a kid can be a mistake.)

    Martin

  7. Would another author get this same benefit of the doubt? I bet many wouldn’t!

    (has horrifying flashback to USENET discussions of the merits of The Number of the Beast.)

  8. (14) Long infodumps in Neal Stephenson books is a feature. As a fan, I generally enjoy them, though it seems to me that the infodumpy parts are getting longer and longer with succeeding books, lessening my enjoyment of them.

    Recent reading: not much. I’m in a bit of a trough.

    I very much enjoyed Ted Chiang’s newest collection, “Exhalation” though I had read most of them previously.

    I’ve got to the last story of Gardner Dozois’ latest/last Year’s Best SF & am finding myself reluctant to read that last story… (A similar feeling to when I got to the end of the last Iain Banks novel, or the last Terry Pratchett book.)

    So I’ve been working my way through Kage Baker’s Company novels as a comfort re-read.

    [Thanks for the Title Credit!]

  9. @7: the Schwab trilogy is in multiple alternate Londons — which, as I think of them, remind me of what happened to various post-crash countries in The Syndics. I’m not sure what I think about Vicious and Vengeful; she wrote them with all the plausibility of the average superhero comic book, crossed with the bleakest parts of Flatliners, but may have made it all work.

    @7bis: I’m stuck doing a massive cull of my library; I haven’t gotten to ‘H’ in the paperbacks yet, and am not sure whether any of the Heinleins will survive. Moon has a good story in it, but the Suck Fairy has bitten it hard (twice), and everything later is just so self-indulgent; I’ve kept The Past Through Tomorrow out of sentiment (and the autograph, which was non-trivial to get) as much as anything.

    @Tom Becker: Southern Reach is Marmite; so is its brilliance.

  10. @3: my first reaction to this article was “Where’s all the Sturgeon?”. But the author is looking at novels, and Sturgeon’s old women are in shorter forms — the longest with an important older woman is “Baby is Three”, and we know her only from the report of a sociopath rather than directly.

  11. (7) Minor correction – it’s Jon Pertwee rather than John.

    I really need to watch some classic Who. The one or two episodes I’ve seen parts of were not encouraging – I find women being pushed aside way too annoying. The reconstructed Shada was not bad, though. What else should I be looking at to see somewhat more independent women?

  12. @garik16
    If you look at something like Baroque architecture almost none of what you are looking at is necessary for any describable function of the building. It’s there purely for aesthetic value. There are many other styles that emphasize function. They are not better or worse but they are not interchangeable.

    Stephenson’s writing is really, really ornamented. It’s decorative. There’s lots of it that doesn’t “need to be there” but it wouldn’t be the same writing without it.

    But he could really use a good editor. Not so much for cutting things out, but directing his structure. His last few books I can’t shake the feel that there’s no one in his circle who can point out big gaps in his narrative structure early on and be listened to. It’s always a bit unfortunate when an interesting author gets big enough and realizes they can ignore any outside creative guidance without consequence. Imposed constraints often lead to better art.

  13. No, no it’s not an impossible standard to expect a book to not contain a 1/3 of its length in useless prose that the author is obsessed with!

    Most contemporary fiction I read these days seems to be heavily padded – and it’s not limited to F&SF (although I am looking at you, GRRM). If I ever run a publishing firm my editors will be instructed to return all manuscripts unread with the instruction to cut 1/3. I’d be happy with just getting rid of repetitive parts.

    Re terrifying buildings in literature: where’s the eponymous mansion from The Haunting of Hill House?

  14. (3) Alastair Reynolds’ new novella “Permafrost” (at 173 pages, I suppose it’s just under Wrigley’s criteria) has an older woman protagonist: Valentina is 71. She’s also had a stroke and walks with a cane, so she’s definitely not immortal or magical. Unfortunately, I was pretty meh about the overall story.

    (16) At least this “Pitch Meeting” doesn’t have those creepy eyes, although they seem to be trying to make up for it with that weird mouth.

  15. Oh wow, that takes me back. The book that got me started in science fiction lo these many decades ago was RAH’s “Tunnel in the Sky”. I have not re-read it in at least 30 years, so I don’t know if the Suck Fairy visited. But definitely that’s the book I think of when I remember starting off with SF.

    Actually, can we have a Suck Fairy in SF … that’s sounds more fantasy to me? What would we have, a Suck Alien Lifeform? The Suck Spaceman? Hmmm… time to go ponder.

  16. @The Other Nigel
    I reread “Tunnel in the Sky” recently and found it held up fairly well at least as a nostalgia read. There’s some really odd sexism dynamics (the world building is super egalitarian, the character interactions have inconsistent blind spots) and everyone feels a lot more naive than I remembered. But on the whole it’s worth taking the risk of tarnishing the memories for a reread.

  17. garik16, I agree with you.

    I have loved Neal Stephenson’s books, but of late he has caught the dread TBTE Disease (Too Big To Edit), which is a damned shame, because I think Seveneves could have been so much better if he hadn’t felt compelled to include his entire worldbuilding thought process as part of the “narrative”. What he needs is an editor with a chainsaw and the will to use it — and a willingness to listen to that editor.

    I will read Fall, but I am not optimistic.

  18. There’s Ilisidi-aiji in Cheeryh’s “Foreigner” books. She’s a grandmother when you first meet her, though her age is never given. She’s used a cane the entire series, though.

  19. [3 (& 7)] I’m surprised that the author called out The Rolling Stones but not Citizen of the Galaxy, which not only features an important old woman (Grandmother, the captain’s mother, aboard the Sisu) but mentions later that among the Free Traders “a female claimed the highest age she could, for status.” There’s also old Mother Shaum, who gives Thorby the news that Baslim is dead and helps him escape – an incidental character but a memorable one.

    I first read Citizen around the age of 12 and it remains my favorite. Being able to write books that can speak to preteens as well as adults is a rare talent.

    The “new” Heinlein novel (Pixel Scroll 6/20), called The Panki-Barsoom Number of the Beast in the Heinlein Archives and The Pursuit of the Pankera by its new publisher, perhaps will cause Heinlein fans to wonder whether this should have been the version published in 1980. But somehow I doubt it.

  20. @garik16 You’re missing the point, which is that a lot of his fans enjoy it. And calling it ‘useless prose’ is pretty arrogant. Have you actually read it? I’m a big fan of letting authors tell their stories their way. Nobody forces you to read it.

  21. I remember reading Seveneves at close to the same time as Too Like the Lightning and being really struck by the different approaches to incluing. Near the beginning of the second half, one character asks another, “Whip round high and catch the Eye?” — and before the other one has a chance to reply “Works for me”, we first have a half-page infodump telling us exactly what the Eye is, what the question meant, and why the characters would want to do that.

    I feel like Palmer, by contrast, would have given us the exchange with no intervening infodump, and left it hanging. We’d have had another mysterious reference to the Eye in the next chapter, and two chapters after that we’d finally learn just what the damn thing was!

  22. 3) Brian Stableford’s The Cassandra Complex features an older woman as its protagonist – it’s the fourth in reading order in the “Emortality” series, but the first in the weekend’s internal chronology, so no one in it is immortal, yet.

    Earliest Heinlein I remember reading is Between Planets, but I think the Suck Fairy got that one…. I’m still fond of Have Spacesuit, Will Travel and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, though.

  23. My favourite Heinlein’s used to be The Door Into Summer, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag and Goldfish Bowl. Been awhile since I read them.

  24. (7) Pertwee is my favourite Doctor, and I wrote a newspaper review of the Worzel Gummidge stageshow he and Una Stubbs starred in. Other genre appearances include Carry On Screaming and The House That Dripped Blood.

  25. I like to think that Pertwee’s brief appearance in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” is actually a cameo by the Third Doctor.

  26. @the other nigel: Suckbot. There’s a team working on one. Their primary challenge is figuring out a way to differentiate it from specialized sexbots.

    Prior attempts include the “Ageinator”, “Negatron” and the “Dustpharter 9000”. None of those tested well in market trials either.

  27. @lenore jones: classic Who with independent women? Umm…. Hartnell-era, it might be worth checking out “The Aztecs” – at this stage, the show was much more an ensemble piece than a one-man band, and this particular story is rather driven by companion Barbara (Jacqueline Hill). Later on… I think the attitude to the Doctor’s companions often reflects the general attitude to women of the show. Jon Pertwee’s atypical first season has companion Liz Shaw (Caroline John), who’s meant to be, if not an intellectual equal, at least a foil for the Doctor…. Pertwee’s last season saw the arrival of Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen), who was at least an effort at a feminist; the next companion was Leela (Louise Jameson), who was supposed to be a competent savage warrior and occasionally looked it; then there was fellow Time Lord Romana for a while… actually, come to think of it, Tom Baker’s Doctor did pretty well for competent female companions; it’s not till later on that they lapsed into vacant totty (characters like Nyssa, Peri, or Mel)….

    So… anything early Pertwee or Tom Baker era, you could be all right. (I can’t think of anything much from the Troughton era that’s complete – I think companion Zoe [Wendy Padbury] might get the occasional good scene, but that’s it.)

  28. As I have said before, my first Heinlein, and I was about 10 or 11, was my older brother’s copy of Time Enough for Love.

    I was…mightily confused, let us say. It would be a couple of years before I tried him again, mainly the stories in essays in Expanded Universe and The Past Through Tomorrow. The novels started to come a bit later. I did re-read Time Enough for Love eventually…and found past young me was right to be confused

  29. Isn’t there also a female anthropologist in “Citizen of the Galaxy” who helps Thorby figure things out at some point? My first Heinlein was “Red Planet”, in a library hardcover with memorable red cover art. My favourite among the juveniles might be “Starman Jones” or “Have Spacesuit Will Travel” or “Time For The Stars” or “Citizen”. I still have ‘70s Ace paperbacks of “Between Planets” and “Citizen” which will get reread one of these days. I got rid of everything else by Heinlein back in the ‘80s (“Between Planets” survived the purge only by chance) but I bought a British paperback of “The Past Through Tomorrow” a year or two ago, and occasionally I pick it up and read a story. I also have “Double Star” in the Library of America 1950s sf novels collection. For me I’m afraid he’s sort of inescapable.

  30. Does the Empress from Glory Road count? I don’t know how folks feel about that book.

  31. Paul Weimer says
    As I have said before, my first Heinlein, and I was about 10 or 11, was my older brother’s copy of Time Enough for Love.

    I was…mightily confused, let us say. It would be a couple of years before I tried him again, mainly the stories in essays in Expanded Universe and The Past Through Tomorrow. The novels started to come a bit later. I did re-read Time Enough for Love eventually…and found past young me was right to be confused.

    It’s been at least twenty years since I read that novel but I still recall that it desperately needed a narrative. Really just a narrative. Wasn’t that the one that ended with.. no, that was another novel by him. I think. Maybe.

  32. Soon Lee says So I’ve been working my way through Kage Baker’s Company novels as a comfort re-read.

    Kage told me that her Empress of Mars novella is actually part of the Company series. You can hear her reading it here. This recording was supposed to released by Nightshade in a special edition with the novella but they went tits up before that happened.

  33. “Does the Empress from Glory Road count? I don’t know how folks feel about that book.”

    A friend of me recommended it some 10-15 years ago. I found it to be one of the worst books I’ve ever read. Both ridiculous and badly written.

  34. the other nigel & steve davidson: Suck-O-Tron 3000?

    Oh, I had a little pixel
    So that Pixel was its name
    And I scrolled it Ticky Tickbox
    And it godstalked just the same.

  35. 3) State Tectonics by Older has a retired older woman as a major character who doesn’t fit into any of the tropes described.
    Overall, I have to agree there are a lot of politicians. But when your story deals with massive changes to society, you have to have politicians, so that is not surprising.

  36. @Cat: The novel “Empress of Mars” is definitely part of the Company universe (it features locations (such as Mars Colony Two) that are part of the Company history and characters who are clearly Company agents). I’m not sure if those features are as obvious in the novella form of the story (I recall that the early Alec stories weren’t obviously part of the Company series, though eventually Alec was revealed to be a major part of the Company mythos).

  37. @Daniel Dern: I hadn’t thought of GWK as a novella, but ISFDB disagrees; however, it’s one page shorter in Paul Williams’s complete Sturgeon. (The later books in this series have fewer pages but the typesetting specs look the same throughout.) To Marry Medusa may be the longest Sturgeon with a significant older-female role, but it’s very short for a novel and she arguably has just one key moment outside of being a small part of an ensemble. Wrigley might also object to her as being one of a long line of old harridans (BI3, “And My Fear Is Great”, …) in Sturgeon; the ones that weren’t harridans were too-cute-for-words until “Crate”.

    @Ryan H: the trouble with your analogy is that the fiddly bits on baroque architecture don’t make the building significantly bigger and usually don’t make it more complicated to get through. A building is a tree (in the data sense), which one can grasp as a whole or parse chosen bits of in detail; a novel is more like a queue, in which skipping chunks may cause the reader to miss something key.

    @Hampus Eckerman: the much-older me sees many flaws in Glory Road that I missed at age ~12 — but I’d question “badly written”; my recollection of the last time I read it is typical Heinlein-breezy, with a side dish of this-character-still-hasn’t-quite-grown-up. What issues did you find?

  38. Meredith Moment:

    The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty is on sale at Amazon US for sure and possibly elsewhere, for $2.99 (I saw it on my wish list).

    A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan is part of the KDD at $2.99.

    My first Heinlein was A Door Into Summer and Pete is still my favorite Heinlein character.

  39. Clip Hitchcock:

    Honestly, the whole book is so catastrophically bad that I can’t see how anyone could have published it if it has been sent in under a different name.

    A fantastic manly man finds a newspaper add sent in by the empress of twenty universes for going on a ridiculous fantasy quest? They swashbuckle around with firebreathing dinosaurs just to find… a cybernetic egg? Suddenly everything is extremely hi-tech! And in the middle of this story that could only have fit in a children’s book, there’s suddenly weird stilted sexual innuendos about spankings (and even those he manages to make boring and annoying) and lots of irritating babble about how sex life works in another universe. And of course the ruler of the universe wants to give the manly man three daughters because this is stupid male wish-fulfillment.

    It is Heinlein on bad drugs with the meaningless banter from Number Of The Beast and a hefty bonus of sexism.

  40. My first Heinlein, at age 10 was “The Rolling Stones”. It amazed me because of the actual mathematics and physics of the rocket ship ballistics. I loved the family dynamics as well.
    So I worked my way through the rest of the juveniles in the library and was hooked.
    I grant you that not all his work is at the same level of excellence, but I have read every word he wrote, and still go back and reread my favorites.

  41. I have read every word he wrote

    The Heinlein Archive would like you to give the shopping lists and school essays back to them, please.

  42. @James Moar: We’re keeping the laundry lists and that’s final (#tanstaafl).

  43. @Bonnie McDaniel. I read Reynolds’s “Permafrost” recently myself and thought it was very, very good. A sophisticated time travel story, brilliantly executed.

  44. Pretty sure first Heinlein was Space Cadet, but I worked my way through everything in the library in short order. I remember being impressed by Citizen of the Galaxy, which I read at around age 11.

  45. My favorite Heinleins are Citizen of the Galaxy, Star Beast and Double Star. I enjoy the women/girls (and especially the twist about Lummox), even though their treatment is pretty horribly dated (at least they’re there and acting for themselves).

  46. (3) Recently, I’ve been labeling protagonists of short stories for things like age and gender, so I thought I’d see if Sylvia’s analysis applied to short SF/F. Her definition for SF vs. fantasy is in good agreement with mine, and her definition for “old” seems to combine my definitions for “mature” and “senior.” I excluded any protagonists who were animals, aliens, AIs or robots, and I excluded any with an “immortal” keyword.

    I still got 57 stories that were SF with “old” female protagonists vs. only 25 that were fantasy. For comparison, I got 52 SF stories with old men vs. 27 fantasy stories.

    Overall, about a quarter of all stories labeled featured a mature or senior protagonist. That seems like pretty decent representation to me. Of course it would take a lot more work to look at the tropes she talks about.

    I think the biggest cause for this rather huge difference is that her survey was across a few hundred books in print, with (I think) a focus on classic novels whereas my data is just the very latest short fiction in print. Things have likely changed over time (if only from the Baby Boomers getting old), and I suspect short stories can be a lot more experimental (if that’s the word I want) than novels can.

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