Pixel Scroll 7/8/19 Mike Has Some Little Pixels, He Makes Them Into Files, And When We Come To Read Them, The Comments Scroll For Miles

(1) GUESS WHO’S COMING TO HOLODINNER? Ryan Britt conducts an engaging thought experiment at Tor.com – Star Trek: Picard — Ranking the 25 Most Likely Next Gen Cameos”.

It seems likely that at least some characters from Picard’s past might show up on our screens again—here are 25 Next Generation characters ranked from least likely to most likely that they’ll beam-in and hang out with Jean-Luc.

(2) DOTS NICE. Edmund Schluessel shares his experiences at Finncon 2019, which took place this past weekend in a place with lots of dots in the name in Finland.

…Finncon 2019 took place 5-7 July in Jyväskylä, which as a town hardly seems like a place — the city, center is just a half dozen square blocks. Nonetheless the University of Jyväskylä is a major center of learning in Finland and their hosting of the Con afforded a good venue eerily devoid of students in the high summer. The Con ran seven or eight program items at once, spread across three floors, and filled many of them up to the fire limit. As is the norm for Finnish conventions, there was no registration fee and many people simply arrived as they pleased.

…The con boasted four guests of honor, author Charles Stross, editor Cheryl Morgan, translator Kersti Juva and professor Raine Koskimaa who headed up the academic track. This lineup underlines one of the things that sets Finnish conventions apart and allies them more closely with Eastern European and Continental fandom: conventions in Finland are seen as not just fandom events but literary events, where people attend not just to enjoy and appreciate genre works but discuss them and their cultural contexts seriously and to examine the process of creating them….

(3) BLISH 1970 GOH TALK. A photo-illustrated 38-minute audio recording of James Blish’s GoH speech at Sci-Con 70, the 1970 British Eastercon, has been uploaded to Fanac.org’s YouTube channel.

An interesting talk tracing the history of science fiction from well accepted general literature to a literary ghetto and back to general respectability. With wit, insight and quiet passion, James Blish (who was also the respected critic William Atheling Jr.) talks about science fiction before the debut of Amazing ,and his perceptions of the malign influence of the specialty magazine. Jim discusses the impact of technology on society’s attitude towards science fiction, and where we might go from here. Audio recording enhanced with 40 images. Recording and photos provided by Bill Burns, who was part of the Sci-Con 70 committee.

(4) POP CULTURAL ABUNDANCE. Alasdair Stuart is back with a refill: “The Full Lid 5th July 2019”. “This week, we go to Glastonbury for Stormzy and Lizzo, to Steven Universe for Sarah Gailey’s extraordinary comics debut, The Walking Dead 193 for the end of the line and Spider-Man: Far From Home for life after Endgame. And then, we tie them all together.” Here’s the beginning of the Steven Universe segment —  

After another successful mission, Amethyst hits a sad spell. The other Crystal Gems know to leave well alone but Steven, worried about his friend, sets out to cheer her up.

This comic needs to be taught in schools and workplaces. Not just because it’s a great piece of visual storytelling, it is. Sarah Gailey‘s script maps onto the big action, fast moving and weirdly peaceful world of the series and its characters beautifully. Rii Arbrego’s art is expressive, kinetic and kind. Whitney Cogar’s colours and Mike Fiorentino’s letters nail the feel and pace of the world to a tee. If you love the show, you’ll love this book.

But that’s not the reason this one hit me between the eyes. It did that because this is a story about depression, living with it and living with people with depression. One that uses the vehicle of the show to communicate clearly and directly a vital message that gets lost far too often.

(5) MULAN TRAILER. Disney has dropped a teaser trailer for its live action version of Mulan.

When the Emperor of China issues a decree that one man per family must serve in the Imperial Army to defend the country from Northern invaders, Hua Mulan, the eldest daughter of an honored warrior, steps in to take the place of her ailing father. Masquerading as a man, Hua Jun, she is tested every step of the way and must harness her inner-strength and embrace her true potential. It is an epic journey that will transform her into an honored warrior and earn her the respect of a grateful nation…and a proud father.

However, fans have noticed a couple of major omissions from this production:

(6) ICE CREAM GRIDLOCK. John King Tarpinian heard a lot of folks are accepting the invitation to Step Inside Scoops Ahoy – Baskin-Robbins’ tribute to Stranger Things’ new season: “A friend drove by yesterday.  She said the line of people was around the block and the queue of cars wanting to enter was equally as long.”

Step Inside Scoops Ahoy

Sail on over to our Burbank, CA location*, where Scoops Ahoy has been recreated exactly as the Hawkins gang would have experienced it over 30 years ago. It will feel like you’ve stepped right into the show – but it won’t be here for long!

*Scoops Ahoy Address: 1201 S Victory Blvd, Burbank, CA 91502. Open July 2 –16.

(7) MORE ON GERMAN SFF FILMS. Cora Buhlert jumped back to 1964 to contribute another post to Galactic Journey, this time about the Dr. Mabuse movies: “[July 8, 1964] The Immortal Supervillain: The Remarkable Forty-Two Year Career of Dr. Mabuse”.

Last month, I talked about the successful German film series based on the novels of British thriller writer Edgar Wallace as well as the many imitators they inspired. The most interesting of those imitators and the only one that is unambiguously science fiction is the Dr. Mabuse series.

Dr. Mabuse is not a new character. His roots lie in the Weimar Republic and he first appeared on screen in 1922 in Fritz Lang’s Dr. Mabuse – The Gambler, based on the eponymous novel by Luxembourgian writer Norbert Jacques.

(8) BRAUNER OBIT. Cora Buhlert adds, “And by sheer coincidence, Artur Brauner, the man who produced the postwar Mabuse movies, died yesterday at the age of 100.” – The Hollywood Reporter has the story “Artur Brauner, Holocaust Survivor and German Film Producer, Dies at 100”.

Buhlert adds:

Brauner was a fascinating person, a Holocaust survivor who went on to produce more than a hundred movies, ranging from forgettable softcore erotica to Academy Award winners. Most of the official obituaries focus on his serious Holocaust and WWII movies, but he did so much more. His genre contributions include the Mabuse movies, the 1966/67 two part fantasy epic The Nibelungs and the 1959 science fiction film Moon Wolf.

My own tribute to Brauner listing some of my personal favourites of his many movies is here: “Remembering Artur Brauner and Dr. Mabuse”


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 8, 1942 Otto Penzler, 77. He’s proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City who edits anthologies. Oh, does he edit them, over fifty that I know of, some of genre interest including The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories, Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! and The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories which an original Lester Dent story in it.
  • Born July 8, 1951 Anjelica Huston, 68. I’m going to single her out for her performance as The Grand High Witch of All The World, or Eva Ernst in The Witches, a most delicious film. She was also wonderful as Morticia Addams in both of the Addams Family films, and made an interesting Viviane, Lady of the Lake in The Mists of Avalon miniseries. 
  • Born July 8, 1914 Hans Stefan Santesson. Trifecta of editor, writer, and reviewer. He edited Fantastic Universe from 1956 to 1960, and the US edition of the British New Worlds Science Fiction. In the Sixties, he edited a lot of anthologies including The Fantastic Universe OmnibusThe Mighty Barbarians: Great Sword and Sorcery Heroes and Crime Prevention in the 30th Century. As a writer, he had a handful of short fiction, none of which is available digitally. His reviews appear to be all in Fantastic Universe in the Fifties. (Died 1975.)
  • Born July 8, 1955 Susan Price, 64. English author of children’s and YA novels. She has won both the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Prize for British children’s books. The Pagan Mars trilogy is her best known work, and In The Sterkarm Handshake and its sequel A Sterkarm Kiss, will please Outlander fans. 
  • Born July 8, 1958 Kevin Bacon, 61. The role I best remember him in isValentine “Val” McKee in Tremors. He also played Sebastian Shaw, Jack Burrell in Friday the 13th, David Labraccio in the most excellent Flatliners and Sebastian Caine in the utterly disgusting Hollow Man. 
  • Born July 8, 1958 Billy Crudup, 61. William “Will” Bloom in Big Fish is a most wonderful role. His take on Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen is quite amazing. And he’s in Christopher Oram in Alien: Covenant, a film I’ve no interest in seeing as that series as it’s run far too long. 
  • Born July 8, 1978 George Mann, 41. Writer and editor. He’s edited a number of anthologies including the first three volumes of Solaris Book of New Science Fiction. Among my favorite books by him are his Newbury & Hobbes series, plus his excellent Doctor Who work. 

(10) SPORTS SECTION. Exactly.

(11) MOON MISSION? Mary Robinette Kowal noted an anomaly about a new commemorative Lego figure. (Hamilton did this a few years later.)

(12) DUMPING ON LUNA. FastCompany’s Apollo 11 retrospective series asks a rhetorical question: “How do you explore the Moon without ruining it?”.

In March 1966, a group of 14 scientists, working on behalf of NASA, produced an astonishing report about a delicate topic: How to go to the Moon without polluting the Moon.

The conclusion: You can’t.

Simply landing a spaceship and astronauts on the Moon was going to bring with it an astonishing fog of alien pollution.

The lunar module’s rocket engine, hovering the spaceship down from orbit and running until the moment the lunar module touched the surface, was burning almost 1,000 pounds of fuel every 30 seconds, and spraying its exhaust across the Moon nonstop.

The lunar module itself vented both gases and water vapor, and when the astronauts got ready to leave for a Moon walk, they emptied the entire cabin—humidity, air, any particles floating in the atmosphere—right out onto the Moon.

When the lunar module blasted off to head for orbit, the ascent engine would again spray the surface of the Moon with chemicals.

(13) A CLEAN SWEEPDOWN FORE AND AFT. And what if the Moon tried to return the favor? At least that’s what the Independent says was in danger of happening: “Apollo 11 moon landing could have infected the Earth with lunar germs, say astronauts”.  Quoting astronaut Michael Collins:

“Look at it this way,” he said. “Suppose there were germs on the moon. There are germs on the moon, we come back, the command module is full of lunar germs. The command module lands in the Pacific Ocean, and what do they do? Open the hatch. You got to open the hatch! All the damn germs come out!”

Buzz Aldrin made a similar point as footage showed the astronauts being disinfected as they were on a raft next to the spacecraft they’d splashed down to Earth on.

He said that the rescuers had cleaned him down with a rag – and then thrown that same rag straight into the water….

(14) E PLURIBUS SPACE. Live in the US? NASA now has an interactive map to let you know what your state’s contribution to their mission is. Zoom in and click away — NASA in the 50 States.

(15) FINAL EXAMINER. Bonnie McDaniel reveals her favorite at the end of “Hugo Reading 2019: Best Short Story”.

1) “A Witch’s Guide To Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies,” Alix E. Harrow

This does have a plot, one that’s heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time: a librarian/witch who gives a broken foster kid the Book he needs most, and with it the means to escape his life into another world. The fact that the author uses examples of real books (Harry Potter, et al) to illustrate her story’s points give it real power, and is one of the reasons I couldn’t forget it. When you can’t get a story out of your head, no matter how much reading you’ve done since, that makes a story award-worthy. As I said, I would be happy if just about any of these stories won…but I’m pulling for this one.

(16) A BIT TOO RETRO. Steven J. Wright reviews “Retro Hugo Category: Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)” and pronounces the finalists mostly dubious and unimpressive.

I’ll begin with a bit of an ongoing gripe: once again, the actual home of short-form dramas in the 1940s – the ubiquitous and very popular radio shows – has been ignored in favour of cartoon shorts and movies which aren’t quite long enough to reach the Long Form cut-off point.  Harrumph, say I, harrumph.

(17) OH WHAT A WEB THEY WEAVE. What has 24 legs and catches flies? In “Spider-Man vs. Spider-Man vs. Spider-Man”, SYFY Wire looks at the first solo films for each of the three tries at Spider-Man in the last decade plus. Let’s just say the article expresses strong preferences.

…When Tobey Maguire was cast as Peter Parker, Spidey fans had all but given up hope ever to see the webhead on the big screen. Rights issues and development hell had besieged the character for years, so when Spider-Man finally made it to theaters, audiences were thrilled. That goodwill extended through Spider-Man 2, but when Spider-Man 3 came around in 2007 … there was some frustration. Five years later, Andrew Garfield swung into our collective conscious as the Amazing Spider-Man. Then, in 2014, Amazing Spider-Man 2 came out, and the less said about that one the better. Finally, Marvel Studios got their most popular character back to make a home in the MCU, and in 2017 Tom Holland made his solo debut in Spider-Man: Homecoming.

(18) TONIGHT’S JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter on the game show beat files this report:

The category: Fictional Languages; contestants had to guess who created them.

Answer: Valyrian, Braavosi.

No one got: Who is George R.R. Martin?

(19) SPOUSAL DISPUTE. Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman disagree whether Neil used to sport a mullet. There is a photo…

(20) FAUX JAVA. NPR pursues the rhetorical question, “A Bitter End For Regular Joe? Scientists Engineer A Smooth Beanless Coffee”.

Before Jarret Stopforth takes his first sip of coffee, he adds cream and sugar to mask the bitterness.

But then, he thought, why settle for a regular cup of joe? So the food scientist decided to re-engineer coffee, brewing it without the bitterness — or the bean. “I started thinking, we have to be able to break coffee down to its core components and look at how to optimize it,” he explains.

Stopforth, who has worked with other food brands like Chobani, Kettle & Fire and Soylent, partnered with entrepreneur Andy Kleitsch to launch Atomo. The pair turned a Seattle garage into a brewing lab, and spent four months running green beans, roasted beans and brewed coffee through gas and liquid chromatography to separate and catalog more than 1,000 compounds in coffee to create a product that had the same color, aroma, flavor and mouthfeel as coffee.

“As we got deeper into the process, we learned more about the threats to the coffee world as a whole — threats to the environment from deforestation, global warming and [a devastating fungus called] rust, and we were even more committed to making a consistently great coffee that was also better for the environment,” Stopforth says.

The future of coffee is uncertain. The amount of land suitable for growing coffee is expected to shrink by an estimated 50 percent by 2050, according to a report by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture.

(21) THE SPLASH AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WELL. Translate tweet: “I’m so grateful when anybody pays attention to me. Thank you! Please don’t stop!” You’re welcome, Richard.

(22) ROBERT MCCAMMON RAP VIDEO. Bestselling author Robert McCammon wrote a song about his creations and worked with filmmaker Chuck Hartsell to produce a music video that features some of them.

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

62 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 7/8/19 Mike Has Some Little Pixels, He Makes Them Into Files, And When We Come To Read Them, The Comments Scroll For Miles

  1. (2) This lineup underlines one of the things that sets Finnish conventions apart… conventions in Finland are seen as not just fandom events but literary events, where people attend not just to enjoy and appreciate genre works but discuss them and their cultural contexts seriously and to examine the process of creating them….

    Sets them apart from what? Has Schluessel not ever attended any other fan conventions?

  2. JJ, it sounds like they spend much more time on the literary discussions than most US conventions.


    Not only is that a mullet, I expect him to break into a rendition of “Don’t Stop Believin'” at any moment.

  4. (19)
    It doesn’t look like a mullet to me. It looks more like my brother’s hair when he was younger. (He wore it long until he had to look respectable for interviews. It’s still wavy, though it’s gray now.)

  5. 21) …err…which one is he again? Is he the one that tried to sic the cops on Spokane Worldcon, or one of the others?

  6. @RedWombat
    One of the others – he’s the one trying to set up a competitor to SFWA that will be friendly to the juvenile canines.

  7. RedWombat: Paolinelli is just a writer who arrived late to the party but wanted to help himself to some of that Puppy publicity. First heard from when he got his book included in JDA’s offer to OdysseyCon members, made in an effort to mock Monica Valentinelli after she quit as GoH. See Item #12 in this 2017 Scroll.

  8. P J Evans: it sounds like they spend much more time on the literary discussions than most US conventions.

    The Program schedule looks little different to me from that of U.S. fan cons, especially Worldcon.

    Opening ceremony – Welcome to Finncon 2019!
    10am – The state of Finnish SF literature
    10am – Fantastic Sisters (How do Finnish fantasy writers write about families and especially sisters?)
    10am – Guest Speaker – Anders Sandberg: Exploring The Space of Possible Minds (Philosophy and Science)

    11am – Space opera – the new Humanity
    11am – Games in the form of narration
    11am – Podcasts and Video Blogs
    11am – The Beauty of Horror
    11am – Shell Books Present their latest booklets
    11am – Workshop on Writing Subtext
    11am – Children of the Future in Sci-Fi Literature

    12pm – Kersti Juva, Honorary Guest Interview
    12pm – Fantastic horses – Horses in myths and fantasy literature.
    12pm – A better future – Ideal societies and hope in the midst of threats
    12pm – Nova and Finfar Graduate Award
    12pm – How Information Technology Harms Food Production
    12pm – Signing by Charles Stross

    1pm – AI as an object of desire and fear
    1pm – Romance – good entertainment or serious social issues?
    1pm – New (debut) Writers introduction
    1pm – Karisto Horror Race Results
    1pm – Exposure Time – Comics with photos
    1pm – Time Travel to the Past – SF literature for children and adolescents over the years
    1pm – What are Fantasy characters made of?
    1pm – Picnic of the Finnish Tolkien Society

    2pm – A variety of world-wide endings (apocalypse in literature, films, & games)
    2pm – The panel tells the joke
    2pm – Gazing into the Abyss: the EHT image of a supermassive black hole
    2pm – Editing and working with a publisher
    2pm – Our New Robot Overlords – Why They Will Take Over
    2pm – Ghost Stories
    2pm – Non-human heroes and enemies in Babylon 5 and Overwatch

    3pm – Tolkien Panel
    3pm – Politics in sci-fi and sci-fi politics
    3pm – Comics and role-playing in the world of Praedor
    3pm – Using a writing cat*
    3pm – Panel by the author of A Phantom Case, winner of Star Fantasy Award for Best Fantasy Translation of 2018
    3pm – SF Literature Therapy
    3pm – Gender, race, and Humanity in speculative fiction

    4pm – Cthulhu’s Legacy
    4pm – Bad games through the ages
    4pm – Artificial Intelligence Humor
    4pm – The Sheet – Movie Premiere
    4pm – Psychology for Fiction! Author’s Guide
    4pm – The Great Game of Thrones Panel
    4pm – Signing by Kersti Juva

    5pm – Masks
    5pm – Speculative fiction poetry
    5pm – Young Adult Literature

    7pm onwards – evening Party with Masquerade award

    * I’m not sure, but I think this is about SJW credential as writer’s muse!

  9. 22) Stopped the video after the first 15 seconds. Couldn’t take the bland circa-1982 beat, McCammon’s aimless rap style, and his moniker “RMC.”

  10. @21: what is this, nutjobs-out-of-the-woodwork week?

    @JJ / @P J Evans: conventions vary immensely; I suspect the Finns would find the Readercon program intense if not suffocating (I’m not sure how much I’ll even be going to as I’m commuting), and ISTM there are a number of conventions with aiming in the same direction (Armadillocon, Potlatch, Confluence, Boskone — not sure the first two are still going) but ISTM there are also a lot of fan-run conventions less focused on writing while still presenting as SF conventions rather than gaming, furry, …; locally I’d point to Arisia (one “literary” track last winter, and that included memories of Ellison and Le Guin), and I get that feel from OdysseyCon and Convergence (just to point to cons in the neighborhood of cons I used to go to). Schluessel is waving a ridiculously broad brush for US cons (and I have no idea what other east-of-the-Pond conventions do), but he’s not completely wrong.

  11. (21) Oh, did Paolinelli get spanked on Twitter?

    Dora over the last several weeks and several visits to my new ophthalmologist has flown the flag proudly as Chinese Crested Breed Ambassador, and today my eye doctor was asking questions about the breed, suitability for a man who likes to run and hike, ability to stay home when he’s at work uncrated in the house. He has two aging dogs now. One is a pug. Aside from pugs not being built for running, he’s an ophthalmologist, i.e., a medical doctor underneath the eye stuff, and he can hear that his pug can’t breathe properly. The other dog is an aging beagle, who can’t run as much as he used to, but is still absolutely committed to getting the jump on that slacker, “dawn.”

    I think if he connects with the right breeder, he’ll likely be very happy with a Chinese Crested. They enjoy sleeping in, but they also, many of them, are very athletic.

  12. 5) I like whative seen of the Milan trailer. I’m also happy they deleted that Mushu- of the annoying 90s Disney animated sidekicks, he was the most egregious. He’s the primary reason I haven’t rewatched Milan. I truly dislike comedy animal sidekicks.

    That said, I have to admit they aren’t all bad; as far as Disney animal sidekicks go, Milo from Atlantis isn’t bad.

  13. Long hair with bangs does not automatically equal mullet, but I admit that that one is right on the border. More on the sides than I normally think of for a mullet, but still at least mullet-adjacent. 🙂

  14. Armadillocon is still going strong. it is friendly and great fun for the literary-minded. Y’all should go. Potlatch came to an end after #25. To some extent it has been replaced by FOGcon which has excellent literary programming.

  15. (21) Dude, why would anybody want to stop you from writing and tweeting? We enjoy watching train wrecks and popping popcorn as much as anyone else.

    (And also, according to [apparently] the tweet in question, he was “rate-limited” and “shadow-banned” because of “anti-Climate Alarmist tweets.” What this has to do with Camestros, Cora, and this site is anyone’s guess.)

    (19) That may or may not be a mullet, but it also kinda looks like a wig.

  16. (21) As Obi Wan said: “I felt a mild disturbance in the Force, as if a single voice suddenly cried out for attention while claiming they were silenced. I fear something mediocre has happened.”

  17. (3) That Blish talk is very good. His contention that hyper-specialism via magazines was genre killing is interesting – particularly these days where a new kind of hyper specialism in genre is occurring in Amazon categories.

  18. @Jayn & @Mike Glyer: I feel like only moments ago, I congratulated @Jayn on that rhyme. OH! Yeah, I’m catching up on the latest couple of posts. 😉

    Meredith Moments in the USA (at least):

    Belt Three by John Ayliff is 99 cents from Harper Voyager (uses DRM). This stand-alone SF novel has mind-wiped ancillary-like slaves, space pirates (of a sort), clones, and Worldbreakers – vast alien machines slowly wiping out humanity. I enjoyed this novel.

    Redemption’s Blade by Adrian Tchaikovsky (“After the War” #1) is 99 cents from Solaris (uses DRM). This fantasy is the first of a multi-author series (or duology?); book 2, Salvation’s Fire (from the world of Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Redemption’s Blade”), is by Justina Robson. So what’s book 1 about? Kinslayer and his armies crushed, burn, toppled, and corrupted the world, then he died. Celestaine (one of the heroes that destroyed Kinslayer) has tasked herself with trying to bring light back to a broken world. I haven’t read this; anyone else?

    SF Reading: I never did finish Raven Stratagem last year (it’s not you, it’s me), but I started Revenant Gun a few days ago anyway. There is a little skimming going on (blush), but I’m enjoying it and am less confused [ETA: and more focused] than I was in book 2, frankly. I’m interested in how it all turns out and I may go back to “10fox” (“Raven”) at some point to fill in the gaps, because yeah, lots of spoilers and a little confusion for me, starting book 3 without having finished book 2. 😉

  19. 19) That’s a mullet. And I suspect thajt out of frame, the name of the store where the reading (I think that’s a poster/flyer for a reading) took place is probably “SF-Bokhandeln”.

    I guess I could settle for “ice-hockey player haircut” instead of a mullet, though. That’s what they were used to be called in Sweden, around when said flyer was probably printed.

  20. From my perspective, that haircut is a bit too long on the side to be a mullet. This is more like it.

  21. 2) Do you think the web address for this convention is “www Dot Con”?

    Nope. Not listening to James at least until after the morning coffee…

  22. Re Otto Penzler: his book imprint is releasing a new edition of Anthony Boucher’s 1942 sf-adjacent mystery novel Rocket To the Morgue later this month with a new introduction by F. Paul Wilson.

  23. (21) Nobody’s censoring you, you silly sausage. It’s just the only impact you have is making us all chuckle a bit at your ineptitude.

    (5) I, for one, hope they stop including cringeworthy song-and-dance numbers in their live action remakes altogether.

  24. 3). Coffee in hand (and some imbibed) I was ready to listen to James Blish’s lecture.

    Fortunately, by the 8 minute mark, I am able to dismiss most, if not all of his argument.

    It’s part and parcel of the same false argument made in Aldiss’ Billion Year Spree (retitled in a later edition) – the argument that “science fiction” has always been an important aspect of the literary landscape from the beginning of literature and that by co-opting respected literary names the genre can hold its head high in academic and high-falutin literary circles. Look – Homer! de Bergerac! Shelley! Poe! Kipling even! We can haz respects now?

    (That argument morphed the literature starting sometime in the late 80s(?) when some publishers essentially said. “lets publish stuff that borrows from litfic, that way the NY Times Book Review will respect us and academics will endorse us; after all, it’s just like the stuff they are already praising!”)

    Genre is never going to “get respect” from the litry crowd, and it has nothing to do with the quality of the writing and everything to do with a hoity-toity culture that needs to have something to look down upon in order to feel elevated itself. Trying to please them to gain acceptance is, was and will always be a losing proposition.

    The fact is, you can’t have written “science fiction” before the genre was defined. And (Blish, or at least William Atheling the critic) should have known this because a major component of defining a genre is the critical work directed at that genre. Critique refines and focuses the definition by essentially saying “this belongs, that does not” and builds up, over time, a body of referenced works that encompasses the ouvre.

    Without Amazing Stories offering an initial definition and drawing upon proto-SF works as examples of how that definition was to be employed, critique of a body of works that was being set aside as being of a particular type of story could not have happened – no one could look at the initial definition (“.,.a charming romance intermingled with scientific fact and prophetic vision.” – Gernsback, 1926) and agree or disagree on whether or not a particular story fit.

    (It didn’t have to be Amazing/Gernsback; it could have been anyone who recognized that a “particular kind of story” was developing, or could be carved out of the inchoate mass of literature extant at the time.)

    Malzberg, no mean critic himself, has said on the subject – “Only the rigor and discipline of the delimited can create art.” (Engines of the Night.)

    Prior to that statement, he writes (and I believe in direct response to Aldiss and Blish) –

    “The argument has a certain winsome charm — I believed it myself when I was but a wee lad, and some of our best or better minds hold to it right now — but is flawed. At the risk of aligning myself with Hugo Gernsback, a venal and small-minded magazine publisher whose reprehensible practices, long since detailed, were contemptible to his contributors, partners, and employees, I think that he did us a great service and that were it not for Gernsback, science fiction as we understand it would not exist. We would have — as we do — the works of fabulation in the general literature — Coover, Barthelme, Barth, and DeLillo — but of the category which gave us More Than Human, The Demolished Man, Foundation and Empire, Dying Inside, The Dispossessed, and Rogue Moon we would have nothing, and hence these works would not exist. It is possible that some of these writers, who were inspired to write science fiction by a childhood of reading, would never have published at all.

    “Science fiction builds on science fiction,” Asimov said once, and that truth is at the center of the form. Before Gernsback gave it a name (he called it “scientifiction,” but close enough; Ackerman a few years later cast out a syllable), the literature did not exist; before he gave it a medium of exclusivity, its dim antecedents were scattered through the range of popular and restricted writing without order, overlap, or sequence. It was the creation of a label and a medium which gave the genre its exclusivity and a place in which it could begin that dialogue, and it was the evolution of magazine science fiction — slowly over the first decade, more rapidly after the ascension of Campbell — that became synonymous with the evolution of the field.” (the entire essay can be read, oddly enough, on the Amazing Stories website.

    Gary Westfahl examines and details the entire “critique defines a genre” concept in two books devoted to the subject – The Mechanics of Wonder and Hugo Gernsback and the Century of Science Fiction (which, if you are really interested in delving into this subject on anything beyond a knee-jerk did too did not! level you need to read).

    “I came to recognize that Gernsback had effectively created the genre of science fiction,” Westfahl – Hugo Gernsback and the Century of Science Fiction.

    So, thanks for the talk, James, but – no.

  25. 19) My test for mulletism is whether one can say sincerely of both parts, “Business in the front, party in the back.” That haircut only fulfills the second condition.

  26. If I don’t speak or read any Chinese, can I be some other kind of web bot?

    Martian sounds plausible, since Mars is a planet inhabited entirely by robots. (How stfnal can you get?)

  27. Yea, I’d say that’s an acute case of hockey hair rather than full-blown ape drape.

    Luckily, as Mike Nelson pointed out, once you’ve had hockey hair you can never get it again. Immunity to hockey hair does, however, make you susceptible to contracting grizzled old prospector syndrome later in life. Dagnabit.

  28. @steve davidson: so Frankenstein and H. G. Wells aren’t SF, because there was nobody pointing and saying “Look! Genre!” That seems a very … limited … definition. Was anybody defining the mystery genre when Poe or Conan Doyle was writing, or do you think SF is unique in requiring segregation? Considering Malzberg’s attitude/posing in general, I’m not sure I’d cite him as an authority.

  29. 5) I’m partial to Fonda Lee’s take on this. Her novel, Jade City, was also pretty fantastic.

    There's going to be a lot of people opining about the #Mulan remake: whether it's historically accurate, culturally authentic, too American, too Chinese, too Disney, not Disney enough, blah blah blah. I will not be one of those people. I'm here to STUFF THIS FILM INTO MY EYEBALLS https://t.co/8pfj2yBN9D— Fonda Lee (@FondaJLee) July 8, 2019


    I do not fear computers. I fear the lack of them. – Isaac Asimov

  30. There’s a “Sci-Co” along with the “Sci-Con”s up there. Appertaining now, just in case nobody tells me to.

    “Hey, Mister! You missed a pixel!”

  31. @ 3 / but really Steve Davidson: Yes, there was (and remains) a strain of commentary that links our SF to older literary strains and traditions, and there is at least a hint of respectability-seeking in some of it. But there was an awareness of the category before it was labeled by Hugo Gernsback–and there were earlier labels such as “scientific romance,” devised to encompass works that clearly belonged together, whether or not they had a marketing-driven label. For example, Dorothy Scarborough had a chapter on the “scientific supernatural” in The Supernatural in Modern English Fiction in 1917 (thanks SFE for jogging my memory).

    The first scholarly books on SF I encountered were written in the 1940s: J. O. Baliley’s Pilgrims through Space and Time (1947) and Marjorie Hope Nicholson’s Voyages to the Moon (1948). (I cited them, along with New Maps of Hell, in the first college term paper I wrote, in 1963.) They were not primarily concerned with “genre” SF (that is, American magazine SF) but with persistent literary themes and tropes. Nor, I suspect, were Bailey or Nicholson driven by the need to demonstrate the respectability of the traditions they were tracing. (Later, some fannish proto-scholars writing term papers might have had such anxieties.) It was just literary history, conducted by literary scholars.

    (There’s a whole discussion about the nature and operation of genres, whether in literature or any art, that would try the patience of a stone angel, so I’ll save that for a really slow news day.)

  32. @steve davidson: The fact is, you can’t have written “science fiction” before the genre was defined.

    You’ve argued this before, and I thought it made no sense then, and it makes no sense now.

    People do not sit around waiting for someone to define a particular genre, before writing in that genre. Fiction evolves continuously, not just when a critic defines the next step.

  33. (5) I have the opposite opinion about Disney’s fondness for clownish “animal companion” figures in its feature cartoons. I can’t stand them. And the combination of taking an iconic creature like a Chinese dragon and handing it over to be personified by a comic actor strikes me as clueless cultural disrespect. This omission makes me far more likely to see the film.

  34. Oxygen wasn’t named until 1788, so before that people had to find something else to breathe.

  35. 5) Personally I am opposed to the whole concept of live action remakes. Make something new instead, Disney!

  36. I think there should be separate terminology to describe (1) a genre as a descriptivist cluster of works and (2) a genre as a social construct that people aspire to create works in. Maybe there are — I’m not particularly knowledgeable about such things — but I see people using “genre” for both.

  37. Labels develop in literature to describe things people are already writing. You need to have people writing the stuff, before you have someone sticking a label on it.

    Pretending it doesn’t exist until its label is invented to describe it is…bizarre.

  38. David Shallcross–What I’ve finally decided is that the two senses are interwoven and interdependent, just as artist activities and audience expectations/responses are connected. I suspect that for me the moment of enlightenment came with William Tenn/Phil Klass’s “Jazz Then, Musicology Now” essay, which lit up the way artists of all kinds operate.

    I suspect that the strongest driver in this interaction is the artists’ desire to make something new/interesting/saleable, whether in response to audience (“write another one like the other one”) or other artists (“I can do that, too–and better)–or, of course, because the artist sees a possibility that would be interesting to explore on its own merits.

    The audience-observational end of this is what we see in reviews, criticism, and bibliography–the urge to categorize and label that can occur independently of authorial activity and motivation. The descriptive/prescriptive tension is a separate matter that has much to do with audience expectations–“I wanted a police procedural and I got a village cozy.” (See Reginald Hill’s Pictures of Perfection for a lovely example of deliberate subgenre fiddling.)

  39. Thanks, gang, getting my -nelli’s mixed up again. This is why they say authors should avoid visually similar names, I guess.

  40. @Kendall

    Redemption’s Blade was solid rather than spectacular, but had some interesting elements – especially the post-war reckonings, reconciliations, and rebuilding – and I like the idea of a shared world (although it remains to be seen if they’re going to publish any more). Worth grabbing in the sale IMO.

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