Pixel Scroll 7/8/17 All Pixels Lead To Trantor, And There Is Where All Scrolls End

(1) WHO NEWS. Jenna Coleman will be part of the Doctor Who Christmas Special reports The Sun:

Showrunner Steven Moffatt will also depart the BBC show at the end of the year and new reports claim the “Time Lord will bid a final goodbye to Clara Oswald as well as Bill Potts”.

A source told the Mirror: “Jenna Coleman has agreed to film something new as Clara.

“It’s become a tradition now for the companions to reappear as the Doctor regenerates and Jenna isn’t letting the side down.

“It’ll help to give Peter the send-off he deserves after three years.”

Jenna’s comeback is in line with the other companions returning to say goodbye as Billie Piper returned as Rose Tyler for David Tennant’s exit in 2009 and Karen Gillan also came back for Matt Smith’s farewell in 2013.

(2) ARACHNOANTHEM. Here’s the first two stanzas of Camestros Felapton’s awesome review of Spider-Man: Homecoming done to the tune of that theme song.

Spider film, spider film
I just went to see a new spider film,
Was it good? Listen bub.
It didn’t recap the story of how he got radioactive blood.
Watch out, its a quite good spider film

Spider theme, spider theme,
Movie starts with the spider theme,
Yes, you know that classic song
But without the words to sing along
Watch out, earworm spider theme…

(3) SPIDER FAN. NPR also likes Spider-Man: “‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ Finds Its Footing With A Less Confident Spidey”

At last: A Spider-Man movie!

…says no one. The new Spider-Man: Homecoming, which celebrates Peter Parker’s immigration to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a headliner after his scene-stealing appearance in Captain America: Civil War last year, is, according to the most recent data available, the sixth big-screen Spidey flick since 2002. Who needs another?

Well, if they’re going to be as fizzy and funny and warmhearted as this, keep ’em coming.

(4) SWEARING FOR SCHOLARS. Yesterday’s Scroll item about stfnal swearing prompted David Langford to note in comments that the Science Fiction Encyclopedia’s recently added its own article about “Swearing”.

…The tradition of swearing by God or a variety of gods has been sanitized and science-fictionalized in various ways, perhaps most famously by E E Smith in his Lensman sequence, whose spacefarers swear vigorously by the invented “space-gods” Noshabkeming and – especially – Klono. “By Klono’s TUNGSTEN TEETH and CURVING CARBALLOY CLAWS!” cries Kim Kinnison when surprised in Children of the Lens (November 1947-February 1948 Astounding; 1954); reference is elsewhere made to this entity’s golden gills, gadolinium guts, iridium intestines and so forth. Unusually, Kinnison in Gray Lensman (October 1939-January 1940 Astounding; 1951) offers a defence of such swearing by Klono to his wife-to-be (who thinks it rather silly):

He’s got so much stuff – teeth and whiskers, claws and horns, tail and everything – that he’s much more satisfactory to swear by than any other space-god I know of. […] A man swears to keep from crying, a woman cries to keep from swearing. Both are sound psychology. Safety valves – means of blowing off excess pressure.

(5) ARISIA’S SMOFCON SCHOLARSHIPS. The group that puts on Arisia also funds SMOFcon scholarships, $1000 to be divided among selected applicants. (They don’t just do a handy-dandy press release like the CanSMOF crew I publicized yesterday.) See Arisia’s application guidelines at the linked page.

(6) FORWARD THINKING. At Black Gate, Derek Künsken lists his choice of the “hardest” science fiction in “Any Sufficiently Advanced Technology…” The late Robert L. Forward figures prominently:

I found out about Robert Forward, a NASA scientist, when reading Stephen Gillett’s World-Building and so ordered it. Forward has some clunky character work and I wouldn’t say his female characters published in 1980 age well, but he outsciences Clement. I have four of Forward’s novels.

(7) A WALKING HISTORY OF SF TV. Joshua Sky has just completed and published a new interview on Omni with the showrunner of The Expanse, Naren Shankar:

Naren Shankar has a long-running career in science fiction television. He’s written for such critically acclaimed series as Star Trek: The Next Generation, SeaQuest DSV, Farscape, and The Outer Limits. Naren has also been a showrunner for CSI and currently serves as a showrunner for SyFy’s The Expanse. Coming from a science-educated background, Naren has been able to help push real science in television shows. I had the opportunity to chat with him and get his perspective on the evolution of genre TV, his career, and all things The Expanse.

You have an amazing TV background. You’ve done so many different shows. Walk me through your origin story.

…After graduating, I decided to stay on in graduate school. I was in Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering; I had stayed on in Cornell. And one of my friends decided he was going to move out to Los Angeles and become a screenwriter. We always loved movies, we always loved television shows and that was always sort of part of late night TV watching in the fraternity. And my other friend was Ron Moore.

Ron was a political science major. About a year after our first friend went out to LA to try and become a screenwriter, he dragged Ron out there. Now, I had started college really early. I just turned 16 when I entered college. I was really young and was two years ahead of Ron, but we were the same age. I was several years into graduate school as I was working on my doctoral research. The way I describe it, I started feeling more and more like an expert on a smaller and smaller corner of the universe. And it felt kind of isolating. So what started happening is that I began taking courses in the arts, and history and literature again. Actually doing them, while I was doing my research. And what was happening was that I found that side of things extraordinarily fulfilling, and my lab rather lonely.

I actually remember the moment. I was walking back from this amazing lecture in a course that I was taking on the history of American foreign policy.  This yearlong course by a brilliant lecturer named Walter LaFeber. And I walked out of this lecture and I was heading to my lab and I was thinking, “Fuck, I can’t be an engineer.” (Laughter)

It was literally that kind of moment. But I had about a year and a half to go —and so, I gutted it out. I finished and got my degree. And then when I got out of school, I got a couple job offers and didn’t really like them. I almost got a job offer from Apple Computer, which I probably would’ve taken, as an engineering software evangelist, but I didn’t get it. It had come down to two people. So I didn’t get that and I didn’t really know what to do. Ron was out in LA and he was just starting to break into the business and get his first gig. He said, “Come and be a screenwriter!” And I was like, “… That sounds great!”

It was literally that much thought.

(8) JOAN LEE REMEMBRANCES. Entertainment Weekly’s Nick Romano, in “Revisit Stan and Joan Lee’s Sweet X-Men: Apocalypse Cameo”, has a still from the X-Men movie and a tweet from Bryan Singer about Joan Lee’s passing.

Also, Marvel Entertainment has released a video clip of Stan Lee telling about meeting his future wife for the first time.

On April 14, 2017 Joe Quesada, Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer, sat down with Stan Lee at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills, Calif. The video below was originally planned to be part of a series from the event scheduled for release later this year. In remembrance of Joan Lee and her importance to Marvel and the history of comics as a whole, we felt it appropriate to release this now.


(9) ELLIS OBIT. Nelsan Ellis (1978-2017): American actor and playwright, died July 8, aged 39 (heart failure). Genre appearances in True Blood (81 episodes as ‘Lafayette Reynolds’, 2008-14), Gods Behaving Badly (2013).


  • July 8, 2011 — NASA launched its last space shuttle, Cape Canaveral, Florida.

(11) COMIC SECTION. John A Arkansawyer warns there may be Wonder Woman spoiler in this (quite funny) installment of Non-Adventures of Wonderella.

(12) HANDMAID’S AUDIENCE. Damien Walter makes a provocative joke. Or is it true?

I’m seeing two distinct groups of responses to The Handmaid’s Tale.

Men – this show is dull, nothing is happening, going to stop watching.

Women – this show is horrifying! Its my worst nightmare played out scene by scene! Going to stop watching.

Not good for ratings.

(13) FROM THE ANCIENT SEAS. BigThink’s 2016 article “Antikythera mechanism” includes a link to a YouTube video about a working reconstruction – made with Legos.

In June of 2016, an international team of experts revealed new information derived from tiny inscriptions on the devices parts in ancient Greek that had been too tiny to read—some of its characters are just 1/20th of an inch wide—until cutting-edge imaging technology allowed it to be more clearly seen. They’ve now read about 35,00 characters explaining the device.

The writing verifies the Antikythera mechanism’s capabilities, with a couple of new wrinkles added: The text refers to upcoming eclipses by color, which may mean they were viewed as having some kind of oracular meaning. Second, it appears the device was built by more than one person on the island of Rhodes, and that it probably wasn’t the only one of its kind. The ancient Greeks were apparently even further ahead in their astronomical understanding and mechanical know-how than we’d imagined.


(14) HELLS YES. Steve Davidson sees the Worldcon on the horizon and urges fans to ratify the Three-Stage Voting proposal (3SV) that received its first passage at 2016’s business meeting.

One week from today, voting closes on the fabulous Hugo Awards.  They’ll be handed out at Worldcon 75, being held in Helsinki, Finland, on August 12th, 2017.

The ballot this year is remarkably puppy free;  that doesn’t mean there aren’t any puppy noms on the final ballot, but there aren’t any puppy-dominated categories as there have been in years past.  It’s taken four-five years now, but WSFS (that’s the World Science Fiction Society, of which anyone who has joined this year’s con, or next year’s con, is a member.  That’s right, Worldcon attendees and supporters, you’re all members of a WORLD society, not just a science fiction convention), in its slow, sometimes frustrating yet inexorable manner, has responded to the assault on the awards effectively.

In fact, there’s only one more step (well, two if you add in my suggestion that follows) required for forever ending puppy sadness:  the ratification of 3SV.

Step 1:  Ratification of Three Stage Voting. While this will turn Hugo Awards voting into a three stage, as opposed to a two stage process, and doing so will add more work for administrators and shorten the time frames for each stage a bit, the advantages FAR outweigh this.

3SV, as it has come to be known, will allow all of the voters to take an advance look at what will be on the final ballot, and then vote again on whether or not they BELONG on the final ballot.  Finalists that receive above a certain number of “not on my Hugo Awards Final Ballot” will be removed and replaced by the next most eligible nominee(s)….

(15) SYNCOPATIC EQUATION. At Jed Hartman’s A + B = Awesome website, every time you refresh it you get an idea of the form “It’s A with/crossed with B with/in C.”

Tom Galloway says, “My favorite so far is ‘It’s Oliver Twist meets The Prisoner with dinosaurs,’ to which I came up with ‘Please sir, can I have some more information’ and a T Rex Rover.”

Hartman explains:

Renowned literary agent DongWon Song gave a great talk at this weekend’s SLF writing workshop, about how to pitch your work. One of the things he talked about is the idea of starting a pitch with the “A + B = Awesome” format, to suggest two other well-known works that your work is similar to in some way.

There was a lot more to the idea than that, but that part inspired me to put together a little pitchbot that provides suggestions for combining two works.

Note that this is intended entirely for entertainment purposes. (And it isn’t intended to criticize the “A + B = Awesome” paradigm, which is a far more useful pitching tool than I would have expected before hearing DongWon talk about it.)

A couple of writers who’ve seen this have said that it could also work as a writing-prompt generator.

(16) Q + P. Let’s play that game in real life – Tom Galloway introduces the next link:

In the grand tradition of Archie vs. The Punisher and Archie vs. Predator (Obj Dave Barry: I’m not making these up), come fall we’ll be getting Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica.

Entertainment Weekly reports “Gotham and Riverdale to collide in Harley & Ivy Meet Betty & Veronica”.

The series will be co-written by Marc Andreyko and Paul Dini, with art from Laura Braga. Dini originally created Harley Quinn on Batman: The Animated Series, the show that also established the character’s flirty friendship with Poison Ivy. The new series will find them pitting their girl power against Riverdale’s most famous pair. When a proposal emerges to drain the wetlands between Gotham and Riverdale, Ivy sticks up for her beloved fauna by enlisting Harley to kidnap valuable heiress Veronica Lodge and her best friend, Betty. Chaos, you may assume, ensues.

Who wouldn’t pay to see that? (Raises hand.)

(17) THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD. First world problems.

(18) SHADOW CLARKE JURY MARCHES ON. In less than three weeks the winner of the Clarke Award will be known. The Shadow Clarke Jury is getting in its last licks – will the sf genre go down for the count?

This statement will not be popular among the Wayfarer’s legions of loyal fans and advocates, but I’m going to make it anyway because I believe it to be true: there is no real science fiction in A Closed and Common Orbit. In a climate where novels of so-called literary SF are often castigated by SFF commentators for using the trappings of science fiction to grant legitimacy and authenticity where none has been earned, when it comes to empty gestures the Wayfarer novels – clasped rapturously by fandom to its collective bosom – trump them all. I would not want to waste valuable time arguing over whether A Closed and Common Orbit is in fact eligible for the Clarke Award – the book is marketed as science fiction, there are AIs, aliens, distant planets, job done. Whether it deserves its place on the current shortlist is another matter entirely.

Organising and participating in this year’s shadow Clarke jury is turning out to be a pleasure on multiple levels, not least exchanging thoughts and opinions and discoveries with my fellow Sharkes. Speaking purely for myself though, the most significant effect of this experiment has been to make me question the very validity of ‘science fiction’ as a literary genre. In a literary landscape where everything is up for grabs, and where the tropes of science fiction – time travel, genetic and social engineering, apocalypse scenarios of every variety, artificial intelligence and mass surveillance – are increasingly becoming both core subject matter and metaphorical framing device for novelists of every nation and literary inheritance, can we usefully continue to argue for science fiction as a literature apart, worthy not just of separate study but of special pleading?

There are, in broad terms, two types of fiction. For convenience, although I am not happy with either term, I shall call them mode and genre. A genre work might include crime fiction, ghost stories, love stories and so on; they are identified by the type of story they tell. A war story would not count as a war story if war itself was not central to the story, if it did not include the familiar markers of battle, soldiers or any of the expected paraphernalia and effects of war. Modes, on the other hand, might include contemporary mainstream literature, historical fiction and science fiction. These are identified less by the the story told than by setting, style, affect, and other less readily defined characteristics. There is no specific type of story that must be told if a work is to count as historical fiction, it may be a love story or a war story or a story of political intrigue, but it must be set in the past.

I thought my feelings about this book were all sewn up. I actually began drafting this review with a hundred pages still to go, so secure did I feel in my opinion of After Atlas as the Clarke equivalent of His Bloody Project in last year’s Booker line-up: my hands-down favourite as a reading experience, though perhaps insufficiently innovative or controversial to justify its winning. And then came the ending, the unveiling of the central mystery, and I found myself thinking back to the autumn of 2015, when I went to see Guillermo del Toro’s lavishly over-produced haunted house movie Crimson Peak. I wasn’t expecting much from that movie, if anything, and so I spent the first hour and a half feeling excited at how wrong I’d been in my prejudgements. The film looked amazing, as predicted. Far more surprising was the conviction of the performances and – what’s this?? – a strongly scripted storyline I actually cared about. I began mentally drafting a blog post: how wrong I’d been about this film, how Del Toro had actually managed to square the circle and make a genuinely decent horror movie whilst operating within commercial constraints.

Since the 2013 all-male Clarke shortlist, it’s been assumed that Clarke jurors have been striving for gender parity of authors when constructing their shortlists, but more recently, through the data analysis of Nicola Griffith, we’ve become aware of the even greater problem of protagonist gender disparity: Apparently, genre readers and critics prefer to award books about males, regardless of author gender. I’ve often noticed that this is particularly true of the of the investigative-type police procedural mystery narratives, a modality SF writers often like try on, and exactly true of the police procedural selections on both the Clarke and Sharke lists.

While I wouldn’t be so hyperbolic as to say there is a deafening silence about female investigative protagonists, because there are a ton, but within SF, and especially within the SF book awards machine, the general perception of this mode is that it belongs in the masculine realm. The pragmatic, dogged, stiff upper lip investigator is a common, easy mold for authors to sink into, and although women protagonists could easily slip into that role, we readers, unfortunately, get more Mulders than Scullys.

Two novels that don’t appear to have anything in common, but are written by two powerhouses of opposing camps of the British literary community: Clarke winner and regular fan favorite, Tricia Sullivan, and Baileys Prize winner and regular contributor to various media on all things sci-fi, Naomi Alderman. Within the cloisters of British science fiction, these are two famous SF writers with a persistent presence in the field, yet neither has managed to vault over the high, imposing barbed walls of American commercial success.

It’s no secret that The Wayfarers series is written by someone whose writing is heavily influenced by the two-dimensional, wrap-it-all-up-before-the-credits, don’t-scare-off-the-advertisers format of television, so it’s no surprise to me that this book reads like a novelization of a TV/movie that has already been made. (No, I’m not talking about Firefly. This series is nothing like Firefly.) Fans and reviewers have been hooked by the low-risk palling around of characters, the exotic alien foods, and the explainy, back-and-forth dialogue that attempts to teach open-mindedness. It is Doctor Who without the danger and squirm; Farscape without the oppressive political foes, Friends without the humor and occasional cringe.

Of all the six Clarke-listed novels, The Underground Railroad best does what I think a Clarke-winning novel should do. It has Handmaid’s Potential: it employs the tools of science fiction (anachronistic technology and alternate settings and timelines) to examine and illuminate the present reality, and will make more sense to people of the future than it does right now because we are too embedded in the system that it critiques. It’s the only novel on the list that I think will be remembered and still considered important in twenty years.

Some might be surprised to see that I’ve ranked A Closed and Common Orbit above Occupy Me, but at least ACACO does what it sets out to do—which is very little—while Occupy Me just feels messy and careless, a frivolous taking on of experimentation and entertainment that achieves neither.

(19) SPIRITED CINEMA. NPR seems ambivalent about this strange film: “In ‘A Ghost Story,’ A House Is A Home For All Time”

Through much of A Ghost Story, Casey Affleck or a stand-in plays a dead soul, draped in a sheet with cut-out eye holes. This low-budget approach to the supernatural might suggest that writer-director David Lowery is playing a Halloween trick on movies that take the paranormal seriously. Except that he opens the tale with a line from “A Haunted House,” a story by Virginia Woolf, not Stephen King.

(20) THE MARS MY DESTINATION. Meanwhile, the Mars project David Levine was on now has a cast of high schoolers: “To Prepare For Mars Settlement, Simulated Missions Explore Utah’s Desert”.

Victoria LaBarre was climbing out of a canyon and into a bright, vast, seemingly lifeless landscape when she started to experience an astronaut’s nightmare.

“Suddenly,” she said, “I couldn’t breathe.”

The symptoms were real — maybe from claustrophobia, or from exertion at high altitude. But LaBarre didn’t unlatch her helmet to get a breath of fresh air because, in this simulated Mars exercise in the Utah desert, she was supposed to be an astronaut. The canyon was standing in for Candor Chasma, a 5-mile-deep gash in the Red Planet’s surface. On Mars, there’s no oxygen in the air — you do not take off your helmet.

So, instead, LaBarre radioed for help from fellow members of Crew 177. The team of students and teachers from a Texas community college had applied together to live and work for a week this spring in a two-story metal cylinder at the privately run Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah.

(21) BOOS AND BOOZE. You’ll feel no fear (or much of anything else) after a few of these — Let’s Get Monster Smashed: Horror Movie Drinks for a Killer Time will be out in hardcover on August 28.

A horror movie inspired cocktail book with gross-looking but delicious party drinks, all wrapped up in an awesome ’80s VHS package. There are 55 recipes spread across 5 chapters (shots, gelatin, punches, special fx, and non-alcoholic) inspired by classic pulp horror movies of the ’80s and ’90s, complete with viewing recommendations. The movies may be weird, the drinks may look gross, but the elevated drink making techniques and unusually tasty recipes keep readers and their guests interested and coming back for more. Great for theme parties, Halloween festivals, movie fans, and retro enthusiasts.

[Thanks to Tom Galloway, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Steve Green, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, David Langford, and John A Arkansawyer for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

72 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 7/8/17 All Pixels Lead To Trantor, And There Is Where All Scrolls End

  1. I’m missing the point.

    You’re also missing the second N in “Newman” in that line.

  2. (18)

    I wanted to admire ACaCO more than I actually did. I don’t yet know where it will end up on my ballot – there’s two sequels to two books I largely hated* so odds are it will come above those – but while I did like and enjoy it, it felt a bit, I dunno. Preachy? Expositiony? Not quite as much as the first one, but it was still there. I wanted more polish, I think, and perhaps some more depth. Less talking about differences and how to deal with them and more showing. If it ends up being my favourite of the year I’ll be a bit disappointed.

    Thing I liked a lot: Zbfg crbcyr ner gelvat gb zhqqyr nybat abeznyyl naq gel gb trg nybat jvgu gurve arvtuobhef, naq gura gurer ner n pbhcyr bs ubeevslvat vardhnyvgvrf gung lbh pna vtaber hagvy gurl nccyl gb lbh. Very much like real life.

    *I have so far managed not to start a campaign because of Wrongfans having Wrongfun voting for Wrongbooks to win the Hugo. Marvel at my self-restraint. Lowest possible bar cleared with ease.

    (I have much better luck with the other fiction categories, which suits me pretty well since they’re my favourite bit of Hugo participation.)

  3. Everyone is entitled to like what they like, and dislike what they dislike, but I’m getting increasingly irritated by the parade people assuring us that A Closed and Common Orbit is just Not Worthy because it’s about decent people finding ways to work together, and finding ways to live good lives despite, for instance, being banned from even existing.

    Note that this is not directed at Meredith, whose comment I hadn’t seen, but at the annoyingly smug Sharke jurors.

  4. Mike Glyer on July 8, 2017 at 9:28 pm said:

    Kurt Busiek: Like the song goes, “I can see clearly now…”

    I can scroll clearly now the pixel’s come
    I can see all comments now in this thread
    Gone are the strange trolls that spoiled my view
    It’s going to be bright, bright, bright pixelly scroll

  5. @Lis Carey

    Note that this is not directed at Meredith, whose comment I hadn’t seen, but at the annoyingly smug Sharke jurors.

    Oh, phew – I was worried that I’d given entirely the wrong impression. For clarity…

    decent people finding ways to work together, and finding ways to live good lives

    was my favourite thing about both the books. I had hoped I’d be able to put it straight into 1st place without a second thought, since it was the book that appealed to me most of all the nominees at first glance, but it just didn’t knock my socks off the way, say, Goblin Emperor did. I think I might have had a slightly more satisfying experience if I’d read it before it was nominated – ‘do I think this should win a Hugo?’ is a rather harsher test than ‘did I like it?’

  6. (2) Cam has a longer version on his blog.

    (15) It’s The Expanse crossed with Survivor, and it’s based on a true story.

    I’d watch that for a dollar. Though getting “voted off the asteroid” could be fatal if there aren’t shuttles.

    @Lis Carey: Couldn’t agree more. All the snide hipsters say the Chambers books are unworthy because there aren’t unhappy endings and characters who hate each other. Which is a really adolescent mindset. And how a book featuring clones, an embodied AI, and an alien isn’t SF is just a fatuous claim. Grow up, Sharkes.

  7. I lost quite a bit of respect for the Shadow Clarke Jury, and not just because of the snide “A Closed and Common Orbit isn’t REALLY science fiction” stuff. Mainly because the writers seem really enamored of their own writing, to the point of making their actual point difficult to parse. Nina Allen in particular needed an editor to take an axe to her articles.

  8. 15) On my first go I got “It’s The Fault in Our Stars meets Battlestar Galactica, with zombies.” Which is a great description of the Illuminae Files by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman.

    The best one I HAVEN’T read yet is “It’s Dune plus Les Miserables, at a wedding”.

  9. (15) SYNCOPATIC EQUATION. ROFL, okay, some of these are pretty funny:

    “It’s Little Women meets Jurassic Park, and it’s a twenty-book series.” – though I was thinking I’d rather Little Women time traveling to, then trapped in, the age of dinosaurs even better.

    “It’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe crossed with Monty Python and the Holy Grail, updated to match modern sensibilities.”

    (17) THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD. Hehehe. Don’t you mean “other-worldly problems”? 😉

    (18) SHADOW CLARKE JURY MARCHES ON. SF’s not a genre now? Cool! 😛 Maybe lit fic folks will stop looking down on it.

    @Camestros Felapton: ::claps:: 😀

  10. Meredith Moments – plural!

    Robert Silverberg’s Across a Billion Years is $1.99 from Open Road Media (uses DRM). It looks like far future SF tracking down artifacts of a long-gone society, but then it turns out maybe they’re not extinct after all. This kind of hook (extinct civ, tech scattered about, etc.) interests me. Surely someone here has read this old (1969) novel – any good?

    Fata Morgana by Steven R. Boyett and Ken Mitchroney is $1.99 from Blackstone (the audiobook publisher) (uses DRM). Hmm, $1.99 at iTunes & Amazon.com, but not (yet?) Kobo; but Kobo’s confused – it has two pages for the book, one of them as a pre-order. Anyway, it’s about a B-17 flying fortress getting knocked from WW II into another world and/or through time (both explanations are mentioned in the description), with (it sounds like) a love story. It’s listed as Time Travel and Alternate History at Amazon.com; it sounds like the plane and crew are sent into the future, though. Mitchroney appears to be a film/TV/artist type of person. Anyway, no idea if it’s any good, but Boyett’s someone to keep an eye on, so I plan to check it out. If anyone’s read this already (it just came out in June) or has heard good/bad things, I’m very curious.


    I find Allan’s castigation of A Closed and Common Orbit as “containing no real science fiction” quite interesting, given that Allan’s Hugo-nominated novelette “The Art of Space Travel” (which I quite enjoyed, and ranked fairly high on my ballot) also contains no real science fiction, it is merely a character study with a thin veneer of SF. In reading Allan’s review, there is nothing she says about ACaCO which is not also true of her own story — and I’m trying to figure out how she reconciles that with herself.

  12. Oh god yeah. Arguments about whether things are “really science fiction” generally make me want to beat a head against a wall. Mine or someone else’s–I ain’t picky. 😀
    Glad to see Wonderella getting a shout-out. Been a fan for quite a while. I should warn you all though that this new strip is unusually action-packed. That is to say, the amount of action is non-zero. Which sort of goes against the full title of the strip: The Non-adventures of Wonderella. 🙂

    (Sadly, the strip recently went from once a week to…whenever the mood strikes. Which may result in higher quality, but the mood hasn’t been striking anywhere near enough to suit me. At least not so far.)

  13. {I think I accidentally deleted a reply – so if a half written version of this comment appears then something odd happened]

    I’m not a big fan of the Wayfarers series and I also find it a bit too nice* for my taste. However, the idea that isn’t science fiction is just silly. I can’t take the argument seriously. I note that Nina Allen’s review asserts that “there is no real science fiction in A Closed and Common Orbit” but then never really makes a substantive argument for that claim.

    Megan AM’s review is harsher than Nina Allen’s but at least it supports its own premise.

    I think both miss the point of why Becky Chamber’s books are *notable* and significant while, at the same time, pointing to the very thing that makes them boundary pushing. The emphasis on positive relationships and resolved personal conflicts is a feature, not a bug.

    I may not like the books that much but I’m glad Becky Chambers is pushing boundaries – in this case, it is the boundary that is the antipode to grimdark. She is doing something interesting and I think it is a bit sad that niether reviewer quite gets that.

    *[I use ‘nice’ unironically – it’s a good word that needs support. I’m also trying to revive the respectability of the word ‘get’ and also ‘thing’**]
    **[And also ‘oblong’ but that is a whole different argument]

  14. Take a look at my Spaceship
    She’s the only one I got
    Not much of a spaceship
    Never seem to get it up

    Take a spacehip ´cross the system
    Like to see Titania
    See the craters of Miranda
    I’m hoping its going to come true
    But there’s not a lot I can do

    Could we have Spice for breakfast
    Gowron dear, Gowron dear
    They got to have ’em in Star wars
    ‘Cause Lukas is a millionaire

  15. By the apotropaic haecceity of Clute, it’s another link to the SFE “Swearing” entry! Thanks for that, Mike. Thanks too for Filers’ suggestions in the previous Scroll, now incorporated.

    Robert Graves’s Lars Porsena, or The Future of Swearing is a fun little book, though dreadfully inhibited. Once upon a time in the late nineteenth century the entire print run of a UK newspaper was destroyed because a disaffected printer had inserted a rude word. Graves nervously doesn’t describe what happened but quotes a history of the press which in turn tells us only that “The offending passage originally read:” followed by a harmless paragraph in full. Neither Graves nor the historian dared even hint at which word had been changed — it was “farming” — for fear of suggesting to the reader what other f-word of the same length had been substituted. But Graves did explain why another paper was similarly pulped “at the cost of several thousand pounds”: the letter column contained an innocuous screed signed “R. Supward.” Oh dear, all the ladies have fainted….

  16. 18) A Closed and Common Orbit is quite definitely science fiction – not because of superficial things like aliens and spaceships (you know, the sort of thing you can add in to make science fiction out of a perfectly good mundane story about a young woman reconnecting with a supposedly absent father 😉 ), but because it’s posing questions about the nature of personal identity that can’t be asked outside a science-fictional context. Seriously. Any consideration of what Sidra is like as a character involves consideration of what she is like as a person, and that is not a simple issue – in a quiet sort of a way, it is central to the book.

    :: sighs :: We’ve already had people saying that ACaCO isn’t serious because it’s not grim-and-gritty enough, now it seems it’s not SF because it’s not obviously intellectually daunting. But it is perfectly possible to pose knotty intellectual problems without sounding like a lecture by Wittgenstein, and ACaCO actually seems to do this pretty well.

    (As for the alleged cosiness… this reader, at least, keeps bearing in mind that Sidra remains liable to immediate execution without trial if she ever makes a mistake or confides in the wrong person – which is maybe not so much like The Waltons as all that, unless I am misremembering things and the Waltons were an ordinary homespun American family living in Stalin’s Russia.)

  17. 18: Damon Knight. People are pointing at ACaCO and saying “science fiction”, albeit preceded by a “not”. Seems pretty straightforward to me, that it must be SF.

  18. 14: If you’re a Worldcon attending member (whether you are on the list or not), don’t let yourself become a minion of Gozer – ratify 3SV!

  19. In reading Allan’s review, there is nothing she says about ACaCO which is not also true of her own story

    I hadn’t realised that was the same person. What an excellent example of the pot calling the kettle black. Although personally I think ACaCO does rather more with its sfnal aspects than TAoST.

  20. One of those people here who hated ACaCO – and not because it’s nice, or because of the politics / festival vibe (I agree with all the lovely reasonable messages and like the aesthetic). I liked The Goblin Emperor and A Green and Ancient Light – 2 books that are equally nice.

    The issue I have with Chambers is that I felt she had no trust in me as a reader. Literally everything was spelled and and told to me with, in bold ALL CAPS, with a mallet. Really not the kind of writing I enjoy, and not the kind of construction I find award worthy. Am not upset if people disagree though as it’s stil miles better than any puppy cr*p from last few years.

    Interesting reading the reviews to see equally strong reactions to ACaCO and TLtL which are at the opposite ends of the spectrum: nice protagonists vs unsympathetic; preaching vs asking questions. I can’t say I find the two equally ambitious but it’s really fascinating to see such a difference on the same ballot. To me it shows the Hugos aren’t MoR as they are sometimes accused of being!

  21. I too was struck by the similarity between Allan’s “The Art of Space Travel” (which I found so-so) and A Closed and Common Oribit (which I enjoyed a lot despite not really being into its predecessor). The sfnal elements of “tAoST” are pretty minimal, and I didn’t even think it did much with the idea of space-as-metaphor even.

    As for the alleged cosiness… this reader, at least, keeps bearing in mind that Sidra remains liable to immediate execution without trial if she ever makes a mistake or confides in the wrong person – which is maybe not so much like The Waltons as all that, unless I am misremembering things and the Waltons were an ordinary homespun American family living in Stalin’s Russia.

    This is less true of aC&CO than of the first novel, but even though in theory there is suspense, I often didn’t feel it. Parts of A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet are bizarrely tension-free.


    Mike, there appears to be an extra “R” in that. The one right before the “N”.
    (I was offline last night, due to a transformer fire taking out power in my area. It was at the area substation.)

  23. The two details that really bugged me about ACACO: starships run on algae, somehow, and the mechanism for powering the android violates thermodynamics.

  24. @James Davis Nicoll:

    The two details that really bugged me about ACACO: starships run on algae, somehow, and the mechanism for powering the android violates thermodynamics.

    Also, I’m pretty sure the “planet tidally locked to the Sun, and moon tidally locked to the same planet” thing doesn’t work.

  25. I somehow missed that. I remember a similar situation came up in a Trek novel (double planets tide locked to each other and their star) and I wasted some time proving my math skills are now subpar.

  26. I think the orbit works out if you assume it’s a very small star, and quite a large moon, and the arrangement is basically a triangle (the “moon” is in the planet’s L4 or L5 point in its orbit around the star.)

    But, yes, Sidra’s body kit is a no-holds-barred, first-order perpetual motion machine, and there doesn’t seem to be any way around that.

  27. Honestly, my feelings about ACaCO is much like a compilation of elevator music being up for a Grammy for best album. It is a vast improvement over the first book but that just makes it decent, not award worthy.

    It’s not a bad book but Chambers has an amazing ability to suck all the excitement and vigor out of live and death struggles. And by that I do not mean her characters are too “nice” just that they are too boring. People of good will and high moral character can still have conflicts even with each other.

  28. All the snide hipsters say the Chambers books are unworthy because there aren’t unhappy endings and characters who hate each other.
    Which is not what they’re saying. At all.

  29. I read an ARC of Boyett’s Fata Morgana and found it a terrific read. I think you will like it; the writing was stellar (IMO).

  30. Well, you can have a moon locked to a planet and the same planet locked to the star, but that means the moon will orbit the planet faster than the planet rotates. (Otherwise it’ll be outside the Hill Sphere and hence not in a stable orbit.) This means it’ll transfer angular momentum to the planet and will eventually crash into it. The smaller the star, the faster this will happen, all other things being equal.

    The idea of the moon ending up at the L4/5 point is cute, but it doesn’t really work. To have stable L4/5 positions, the larger body needs to be at least 25 times the mass of the middle one. That’s easy to achieve with stars and planets as well as with planets and moons. However, the mass of the small body needs to be “insignificant” compared to the other two. That means the moon needs to be a tiny asteroid, like Phobos or Deimos.

    Now remember that the three bodies form an equilateral triangle. That means the distance from the planet to the moon is the same as the distance to its sun. In that case, the planet as seen from the moon is just going to be a bright point of light–it won’t show a disk–while the tiny little moon won’t be visible from the planet at all.

  31. Every time I’ve taken the leap and followed a link to a Shadow Clarke review I’ve ended up questioning the need for critics.

  32. Every time I see a review by Nina Allan I’m reminded of how The Race infuriated me.

    I’ve mentioned before that A Closed and Common Orbit danced across the minefield of my psyche, so I’m still surprised by the descriptions of lightweight and feel-good. I particularly connected with Sidra’s struggles with getting accustomed to her physical body and its senations.

    Yeah, it pretty much gets wrapped up with a neat bow by the end, but holy crap I needed that.

  33. P.S. random anime review: if Battle Royale with magical girls sounds like something you may enjoy, you may enjoy Magical Girl Raising Project. It’s less campy than BR, and so rather grim, but I was impressed at the way most of our 16.5 magical girls got fleshed out with vignettes and flashbacks.

  34. @Peer Sylvester: “Take a look at my Spaceship…” – Yay, well done! 🙂

    @Cat Rambo: Thanks, good to hear it re. Fata Morgana (or “Data Morgana” as autocorrect would have it).

    @JJ: Like @Meredith, I hadn’t realized Allan wrote that story (though I recognized her name as a novella writer for Tor.com). Allan’s story almost literally contains nothing SFal, and none of it plot-relevant. In contrast, Chambers’s novel contains all sorts of SFal elements, some of which (e.g., AI in an illegal body) seem – from my vantage point, only partway into the book – to be plot-critical. I haven’t read her full post, but I presume she just didn’t care for the book all that much and was looking for whatever she felt she could pick on, however foolish.

    I’ll play “SF or not?” with anyone, but this is just silly. My bar may be low, but hers seems to go into non-Euclidean space. IMHO spaceships? strong AI? aliens? ships going through wormholes? non-existing tech? Yyyyyyeah, that’s freaking SF, okay. Contrast with her story, which only claims internally to be SF, without IIRC actual SF on-screen. My notes said I liked the story a lot, but it was barely SF at all (which, yes, hurt my ranking for it).

    Ooh why am I grumpy and ranty today. Sorry!

  35. To my mind A Closed and Common Orbit has its virtues as a piece of science fiction storytelling, but it’s one of the lesser works on the Hugo ballot.

    I ‘ve enjoyed many of the Shadow Clarke pieces I’ve read and probably wouldn’t have seen them if it werent for File 770, for which I thank our host.

    I also liked Allan’s story “The Art of Space Travel”, in fact it’s currently ranked as my #1 novelette choice. I think I’ll reread this week to be sure.

  36. I should probably say something like “not all Shadow Clarke” as it’s quite a large jury (9?) and the opinions being debated are only from some of the shadow jury.

  37. I’m going to toss out a plea for some consideration regarding writers who also review books. Books are complex and the possible reactions to them even more so. A person may validly find things to critique in a work that is–to an observer–strikingly similar in some ways to their own work, without it being an occasion that deserves snide snarking. It may even be that an author will have stronger opinions in detail regarding books with similar themes and settings to their own–it is, after all, one of the experiences that can drive a person to say, “None of these books are taking what I consider to be the most satisfactory approach to this topic; I’ll have to write one myself.”

    In the other literary community I intersect with (lesbian fiction) there’s a constant miasma of fear among authors that, “If I ever say something even slightly negative about another author’s work, their fans and supporters will descend upon my books to trash and one-star them.” Or even, “If someone who likes my books sayd something negative about another author’s work, people will think I told them to and trash my books.” It doesn’t make for candid and honest reviewing.

    If you disagree with a book review from someone who is also an author, by all means discuss the review. But could we avoid the ad librum angle?

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