Pixel Scroll 7/9/17 Silver Threads And Golden Pixels Cannot Mend This Scroll of Mine

(1) WHAT I READ. Mary Robinette Kowal sent several tweets prodding reviewers to do better assessments:

When seeking reviews to link here, I’ve been surprised at how very many people start off with brilliantly written story summaries — then the review promptly ends, with very little having been said about what the writer accomplished or what the story adds to the genre.

(2) TOO MANY WORDS. But those reviews we’re complaining about above look like gems beside the work of The Literate Programmer at A Literate Programmer’s Blog who posted his “Hugo Awards – Best Novella” rankings with a confession –

…With the voting deadline for the Hugos coming up on the 15th, I decided that I wouldn’t have the time to read all the books in their entirety, and would instead just read far enough to get a feel for the style….

So I began once again working my way up to the novels, this time reading the novellas….

This Census-Taker by China Miéville was the first of the novellas I dug into. …However, the story definitely has a strange and slow start, so it was easy to move on….

A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson sets up a nice inversion right from the beginning…. I didn’t finish it yet, but I expect it to take a rather darker turn eventually, tough not entirely too dark….

Then I picked up Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire and didn’t put it back down until I was done. …

Victor LaValle wrote the other novella I finished in its entirety, The Ballad of Black Tom

The Dream-Quest of Vellit Boe is another take on Lovecraft… Definitely something I will finish, as I want to know what happens to Vellit….

Last but not least comes Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold. I like what I’ve read so far and it’s entertaining …

Someone else might have spent the time it took to write this post on, oh, I don’t know, reading the rest of these novellas before voting?

(3) BOOK JENGA. Walter Jon Williams describes the “Tower of Dreams”.

So the other night I dreamed I was in the Tower of Definitive Editions, a giant structure literally built from the definitive editions of every book ever written.  There was some kind of mechanism that would pluck the book that you wanted from the structure without either damaging the book or destabilizing the tower.  (Maybe it stuffed the hole with John Grisham novels or something.)

(4) DON’T LET THE DOOR BANG YOUR BUTT. Tony B. Kim at Crazy4ComiCon does not sympathize with what he calls “Mile High Comics breakup letter to San Diego Comic-Con” by owner Chuck Rozanski. Kim devotes several paragraphs mocking him as a “dinosaur” in “Comic-Con has changed and it sucks…”.

I cringe whenever I hear someone say that ‘the show has changed’ in a negative context. The show hasn’t just changed, the world has changed and certainly no one has felt it more than the publishing industry. We all know change is hard but writing letters and blaming everyone else for your business woes sounds like an entitled kid that wants to take his ball and go home. Chuck had 4 1/2 decades of pursuing what he loved and built one of the most noteable shops in history- hashtag #FirstNerdWorldProblems. I want good men and companies like Chuck and Mile High to win and get the respect they deserve. No doubt he has paid his dues and has committed his life to providing comics to a legion of adoring fans. My hope is that he and his business continues to grow each year without relying on Comic-Con business. However, after his letter, I won’t shed a tear for him and I hope Comic-Con International doesn’t either. Chuck, just go to the island, Chris Pratt will be along shortly to welcome you.

(5) JUST A LITTLE SMACK. Will this work? “Nasa to send asteroid away from Earth by firing a bullet at it in attempt to save the Earth from future strikes”.

The agency has laid out the plans for its DART mission – where it will send a space capsule the size of a fridge towards an asteroid to shoot it off course. For now, the mission is just a test, but in the future it could be used to save Earth from what scientists say is an underappreciated threat from asteroids.

The mission has now been approved by Nasa and will move into the preliminary design phase, getting ready for testing in a few years.

“DART would be NASA’s first mission to demonstrate what’s known as the kinetic impactor technique – striking the asteroid to shift its orbit – to defend against a potential future asteroid impact,” said Lindley Johnson, planetary defense officer at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This approval step advances the project toward an historic test with a non-threatening small asteroid.”

DART’s target is an asteroid that will pass by Earth in 2022, and come back two years later. More specifically, it’s actually two asteroids: a binary system called Didymos B made up of a larger and a smaller rock.

It’s the smaller one that Nasa will try and knock off course. But by using a binary system, scientists will be able to check with more accuracy how well their test has worked.

(6) KEEPING THE STEAM IN SELF-ESTEEM. Jon Del Arroz says 80% of the people responding to his survey recommended he not join SFWA. So our genre’s leading concern troll has worked up a list of what needs to be fixed. With SFWA, that is.

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

The Twilight Zone episode, “A Penny for your Thoughts,” written by George Clayton Johnson was shopped around as a series where each episode would have a different cast experiencing the ability to read minds.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 9, 1982 TRON premiered on this day.

(9) CLASSIC ROCHE. Next year’s Worldcon chair Kevin Roche makes a fashion statement in this (public) photo on Facebook.

(10) SOLO ACT. ScreenRant evaluates Ron Howard’s latest news-free tweet.

While Howard’s tweet is amusing, it’s realistic to think that at some point Star Wars fans will grow tired of non-news “news” from the Han Solo set. Since Howard is relatively new to the project, perhaps he doesn’t feel comfortable sharing anything from a film that he hasn’t really taken ownership of yet, his presumably strict NDA aside. Hopefully, that time will come once he not only completes principal photography but the five weeks of reshoots which were previously budgeted into production. Only then will Howard be able to help shape the tone and vision that Han Solo co-writer Lawrence Kasdan originally intended.

(11) DRAGON QUEEN. TIME Magazine’s Daniel D’Addario, in “Emilia Clarke on Why Dragons Are Daenerys’ True Love on Game of Thrones”, has a lengthy interview with Emilia Clarke where she says “I’m five-foot nothing, I’m a little girl” and adds that she thought she would be sacked from Game of Thrones because it was her first job out of drama school and she felt insecure.

(12) FIGHTING WORDS. Jonathan Cook, in “Wonder Woman is a hero only the military-industrial complex could create” on Mondoweiss, says the heroine is “carefully purposed propaganda designed to force-feed aggressive Western military intervention, dressed up as humanitarianism, to unsuspecting audiences.”

My reticence to review the film has lifted after reading the latest investigations of Tom Secker and Matthew Alford into the manifold ways the U.S. military and security services interfere in Hollywood, based on a release of 4,000 pages of documents under Freedom of Information requests.

In their new book “National Security Cinema,” the pair argue that the Pentagon, CIA and National Security Agency have meddled in the production of at least 800 major Hollywood movies and 1,000 TV titles. That is likely to be only the tip of the iceberg, as they concede:

“It is impossible to know exactly how widespread this military censorship of entertainment is because many files are still being withheld.”

(13) BIG PACIFIER THEORY. Baby’s first quantum-mechanics book: “Something New For Baby To Chew On: Rocket Science And Quantum Physics”.

The books introduce subjects like rocket science, quantum physics and general relativity — with bright colors, simple shapes and thick board pages perfect for teething toddlers. The books make up the Baby University series — and each one begins with the same sentence and picture — This is a ball — and then expands on the titular concept.

In the case of general relativity: This ball has mass.

But some of the topics Ferrie covers are tough for even grown-ups to comprehend. (I mean, quantum physics? Come on.)

(14) SLOW DEATH. A Ghost Story may be too slow for some: “Grief Hangs Around At Home In ‘A Ghost Story'”.

I should mention that the film is virtually without plot, so it requires some patience. Major stars and that title notwithstanding, A Ghost Story is not a Saturday-night date movie. More a provocative art film in the European sense. Though barely 87 minutes, it unfolds in long, static shots, most of them without faces to hang onto. It’s almost a film without genre, and by the end it’s become a story untethered from time itself.

(15) A SERIOUS HARRY HABIT. The 100,000 UKP Potter habit: “Harry Potter fan from Cardiff spends £100K on memorabilia”.

Her collection features posters, scarves in the house colours, broomsticks and the official Harry Potter magazines – with the memorabilia costing more than £40,000.

The rest has been spent travelling to Orlando in Florida to the film studios and more recently to Harry Potter World in both London and America.

(16) AVAST ME HEARTIES. Davidoff of Geneva is sold out of the pen and letter opener set shown here, but they have plenty of other golden loot they would love to sell you.

(17) ANOTHER AMAZON PRODUCT. Brazil gets into horror: “The Blair Witches of Brazil”.

Their titles practically shriek at you: Night of the Chupacabras, When I Was Alive, The Necropolis Symphony. Right away you can guess that these are films you might need to watch through your fingers, tales of horror to quicken the heart. But you might not know where they’re from. Step aside Carmen Miranda and The Girl from Ipanema, these frightfests are from Brazil.

(18) NOT GOING APE OVER THIS ONE. The BBC is disappointed by War for the Planet of the Apes.

The first point to make about War for the Planet of the Apes is that it isn’t actually about a war. There are a couple of Skirmishes for the Planet of the Apes and one brief Battle for the Planet of the Apes, but the all-out humans-v-hairies conflict that the title promises is nowhere to be seen. And that’s one reason why the film, for all of its technical wizardry and daring solemnity, is a let-down.

(19) GOOD NIGHT. Next year’s CONvergence GoH Elizabeth Bear signs off from this year’s con:

(20) LAST WORD. John Hertz is never impressed when I use idioms as I please.

(21) DARTH HOMER. Here’s a selection of YouTube videos in which Darth Vader is voiced variously by Clint Eastwood, Nicholas Cage and Arnold Schwarzenegger. John King Tarpinian declares the Homer Simpson version to be the funniest.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

142 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 7/9/17 Silver Threads And Golden Pixels Cannot Mend This Scroll of Mine

  1. Mike Glyer: When seeking reviews to link here, I’ve been surprised at how very many people start off with brilliantly written story summaries — then the review promptly ends, with very little having been said about what the writer accomplished or what the story adds to the genre.

    That is the biggest challenge of putting together the Hugo Review Roundups, and why it’s so time-and-effort-consuming: the vast majority of “reviews” posted online are just synopses, followed by some form of “I loved/liked/hated it”.

    My impression is that a lot of the so-called blogger reviewers do it for one of two reasons: 1) to get publishers and authors to send them free books in exchange for the positive promotion, and 2) to establish an online presence and Google search bait for their websites to help sell their own books.

    Once I figure out that someone doesn’t actually write reviews in their “reviews”, I won’t bother clicking on links to their site any more.

  2. So, I’m converting This Census-Taker from the .pdf to an .epub. (Not done yet; probably have a few more hours to go… so probably not done, realistically, until Tuesday night when I have time.)

    It occurs to me that I’m probably not the only person with an ereader who is annoyed by .pdfs, especially ones with huge watermarks across each page. So would there be a problem in emailing out the finished epub to interested Filers who are Worldcon members (and therefore got the packet) ? I don’t actually know the legalities of it….

  3. (1) I worry that I’m guilty as charged. I try to give reasons for my feelings and only summarize the plot enough that the reasons make sense. I don’t know if I succeed or if I am one of those people being called out.

    @JJ – I’ve gotten a couple of review copies of books, and it always surprises me because I don’t think of my blog as a review blog – just a collection of stuff I like. And I don’t have any books to sell, so I’m not sure that is my reason. I think I only review because I like to blather on about things and share stuff I like.

  4. @Mike & JJ,
    Summaries/synopses are not reviews. Actual reviews are harder to write, good reviews are even harder.

    (20) LAST WORD.
    The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. – William H. Whyte?

  5. (1) YES. Gah. So many Amazon reviews are either “I liked it” or “I hated it”, or just retype the summary which we can all see right there in the link and then say they liked it. It’s annoying enough there — from “real” reviewers, let’s see some analysis.

    (2) C’mon, Mike, if he did that he wouldn’t have any content for his blog and wouldn’t get any attention!

    (3) I want to go to there, WJW.

    (4) Did the officious kid miss the part where SDCC didn’t bother to deliver the dealer’s stock for the whole first day, and then didn’t bother with an explanation, a query, an apology, or even a non-pology?

    (6) SFWA is much relieved, I’m sure. Or maybe not, since I doubt li’l Jonny the leading concern troll voice in SF qualifies anyway. And shouldn’t Puppies avoid it, since it’s sort of vaguely like a labor union, which is the same thing as Marxist in their eyes?

    (8) Husband took the day off work to “check out a demo of computer graphics” wink wink.

    (9) Pff. That’s not even in the top 10 of the weirdest things I’ve seen Kevin wear.

    (12) Bwuh? The one where a woman says “war is bad” the whole time? Where even the Western good guys die? I mean, you could claim that about a lot of action flicks (coughMichaelBaycough), but Wondy?

    (13) Cute, but I agree — quantum mechanics? Newtonian physics, though, is perfect for babies. Ought to have some other sciences too.

    (17) Interesting. I wouldn’t have thought they were so horror movie deprived; I thought all countries had low-budget horror cinema traditions.

    (19) Aw. Goodnight, Bear.

    Oooh, fifth and I even read the articles!

  6. @Cassy B: I think it would be okay, but I dunno Worldcon’s or the publisher’s view on the matter. I haaaaate watermarked PDFs. Publishers: either trust us or don’t! At least this year didn’t have any PDFs that required a password.

  7. (2) Well, I like to think I’ve developed a little skill in reviewing, and these sorts of “reviews” are worse than useless. If you can’t articulate why you like something, and can point out its pros as well as its cons, you’re just wasting everyone’s time.

    (That said, I know I’m starting to skimp a bit in my Hugo roundups [latest here]. But we’re getting down to the wire, and I think I’m going to need every minute of the time remaining.)

    (6) Oh, for frak’s sake. What an egomaniacal twit. Talk about wasting everyone’s time…

    (12) Good heavens. I don’t know what movie this guy saw, but it’s not the one that exists in the real world.

  8. @lurkertype: Agreed. I hate watermarked PDFs. I understand the desire to protect graphic novels, but prose with watermarks is just difficult for me to read. I’ll look for another source and pray I find one. Luckily, I did so with the ones that annoyed me most this year. I love good library systems.

  9. (2) One of the reasons why I lag behind in actually posting reviews of Hugo finalists is that I’m spending my time trying to read them before I vote, so I don’t have as much time to write. I’ll probably write some reviews of books I read before the voting deadline and post them after the voting deadline.

  10. Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag: I’ve gotten a couple of review copies of books, and it always surprises me because I don’t think of my blog as a review blog – just a collection of stuff I like. And I don’t have any books to sell, so I’m not sure that is my reason. I think I only review because I like to blather on about things and share stuff I like.

    And that’s fine; I’m not criticizing people who post about books simply out of a desire to share their squee (and I’m glad that you, and they, do).

    But in the course of putting together the Hugo review roundups — and I’ll point out that I included a number of yours precisely because they had substance and were not just a synopsis — I saw an awful lot of “review” sites where it seemed apparent that they were just doing it to build blog content and not out of a compulsion to share the squee.

  11. @JJ: Thank you. That’s a relief to hear. I always feel like a pretender since I’m focused on short capsule reviews rather than in-depth intelligent analysis of works. I comfort myself by saying I’ve never forced anyone (except my husband) to read anything on my blog.

  12. And I latched onto Kowal’s comments because in the past couple of days I had come across multiple examples of people who started their reviews with several paragraphs of really well-written book descriptions, and I was sure that if I kept reading I’d find some equally entertaining analysis and opinions — instead there were just a couple lines saying that the person liked the book. Those people raised my expectations by the quality of their effort in the summary.

  13. @JJ – guilty as charged re (2), still working on the “getting free stuff” part in (1). But then, possibly cynically, I think a lot of writers that analyze, discuss, review, deconstruct and ponder other works might possibly have a little SEO self-interest mixed in with their altruistic scholarship.

    My opinions are perpetually evolving (and so is my reviewing skill), but if I’m going to write content about something, I’d rather use it on my site than give it to Amazon or Goodreads or whatever. Speaking of which, I posted my Hugo ballot (except the novels, still furiously reading).

  14. (2) Myself, I just put stuff up on Goodreads, mostly to organize my own thoughts. I generally prefer not to do a plot summary at all — just a kind of broad overview and some reactions.

    Having said which, even for books I really liked, I don’t always have a whole lot to say when all is said & done.

  15. Charon D.: guilty as charged re (2), still working on the “getting free stuff” part in (1). But then, possibly cynically, I think a lot of writers that analyze, discuss, review, deconstruct and ponder other works might possibly have a little SEO self-interest mixed in with their altruistic scholarship. My opinions are perpetually evolving (and so is my reviewing skill), but if I’m going to write content about something, I’d rather use it on my site than give it to Amazon or Goodreads or whatever.

    Given that you’re an author, that’s understandable. Honestly, I don’t mind that people post synopses with an “I loved/liked/hated it” summary. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t be forced to read them. It’s just incredibly frustrating to have to read 900 reviews in order to find 300 that I can use in the roundup.

    I know that I’ve gotten much better at being able to provide critique in my mini-reviews compared to 2 years ago — but I still feel frustrated when I write one and then read one by someone else for the same work and they run circles of articulacy around me, saying what I would have wanted to say. Paul diFilippos’s reviews of James Gunn’s Transcendental and Transgalactic are perfect examples of this, but there are Filers who do this frequently too, such as Aaron with his Princess Diarist and Geek Revolution reviews.

    I’m really blown away by the thoughtfulness and insight I see in some of the reviews written by Filers or elsewhere. Although I got some practice in critiquing in High School English, I tested out of the required 2 semesters of English at university, and I didn’t take any literature courses apart from Greek & Roman; most of my classes were in science and engineering. So maybe that’s why my analysis and critiquing abilities aren’t well-developed.

    I guess that’s why the idea of having my own review blog holds no interest for me: I don’t feel that my reviewing skills are what I’d like them to be, I don’t have books of my own to sell, and I can get almost any new SFF release through my library, so my book budget is not a concern.

  16. @Cassy B: With the help of Acrobat Pro (I think) X, I was able to remove watermarks from several PDFs, including “This Census-Taker.” It failed on another one, though.

    Anyway, I have no special knowledge here, but I presume distributing your own converted and de-watermarked copy of the novella would be frowned upon. I figure, the publisher wouldn’t have put only a watermarked PDF in the packet if they’d wanted a non-watermarked EPUB in the packet.

  17. lurkertype on July 9, 2017 at 8:12 pm said:

    (9) Pff. That’s not even in the top 10 of the weirdest things I’ve seen Kevin wear.

    Took the words right out of my mouth! 😉
    —-
    #12: Having just finished Norman Spinrad’s latest, I’m feeling more-than-usually sympathetic towards this viewpoint. On the other hand, it’s definitely not the whole picture. Wonder Woman is a lot of things. Some good, some bad, some indifferent. Ignoring the parts you don’t like doesn’t change that.

    Speaking of Spinrad, I was going to post a little mini-review of The People’s Police (which is eligible for next year), but now y’all done got me feeling all self-conscious about my amateur reviewing skills. I’ll probably try later, but for now, I want to collect my thoughts.

  18. Xtifr: I was going to post a little mini-review of The People’s Police (which is eligible for next year), but now y’all done got me feeling all self-conscious about my amateur reviewing skills. I’ll probably try later, but for now, I want to collect my thoughts.

    Please don’t feel that way; I tend to be much harsher about my own work than about others’, and I really appreciate all the Filers who comment here about what they’ve read. I’ve never read any Spinrad, and would be interested not only in your opinion of The People’s Police, but in your recommendation of the best intro work by him for someone like me.

  19. I know that I’ve gotten much better at being able to provide critique in my mini-reviews compared to 2 years ago — but I still feel frustrated when I write one and then read one by someone else for the same work and they run circles of articulacy around me, saying what I would have wanted to say. [snip]

    I’m really blown away by the thoughtfulness and insight I see in some of the reviews written by Filers or elsewhere.

    @JJ: And here you sum up exactly how I feel about so many of the reviews and comments I see here. So, feel a bit better – you can do it too!

    @Xtifr: The trick is to keep writing even when you feel self-conscious. I admit that I tend to think my work isn’t all that great, even when I’m told I did good (my newspaper reporting was like that all the time – I was never satisfied with my own stuff). But you keep writing because there is no choice. I am a writer, I was born to be a writer and I will write until I can’t any more, even if nobody likes it or nobody reads it. It’s what I am, so I do it. Never, ever let anyone stop you from writing. Just keep at it. Someday you may produce a masterpiece. But that can’t happen if you stop because of self-consciousness. (And I’m aware that this entire paragraph was written as much for me as for Xtifr or anyone else.)

  20. I’m okay with the watermarks across comic book pages, because that really is the only way they can provide them to us. Having only read one of this year’s finalists, I really appreciated getting to see the others. Monstress* is SO AWESOME it still takes my #1, but I also really liked Ms. Marvel and probably would have voted it highest in any other year.

    But the watermark doesn’t seem to be as jarring there as it is on prose. My eyes go across the line looking at the letters and then *record scratch noise* there’s letters going diagonal, and then back to the line, onto the next line *noise*, repeat the whole time. It derails my reading flow on every line which isn’t good for the story. Particularly annoying during “This Census Taker”, where the story’s complicated to follow anyway.

    I don’t write very good reviews because my university didn’t even have English classes. Technical writing is a very different beast.

    *(I didn’t think it was as scary as Aaron said, and I really don’t like horror. Also, I love the nekomancers.)

  21. (4) Tony B. Kim is kind of an asshole, isn’t he? Also, “San Diego Comic-Con has become the pop culture capital of the world”. It is more or less unknown outside of US. I had never heard of it until reading here and I continue to mix it up with other Comic Cons.

    (10) What is the problem with folks!? Bloody nerd entitlement. Hope Howard will only tweet pictures of kittens and bunnies until the movie is finished.

  22. Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag: you can do it too!… The trick is to keep writing even when you feel self-conscious.

    I think that the reason I feel fairly comfortable posting mini-reviews here is that there aren’t the same expectations of me — from myself or others — as there would be if I had a review blog. The reviews I post here are a way for me to stop and really think about each book I read, and to squee about the things I loved — and if there are some Filers who feel that this provides them with value, that’s just a bonus. 🙂

  23. I applaud the mini-reviewers, the full-reviewers, et al. I’m horrible at explaining why I do/don’t like something (though occasionally in a squee e-mail to an author, I’m mildly coherent and can point to specific things I especially liked).

  24. I like the mini-reviews, they are exactly what I need. A short synopsis, some thoughts of the writing and the feeling it gives. And no space to give away too much information or take away surprised (and by surprises, I also mean how it was written or information about the characters, not only about the plot).

    I try to avoid longer reviews, they spoil things for me. Perhaps reading them afterwards, but then for more analysis.

  25. Horses for courses in terms of review style. A none-spoilerish account of the story can be handy for a purchasing decision – a longer discussion is good if you’ve read a book (seen a film etc.) and you want to see how everybody else reacted.

    It has been hard but pleasant and rewarding working with the Hugo Packet this year. Best Series has escaped me. Best Related Work also lies unread. Individually the novellas have not caused any sock movement but collectively they amounted to a really long, weird and eclectic book that was quite outstanding in places.

  26. There’s a reason I call my “write about every book I read” ‘bookmeme’ rather than ‘review’. I don’t mind (and in fact relish) if someone else finds it useful, but it is really much more of a record-keeping-in-public, as it were, than it is a series of reviews.

    And saying “every book I read” is also a lie. It is actually “every published book I read”, since there is a difference.

  27. (1) I think an issue here is that a lot of people (including the writers of them) think of different things with the idea of a review, and that’s today they can be found in lots more places and by lots more people. The synopsis-and-quick-judgment review has always had its place, but usually they’ve been relatively short and presented in a batches of several at the same time. But like Soon Lee says, reviews that touches on other aspects are much harder to write. But I don’t think we have fewer of the more thorough/interrogative reviews today, just way more of the book report style reviews.

    (4) I can’t even… (and I’m not talking about Mile High Comics).

    (12) Reading that “review” of Wonder Woman made me break out in hives, and that’s coming from a Swedish socialist with anti-imperialist sympathies. Give me a nice simple book (or movie) report instead of a “review” where one quarter is complaining about Pentagon influence on Hollywood in general (true, but overstated and without any evidence as regards to Wonder Woman the movie); then points out that Gal Gadot seems to be a strong supporter for a continued Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, Golan, and possibly southern Lebanon (gives evidence, but never engages with this).

    Then follows a rather superficial set of real-world parallels and assertions, where I frequently wanted to insert [citation needed], noted that Cook used weasel words, lacked historical context, or used questions as a way of implications.

    (Examples: “the film’s aggressive identity politics”; no support provided for assertion; “ragtag support group”; the utter historical cluelessness of the phrase “First World War, a cataclysmic confrontation between two colonial powers, Britain and Germany, each trying to assert its dominance in Europe”; or the implication-via-question that Ludendorff is Bashar Assad.)

    Myself, I really liked Wonder Woman, but I’m also aware that the movie has flaws in issues of representation, depiction of history, and at times spectacle; flaws that become much more apparent due to the other qualities the films has and because it does a much better job at representation and history than other spectacle films. I’d love to read a review that focuses on that, or one that sets out to discuss how Wonder Woman positions itself within the various contradictions between the superhero genre and the values that Wonder Woman says it promotes.

    But Cook’s review is simply bad criticism.

  28. I suppose my efforts at reviewing mostly happen because I want to organize my thoughts about what I’ve read, and putting together a review seems the best way to go about that. And they’re posted online because, well, I have a bloated ego and like to imagine people will be interested in what I have to say.

    (Having said which, if anyone feels an urge to send me free stuff or offer me a book deal, y’know, I’m not saying no….)

  29. Lurkertype:

    (12) Bwuh? The one where a woman says “war is bad” the whole time?

    Yes, the one where a woman says “war is bad” – and then commits to military intervention in order to help the good guys kill the bad guys. The one where this woman have no reservations against participating in war, and shows no remorse for killing enemy soldiers. And also the one where politicians seeking armistice are feeble-minded, foolish idiots.

    Considering the similarity between Diana’s reasons for leaving Themyscira, and arguments for why the West should intervene in Syria, I think it’s fairly accurate to call the movie “propaganda [for] aggressive western military intervention, dressed up as humanitarianism.”

    (On a related note, one of the things I disliked most in the movie was the way it takes the moral clarity of WWII and pretends it was present in WWI.)

  30. 19) Convergence was a good time this year. Next year is the 20th anniversary. You (yes YOU) should come!

    1)
    I think Reviews are very much on a spectrum from “I Liked it, here’s what happened ” all the way to deep criticism and thought about themes, characters, authorial methods, et cetera. There’s a place, I think, for all kinds of reviews, and depending on the book and why I might want to read it, I’d want various forms of review.

  31. 1) I can’t believe I’m actually saying this, but I agree with Mary. Less summary, more opinions and critical analysis.

    6) Wait. There’s an actual reason to join the SFWA?

    14) I knew A Ghost Story would be polarising before I even finished it. I watch a lot of indie/foreign cinema, so I’m used to this style, but I can understand why others wouldn’t like it.

  32. (12) Hmm… seems I didn’t use the term weasel words as the term is usually understood in my criticism of Cook’s review of Wonder Woman. Granted, the review did use lots of weasel words, but the example I used and what I reacted to was rather the liberal use of words with slightly negative connotations, like “ragtag support group” or “generic Arab”.

  33. Yeah converting and distributing a pdf as something else is a problem. The Author has the right to decide what format the work is distributed in. Not just anyone with a copy.

  34. Jeremy Szal: Wait. There’s an actual reason to join the SFWA?

    Surely you’re busy helping to establish ASCIFF?

  35. Agree, sharing converted versions of the files isn’t on.
    It’s always a shame though. I don’t honestly believe that any of the faffed about works aren’t on torrent sites already, sharing them with a few thousand fans isn’t going to open a floodgate.

  36. 4: A near-perfect encapsulation of youth vs experience.

    Young-un accuses old-one of not doing precisely what old-one does: you’re not keeping up with the times, old man; your business needs to adapt.

    Old one – was going to ignore the increased cost and lower customer through-put despite common business sense, but other things piled on. Am making a straight business decision (don’t know of a comic shop anywhere that can’t do wonders with an extra 18K (only booth cost btw), while acknowledging that things have changed in a direction that doesn’t support my business, while still saying nice things about the relationship and the history.

    Cliff Note: Kids wants shop owner to bend over, shop owner refuses. Kid goes to internet for comfort and approval.

  37. 6: my notes while reading the screed:

    tout importance
    lament demise of the genre
    substitute personal reality for real world
    captain’s gotta teach stuff
    I have experience!
    seriously, my experience makes me important
    no, you don’t need to verify any of that cause I’m telling you
    really, I have the chops to be telling you this
    I’m going to pretend my readers are as ignorant as I am
    here is a list of alt-rt concerns I found somewhere on the internet
    You all do the rest of the work and I’ll grade you

  38. Reviews: I think what we need to look at is that, like everything else, the internet has changed the nature of the “review”.

    In the past (pre-internet) we had: release listings with blurb(s), capsule reviews, Letter col score cards and in-depth analysis via fanzines and magazine review sections. The latter, at least in the magazines, were somewhat impacted by length restrictions (sometimes all you got in a month was one full-length critique).

    The nature of the reviews (all types) was almost always based on the assumption that the works referenced in critique were familiar to the readers.

    These days, I think one of the dynamics in operation is a shift in what the reader (of reviews) is expected to be familiar with: not other works in the field so much as the reviewers taste.

    It used to be (at least for film), that one could find a newspaper critic or two who largely aligned with one’s own tastes; the same thing seems to be going on with book reviews on the net.

  39. Well, the consensus seems to be that giving epubs of a pdf after proof that the recipient got the same pdf is Not Done under the terms of release. (I was gonna require recipients to email me the pdf and I would reply with the epub.) So I won’t. Pity; it was several hours work and I would have liked it if others got the benefit as well.

  40. (6) just confuses me. If you are trying to decide if it’s worth it to join a professional association for writers, why would you poll random readers on the Internet? Why wouldn’t you ask other writers what they thought of the association’s utility for their career? Wouldn’t they have better insight on cost vs benefit?

    (Full disclosure: I plan to join SFWA the minute I become eligible, but I crave validation as a writer. I am fully aware of this.)

  41. If you are trying to decide if it’s worth it to join a professional association for writers, why would you poll random readers on the Internet?

    You’re assuming that JdA was acting in good faith. Given his track record, I don’t see how that is a warranted assumption.

  42. (1) If you want to talk about a book, and discuss what’s good and bad about it, a plot summary is a poor way to start the conversation. I understand that for Kowal as a writer, and in general for people with a higher-than-average interest in what works and what doesn’t work in a book, you’d want a “real” review.

    But for me as a reader, looking for a book I can expect to like, I find short plot summary to be useful. It functions the same way as jacket copy, or as an extended genre descriptor: Instead of saying “Genre: MilSF”, it says “Mark Toughguy, a space marine for the Radch Free Mercenaries, are sent to the Sanzed system to retrieve the plans for the Death Star. […]”

  43. Quote JdA

    I’ve quickly risen in the SF/F field through my debut novel and second release, to where all of the top players know my name at the very least.

    Yes, plenty of people know your name now. But if they only know you as “that guy”, that’s not actually something to be proud of.

  44. Nancy Sauer: If you are trying to decide if it’s worth it to join a professional association for writers, why would you poll random readers on the Internet?

    Given how desperately JdA clearly craves validation, I suspect that he will be submitting his paperwork to join SFWA the moment he is eligible.

    In his Amazon bio, he’s claiming to be the author of a “top 10 bestselling Space-Opera book” for something that’s sitting at 2,050 in that category, 180,000 in Kindle overall, and 750,000 in paperbacks. That is desperate for validation.

    I got a good laugh of how he bragged about his supposed 4,000-strong audience base but omitted to include the fact that only 48 of them (1.2%) actually bothered to respond to his survey.

    I’ll say this for him: he makes a great case study in how not to promote yourself as a self-published author.

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