Pixel Scroll 8/3/20 Undeserved Loss And Inaccessible Healing

(1) MAKE ROOM, MAKE ROOM! The 2020 Hugo voting report, which begins with a short list of works that got enough votes to be finalists but were disqualified or withdrawn by the author, showed that Ann Leckie declined her nomination for The Raven Tower. In a blog entry today she explained why: “The Hugos and The Raven Tower”.

…I’ve had a taste of that cookie quite a few times now. It is, let me tell you, one delicious cookie. And when the email came telling me that The Raven Tower was a finalist for the Hugo Award, I thought of the books in that longlist, how often I’d had a bite of this cookie, and how many of the amazing books from 2019 were debuts, and/or were books that, when I’d read them, my first thought was, Oh, this should be on the Hugo ballot. More books than there were spots, for sure. And I realized that I could do something about that, at least in a small way.

And so I withdrew The Raven Tower from consideration.

Let me be perfectly clear–I was overwhelmed at the thought that so many readers felt The Raven Tower deserved to be a Hugo finalist. I have been treasuring that for months. And as I’m sure we all know, these have been months during which such treasures have become extremely important.

I also want to be clear that this is not any sort of permanent decision on my part. I make no promises about withdrawing anything in the future. If I am ever so fortunate as to have a work reach the shortlist again, and I see what seems to me a good reason to withdraw, I will. If I don’t, I won’t. It is, after all, one of the sweetest, most delicious cookies around!

(2) A WEE JOKE. From the August issue of Ansible:

The Retro Hugo Statistics reveal that a single Fan Writer nomination for 1944 work (it took three to get on the final ballot and no one had more than six) went to some chap called David Langford. Ho ho, very satirical….

(3) WHO BENEFITS. Much truth in this.

(4) NOW PLAYING. “The Ballad of Ursula K. Le Guin.”

(5) ALWAYS TO CALL IT RESEARCH. “John Boyne accidentally includes Zelda video game monsters in novel”The Guardian has his confession.

John Boyne, the award-winning author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, has acknowledged that a cursory Google led to him accidentally including monsters from the popular video game The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in his new novel.

Boyne’s A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom opens in AD1 and ends 2,000 years later, following a narrator and his family. In one section, the narrator sets out to poison Attila the Hun, using ingredients including an “Octorok eyeball” and “the tail of the red lizalfos and four Hylian shrooms”….

Dana Schwartz rounded up some graphics to support the story. Thread starts here.

(6) HARD TO KEEP UP. David Gerrold concludes a Facebook post about sff awards with this sentiment:

…Personally, I am delighted that we are suffering from the challenges of success instead of the problems of failure. The level of mediocrity has risen and the level of excellence has truly surpassed the past. So the challenges in front of any author must look insurmountable, even to the long-time practitioners.

As difficult as all this may seem to anyone who writes, it’s still a good thing. Because it’s no longer about the awards — in fact, it never was about the awards. It has always been about the quality of the work.

That there is so much good work being created these days is a victory for the field, and especially for the readers.

I just wish I had enough time to keep up with it all.

(7) ONE MORE TAKE. Robert J. Sawyer has his own issue with George R.R. Martin’s choices while hosting the Hugo ceremony.

…But let me elucidate one category of Martin’s microaggressions that cut across the entire spectrum of humanity by subtly excluding anyone not part of his old guard: his use of nicknames for writers and editors whose prominence was in days gone by, signaling that no matter who you might be, if you weren’t part of the inner circle back in the day, you’ll never really be a true fan (or pro) now.

In Martin’s very, very long commentaries during yesterday’s Hugo Awards ceremony, Robert Silverberg was “Silverbob,” George Alec Effinger was “Piglet,” and the editor Robert A.W. Lowndes was “Doc.” I think Martin also called Isaac Asimov “Ike” during his trips down memory lane, although I’m not going to sift through the hour and forty-five minutes of his rambling again (fully half of the total running time of the Hugo ceremony) to be sure.

You see? Even someone like me — 40 years a selling author in this field, and now 60 years of age — was never part of that ancient, early prodom. I’ve known Robert Silverberg since 1989 and knew Asimov and Effinger, too, but was never close enough to call them by cutesy nicknames.

And if someone like me feels left out after all these decades in the field, imagine how the newer writers, or the writers whose literary background wasn’t the American SF magazines, felt during the Hugo ceremony.

… Yes, it’s a small thing — that’s why it’s called a MICROaggression — and it’s usually done without consciously intending to exclude or put down someone else, but microaggressions ARE pervasive and exclusionary in effect. We’d all do well to guard against committing them.

(8) JOIN THE BOB & DOUG SHOW. Back in their home theater after taking their show on a bit of a road trip, NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will discuss their flight to the International Space Station and back aboard the inaugural crewed voyage of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon craft. This press release — “NASA Astronauts to Discuss Historic SpaceX Crew Dragon Test Flight” – tells how to access their news conference.

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will discuss their recently completed SpaceX Demo-2 test flight mission to the International Space Station during a news conference at 4:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Aug. 4.

The news conference from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston will be broadcast live on NASA Television and on the agency’s website.

This will be a virtual event with no media present, due to the safety restrictions related to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Reporters who wish to participate by telephone must call Johnson’s newsroom at 281-483-5111 to RSVP no later than 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4. Those following the briefing on social media may ask questions using the hashtag #AskNASA.

(9) DRESSING UP PITTCON. The International Costumers Guild did a roundup of contemporary photos and reports about a Worldcon sixty years ago: “Convention Costuming History – 1960”.

The 1960 Worldcon, known as Pittcon (Pittsburgh, PA) promoted their masquerade as a “Costume Cabaret”. Following the show, there would be a glee club performance, a “minstrel show of science fiction flavor”, and then a dance (music provided by a “hi-fi”, rather than a live band like some past years)…

(10) ROBERTA POURNELLE OBIT. Roberta Pournelle, widow of Jerry, passed away last night at the age of 85. Her son Frank Pournelle announced services are planned in the coming week. The Chaos Manor page on Facebook saluted her:

An educator for 30 years at the Dorothy Kirby Center in Commerce, Mother of 4, Grandmother, a friend to many; she made order out of Chaos.

Born Roberta Jane Isdell, she married Jerry Pournelle in 1959. ISFDB shows she wrote a nonfiction piece for Analog in 1988, “High-Tech for the Little Red Schoolhouse.”

(11) SUSAN ELLISON OBIT. HarlanEllisonBooks.com announced today that Susan Ellison (1960-2020) died over the weekend at home, the “Lost Aztec Temple of Mars.” No other details were given. Susan and Harlan married in 1986 and were together 32 years until his death in  2018.

(12) BUARD OBIT. It was recently learned that Patricia Anne Buard died in May 2017 reports the International Costumers Guild. Photos of her masquerade entries at the link.

Patricia Anne Buard. Patricia was a person of several interests, including theater and theology. In addition to having created works of both original fantasy and historical recreations, her short story “Devil’s Advocate” was published in the Marion Zimmer Bradley anthology book “Red Sun of Darkover”, released in 1987.

(13) IVEY OBIT. David Ivey succumbed to his battle with cancer on July 24. The International Costumers Guild describes one of his memorable entries.

David was a Michigan area costumer. His best known creations were Krakatoa, the Volcano God, and St. Helen. Krakatoa appeared at several venues, including Worldcon: Chicon V, in 1991 (photo below). It was quite innovative for its time, featuring several special effects.

(14) ENGLISH OBIT. “Bill English: Computer mouse co-creator dies at 91” – BBC pays tribute.

The co-creator of the computer mouse, William English, has died aged 91.

The engineer and inventor was born in 1929 in Kentucky and studied electrical engineering at university before joining the US Navy.

He built the first mouse in 1963, using an idea put forward by his colleague Doug Engelbart while the pair were working on early computing.

…Bill English became the first person to use a mouse when he built the prototype at Mr Engelbart’s research project at the Stanford Research Institute.

The idea was Mr Engelbart’s, which he described as only being “brief notes” – but the creation was down to Bill English.

His first version was a wooden block with a single button – and underneath, two rolling wheels at 90-degree angles that would record vertical and sideways movement.

“We were working on text editing – the goal was a device that would be able to select characters and words,” Mr English told the Computer History Museum in 1999.


  • August 3, 1951 — The Tales of Tomorrow series premiered with “Verdict From Space”. The series was performed and broadcast live on ABC from 1951 to 1953. There were eighty-five episodes, each twenty-five minutes in length. The series came about through the efforts of Theodore Sturgeon and Mort Abrahams, together with the membership of the Science Fiction League of America. The League who included Theodore Sturgeon, Anthony Boucher, and Isaac Asimov made their work available to the producers.  The screenplay was written by Sturgeon and is based on his own story “The Sky Was Full of Ships” first published in the June 1947 issue of Thrilling Wonder. You can watch it here.


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 3, 1841 – Juliana Ewing.  Thirty short stories for us; a score of books with our and other stories, plays, book-length fiction, for children.  Roger G. Lancelyn Green (1918-1987), one of the Inklings, who suggested the name Chronicles of Narnia to C.S. Lewis, called JE’s the first outstanding child-novels in English literature.  Kipling said he knew her novels Jan of the Windmill and Six to Sixteen almost by heart; of Six “here was a history of real people and real things.”  From her novelette “The Brownies” (1865) the Baden-Powells got the idea and name for junior Girl Guides.  Here is a Caldecott cover for Jackanapes (1884).  (Died 1885) [JH]
  • Born August 3, 1904 Clifford Simak. I was trying to remember the first novel by him I read. I’m reasonably sure it was Way Station though it could’ve been City which just won a well-deserved Retro Hugo. I’m fond of Cemetery World and A Choice of Gods as well. By the way I’m puzzled by the Horror Writers Association making him one of their three inaugural winners of the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement. What of his is truly horror? (Died 1988.) (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1920 P. D. James. Author of The Children of Men which she wrote to answer the question “If there were no future, how would we behave?” Made into a film which she said she really liked despite it being substantially different than her novel. (Died 2014.) (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1922 – Ron Turner.  Some sources say his birthday is the 22nd.  Twelve dozen covers (I’d say “one gross”, but look what trouble that made for Bilbo Baggins), more if you count posthumous uses.  Tit-Bits SF ComicsSpace AceRick RandomStingrayThe DaleksThunderbirds.  Here is Operation Venus.  Here is a John Russell Fearn collection.  Here is Rick Random and the Terror from Spacehere is its opening interior.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born August 3, 1926 —  John Gardner. Author of more Bond novels that one would think possible. He’d write fourteen original James Bond novels, more than Fleming wrote, and the novelized versions of two Bond films. He also dip into the Sherlock universe, writing three novels around the character of Professor Moriarty. Rights to film them were optioned but never developed. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1940 Martin Sheen, 80. So that was who that was! On Babylon 5: The River of Souls, there’s a Soul Hunter but the film originally didn’t credit an actor who turns out to be Sheen. Amazing performance. He’s been in a number of other genre roles but that’s the ones I like most. Though I will single him out for voicing Arthur Square in Flatland: The Movie. (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1946 – John DeChancie, 74.  Best known for nine Castle Perilous and three Skyway books, he’s published ten besides, two dozen shorter stories; if you know he has written as Raul Cabeza de Vaca, and entitled a poem “The Refusal to Mourn the Rejection, by Printed Form, of a Hopeful Writer in Pittsburgh, February, 1992”, you’ll know he can read, and smile, and has been with SF a while.  Some fans become pros; some pros become fans, as he did; some are both, as he has been.  Plays piano, likes the American Songbook and Rachmaninoff; paints, including a portrait of Rachmaninoff.  See this, which includes portraits of Marty Cantor and Chip Hitchcock.  [JH]
  • Born August 3, 1950 John Landis, 70. He’d make this if all he’d done was An American Werewolf in London, but he was also Director / Producer / Writer of the Twilight Zone movie. And wrote Clue which was the best Tim Curry role ever. And Executive Produced one of the best SF comedies ever, Amazon Women on the Moon. (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1953 – Margaret Bechard, 67.  Reed College woman (as an Antioch boy, I think of these things).  Children’s fiction, translated into French, Korean, Swedish.  Two novels, one shorter story for us; Star Hatchling about first contact won a Golden Duck.  Six other novels.  [JH]
  • Born August 3, 1971 – Yoshitoshi ABe, 49.  Graphic artist.  Usually writes his name in Roman letters, with capitalized for the sake of early works he signed “AB”.  Known to sketch with just his finger and an iPad.  Thirty self-published books; artbooks; covers; half a dozen each of animé and manga.  Here is his cover for Sakurazaka’s All You Need Is Kill (A. Smith tr. 2009; hello, Pete Young).  Here is Walking the Dragon from YA’s artbook Gaisokyu (“Palace”; 2007).  [JH]
  • Born August 3, 1972 Brigid Brannagh, 48. Also credited as Brigid Brannagh, Brigid Brannah, Brigid Brannaugh, Brigid Walsh, and Brigid Conley Walsh. Need an Irish redheaded colleen in a genre role? Well she apparently would do. She shows up in Kindred: The EmbraceAmerican GothicSliders, Enterprise (as a bartender), RoarTouched by an AngelCharmedEarly EditionAngel (as Virginia Bryce in a recurring role), GrimmSupernatural and currently on Runaways in the main role of Stacey Yorkes. (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1979 – Evangeline Lilly, 41.  Actress, author.  She was in LostReal Steel, two Peter Jackson hobbit films, three Marvel superhero films – to misquote Winston Churchill, who said a Wasp couldn’t sting thrice?  So far two Squickerwonker short stories for children have appeared, one translated into Portuguese.  [JH]

(17) A TOTAL SURPRISE. After Hastings author Steven H Silver tells Lawrence Shoen about eating reindeer steak in Stockholm as part of “Eating Authors: Steven H Silver”. However, the cuisine is overshadowed in this great anecdote about something that happened at dinner —

SHS: Honestly, there are a lot of things I don’t remember about my most memorable meal because it sticks out not because of the food or the company or even the location, but rather because of an incident that occurred during the meal….

(18) KAIJU KIA. Does ScreenRant have enough fingers and toes to answer the question? “How Many Times Godzilla Has Died (All Movies)”. (And I wonder if it’s more or less than the number of times John Wayne got killed?)

He’s starred in over 30 movies but how many of those has Godzilla actually died in? The first movie is a somber monster movie with the title creature is intended to be a walking metaphor for nuclear weapons. The movie’s huge success led to a franchise that is still running nearly 70 years later, with the monster appearing in sequels, reboots and remakes, in addition to comics, novels and video games where he’s battled against all sorts of creative monsters.

(19) MAD, I SAY. Could it be that Dave Freer’s message in “F-IW” at Mad Genius Club is “When you’re in your time machine on the way back to kill baby Hitler, don’t forget to stop off in the Sixties and take over traditional publishing”?

…Both of these [old] books had a huge effect on my young mind. Yes, I can see the Woke and modern left rubbing their hands (and other parts, never mentioned) in glee, saying ‘Yes! We were RIGHT that we had to capture publishing and exclude any badthink. Just think if we’d had the dominance we have now over traditional publishing, back in 1960, even evil people like Freer would have been won (Hi: I’m Dave the Divider. If it wasn’t for me, so we are told by the self-elected authorities,  sf/fantasy would be united and singing Kumbaya. See what a fate I saved you from!).

(20) CANON FIRED. Meg Elison says you’re excused from reading the SFF “canon.”

Thread starts here. A couple of excerpts —

(21) APOLLO POLITICS. At The Space Review, Dwayne Day discusses an interesting radio program about space history. “Sending Washington to the Moon: an interview with Richard Paul”.

The radio show “Washington Goes to the Moon” two decades ago shed new light on the political battles around the Apollo program, and provided a wealth of material for later historians. Dwayne Day interviews the man who wrote and produced the show.

(22) FANTASY NETWORK FREEBIES. Some of us encountered The Fantasy Network for the first time watching CoNZealand events. They also have lots of free content. For example, the 2017 movie Magellan:

When NASA picks up three signals of extraterrestrial origin coming from within our own solar system, the space agency expedites a mission to investigate the sources. As Earth’s lone emissary, they send Commander Roger Nelson, the test pilot for an experimental spacecraft call the Magellan, assisted by an onboard A.I. named Ferdinand.

(23) MORE, PLEASE. James Davis Nicoll is sure these are “Five Stories That Make You Wish For a Sequel”. But rest easy – none of them involve the megaselling series that have made sff news this week.

Many books function perfectly as standalones; many series end well. Plots are resolved, characters are given their reward or punishment. But there are also books that seem to cry out for a sequel and series that are never finished, leaving readers frustrated. We want more!

Alexis Gilliland’s Rosinante series is on this list —

… I discovered the series is funnier than one would expect from plotlines that feature banking crises, union negotiations, and the sudden collapse of the dominant government in North America. There were just three books in the series—Revolution from Rosinante (1981), Long Shot for Rosinante (1981), The Pirates of Rosinante (1982)—but the setting was expansive and interesting enough that more stories were possible, perhaps elsewhere in Gilliland’s Solar System. Thus far, none have materialized.

(24) DIY. “New ‘Quar-Horror’ Films Show Staying At Home Is Scary Too”.

It’s no exaggeration to say this year feels like a horror movie. And now, a few filmmakers are making it official.

All over YouTube, you can find inventive homemade horror shorts taking the pandemic as inspiration. (They come from Brazil, from Canada and from, well, Funny or Die.) And a new movie Host, filmed over twelve weeks in quarantine and entirely on Zoom, debuted on the horror channel Shudder last week.

Call it “quar-horror.”

Among the most chilling of the YouTube offerings is Stay At Home, part horror movie and part PSA from a filmmaker in New Orleans.

“I literally just grabbed a box, and I set up the camera on a tripod and gave myself a scenario,” says Kenneth Brown, a former Uber driver turned horror auteur. “And the story started to build and build and build.”

Brown went to film school, and you can tell. Based on the myth of Pandora’s Box and the evening news, Stay At Home is elegantly lit and crafted. As of this writing, it’s racked up nearly 200,000 views on YouTube.

Part of what makes Stay At Home so effective — and heartfelt — is the insistent drone of news anchors discussing the mounting carnage. “That’s everything I need to say as far as reaching African Americans, which is the population most vulnerable to this virus,” says Brown, who is Black himself.

But escapism is also the point, say Nathan Crooker and James Gannon. Their upcoming quar-horror, called Isolation, just wrapped principal photography. The two produced the film; Crooker is also its director. Isolation is an anthology; nine interconnected shorts by different directors who filmed their movies using only resources immediately available to them.

(25) PIECEMEAL. According to BBC, “Other mammals lose out in panda conservation drive”.

Saving the giant panda is one of the big success stories of conservation.

Decades of efforts to create protected habitat for the iconic mammal has pulled it back from the brink of extinction.

But, according to a new study, while many other animals in the same landscape have benefited from this conservation work, some have lost out.

Leopards, snow leopards, wolves and Asian wild dogs have almost disappeared from the majority of protected areas.

Driven to near extinction by logging, poaching and disease, their loss could lead to “major shifts, even collapse, in ecosystems”, said researchers in China.

Without the likes of leopards and wolves, deer and livestock can roam unchecked, causing damage to natural habitats, with knock-on effects for other wildlife, including pandas themselves.

By protecting the panda’s forests, conservationists believed they would be protecting not only the charismatic black-and-white animal, but the many other species roaming the same habitat.

But while that has worked for some other wildlife, the efforts do not appear to have worked for large carnivores, such as the leopard and wolf.

A team of researchers now says a broader – holistic – approach is needed to manage the ecosystem in which the panda lives – one that ensures key species don’t lose out.

(26) SHORT LEAPS FORWARD. In the Washington Post, Bethonie Butler interviews Catherine Hardwicke, whose new Quibi series “Don’t Look Deeper” is set “15 minutes into the future” and has a teenage girl as a protagonist who may or may not be an android.  Hardwicke discusses what it was like to direct a story delivered in 10-minute chunks and why star Helena Howard is a “strong and vulnerable” actor Hardwicke enjoyed working with. “Can Catherine Hardwicke get you to watch Quibi?”

Why Quibi? Were the shorter episodes appealing?

Actually, the script was written for short episodes. It was written in chapters. I thought that was quite interesting when I first read the script. I was like, “Wow, that’s fascinating,” because the short format does tie in — it weaves in directly with what’s going on with [Aisha’s] memory. We tell the story in a non-linear way as her memories are being erased and restored. The technology that we’re exploring, showing it on a new technological platform with the vertical and horizontal, it all seemed to kind of work together in an interesting way. So this leap of faith — that [Quibi founder Jeffrey] Katzenberg said let’s try this format — I thought that was an interesting challenge to dive into it and see what happens.

(27) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Dragonball Evolution Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George explains that when the hero of the film has to collect seven dragonballs to make a wish that dragonballs are as powerful as “blowing out candles on a birthday cake.”

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

148 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 8/3/20 Undeserved Loss And Inaccessible Healing

  1. Joe H.: Effinger wrote a lot of clever and enjoyable things. When Gravity Fails and its sequels anchor his sff reputation.

  2. @Jerry Kaufman —

    (Assuming that we remember him at all. I do, as some of you do, but I wonder if he’s known outside of my age bracket – my first exposure to cons and fanzines was 1966. Hands up if you’re under fifty and have read his work. Prove me wrong.)

    I’m not under fifty and I haven’t read his work (maybe some of his shorts? I don’t remember) — but I do have some of his books on Mt. TBR. Does that count?

  3. Judge Magney: We missed you and wondered to ourselves, “What could we do to get Judge Magney to comment again?”

    But really, it sounds we’ve done a terrific job of butchering John Gardner entries.

  4. Count me as another over-fifty-fellow who is familiar with Effinger (through his short works).

  5. OGH says But really, it sounds we’ve done a terrific job of butchering John Gardner entries.

    You’re welcome to write up a Birthday entry for the John Gardner of your choice. Being human, I will make mistakes. Sometimes we catch them, sometimes we don’t.

  6. 33-year-old here. I’ve read When Gravity Fails and A Fire in the Sun; I also have some other Effingers on both my physical and Kindle TBRs. (Ironically my one book purchase in Dublin last year was the Golden Gryphon Live! From Planet Earth instead of anything from a non-American publisher.)

    I will say that I probably wouldn’t have heard of his work if it wasn’t for my “read all the Hugo finalists” project or similar discussions, which is sad because I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read.

  7. The birthday listings are for honoring people. Not for shaming them, or setting the record straight…

    Sorry for raising the whole Landis issue, in that case – I wouldn’t have written anything at all if it weren’t for the notion that Landis wrote and directed the whole movie; I liked the Dante- and Miller-directed segments. However, if Landis can be honored, then so can Woody Allen (not even charged, unlike Landis) who was missed this past December 1.

    I’m also an Effinger fan, although older than 50. I own his posthumous anthology Live from Planet Earth (with tributes from friends) and first took notice of him in the early 1970s via the story “All the Last Wars at Once.”

  8. I turned 50 this year, but I read the When Gravity Fails books long before now.

  9. gottacook: Sorry for raising the whole Landis issue, in that case

    I’m only defining what we do in the actual birthday listings. I’m not trying to restrict the comments that spin off from them, like about the tragedy that occurred in making the movie.

  10. I’m not quite sure what “the canon” is, since everyone seems to have a slightly different idea of it. I’m a little bemused by the suggested inclusion of Vernor Vinge, for example, since, while he did start in the eighties, he didn’t really break into the top tier till the turn of the century. But in general, I agree with the notion that our canon is not something that anyone should feel compelled to read.

    Of course, no one should feel compelled to read the western literature canon either, but at least that manages to do somewhat better than Sturgeon’s Law, as far as I can tell. (And I’ve read a decent chunk of it.) The SF canon (which I’ve also read a big chunk of)? Much less so! But SF is still a young genre.

    And no, it’s not just that the SF canon-so-far often reflects the mores and prejudices of an earlier era. Though that’s definitely a factor. But good writing could have offset that to some extent. Unfortunately, good writing simply wasn’t a priority in the pulp era. And it shows!

  11. @Xtifr: Vernor Vinge started in the 1960s – I agree his breakout stuff was in the late 1990s/early 2000s.

  12. Jerry Kaufman: I’m under 50 (for the next 3 years) and have read some of Effinger’s short works. To be honest, though, I’m mainly familiar with him because he was a punch-line among my friend group in the late 1980s/early 1990s. At the time, I lived in the New Orleans area, where Effinger, as one of the local pros, was at every con, so it became a running joke “They’re announcing the guests for {local con} next week. I hope George Alec Effinger is going to be there!” (And he always was, until one year he wasn’t, and I realized that I’d never actually met him.)

    But he also wrote one of my favorite short stories from the late 80s -“Skylab Done It” (F&SF March 1987).

  13. Xtifr: Twenty-five years ago I would have started to construct the canon with the works that were an important part of the “conversation” that developed science fiction’s various tropes and themes — for example, matter transmitters, a prolific source of later plots for anything from Star Trek to The Light Brigade. But I’ve changed my mind about that; it feels like trivia. What the canon should bring out is paradigmatic stories showing how the genre is used to look at human life. (I probably shouldn’t bet the house that my idea of what that means is the same as anyone else’s.)

  14. Ok, what exactly is the canon? Is there a list of genre works that one needs to read to be considered grounded in the literature? And how has that canon evolved over the decades?

  15. @Andrew: Oops, that’s what I get for writing off-the-cuff without double checking.

    @Mike Glyer: Ooh, I like that definition! But yeah, keep your house safe. 😉

  16. A thought – the canon is the group of works that more recent works are responding to, or against – so they are works that provide the context for modern works. You can read “Forever War” without having read “Starship Troopers” – but people who read Troopers probably got more out of FW. For much of the 1980s and 1990s, “Neuromancer” was canon – because a lot of works were explicit reactions to it, but it might not be canon any more.

  17. Foundational works can be hard to read outside their time because the revolutions they started outpaced them. Frieda wrote the first X short story, but the story was adopted into the vocabulary. Other people built on X and did it better, and as a result, somebody reading Frieda’s story 70 years later just thinks “oh, yeah, another X story, whatever.” A scholar can see how and why Frieda’s story was important, but an ordinary reader doesn’t gain anything by reading it.

    For instance, try reading The Curse of Capistrano, the first Zorro story, published in 1919. It’s … not good. But Zorro-the-character can still be thrilling in the right hands. Zorro-the-masked-avenger feeds into The Shadow and masked superheroes in general. Contrariwise, The Scarlet Pimpernel was published in 1905 and is still a page-turner … if you could tolerate the hideous anti-Semitism in the denouement. The Suck Fairy is always with us.

    Point being, stories that made people gasp in wonder in the 1940s and 1950s can seem utterly humdrum to a modern reader, because the ideas they contained are no longer revolutionary, while the social assumptions are at best quaint and at worst bigoted, and the writing and characterization aren’t up to modern standards. Some of the classics stand up, and some of them have lost their allure.

    When you meet the canon on the road, kill it.

  18. Re: Canon – For so, so many reasons, too many to go into here & now*, I rather wish I could have back those hours of my life that were spent in reading Ringworld. But there is one reason I’m glad I did read it, and only one reason, and that’s for the context it brought to my next re-reading of Terry Pratchett’s Strata.

    *Besides, I’d have to reread Ringworld to do a decent job of iterating those reasons. Hell to the no on that.

  19. Under 50 here, and familiar with Effinger, mostly but not exclusively from When Gravity Fails. I also have a distinct memory of an ad for a Budayeen-based game that ran in Dell mags.

    (Of things I’ve read, that book may be the earliest that has trans characters as opposed to characters-who-change-their-sex; but it’s been so long at this point that aside from that and a general plot outline, I mostly remember the odd phrase or painful infodump.)

  20. Vinge won the Hugo in 1993 for A Fire Upon the Deep in 1993, and certainly was well-known then.

  21. @Nicole: Ugh, Ringworld. But yes, I do find that I like knowing about canon enough to get references (or properly place works in conversation with one another). Though sometimes a blank slate is fun, too: I have fond memories of being ten and intuiting the existence of Lankhmar because obviously Ankh-Morpork was based on something.

  22. A canon is a list of works that an audience population agrees is somehow significant, and the nature of that significance is going to be rooted in the interests that hold the audience together. If you live long enough, you will watch canons change, just as you will watch hairstyles and fashions change. If the audience’s interests are those of, say, literature teachers and scholars, there’s going to be a tendency for those changes to accumulate slowly, if only because the canon is enshrined in curricula and textbooks (which exist in a mutually reinforcing environment). If the audience is periodical reviewers or bloggers, the cycle is going to proceed more briskly. (And commercial publishing is going to have an effect–can you find a copy of A Martian Odyssey at your local B&N? It’s not impossible to find, but the temporal window of the non-specialty bookstore is narrow and mobile. The burning of Uncle Hugo’s was a miniature Library of Alexandria event.)

    I’m old enough to have watched the English-language general literary canon change in the decades since I was an undergrad, just as I’ve seen the neckties in my closet come into and out of fashion twice. (Not that I’ve worn a necktie outside of a wedding or funeral for nearly a half-century.)

    General and recreational readers follow their tastes and interests and (in my experience) are not much interested in historical roots or the evolution of tropes or the kinds of things that lit teachers and scholars find amusing. So their “canon” reflects the range of their tastes and interests, just as karaoke playlists reflect the listening habits of the host bar’s demographic. (Anybody hear any Harry Nilsson tunes there?)

    Remember where declaring a canon comes from in Western civilization: the meetings at which Church authorities decided which ancient texts should be considered Sacred Word and which became Apocrypha. To this day, there is not a single scriptural canon across Christianity.

    (None of this will be on the exam.)

  23. I am not enthused with the idea of people declining a nomination to make way for new voices. That is the job of the fans. But more than that, it creates a cloud of doubt, did the winner actually win, or only win because the star stepped aside?

    One solution is to not decline the nomination, but after voting closes, to decline the award (whether you win or not.) As noted, this can be done before the ceremony, so the winner card can say, “The winner was Ann Leckie, who has declined the award, and so it goes to .” Of course, that definitely tells runner-up that they were not the most popular, but most importantly if it doesn’t happen, if she doesn’t win/decline, then the winner is the undisputed winner with no asterisk beside it. I suspect this year’s winner would have won without Raven Tower being withdrawn, and the awards better for it. In that event, there would have been no public disclosure of the decline (and neither would the award administrators confirm they received such a request.)

    Now it’s true, that the next year, after a revealed decline that some would suspect it would be repeated. But who is to be sure?

    Yes, for a runner-up who gets an official asterisk, this is worse. But for a true winner it’s better than an unspoken asterisk of “Maybe won, maybe would not have.”

    Other declines make more sense. Some writers have declined because they did not feel the work was their best. I believe there was a decline for best pro artist by an artist who pointed out he had no work published that year. Some have declined all but one of multiple nominations, either because they misunderstand how ranked voting works, or to make room for others on the ballot, but either way they are putting their best forward and thus not diminishing anybody.

    Of course, this is up to the author. And even as a nominee I would be mixed in view on whether I would prefer a shot at an undisputed win vs. a better shot at a win with a small asterisk. However, to some extent, this is award is for the fans to express their view on what work was best, not the author’s view. The award is given to the winner but it is an expression of fan opinion and fan opinion only. So the one possible change would be to inform any nominee who wishes to withdraw a work, “we will give you the option of secretly pre-declining the award rather than refusing the nomination.”

    This leaves out one other person, namely the new candidate who makes it on to the shortlist because the star withdraws. They obviously are happy to have this happen — even if it’s later revealed they only made it due to the drop-out. It’s true that the inside-baseball details are not widely discussed, the asterisk very tiny. But again, it is the will of the fans that matters the most.

  24. I was taught Stephen Vincent Benet’s “I have fallen in love with American names” in high school. That’s the poem “Bury my heart at Wounded Knee” comes from. It also contains the line “And a blue-gum n—– to sing me blues”, only without the dashes. And I was taught that, in school, in a class that contained Black students.

    I devoutly hope that’s no longer canon in high-school literature classes.

    @brad, how horrible, for both the author and their friends, to hear “Martha X won Best Novel, but faute de mieux, here’s Sarah Y!” I’m getting sympathetic embarrassment just thinking about it.

  25. @John Lorentz:

    Thank you. I remembered Deepness was around 2000 and forgot how long we waited for Deepness after Fire…

  26. @Brad Templteton
    It’s a good that authors can make that decision for themselves, then, because IMO refusing to accept an award is an insult to the award and to the people who made it.

  27. For SF relevance, there’s Vachel Lindsay’s horrifically racist “The Congo”, to which I will not be linking. “Scar” Gordon recites it to an admiring crowd in Glory Road. I found it in a high-school textbook from the 1950s or thereabouts.

  28. As noted, this can be done before the ceremony, so the winner card can say, “The winner was Ann Leckie, who has declined the award, and so it goes to .”

    I find this idea about as appealing as a wedding vow including the name of the person the bride or groom would’ve married instead if they hadn’t broken up.

    An award win isn’t an objective fact that the work was the best of the year. It’s the victor of a voting process. Nominees dropping out is an accepted part of that process. There isn’t an implicit asterisk in a work winning after another work was withdrawn that might have otherwise won.

  29. @Brad: As you point out, a lot of folks have withdrawn works for a lot of different reasons before Leckie, including avoiding the appearance of impropriety, a lack of spoons, a desire to stop dominating a category, and a disinclination to be a pawn in the shenanigans of fascists. I can’t imagine A Memory of Empire‘s win being seen as less legitimate than The Three-Body Problem‘s win or the nomination of New York 2140 or The Collapsing Empire. (Well, okay, I can imagine it because of Girl Cooties.) “Asterisk” is generally understood to indicate that the winner has engaged in underhanded behavior resulting in an undeserved honor.

  30. Brad Templeton: Yes, for a runner-up who gets an official asterisk, this is worse. But for a true winner it’s better than an unspoken asterisk of “Maybe won, maybe would not have.”

    That’s pretty much contradicted by almost the entire history of the Hugo. I can only think of one instance to the contrary.

    Generally, whoever wins goes into the conversation as simply the winner. For example, when the Foglios finally withdrew Girl Genius, nobody ran after the next winner of the Best Graphic Novel category saying “But, but, but…!” All anybody focused on was the generosity of the Foglios’ decision.

    The only time I’ve seen it play out differently was when I withdrew File 770 from Best Fanzine for one year in 1986 (after it had won the previous two years). A couple of fanzine fans jumped in with a campaign to vote No Award. But that was really an attempt to derail the eventual winner, Lan’s Lantern. The fans who did that would have much preferred something besides either File 770 or Lan’s Lantern as the winner.

  31. Madame Hardy says When you meet the canon on the road, kill it.

    I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen a genre canon. Bookstores, particularly smaller independent ones, often have a canon of sorts in the genre back-stock they carry which is usually mostly white males now deceased. But I’ve never actually encountered a canon.

  32. “Canon to right of them, Canon to left of them, Canon behind them Varley’d and Thundarrr’d”

  33. Andrew says “Canon to right of them, Canon to left of them, Canon behind them Varley’d and Thundarrr’d”

    Nice, very nice. I had Unil teacher who decided that she’d teach English using all genre books. I don’t remember all of them but The Dispossessed and The Lathe of Heaven were two she had us read and critique.

  34. I had a high school English teacher who was willing to let me write a essay on “theme” using Asimov’s “Bridle and Saddle” as the text (the theme being “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent”, of course).

  35. Mike, I suspect you’re right, it’s only a tiny asterisk (and a virtual one at that.) But in a category well known to you, if Dave Langford had declared he was withdrawing to let somebody else win (which he didn’t) then I am sure that question would have been on people’s minds in 2009. Fortunately it was not. Likewise when Andy finally won best Fanzine, it is good it was not because Locus did something like Ann Leckie states she did.

    When you withdrew we’ll never learn how people would have voted, though we can speculate, but that is my point. There are some awards, I believe, which do not even allow people to decline a nomination, though most do because it’s also a bad thing to know that the person, if they win, will decline, to be sure. The award is for the fans, but it is also a show, and this is not a satisfying result. No solution that meets the desires of all.

    There are also to some extent, or should be, natural forces. Some will not vote for something that has won the last 10 times, even if they think it was once again, the best. Eventually the number who would do that builds up. Or sometimes a semiprozine category is created to fix the problem. (And of course, you know who won after Locus was moved to semiprozine.)

    I was a bit surprised at Leckie’s declaration though. She has won only the one Hugo, and lost the later nominations. While she is a great writer, and Ancillary Justice ranks for me as the greatest genre work of the 2010s, I frankly didn’t get the impression that she was somebody who needed to step aside to permit others to win.

  36. Thanks for the replies on Piglet, er, George Alec Effinger. Seems like people on both sides of my arbitrary age divide know at least some of his work. I have the three “When Gravity Fails” books, a few other more metafictional novels, and his parodies. When I attended East Coast conventions in the 1970s, I saw him at numerous conventions and had cheesecake at Junior’s in Brooklyn with him and other people (only once, I regret to say).

    I also like the conversation on “canon.” I believe the canon of our favorite genres is a loose one.

  37. Let me also add that I would say the Best Pro Artist Hugo in 1987 was one of the ones I was thinking about. Whelan explicitly declared he was withdrawing to let somebody else win, and I recall some talk of it being “best pro artist not named Whelan” that year.

  38. Given that the winner was Jim Burns that has now won three such Hugos, I seriously doubt anyone is going around saying he only won because Whelan removed himself. He was worthy of the Hugo then and won it on his own merits.

  39. @Cat, I think there are some individual authors that would be agreed to be canon for some genres. I’ll give some I think are inarguable. Christie and Conan Doyle in mysteries. Heyer in Regencies, because she founded the damn genre. Lovecraft and King for horror. Whether or not you’ve read them, you’re in dialogue with them.

  40. Hmm. Well, while I would hope that nobody would say that Jim Burns definitely “only won” because Whelan took the year off, I can’t say that people didn’t wonder if he might have won that year because of that, considering that Whelan won the next 2 years after returning his hat. Several of the artists who lost to Whelan during his long dominance of the award such as Maitz and Eggleton later went on to several rockets of their own, but my point is you can’t be sure.

    But some may think it’s good to withdraw to make room, and while I don’t concur, there are obviously some who think it adds a small impurity to the win and others who are not bothered.

  41. Samuel Delany once said that every book creates its own genre retroactively, thanks to the network of influences upon it, both positive and negative. We can say, and I’m known to do so sometimes, that a canon is where a lot of those networks converge.

    A lot of folks seem to be having trouble internalizing the passage of time when it comes to works they loved (or hated!) and were influenced by. A bunch of work I enjoyed in the 1970s, and that has left its mark on me personally is, well, forty to fifty years old now. That’s how time works. And there wasn’t much sf/f of the 1920s-30s that was really having any sort of noticeable impact on the really innovative, fresh, dynamic f/sf of the 1970s. That’s how time works.

  42. Samuel Delany once said that every book creates its own genre retroactively, thanks to the network of influences upon it, both positive and negative.

    Ooh, thanks for that. It resonated.

    One of the hard things about being a parent was realizing that not all the books I’d loved as a child would be loved by my children. The book child-me had needed to read was twenty-five years (or more) old, which meant it was that much more distant from my children’s experiences. We shared a lot of books, but some of them weren’t fun, and that was that. I think the same happens with a genre. Marion Zimmer Bradley was very important to me at one point, but there are much, much better feminist SF and fantasy novels available now, ones that don’t have the skidmarks of MZB’s abuse. “Important to me in 1978” is not the same as “should be important to people in 2020”. Although people who don’t like The 13 Clocks are monsters, there’s just no getting around that.

  43. @Madame Hardy —

    Heyer in Regencies, because she founded the damn genre.


    Ummm. Austen, for one, beat her to it by quite a bit?

  44. @Madame Hardy: Glad to help! Citing Delany is very often a good move.

    And although I’m not a parent, I see that same dynamic with reading (viewing, etc.) that my younger friends willing to take my recommendations may or may not also like. I do like it when we can talk about our respective delights far enough to find how very different works may be providing similar satisfactions, just in ways that suit ourselves and our times.

    I love @Mike Glyer’s phrasing, “paradigmatic stories showing how the genre is used to look at human life.” That seems to have all the room necessary both for the occasional hardy perennial and for a lot of continuing growth and change.

  45. I remember that one thing Campbell did get right was that it’s all about people, not gadgets or rocketships or swords-and-sorcery. Assume those exist, then what do people think/say/do?

  46. I think I more or less treated older fiction as the same as fantasy when I was a kidlet chewing my way through the local library and my parents’ books. A viewpoint into another world. It never bothered me if something was just old. The main difficulties I had were either protagonists above their twenties (some “grown-up” concerns were terribly boring for me) or stiff-and-dry-by-90’s-standards writing, which was definitely more of a problem for older adult fiction than it was for older children’s fiction. Mind you, at that age most of the more problematic elements sailed gracefully over my head, which probably helped. I was very surprised on a recent reread of Anne McCaffrey’s Restoree by the specifics of the protagonists laments about the size of her nose…

    (A couple of decades short of fifty, and never even heard of Effinger, I’m afraid.)

    I guess if I ever want to start a literature-related argument on File770 I can ask people what they think ought to be counted in the sci-fi and fantasy canon. 🙂 More fun than the usual arguments we get to have, I think.

  47. @Meredith, I’m definitely biased because we were friends in his later years, but I think you’d find stuff to like in Effinger’s work. I am particularly fond of his Budayeen stories, starting with When Gravity Fails, hard-boiled crime fiction set in a 22nd century where nation-states have fallen over and sank into the swamp. The narrator is a freelance fixer who finds himself drawn into the machinations of the ancient crime boss of the unnamed Middle East city they live in.

    George started writing it partly to work out rage he felt at the murders of women he knew in New Orleans, prostitutes, some of them trans, whom the cops simply didn’t care about. There is justice in When Gravity Fails. And there’s also a ferociously anti-drug-abuse stance in it that frequently goes overlooked. Marid, the narrator, is a classic charming rogue, and very funny about his drug habit, and readers often take his self-assessment at face value. But one of the murders happens because when a call for help comes, he is far too stoned to do anything about it, and then doesn’t even realize that he missed the chance to help until later. Strong, good stuff.

    Also, the scene where Marid spends some time with a Nero Wolfe personality implant is hilarious. 🙂

  48. @Contrarius (sorry, missed your comment)

    Now there’s an interesting question – can Austen’s novels be considered foundational Regency romances in terms of the historical genre of Regency romances, given that she wrote them as contemporary novels?

    (I think my answer to that is probably “sure, if I feel like it” – but I wouldn’t want to count them if it was a discussion about something specific to the historical bit, and I suspect Heyer may have had quite a lot more than Austen to do with founding it as a historical genre. If only it wasn’t quarter past five in the morning and I could interrogate my convention-running-uberHeyerfan mother…)

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