Pixel Scroll 8/7/20 I Saw The Thing Comin’ Out Of The Sky, It Had The One Long File, One Big Eye

(1) WISH YOU WERE HERE. NASA unveiled “8 Martian Postcards to Celebrate Curiosity’s Landing Anniversary”.

Two sizes of wind-sculpted ripples are evident in this view of the top surface of a Martian sand dune. Sand dunes and the smaller type of ripples also exist on Earth. The larger ripples — roughly 10 feet (3 meters) apart — are a type not seen on Earth nor previously recognized as a distinct type on Mars.

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has seen a lot since Aug. 5, 2012, when it first set its wheels inside the 96-mile-wide (154-kilometer-wide) basin of Gale Crater. Its mission: to study whether Mars had the water, chemical building blocks, and energy sources that may have supported microbial life billions of years ago.

Curiosity has since journeyed more than 14 miles (23 kilometers), drilling 26 rock samples and scooping six soil samples along the way as it revealed that ancient Mars was indeed suitable for life. Studying the textures and compositions of ancient rock strata is helping scientists piece together how the Martian climate changed over time, losing its lakes and streams until it became the cold desert it is today.

(2) MEET R.F. KUANG. Andrea Johnson notes she did this Nerds of a Feather  Q&A, “Interview: R.F. Kuang, author of The Burning God”, before Kuang won the 2020 Astounding Award. Still plenty to interest readers here.

NOAF: When you first started outlining and writing The Poppy War, did you know how the trilogy would end?

R.F. Kuang: Yes, I knew the ending before I knew the beginning. I always come up with the ending first. I’m a pantser rather than a plotter, but I can’t get started on a story unless I know where it’s all going; I need to give some direction to the story engine. I’ve been picturing the final scene in my mind for years and years, so it’s a relief to finally get it down on paper. So yes, I actually always conceived of The Poppy War as just the prequel material to the stuff I really wanted to write.

(3) WFC POC. World Fantasy Con, which will take place online October 29-November 1, is taking applications as well as donations for People of Color sponsored memberships.

In early June, WFC 2020 launched an initiative to help ensure that our convention is inclusive and that our program encompasses the diverse cultures and peoples that enrich the literature and art of fantasy and horror. Thanks to donations from many of our members and our sponsors, we have been able to sponsor attending memberships for twenty-eight people of color – so far. This initiative will continue until registration closes in late October. To donate to this fund, or to apply for a sponsored membership, visit this page on our website.
 
WFC 2020 operates under the auspices of Utah Fandom Organization, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Your donation may be tax deductible to the extent allowable by law.

(4) EDITS4BLACKSFF. “Diana M. Pho Announces the #Edits4BlackSFF Project, Which Offers Free Editorial Services to Black Speculative Writers”Tor.com has the story. Application details at the the project link.

Three-time Hugo Award-nominated editor Diana M. Pho has announced a new project dedicated to helping Black speculative fiction novelists get traditionally published. Entitled #Edits4BlackSFF, the project will select nine finalists for a free query letter review and 10-page line edit of their manuscript(s), with the winner receiving both a free developmental edit and consideration for representation from a pool of 8 literary agents.

(5) CANON TO THE LEFT OF THEM. John Scalzi’s “Oh, Christ, Not the Science Fiction Canon Again” actually has no theological content at all.

Ugh, we’re talking about the “canon” of science fiction literature, again, for reasons (most imminently the recent Hugo award ceremony and its fallout), and whether, basically, newer writers and readers should and must slog through a bunch of books in the genre that are now half a century old at least, from a bunch of mostly male, mostly white, mostly straight writers who are, shall we say, not necessarily speaking to the moment.

I’ve essayed this before, because I’m me, but here’s my newest set of thoughts on the matter, also because I’m me. Ready? Here we go:

As a practical matter, the science fiction “canon” is already dead….

(6) CANON TO THE RIGHT OF THEM. Camestros Felapton offered his take on things in “Canon and Campbell”. I looked at this excerpt and asked myself, “What more needs be said?” And yet, Camestros thought of something.

…On the first point I’d cite Chuck Tingle’s Space Raptor Butt Invasion, which has canonical qualities to it but which is also a shining example of something that is not required reading….

(7) STAMPS AFOOT. The Royal Mail will issue new Sherlock stamps on August 16 with secret messages embedded. What those messages are is displayed at the top of this Design Week article: “Royal Mail’s Sherlock Holmes stamps contain ‘secret messages’”.

…So founder Steve Haskin tells Design Week that designing the stamps was a “labour of love”. The stamps are based on fans’ most popular episodes, from the series premiere A Study in Pink to the series two cliff-hanger The Reichenbach Fall. Taking into account the global Sherlock Holmes fanbase, and its attention to detail, the studio pored over episodes to extract the “minutest moments” from Sherlock episodes.

Characters were taken from those episodes and placed in the foreground of the stamps, such as Irene Adler from the second series premiere A Scandal in Belgravia. These portraits had to be “strong” and “poignant” as they are focal point. “Special moments” were then illustrated using screengrabs and composed onto each stamp.

(8) KÜNSKEN STYX WITH IT. At the Hugo Book Club Blog, “Interview with Derek Künsken – Author of The House Of Styx”.

What was the main theme that you wanted to tackle in The House of Styx?

I was flying to the Nebulas conference, I think it was in 2013. I had already created all of the biology in the clouds of Venus, but I didn’t really have a story to tell with this. I had a sort of survival story, but something was missing. This was going on at the same time as some of the ‘reasonable accommodation’ debates were happening in Quebec — and I’m half-Quebecois myself.

So I was following the news and basically it was appalling to see some of the discourse around “how should Arab people integrate into Quebec.” It quite obviously came from a place of intolerance. Then I realized that the caustic intolerance that I was observing in society was a perfect metaphor for the sort of acidic environment of the clouds of Venus. And so I wrote that story, but there was so much more to it that — as soon as I had sold it to Analog — I realized I had another novel or two in me dealing with those kinds of characters, that kind of political setting and that kind of metaphorical environment.

(9) IN COUNTRY. Paste Magazine says Lovecraft Country’s Pulpy Call Is One Even Cthulhu Couldn’t Resist”.

Ranging from Chicago’s South Side (the show was partially shot in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood) to the eerie East Coast where Lovecraft’s tales haunted their hapless sailors and professors, Lovecraft Country tracks the cruel magicks of legacy while pointing out at every turn that its genre’s legacy is steeped in racism. Just because Lovecraft was a racist dickhead on a cosmic scale doesn’t mean Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) doesn’t love his brand of fiction. Tic and his Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) kick off the series on a Jim Crow-defying quest to find Atticus’ missing father (Michael K. Williams)—who’s off in search of their family’s secretive and spooky “birthright”—accompanied by Tic’s childhood friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollet).

….[It] could be a magical universe that exists just under the surface of his own, but it’s certainly not an exciting call to adventure. It’s trouble. Why? Because he’s Black, and Blackness doesn’t mix well with America’s entrenched systems—even if they’re magical ones.

This simple twist works to deconstruct the more conventional aspects of the series. That doesn’t mean the show lacks convention: there’s always water rising or bridges collapsing or demons seducing or heroes smooching. If a magazine from the ‘50s featured it on the cover, you can bet it’ll be bolder and Blacker in Lovecraft Country.

(10) HOT ON THE TRAIL. Alexis Soloski’s not-uncritical but interesting piece on Lovecraft in today’s New York Times is made timely by the imminent premier of Lovecraft Country. “Gods, Monsters and H.P. Lovecraft’s Uncanny Legacy”.

…Broadly — and with plenty of exceptions — Lovecraft’s stories suggest huge and unfathomable horrors lurking just beneath the surface of the mundane world. Filled with miscegenation, tentacles and unspeakable dread, his works often begin with ordinary or ordinary-seeming men drawn into extraordinary and otherworldly situations. Almost no one gets out alive or sane. His brand of weird is gooey and misanthropic, with an insistence that the universe is at best indifferent to human life and at worst antagonistic.

To adapt a Lovecraft work is to reckon with a troubled and troubling legacy — blatant racism and sexual phobias blight much of his work. Still, he remains influential, with his sinister, squishy qualities still felt across media — television, film, fiction, comics, video games, role-playing games, visual art, plushies — and multiple genres. The stomach monster from “Alien”? Extremely Lovecraft. That giant squid from “Watchmen”? Lovecraft again. The devouring Shoggoths from the “Lovecraft Country” pilot? A squelching tip of the hat.

If you don’t know your Yog-Sothoth from your Shub-Niggarath — good! Run while you can! But if you hold your sanity lightly, here is a brief guide to the man, the monsters and the popular culture slime trail his works have left behind.

(11) SINCE TOLKIEN. “From Tolkien to Hungarian folklore: a brief history of Hungarian fantasy literature” in Daily News Hungary is an English-language article by Barbara Simon.

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 7, 1940 — The Adventures Of Superman radio program aired “Taos: Pillar Of Fire At Graves End”. It starred Bud Collyer and Joan Alexander but the former was kept a secret from the audience for another six years. Based on the comic created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in 1938, Superman, it was thought that it would be better if the actor was more mysterious, so he was kept anonymous. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 7, 1871 – Abanindranth Tagore.  Writer, painter, bridger of Euro-American and Asian artwork.  Literary fame for Bengali stories as told to children.  Nephew of Rabindranath Tagore, helped clear RT’s road to the Nobel Prize for Literature.  Fantasy elements integral.  Brought Chinese and Japanese elements into his own graphics.  See hereherehereherehere.  On his Khirer Putul Wikipedia says “sugar doll”, the French translation has “cheese doll”, which both miss the metaphor of khir.  (Died 1951) [JH]
  • Born August 7, 1903 Rudolf Ising. He was an early staffer to Walt Disney who left to create the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons at Warner.  He produced Hanna and Barbera’s first cartoon, Puss Gets the Boot, a cartoon featuring characters later known as Tom and Jerry. He was the first independent cartoon producer to win an Academy Award. (Died 1992.) (CE)
  • Born August 7, 1928 – Milton Lesser.  For us eight novels, a hundred sixty stories, see hereherehere; letters in AmazingAstonishingFantasticPlanet.  Fictional memoirs of Cervantes, Columbus (won Prix Gutenberg du Livre), Goya, Poe.  Life Achievement Award from Private Eye Writers of America.  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born August 7, 1933 – Jerry Pournelle, Ph.D.  Thirty novels, a dozen shorter stories, three dozen anthologies, many with co-authors; two hundred essays, letters, in AlgolThe Alien CriticDestiniesGalaxyOmniThe Patchin ReviewSF AgeSF ChronicleSF ReviewStarshipTrumpet; translated into Croatian, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish.  Lucifer’s Hammer and Footfall (with Larry Niven) on NY Times Best-Sellers list.  Seventh SFWA President (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America).  Writers & Illustrators of the Future Lifetime Achievement Award.  Aerospace.  Computer journalist.  Founding President of Pepperdine Research Institute.  We met for lunch and disagreed.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born August 7, 1936 Richard L. Tierney, 84. A Lovecraftian scholar. Coauthored with David C. Smith, a series of Red Sonja novels which have Boris Vallejo cover art. Some of his standalone novels riff off the Cthulhu Mythos. Unless you read German, he’s not available digitally on either iBooks or Kindle. (CE)
  • Born August 7, 1957 Paul Dini, 63. First, he’s largely responsible for the existence of Batman: The Animated SeriesSuperman: The Animated SeriesThe New Batman/Superman AdventuresBatman Beyond, and yes, Duck Dodgers and Tiny Toons as well. He’s recently been writing for the Ultimate Spider-Man series which is quite good. He co-authored with Pat Cadigan, Harley Quinn: Mad Love. (CE)
  • Born August 7, 1957 – Lis Carey, 63.  Active Boston fan, faithful Filer.  Chair of Boskone 46.  Here she is at BucConeer (56th Worldcon) helping with the Bostando (Boston for Orlando) 2001 Worldcon bid (L to R. Suford Lewis, LC, Tim Roberge).  A few fiction and non-fiction books she’s read, her ranking higher to lower: Omar Bradley (by S. Ossad), Children of Blood & Bone (T. Adeyemi), Queens of Animation (N. Holt), The Last Emperox (J. Scalzi), The Once & Future King (T. White), The History of Bourbon (K. Albala; the drink, not France).  [JH]
  • Born August 7, 1960 Melissa Scott, 60. I think the first work I read by her was Trouble and Her Friends which holds up well even now. I’m also fond of Night Sky Mine and The Jazz. I see she has an entire series set in the Stargate Atlantis universe. (CE)
  • Born August 7, 1960 David Duchovny, 60. Obviously Fox Mulder on X-Files. Now has he done any other genre? Well, he was Dr. Ira Kane in Evolution, a comic SF film, and then there’s Denise Bryson, formerly Dennis Bryson, played by him, who’s a transgender DEA agent on the Twin Peaks series. He also voices Ethan Cole in Area 51, a first-person shooter video game. (CE)
  • Born August 7, 1970 – Yû Godai, 50.  The Story of the Beginning of Bone written while she was still a college student, 4th annual Fujimi Shobo (publisher) Fantasy Novel Prize; five more novels, three shorter stories.  Here is a cover from Avatar Tuner. [JH] 
  • Born August 7, 1980 – Lindsey Leavitt, 40.  A dozen young-adult and children’s novels, some for us (five are fantasies about mice in a series Commander in Cheese).  YALSA (Young Adult Lib’y Services Ass’n) Best Fiction Award, Amazon Book of the Year Award.  [JH]
  • Born August 7, 1975 Charlize Theron, 45. She surprised me by being in a number of genre films including Snow White and the Huntsman and The Huntsman: Winter’s War (which are both quite superb), PrometheusMad Max: Fury RoadThe Addams Family as Morticia Adams, The Devil’s Advocate, Æon Flux in  Æon Flux, the narrator of Astro Boy and her first film, Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest, a horror film I suspect she’d prefer everyone forget. She played Pria Lavesque on The Orville in the episode called, errr, “Pria”.  (CE)

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • From Grant Snider’s Incidental Comics. Where does “Funny once” go in this model?

(15) UNDER THE DOME. SciFiNow.uk points the way to DC’s virtual event: “DC Fandome: Immense Line-Up Announced”

…DC FanDome is the first-ever global celebration of the DC Multiverse covering the brand’s biggest films, live-action series, animated TV series, games and comics.

Available in nine languages (Brazilian Portuguese, Traditional Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish (LAS)), DC FanDome will feature over 100+ hours of programming celebrating the past, present and future DC content through panels, behind the scenes access, user generated experiences, big reveals and exclusives from DC.

DC FanDome is made up of the Hall of Heroes and five islands…

(16) THOUGHT EXPERIMENTS. Andrew Liptak surveys how “The U.S. Military Is Turning to Science Fiction to Shape the Future of War” for One Zero at Medium.

…It may sound like it could be the plot of a new Netflix series, but it’s actually one of the U.S. Army’s “science fiction prototypes,” a teaching tool designed to imagine what the near future of warfare might look like and to prompt military personnel to think creatively about conflicts they might end up fighting. This one takes the form of a 71-page graphic novel called Invisible Force: Information Warfare and the Future of Conflict, produced by the Army Cyber Institute at West Point and Arizona State University’s Threatcasting Lab.

As digital technologies and robotics have opened up the kinds of futures once imagined by pulp science fiction writers, a loose network of national security professionals, military officers, and training organizations are working to try to predict the future of war — by generating science fiction stories of their own….

(17) UP ABOVE THE WORLD. Paul Weimer tells what he enjoyed about a new sff novel: “Microreview [book]: In Evil Times by Melinda Snodgrass” at Nerds of a Feather.

…The world that Snodgrass creates continues to fascinate from the first novel, especially since we expand from the pressure cooker of the High Ground space station to see the Empire, on the ground, as it were, as well as in the depths of space. We get slices of society all around, from Mercedes’ center of Imperial power, to the very humble existence that Tracy’s father as a tailor has, to the life of military officers. We get a painted portrait of what this stratified, socially conscious world is like and how people fit into that system, resist that system and find themselves in trouble for opposing that system. We also get a better sense of how aliens, an oppressed stratum of society, fit and struggle in a human dominated Solar League. Aliens are very much third class citizens, and the consequences of that are explored in the book both from Tracy and Mercedes’ perspectives….

(18) HELP WANTED. Writing all those Tor.com five-things posts has burned out James Davis Nicoll’s laptop, and he’d be thrilled if people want to help him buy the replacement: “Alas, Poor Jenkins”.

My faithful laptop has subtly hinted that I need to prioritize replacing it, first by closing every Word File within a few minutes of opening them…

(19) SAVING THROW. Wizards: Tales of Arcadia premiered on Netflix today.

After discovering a secret underworld of trolls and teaming up with aliens to save the planet, the teenagers of Arcadia Oaks are back for one final journey: time traveling to the world of King Arthur’s Camelot to defeat villains and preserve the future. Major characters like Jim (Emile Hirsch), Toby (Charlie Saxton) and Claire (Lexi Medrano) have returned from the previous sagas of “Trollhunters” and “3Below,” joined this time by the legendary Merlin (David Bradley). 

The series is written and produced by Guillermo del Toro, whose 2017 film “The Shape of Water” took home four Oscars, including best picture and director.

(20) GRAND FINALE. Meanwhile, IndieWire reports “Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans’ Animated Film to Premiere on Netflix in 2021”.

…Del Toro has billed the film as the conclusion to his “Tales of Arcadia” television trilogy which includes the “Trollhunters,” “3Below,” and “Wizards,” shows. “Wizards” premiered on Netflix today.

Here’s Netflix’s synopsis for the upcoming film: Arcadia may look like an ordinary town, but it lies at the center of magical and mystical lines that makes it a nexus for many battles among otherworldly creatures, including trolls, aliens and wizards. Now, the heroes from the hit series “Trollhunters,” “3Below” and “Wizards,” team-up in their most epic adventure yet where they must fight the Arcane Order for control over the magic that binds them all.

(21) OVER A BARREL. NPR’s Linda Holmes sees that “Seth Rogen Finds Himself (Twice) In ‘An American Pickle'”

When you think about a Seth Rogen movie, he’s almost always got pals around. He’s made comedies with James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Adam Sandler and — if you count Steve Jobs — even Michael Fassbender. It only makes sense he would eventually make a buddy movie with himself.

An American Pickle, streaming on HBO Max on Aug. 6, is adapted from a four-part Simon Rich story that appeared in The New Yorker in 2013. Called “Sell Out,” it’s about a Polish immigrant named Herschel (whose wife is pregnant) who falls into a pickle barrel in 1920 and wakes up, perfectly preserved, 100 years later. This premise, neatly told in the first six short paragraphs, is both absurd and (no pun intended) narratively rich. In the film, which Rich adapted for the screen himself, both the preserved Herschel and his great-grandson Ben — who are the same age — are played by Seth Rogen. What follows is part wacky opposites-attract picture, part family story, part silly caper and, most interestingly, part funny (but also thoughtful) examination of what our ancestors would think of us, especially if they made great sacrifices to give us what we now have.

In the original story, Herschel’s descendant is Simon Rich himself, a script doctor in Hollywood. Here, he’s Ben, an app developer who’s spent five years of his life trying to get an app off the ground that scans bar codes to tell you how ethically made a particular product is. For a whole variety of reasons — from “what’s an app?” to “who cares?” — this confounds Herschel. He quickly discovers, too, that the small cemetery where his wife is buried has been dishonored by the presence of a giant billboard for vanilla vodka (chosen perhaps because Rogen has enormous fun pronouncing “vanilla vodka” in his version of Herschel’s accent). This cannot stand. So Herschel sets out to do what he knows best: make pickles and sell them to Brooklyn, so he can reclaim the cemetery. This does lead to some familiar material about hipsters who love artisanal foods, but it’s executed pretty well, and Rich’s script keeps it moving.

…Let’s focus on this much: It’s a clever idea, it has some good jokes, and it approaches the idea of immigration to the United States in a way I haven’t seen. That’s not to even mention the fact that being preserved in a pickle barrel and waking up in 100 years has never been more appealing.

(22) HOW DID THEY KNOW? Mental Floss dishes up “9 Books That Predicted the Future”. This first one is pretty surprising.

1. FUTILITY

In this book written by Morgan Robertson, a massive ocean liner described as “the largest craft afloat” is steaming at full speed through the North Atlantic when a watchman cries out “Iceberg.” But the ship hits the ice and begins to sink. With too few lifeboats, many of the passengers drown when the ship goes down.

The story sounds familiar, but this ship wasn’t the TitanicFutility‘s ship was the Titan. Robertson penned his novel 14 years before the Titanic took its doomed maiden voyage—and those aren’t the only similarities between Robertson’s Titan and the Titanic, either. Such was the predictive power of the text that just a week after the sinking of the Titanic the story—now called The Wreck of the Titan; or, Futility—was being serialized in newspapers as “an amazing prophecy.”

(23) AND AWAY THEY GO. “Facebook removes QAnon conspiracy group with 200,000 members”.

Facebook has deleted a large group dedicated to sharing and discussing QAnon conspiracy theories.

QAnon is a wide-ranging, unfounded conspiracy theory that a “deep state” network of powerful government, business and media figures are waging a secret war against Donald Trump.

A Facebook spokeswoman said the group was removed for “repeatedly posting content that violated our policies”.

Last month both Twitter and TikTok also cracked down on QAnon content.

Twitter banned thousands of accounts and said it would block QAnon urls, while TikTok deleted hashtags that signposted QAnon videos.

The deleted Facebook group, called Official Q/Qanon, had nearly 200,000 members.

There are, however, many other QAnon groups that are currently still active on the platform.

(24) CORMORANT ALOFT AGAIN. Adri Joy says readers will find a long-awaited payoff in terms of character healing and growth in the third book of this series: “Microreview [Book]: The Tyrant Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson” at Nerds of a Feather.

…Baru Cormorant is back for round three! In The Tyrant Baru Cormorant (which, in-keeping with the rest of this series’ inexplicable name shortenings, is being published as “The Tyrant” in the UK) everyone’s favourite provincial savant returns for another round of high-stakes political drama against the empire of Falcrest: the empire which colonised her island, killed one of her fathers and tried to cut her off from her own culture as a child, and also the empire which now counts her as among its most elite operatives. The first book in the series captured my heart and then broke it into a million pieces, and while I don’t think I’m the same reader as I was five years ago, I still consider new releases in this series to be a significant event, and I’m especially glad we haven’t had to wait too long between the previous book and this one.

(25) SHADES OF MEANING. PEN America’s weekly interview series delivers “The Pen Ten: An Interview With Laura Van Den Berg”.

9. The stories in this collection are haunting, and this also includes the stunning cover art. Whether it’s a woman who works as grief freelancer playing the roles of widowers’ dead wives or a woman pretending to be her missing sister, the stories speak to each other in unearthly ways. Can you speak about the subversive nature of ghosts that permeate the collection—when you realized this was a connective tissue while writing the stories and how it operates in the book, as well as our lives?
The cover was designed by Na Kim, who is a genius. I think it captures the spirit of the collection beautifully. In terms of the thematic through lines, I thought a lot about the supernatural as a means to explore the material that cannot be contained by corporal life: the unsayable secrets, the unexamined truths, the incomprehensible realities. In an NPR interview, Toni Morrison once said that “if you are really alert, then you can see the life that exists beyond the life that exists on top.” What does this “life beyond” have to say about our world that cannot be conveyed through other channels? What does it mean to haunt? What does it mean to be haunted? All these questions were important guides, though it took some time to recognize the supernatural as a thematic link. For a while, I had a lot of stories—maybe 350 pages worth—but I was struggling to find the book. Once I started letting the spectral guide me, a shape began to emerge.

(26) A BACON REFERENCE WITHOUT SCALZI. Lise Andreasen shares a fraught moment from the German quiz show Gefragt Gejagt today. 

Who wrote Nova Atlantis?

Wrong answer: Hemingway. 

[Thanks to Olav Rokne, Cat Eldridge, Rob Thornton, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, PhilRM, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Bence Pintér, Lise Andreasen, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day IanP.]

159 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 8/7/20 I Saw The Thing Comin’ Out Of The Sky, It Had The One Long File, One Big Eye

  1. @Brown Robin: Indeed, no one ever described the end of the 1960s as being a time of major social change. The year when the future really began, unlike all those previous false starts when things didn’t really change that much, surely must be 1990 because that’s when I graduated high school.

  2. @Nina: I don’t know how old you are (and it’s not my business), but I submit this as a mental exercise. Think of yourself a teen or young adult – go for 21 to split the difference. What portion of your reading came from 70-90 years before that?

    Taking myself as an example: I was born in 1965, so was 21 in 1986. 70-90 years before that is 1896-1916. Now, because I’m a history buff among other things, there is some work from that era I happily read, like John Muir. There’s Sherlock Holmes, and horror does relatively well: there’s Dracula just inside the earlier boundary, and Lord Dunsany, and Algernon Blackwood, and some others. But science fiction and fantasy? Darned little. Jules Verne, and really not a lot of others.

    A 21-year-old today relates to 1930-1950 much the way I do to 1896-1916. There’s not nothing in there likely to be of interest. But it’s a different country on the far side of multiple drastic social and technological changes, and even the best of it is just about guaranteed to be mired in assumptions about men and women (like, there are those two categories, no others are of significance and/or exist, and they are simply defined and do not ever require changing) [1], citizens and subjects and authorities and laws and rights, what kinds of info a person is likely to have access to and ought to be expected to now, what role entertainment plays in one’s personal life, how communities of interest are defined, form, develop, and dissolve, and so on.

    Out of a large body of works from that era that may or may not be worth bothering with now, for any given such reader, there’s probably just one or a few, and the factors that make it worth reading are likely to be personal, idiosyncratic, and anchored in the realities of being 21 in 2020, a condition that is (despite a lot of people’s best efforts at communication) pretty foreign to us older readers. Which is to say, not a canon.

    [1]: A bunch of my younger friends, both those who are themselves trans or genderqueer, or who love or are related to people who are, take the attitude that spending a lot of time with stories by people who literally don’t even know they exist is work, not entertainment. I’m sympathetic to that. There’s the study of history and culture, which includes taking in fiction to understand perspectives, and it’s honorable work. But it is work, and not necessarily something to enjoy when you want to just explore new worlds and new stories.

  3. re: (5) John Scalzi’s “Oh Christ, Not the Science Fiction Canon Again”
    I read through it a little while ago. I was saddened. But not surprised.
    What jumps out at me is not just a divide between people who appreciate the canon and those who speak ill of it, but one of tone. It’s like SF writing and SF fandom pre-internet and today. Most of the people who had positive things to say about the so-called canon really weren’t trying to force it down anyone’s throat, most admitted that it had some quality and a lot of cliche and crap. Most spoke of it as an often inspirational force in their lives. Against all of the stereotypes, over and over again the pro-canonists advised you to just read what you like and not worry what others think, and just about all said that they really do try to find and read good new SF, too. And they were mellow and civil. Contrast that with the tone of most of the Internet Age canon-denouncers, who came across as angry (if not paranoid that they are being FORCED to swallow all of an alleged “official” canon), faddishly ideological, snarky, and ageist. This divide is why I don’t go to cons anymore and almost never look at SF commentary online (I read File 770 is a news site). The SF world today is an angry, toxic one. The contemporary SF world is one dominated by social media, and the research shows again and again that the more social media people consume, the more depressed and unhappy they are. And these commentaries demonstrated that. Ironically, rather than say live and let live, read and let read, as their “opponents” urged, Scalzi’s anti-canonists strenuously insisted any and all stories, authors, editors, etc. of SF older than recent memory should be trashed as obsolete if not evil. For my part, I have to agree with the poster who wrote: “ ‘canon’ is what inspired people to follow certain paths, that led to citizens who added to society, that influenced how people live, that created dialogue about the ideas presented. I look for new, contemporary authors who produce works like that, but find too few.” Again, all this just saddens me. Now, watch some character try to call me a puppy or worse…..

  4. @K: “Most of the people who had positive things to say about the so-called canon really weren’t trying to force it down anyone’s throat, most admitted that it had some quality and a lot of cliche and crap.” Probably true. But the experiences of so many fans and writers who are female, black (or Hispanic or anything else but white), queer, etc etc etc, are filled with the other sort, who often very explicitly said that they didn’t belong until they knew The Canon and then didn’t belong anyway because they weren’t like the guys and occasional tolerated female who wrote The Canon. This isn’t me talking, this is them, again and again over decades. There comes a point where it’s wise to assume that Ng and Jemisin and Butler and Due and Liu and Moreno-Garcia and so many others are actually talking about something very real and painful even if it’s not what J. Random Already-A-Fan ever intended or would condone.

  5. @Brown Robin: I’m curious to know what you find special about 1990. In mundane events, ISTM that Gulf War #1 was in a sequence rather than an abrupt change, and I don’t remember the year being more remarkable than any other in genre; OTOH I had some … distractions … that year, such that personal history may have blurred other memories.

  6. Well, I thought it was clear I was writing specifically about sci-fi, not Art or Literature.

    I believe the revolution of the mid-1980s to mid-1990s makes the sixties seem like small ball.

    I am happy agreeing to disagree.

  7. @ Bruce Baugh

    This isn’t me talking, this is them, again and again over decades. There comes a point where it’s wise to assume that Ng and Jemisin and Butler and Due and Liu and Moreno-Garcia and so many others are actually talking about something very real and painful even if it’s not what J. Random Already-A-Fan ever intended or would condone.

    This sounds like our scenario. Since fandom’s traditions ignore or minimize certain groups, those traditions get devalued when the situation changes. Also there’s the obsolete futures that past writers envisioned and they just don’t fly now.

    However, I wouldn’t reject the past wholesale for any reason. For example, Bach was lost in the dusty stacks until Mendelssohn brought his work back into the spotlight. We need to think about what is valuable and what is not in our art, so I am totally ok with the idea of canon, as long as it stays flexible and does not calcify into rigid dogma.

  8. @Rob Thornton: What I’m wrangling with in my own head these days is whether any of what I associate with canon as a concept enriches or otherwise helps the general principle that neat stuff is in the past, along with a lot of crap and a lot of stuff that mattered once but doesn’t now, and diving into it is sometimes very productive and sometimes a waste of your time or even an active drain. I think not, but seeing the ways others think and write about canon(s) is helpful in keeping the mental pot stirring, and it’s not like I have to reach a conclusion now.

  9. Soon Lee says “Those who do not learn canon are doomed to repeat it.”

    It’s equally arguable that there is no canon at all. That outside of literature classes and bookstores, that a genre reader of today could very nicely never need to read any book that might be part of the canon. Now if you want to recommend someone read Le Guin’s The Dispossessed which could could be part of the canon, or Herbert’s Dune which I expect would be part of the canon by all means do so but only if you think they’re good reads. Otherwise why read them?

  10. @Cat,

    My comment was partly in jest, riffing on Santayana.

    It is undeniable that there are foundational works that shaped the genre. For me the question is, if you were a writer or a reader, is it necessary to read them (whatever whoever decides those works are)? I’d reply with a qualified no. But you’d want to at least be aware of what they were & their historical importance. As a writer, you’d want to avoid re-inventing the wheel no?

    Some of those works may be read out of curiosity, but you might not enjoy them in the same way someone who read them on publication might; some of them are dated, been visited by the suck fairy. And you’re also more than likely to have read more recent works, better written works, more suited to contemporary tastes. So when you go read the older works, they’re likely to come across as pedestrian & derivative. The first time you read a vampire story, it’s fresh, but by the 20th, you’ve seen most of what can be done with that trope. If you then start reading Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”, how would it read to you?

  11. @Soon Lee: It’s like the old joke: “What’s so great about Shakespeare? His plays are filled with cliches!”

  12. Pilgrim’s Progress is foundational to the novel. Only English scholars and theologians ever read it, because it has been absorbed into the culture and the culture has moved on.

    There is the canon that has silently shaped everything you write, and then there is the canon that you are consciously interacting with. Wide Sargasso Sea is indebted to the entire history of novels in English. However, it is a direct response to Jane Eyre. You need to have read Jane Eyre to get what’s going on in WSS. You don’t need to have read Clarissa.

  13. About four years ago, I decided to get more familiar with the history of the field and read at least all the Hugo winners. The result- I read some books I liked, some I didn’t. I can’t say it noticably improved my appreciation of contemporary stories generally.
    There are a few newer books I can think of that require familiarity with the canon. Such as Redshirts. If you don’t know Star Trek, this book doesn’t work. But these kind of books are rare.

  14. @Sylvia Sotomayor: Putting a backslash before any character (including a backslash) will inhibit its special meaning to the markdown processor: “\*m\*z\*n” becomes “*m*z*n”.

  15. This is a rather bitty post, but….

    I’ve read some Merrit – I encountered an extract from The Moon Pool quite young. When I eventually found the whole book, I was disappointed (the opening sections are still the best, sometimes the mystery is better without explanation). On the other hand, The Metal Monster, which I read in the last few years was better than I expected, and seemed to include an early version of nanotechnology (although maybe it was only microtechnology). It’s not a great work but it was entertaining enough.

    I don’t think that 1990 was When It All Changed – there were important developments in the genre in the 1980s – William Gibson and Iain M Banks both started then, and their influence continues. Both writers belong in the canon.

    I have read The Pilgrim’s Progress. I was young (pre-teen, I think) I read whatever came to hand and it was in the house.

  16. @Lela E Buis

    You’re sure this email was from PayPal?

    Yes, because the email directed me to log into my paypal account because of some problem to be resolved, and when I did there was a notification to provided the document with the SSN.

  17. @Brown Robin: “For many years my advice to people born after 1990 has been to disregard anything published before 1990.

    I’m not sure I would put it at 1990 precisely, but I think there has been a generational shift. A difference in expectations in writing quality, exposition styles, and for a lack of a better term, interrogation of the foundations of modern society. And I think it’s something that built up over three decades.

    @K: Most of the people who had positive things to say about the so-called canon really weren’t trying to force it down anyone’s throat,

    That is seriously not my experience. If nothing else, there’s far too many lists out there that say in effect: “These are the classics of SF that all SF fans must read.”

    @Bruce: That is a very well put statement. And I would say that there is a strong case to be made that the expectations of the genre have seen a generational shift.

    Beyond writing quality, the expectations of the genre may very well not appeal to the more diverse audiences of today. Take Lawrence Arabia in Space Dune for example: I described to my partner the role of women in that “foundational classic” and she shrugged and said she wasn’t interested- she’d rather finish her really good translation of “Dream of the Red Chamber” (New Penguin edition- recommended). And she has a point: if you take away the racism, the White Savior complex, the sexism, the homophobia, the bad biology and ecology, how much is left? What does Dune have to offer to someone who isn’t a White Male of a Certain Age? Or rather, how much sexism, racism, homophobia white savior complex, etc should a reader who ISN’T a White Male of a Certain Age have to endure to get to the elements that supposedly make it a classic?

    And this is a question that extends over a LOT of foundational works. At least Dune has competent, moderately exciting writing; what are works such as Foundation to a modern reader?

    I think one of the characteristics of the 21C Wave (please, someone come up with a better term) is a willingness to look at works of the past with a more critical eye, in terms of modern culture. This is part of the tension that’s happened in fandom over the last five years, and the effects of it seem to be rapidly increasing. For example, I’ve recently had occasion to read old comment sections from various fan sites, and the shift between 2012 and today is dramatic.

    @ Soon Lee: It is undeniable that there are foundational works that shaped the genre. For me the question is, if you were a writer or a reader, is it necessary to read them (whatever whoever decides those works are)?

    It’s notable that a lot of the classics lists I see aren’t for writer’s benefits but more in the line of “If you want to call yourself a well-read fan, you must read this!” Honestly, I don’t think that’s necessary.

    And even for a writer, I think it might be better to simply have a knowledge of the tropes and terminology, and for that, we have sites like TV Tropes and Atomic Rockets. Properly utilized, they could reduce the number of genre equivalents of college students being forced to read “Turn of the Screw”.

    [sarcasmfilter]Or maybe we could just use machine learning and online references to come up with something akin to Clippy for SF/Fantasy writers:

    Hi! I see you’re using the idea of a galactic empire that’s collapsing like Rome! I have 2,325 works related to that- would you like some help?

    Hi! I see you’re using Joseph Campell’s Hero’s Journey in a pseudo-European fantasy setting! I have 18,997,384 works using that concept. Make that 18,997,392 works using that concept. Make that 18,997,403 works using that concept. Would you like to start over?

  18. K: Most of the people who had positive things to say about the so-called canon really weren’t trying to force it down anyone’s throat

    The biggest problem with this comment is that it’s based entirely on your assumption that there is a defined SF canon. There is not.

    If you get 100 fans who were born before 1980 to make a list of the SF “canon”, you will end up with 101 wildly-diverging lists.

    I’ve also been at convention panels, and in discussions, where the older fans were quite adamant that anyone who hadn’t read the books they were touting as “canon” was ignorant and not a true SF fan. Sure, you can pretend that these guys don’t exist — but there are (or at least there used to be) a lot of them.

    As far as claiming that the old fandudes were “mellow and civil” — I’ve done a lot of reading in the old paper fanzines, and the old-time fans were often anything but mellow and civil. The disagreements back then were just as vehement and acrimonious as they are now — the difference is that they now proceed at the speed of electrons rather than at the speed of the postal service.

    So no, pretty much everything you’ve said in your comment is untrue, although I’m sure you actually believe it.

  19. Funnily enough, a friend on Thursday asked me for some SF recommendations. He enjoys SF, particularly ‘ideas’ stories, but hasn’t read widely in the genre. English is not his first language, so he’s not particularly concerned with or interested in quality of prose. He’s read some Asimov, which he enjoyed, Ted Chaing, and the three Area X books that I loaned him a while ago. I gave him a whole load of recommendations (mostly if not completely last century, since my reading has dropped off considerably in recent years). Among them I included the two Asimov novels that stand out in my memory: End Of Eternity and The Gods Themselves. Frankly, I don’t particularly care for Asimov. anymore, and was hoping he’d start with something else, such as Bester or Flowers For Algernon. But he went with End Of Eternity and told me on Friday that he’s enjoying it very much. He must be a good 20 years younger than me – so mid 30s – but clearly Asimov is still relevant to some.

    As for defining a canon: if it must be done, perhaps previous Hugo and/or Nebula winners would make a good start?

  20. I remember persuading my eldest daughter to sit and watch Dr Strangelove with me. And then I realised she had no idea at all what was going on, or what the background to the movie was. The Cold War is a pretty bizarre thing to have to explain to someone.

  21. I don’t think that the shift in SF writing can be given a cut-off date, especially not one in the last 30 years. In my view there’s been a continuous evolution – with various punctuations along the way.

    The New Wave of the ‘60s is maybe the starting point, if we have to have one – at least in terms of the main stream of SF. http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/new_wave

    Now, maybe there has been a bit of a cultural shift, but that seems to be part of a much wider shift in society as a whole.

  22. @ Rose Embolism

    What does Dune have to offer to someone who isn’t a White Male of a Certain Age? Or rather, how much sexism, racism, homophobia white savior complex, etc should a reader who ISN’T a White Male of a Certain Age have to endure to get to the elements that supposedly make it a classic?

    I dislike this absolutist take on literature and prefer to place works like Dune in context of how and where it was written. If you can’t read Dune, that’s fine but I hope we can all agree that Dune isn’t the Turner Diaries.

  23. @Rose Embolism:

    Hi! I see you’re using the idea of a galactic empire that’s collapsing like Rome! I have 2,325 works related to that- would you like some help?

    Hee-hee…

  24. Dune isn’t the Turner Diaries.

    That would be Farnham’s Freehold and Lucifer’s Hammer.
    It seems to me there were a lot of generational shifts over the course of post-Gernbeckian SF, from improved editorial standards in the 1930s, to editorial alternatives that weren’t gullible, racist, woman-hating, slipstick-waving, blowhards in the 1950s, to the New Wave, the surge of women writers in the 1960s and 1970s, and so on, in parallel with social changes, and it all means a kid today isn’t likely to enjoy Tumithak Of The Corridors .

  25. (I don’t know why I can’t get the quotes to work. Imagine the material below is blockquoted)

    ASF&SF 99(4) April 1979, Brass Tacks, p. 176

    Dear Ben,

    Just finished “I Put My Blue Genes On” by Orson Scott Card. Good story. But it reminded me that all your stories have one major fault. They are racist by implication and by supposition. They ignore the possibility that Japanese, Chinese, Indians, Arabs, Ethiopians etc. might found civilizations in the stars. Card at least mentioned the Chinese (only to explain briefly that they had all been wiped out) to concentrate on the real world beaters of 2810 A.D. — the Americans (granted they came from Hawaii), the Russians, and the Brazilians. Western civilization all. Most of your stories just ignore the existence of Earth’s other races. Even a story about a planet peopled with the descendants of Japanese space explorers (Donald Kingsbury’s excellent “Shipwright”) feels it necessary to explain that this is an out-of-the-way, backward planet and that real interstellar civilization is white. Hope that in the future your writers will come to accept the fact that Nigerians as well as WASPs are star bound.

    Gordon Heseltine
    Canandaigua, NY 14424

    Why is there no science fiction written by Eastern authors? (Assuming Russia and Japan are Western nations.) Because Eastern cultures are a-scientific. They will get to the stars aboard Western ships — no matter who builds them.

  26. Yes, because the email directed me to log into my paypal account because of some problem to be resolved, and when I did there was a notification to provided the document with the SSN.

    Bill, I think it was a scam. They were phishing for your login and SS number and if you used their link, you should change your Paypal login immediately. You might also contact Paypal to make sure there’s been no unusual activity in your account. I would NEVER follow a link in an email that said it was from a financial institution. If you need to check the account, always log in from the Paypal website.

  27. @James Davis Nicoll, arrrghhh. Whoever that “Ben” was (not Bova, I hope?) he certainly was racist…

  28. I think the “lower bound” of what is mainstream SF is decades behind the present, but it does not advance forward evenly as we slip into the future. Instead, upheavals and major changes in the SF field “unstick the gears” and bring that lower bound forward. The New Wave, Cyberpunk, the New Space Opera, Grimdark (this formulation also works for fantasy I think), and whatever this moment we are in, now
    (side note: Do we have a name for this Moment. The field is changing rapidly, to the point of a movement, but I haven’t seen anyone coin a term for it yet).

    The last vestiges of Campbellian SF as being the SF standard are going—mainstream SF I think effectively begins in the 60s and 70s (maybe even all the way to 85 and Neuromancer).

    It doesn’t mean that previous SFF shouldn’t be read–but SF before the lower bound is seen as awfully dated, the flaws invariably clear, which includes the writers themselves.

    I would not push a SFF novel on someone new to the genre that was written before 2000, and probably not 2010.

    We’re like in the towers of Fran Wilde’s Updraft, where only the growing tops of the towers are inhabited. The entire structure is important and supports the superstructure but the inhabited parts that most people will get the most value of is on the tops. And always, we should be looking above us as well to the past, and more so.

    There is a lot of investment, emotionally and psychologically, in those older works and authors, and when that investment meets modern readers and writers who have a very different view of Lovecraft and Campbell and Silverberg…the results are all around us, today.

    And someday, the SFF written today will pass beyond that lower bound, as SFF continues to evolve.

  29. @ Paul Weimer

    And someday, the SFF written today will pass beyond that lower bound, as SFF continues to evolve.

    Agreed.

  30. The last vestiges of Campbellian SF as being the SF standard are going—mainstream SF I think effectively begins in the 60s and 70s (maybe even all the way to 85 and Neuromancer).

    SF needs to at least keep up with current technology, if not project for the future. With the current rate of change, this can be difficult, but SF authors do have a certain responsibility in the matter. I’ve read some recently published work that is still clearly stuck in the 20th century.

  31. @ James Davis Nicolll

    While Gordon Heseltine is absolutely right, I would like to note one misunderstanding on his part. He doesn’t understand or overlooks the fact that Brazilian culture is Not Just White People, maybe because it undermines his argument.

  32. I’ve read some recently published work that is still clearly stuck in the 20th century.

    As I mentioned on one of my panels, I got into reviewing mysteries just about the time cell phones became ubiquitous. A lot of mystery writers found mobiles and the internet undermined stock plots, so for a while there I was getting mysteries with subplots about shitty cell phone coverage or aging PIs who couldn’t find the any key.

  33. @Rob: Sure it’s in the Global South, but it’s still a settler state and that’s not going to change just because it’s only 48% white.

  34. @Lela E Buis: Yeah. When I get an email that purports to be from some business I have business with, I don’t click the link – I log in directly using the address I have bookmarked. It’s not clear whether or not Bill did this (his wording is ambiguous).

  35. @Brown Robin: I did say “genre” — and I asked as a question, not an attempt to start a fight. Now that you’ve expanded a year to a decade, I can see (e.g.) cyberpunk as an obvious change — but cyberpunk is now tarnished by its dismissal of the major evolution of the 1970’s; what other changes do you see as abruptly specific to that period rather than as part of a gradual continuum of inclusiveness and expansion (cf @Rose Embolism)? @Paul King mentions Banks, who ISTM established an individual direction but doesn’t on his own represent a shift; do you relate his work to others of that decade?

    @Paul King: I’d argue that the New wave was more a small group of people making noise about their work (cf cyberpunk) than a genuine shift; Galaxy and F&SF were over a decade old by then, and authors ranging from Bester to Zelazny had already been playing with form — even consciously with the idea of Story — for years. I don’t see the more stylistic/experimental bits of what I remember of the New Wave making a permanent contribution to genre, and with occasional exceptions (Delany?) I don’t recall it doing much for any underrepresented (or actively despised) group — although I don’t recall it being as macho-retro as much of cyberpunk.
    Possibly I’m misrecollecting; I found a lot of the look-at-me-styling work unreadable at the time, and haven’t gone back to it.

  36. @Paul re Pilgrim’s Progress:
    Yes, but you’re a File770 poster!

    I would not push a SFF novel on someone new to the genre that was written before 2000, and probably not 2010.

    You just blew away most (all, for the later date) of the works of Octavia Butler, as well as a lot of Ursula Le Guin. I haven’t reread it in many years, but I bet The Dispossessed holds up. See also Delany, Vonnegut …

    I’m not saying any of the above are canon. I’m saying that they hold up to a 21st-century reread. I note that none of them are “hard SF”.

    @james I bet you could write an amazing terror story set in the National Radio Quiet Zone.

  37. Besides the technology issue, SFF tends to follow current literary trends in the greater marketplace. In the late 20th century postmodernism and deconstructionism started to have an effect on themes and literary styles. A current trend is rediscovery of older styles like absurdism and surrealism, more visible in fantasy than in science fiction, but still definitely there. It’s an easy way to go, as it means the author doesn’t have to justify amazing technologies or strange aberrations in the laws of physics.

  38. @ Lela E Buis

    If you need to check the account, always log in from the Paypal website.

    Which is exactly what I did at the time, and it was the real Paypal website that had the requests for information. (and when I was following up last night, I noticed that they still have the notifications asking for me to provide the non-existent documents; but I still haven’t pulled any money out, so it makes no difference to me).

    And there are legitimate reasons for Paypal to want to verify my SSN — the money laundering, as mentioned; and the fact that many people use Paypal sales as a source of income, so IRS wants to make sure they are tracking correctly, etc.

    I appreciate your concern, and what you said is good advice in general, but I’ve been online for 25 years and am aware of and cautious of phishing and other online scams. No need to be concerned about this case.

    @Rose Embolism

    It’s notable that a lot of the classics lists I see aren’t for writer’s benefits but more in the line of “If you want to call yourself a well-read fan, you must read this!” Honestly, I don’t think that’s necessary.

    OTOH, if a reader isn’t familiar with Starship Troopers, Foundation, The Space Merchants, Dune, Ender’s Game, Forever War, KSR’s Mars books, Lucifer’s Hammer, [and a lot of other works whose time seems to have passed], there may be many good things you could say about that person as a fan, but “well-read” (at least in a broad sense) can’t be one of them. I haven’t read much of the Cthulhu Mythos, but I get the references. I’ve read enough of the works that refer to the originals that I’ve absorbed the key points by osmosis.

    “Well-read” isn’t the end-all and be-all of fandom, but it has a specific meaning, and familiarity with works that today’s literature continues to engage with is part of that.

  39. How many times has the complete set of published SF doubled since (say) 1940? Things have to drop off the “must-read” list to make place for the new “must-reads”. As a romance reader, I don’t demand that somebody have read Mary Stewart’s excellent Gothics of the ’50s-’60s in order to be considered “well-read”, because there are just too many wonderful romance books to make any of them mandatory.

    Saying “you can’t be well-read unless you’ve read these books” ignores how many good SF works there are to read, and that nobody has time to read all of them. Of your list, wow, would I not recommend Foundation to any woman reader, or frankly Starship Troopers, whose worldbuilding is founded on the social expectations of (at the very latest) the early 1960s, to anybody. And Lucifer’s Hammer? The one with the cannibal Black people? Holy shit, no.

  40. No need to be concerned about this case.

    Okay, glad to hear you’ve got it under control. It is fairly common for financial institutions to as for SS numbers, so I don’t think there’s reason to be disturbed about that.

  41. Briefly, since a longer comment was lost to the void – I have noticed (or it’s just my perception) that genre fiction in the oughts (2000s and earlier) and the new tens (2010s till now) seem to have occurred a divided/generational shift. Or it’s just a untested theory of mine.

    Robinson’s Mars, Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn, Baxter’s Manifold, McLeod’s Fall Revolution and other works seem different from Leckie, Newman, Chambers and others which I haven’t read (from their not having drawing power for my taste based on reading their blurbs, both here and elseweb). Excepting Ada Palmer and Claire North which I’ve loved.

    The works of fantasy after (or slightly before) my arbitrary dividing line also seem perceptibly different – Sanderson, Jemisin, Cogman and maybe others, too.

    Works new to me during the 2010s that I’ve only read then that have straddled bith decades (or earlier) are Bujold’s Vorkosigan, Brust, Hobb, Butcher, Lee Child and Kathy Reichs to include non-genre works, too(thought that may be far out of my point).

    Rothfuss, Lynch and also Erikson were mostly in the oughts, extending forwards and backwards.

    Kuang and Fonda Lee whom I’ve read and enjoyed are in the 2010s.

    What was prevalent in 2000s didn’t seem so anymore in 2010s, – or at least overwhelmingly the pattern of it to me is that it’s a phase shift into a different thing, altogether – or least there were much more of what seems to me to be ‘A’s , while after what seems to me to be ‘1’s arose and was voluminous and ‘A’s became lesser or non-significant in volume, in inverse proportion.

    (It’s fuzzy – Tad Williams lasts from late 80s to early 2020s, thus far – it’s not a concrete line, to mix metaphors – neither was New Wave so clearly delineated.)

    Does anyone here have any inkling of what I’m trying, maybe miserably, to convey?

  42. @Madame Hardy — yes, there is a lot of SFF out there. No one’s saying you need to read all of it, or even a significant fraction. And if you want to nitpick individual works as “should be” or “shouldn’t be” on a canonical list, I’m okay with that so long as we both agree that the SF literature has some core, seminal works that are important and that works that follow engage with. If you don’t accept that premise; if you believe that every story is best experienced on its own, without consideration of prior works that have dealt with the same themes (and often have established the tropes that engaging those themes bring into play), then we are simply existing in different worlds.
    Starship Troopers is certainly a book of its time, and if it were written today, it might be unsalable. But if you read MilSF today (or, for that matter, any MilSF written in the last 55 years), your reading experience will be richer and fuller if you are familiar with it, because so much of modern MilSF is in response to it, or deals with the same themes. See Old Man’s War, Forever War, the film Aliens, etc.

    Another example: when I saw Robocop in the theaters, when Bixby Snyder said “I’d buy that for a dollar!”, I got more out of the line than others in the same theater because I knew that the line was a callback to “The Marching Morons”. And after that many of the themes of elitism and control of the masses in Robocop took on another layer.

    I’m amazed that there is so much push back against the idea of a “canon”. When I read something current, I want to understand where the work fits in context of the works that preceded it. I want to know how other previous writers have engaged the same themes and idea, and how the current author has responded to it.

  43. Aah, i forgot to mention why i wrote the previous comment. It’s partly to say – ptui to canon. To me – Its too nebulous; and ever-changing taste and circumstances; such as what I’ve noticed; and which is why I’ve come up with my theory of dividing 2000s and 2010s: makes canon-icity impossible until years later, after things ossify – in my opinion.

    I don’t think canon of the last 20 years can be agreed upon until maybe 50 years later (or whatever time as makes sense-but not less than 10-20 years), even then there will be arguments, such as is happening here for the 20th century.

    I am not at all well-read, just a voracious reader.

  44. Does anyone here have any inkling of what I’m trying, maybe miserably, to convey?

    I get it. It somewhat corresponds to what I posted earlier about trends and literary styles. Any attempt to canonize would need to look at tastes and influences in the available body of work. For example, readers/writers of color might start their list of influences with Delany and Butler, while hard SF writers might go back to Asimov and Heinlein and follow a different track.

    P.S. Note also recent trends to steampunk and similar retro settings.

  45. I don’t think 1990 is a bad cut-off date. (And I have read most of “the canon” even for fairly old definitions of “the canon”. I have read every Hugo novel except #2, ferexample.) There are certainly some exceptions (Le Guin, Delany, Butler), but as a rule of thumb, it’s not a bad one. Especially since anyone who hears it is also going to be hearing from other folks about all the old, crappy works they just “gotta read”. 🙂

    Long ago, when I was young and non-avian dinosaurs still roamed the hills, it was possible to keep up with the field. Today, that’s pretty much impossible. So if you stick to post-1990 works, you’ll be missing a lot, including a little bit of good stuff, but that’s going to be the case anyway! So why not?

    Maybe I’m cynical because of too many visits from the suck fairy, but I just don’t see it as a bad rule–even if it’s not my rule.

    As for “dialog” with older works, well, when I was young, a lot of SF was in dialog with older non-SF works (because there wasn’t so much SF to be in dialog with). A lot of those older non-SF works were things I hadn’t read, but I still got stuff out of the books I did read. (As for the specific example of Redshirts, I’m pretty sure most millennials are familiar with the necessary concepts via Internet memes and the like, even if they’ve never seen ST:TOS. Donald Kingsbury’s Psychohistorical Crisis is probably a better example, but even there, I’m not entirely convinced that reading Foundation first is required.)

  46. My short stance on canons (besides agreeing with those who point out there are multiple canons) is that it all depends whether the people who construct the canon are using it as a tool for gatekeeping (exclusion) or guiding (inclusion), and whether they are aware of the subjective elements of their canon-formation process.

    On a somewhat related point, while I’m seeing lots of references to various historical ‘movements’ in sff (New Wave, Cyberpunk, Grimdark, New Space Opera), I’m seeing ZERO knowledge/references to the 1970s feminist wave which included but was not limited to the feminist utopias of the period: an erasure started with some of the cyberpunks as Jeanne Gomoll pointed out in her well-known (in feminist sff canons) “Open Letter to Joanna Russ.

    One of my main objections to that anybody claiming there is a SINGLE/CORE/CENTRAL/UNIVERSAL canon of that which must be read usually ends up with a lot of dead white straight male authors’ works and then that assumption as part of systemic sexism spreads.

  47. @ MixMat: Thanks for doing a bit more effort to put in paragraph breaks–it helps a great deal!

    I don’t think canon of the last 20 years can be agreed upon until maybe 50 years later (or whatever time as makes sense-but not less than 10-20 years), even then there will be arguments, such as is happening here for the 20th century.

    I once asked one of my lit profs how “canonical” works were selected–he said he always thought it took about a hundred years to create ‘a canon’ for a specific period (not sure he thought about different genre canons since this interaction took place back in the 1970s before the progressive social movements and critical theory movements exploded the dead white male canon I’d been taught in that department throughout my undergrad and my graduate programs). No way to tell if he’s right, but I think time is a factor, but it’s also true that even the ‘canons’ from earlier historical periods change as scholarship engages with the previous generation of scholarship: one of the requirements for peer-reviewed research (which is connected to college teaching, and teaching the teachers) is that new arguments be made, often about authors or works haven’t been dealt with as much as others.

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