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. I wonder if “canon” isn’t maybe just “these were good/popular enough to be remembered for a hundred (or more) years”.

  2. @P J Evans: In practice, canon involves a lot of advocacy. People with authority and/or influence use it to push for what they want others to remember, or to forget when it comes to keeping something out of a canon.

  3. @P J Evans: it also has a lot to do with being remembered by the right people. It took Mendelssohn to bring Bach back into the public eye, and thank Heavens he did. Similarly, feminist editors have revived some excellent woman-written novels that didn’t make it into the canon because (to give one example) domestic novels were not considered worthy by the keepers of the canon unless written by Dickens or Austen. Other editors are calling attention to underlooked books from the Harlem Renaissance.

    @Bill: Canon if you read MilSF is not the same as SFF canon. I will cheerfully argue that you need to have read Heyer to appreciate all the joys of A Civil Campaign, but it’s a great book without Heyer. I enjoy in-jokes, I really do, but if the book’s inaccessible without the in-jokes, I think the author has failed. (Exception for books like Thursday Next, where the entire concept is in-jokes.) And, I repeat, canon does dissolve into the overall background of readers. Like I said, you don’t have to read Clarissa to appreciate a novel; you don’t have to read, although it’s fun, Poe’s mysteries or Christie’s mysteries to enjoy a mystery novel. There is no right way to enjoy a novel.

    I would be curious to hear your further thoughts on Lucifer’s Hammer.

  4. @robinareid

    robinareid on August 9, 2020 at 11:21 am

    On erasure, tangentially:
    In the 80s-90s, I read Joan Slonczewski; and James Tiptree Jr.’s last published and written work, but in S.E.A. they were only of limited availability, for the most part; in my experience – unless you had money/time to spend on the hunt for them.

    I mean I bought 1 Slonzcewski and 1 Crown of Stars, but from my experience – I believe availability and ubiquity also plays a part.

    Extruded fantasy product were so much a part of the available books to me that I think I never lacked for reading material for my voracious appetite in the 80s and 90s.

    I still have lots of books from then that I have read multiple times. (I also read some once and gave up on the author, or never finished.)

    Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint and Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunner were not in my sights at that time, so I only read them in the ’00s, or later. I wish I had read them earlier.

    Also Eleanor Arnason and Sue Harrison’s work in the 90’s: the latter was read by me then but the former was unknown to me until the ’00s.

    I lament the lost opportunities for me and others in my region at that time to read and enjoy them, and other authors as poorly distributed here at that time. Meanwhile, other authors had mountains of books available.

    So it seems to me, from my experience, the erasure is not from (or not just from); the literary gatekeeping establishment, but also partly from the commercial aspect as well.
    (Or maybe it’s just me thinking differently.)

    They didn’t sell as well as, or weren’t expected to do so – fewer readers found them, and an infinite causal loop, diminishes their influence/importance to canon. (Not specifically about the authors or works I’ve mentioned, just the example I thought of tangent to your comment about erasure.)

    Edit: mostly written after reading your comments but not the following ones.

    (Part of my ignorance, though – may be due to the mid to late 90s being a somewhat black hole for my reading of then new books.)

    Works you cite from the 70s and unreprinted at the time, if any works from the 60s, were only known to me if referred to in Locus or other books i read that mentioned them.

    robinareid on August 9, 2020 at 11:26 am said:
    @ MixMat: Thanks for doing a bit more effort to put in paragraph breaks–it helps a great deal!

    Sorry for all the previous difficulties I put filers through, who made the effort to read my earlier comments.

    I’m trying to do better since I’ve learned it was my own habits that put off responses to my earlier non-digestible comments rather than the contents (or mainly that, the contents may have been indigestible irregardless.)

    I shouldn’t have written that way here before. I apologise whole-heartedly for all the trouble I caused to any one trying to parse my comments. (Even if properly formatted but rushedly written and thought out.)

    I think the 1st part of this comment (about canon-icity) is still badly worded (and also misconceived or badly thought out) but I’m clicking post now. Sorry.

  5. @MixMat —

    I’m trying to do better since I’ve learned it was my own habits that put off responses to my earlier non-digestible comments rather than the contents (or mainly that, the contents may have been indigestible irregardless.)

    Thanks very much from me too for actually writing out your posts. You are quite eloquent when you put in the effort to be, and the effort is appreciated!

    As for the general canon discussion — I didn’t do much reading, relatively speaking, from about the mid-80s to about the mid-90s, and I’ve noticed before that I missed a lot of things from that period that people expect me to have read. But on the subject of canon, I don’t really think there are any specific books that people absolutely “must” have read in order to think of themselves as “well-read”. As others have pointed out, there are other ways to become conversant with the tropes and styles and so on without having to read the actual books in which they originated. It does irritate me when writers think they have invented some startling new idea that has actually been well-established in the field for decades — but, again, avoiding such pitfalls doesn’t require that the author has actually read all those preceding books. I think the definition of “well-read” can stretch to mean something like “has made the effort to become acquainted with the major ideas explored in the field”, whether that means actually reading all the books or whether it means doing other research or getting involved in enough conversations like this one to educate oneself.

  6. A I’ll says 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.

    Oh that’s crap. Lucifer’s Hammer?!? No. I haven’t read it and certainly don’t consider myself not well-read in the genre. (Nothing by those two is required reading.) You just stitched together a list of works you liked. All male writers I notice. There’s nothing here that a reader today of the genre needs read unless they’re interested in that author. I explicitly reject the idea that a reader must have read certain works in the genre in order to considered well-read in it.

  7. @Xtfr: “I don’t think 1990 is a bad cut-off date…There are certainly some exceptions (Le Guin, Delany, Butler), but as a rule of thumb, it’s not a bad one.”

    I picked up a cheap copy of The Word For World Is Forest to pass on to the kid, who’s so far been remarkably resistant to mainstream SF, and decided to reacquaint myself with it. I liked it a lot when I first read it. I got maybe three pages in before I said to myself, “This is a caricature,” and put it aside.

  8. @John A Arkansawyer: That was kinda my reaction when I first read it, so I’m not entirely surprised. I love much of Le Guin’s oeuvre, but that one always seemed ham-fisted to me.

    There’s some early Delany that doesn’t hold up quite as well as I might have hoped, too. (“The Fall of the Towers” trilogy.) But I still like Delany a whole lot, overall.

  9. @Cat
    I think I’m fairly well read, and I haven’t read “Ender’s Game” (I read some of the shorter pieces when they were in Analog, and that was enough to make me feel I didn’t need the whole thing). “Foundation” was old-fashioned when I first read it in the 60s or 70s, and I haven’t yet read KSR’s Mars books (though I have one) – his books are variable, IMO. “Lucifer’s Hammer” I read, and feel no need to re-read, though it does have a few good scenes.
    For some reason (/s), most of my reading now is written by women and POC.

  10. @ Contrarius

    It does irritate me when writers think they have invented some startling new idea that has actually been well-established in the field for decades — but, again, avoiding such pitfalls doesn’t require that the author has actually read all those preceding books.

    One personal example was Kameron Hurley’s The Light Brigade. When I started reading it, the tone and content was so close to The Forever War that I stopped less than 100 pages in.

  11. @Rob: I didn’t see the connection to Forever War as quite so strong. The soldiers in The Forever War were highly educated and from prosperous backgrounds as I recall, while the soldiers in The Light Brigade are considerably worse off – which makes a difference in how they see the war, and their circumstances.

  12. P J Evans says to me: I think I’m fairly well read, and I haven’t read “Ender’s Game” (I read some of the shorter pieces when they were in Analog, and that was enough to make me feel I didn’t need the whole thing). “Foundation” was old-fashioned when I first read it in the 60s or 70s, and I haven’t yet read KSR’s Mars books (though I have one) – his books are variable, IMO. “Lucifer’s Hammer” I read, and feel no need to re-read, though it does have a few good scenes.
    For some reason (/s), most of my reading now is written by women and POC.

    Foundation was mildly interesting when I read it about when you did. The Mars series never got my attention. As I said, I skipped Lucifer’s Hammer but that writing duo did a lot of stuff I skipped. And I really, really don’t like OSC or his fiction.

    Unlike you, my reading is more slated towards women but there’s more than a few male writers I keep up with such as Alasdair Reynolds and Joel Shepherd. I like space opera and a lot of the more interesting tales are being told by women.

  13. bill:

    “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 have read all of those apart from the Mars-books that I quit a few chapters in, but… nah. Those were the books you read, because those were what was available. I can’t even remember what Lucifer’s Hammer was about, The Space Merchants felt old already when I read it and I can’t for my life understand why the meh Starship Troopers is something people should be expected to have read. My mother quit in the middle. Dune and Foundation are the only ones I’d expect people to have read (if they are of my generation), the others are more random. But then Sweden is not US and not everything was translated or widely spread.

    With regards to canon, my approach is a bit different. If I created an SF-canon, I wouldn’t care one thing about SF-fandom or what they discussed when books were published. I’d instead look at what concepts and expressions had become part of standard vocabulary and general public consciousness. I.e, those books you are expected to know at least a bit about to follow discussions, making comparisons or reading reviews. You don’t have to have enjoyed them or been entertained by them. Not even have read them. Just know about them.

    I’d put Utopia there because of the concept expressed. War of the World because of the common knowledge of Orson Welles radio play. Frankenstein because of its common usage in discussions. 1984 for Orwelian, truth speak and Big Brother. Asimov’s robot books because the discussions among them in academia and among computer nerds. And so on.

    I.e, I’d let the impact on the world outside of the SF-readers be what decided what would be canon or not based on how familiar people are expected to be with the concepts expressed in the works (even if they’d never read it).

  14. @robinareid: I’m seeing ZERO knowledge/references to the 1970s feminist wave My previous comment referred to that without using the specific term — I didn’t think it was necessary to spell out after the public dismantling of cyberpunk’s sneer about the no-fun 70’s that you reference following this excerpt. The 1970’s also saw writers like Cherryh, who simply put women in positions of power and/or responsibility as if daring readers to cavil. (Some of them were monsters — but some of the powerful are monsters, regardless of how many X chromosomes they have.)
    It’s interesting to note odd flashes of feminism from older authors, especially when they were otherwise deplorable; the very-period sexism of Gladiator-at-Law contrasts with ~”Only you could have the nerve to boast of marrying a surgeon and making her a housewife!” in The Space Merchants. (I wonder whether either of them had read Shaw’s Misalliance.) Of course, tSM has other resonances that look outright prophetic now…

    wrt canon: I read KSR’s Mars trilogy, and will never get those hours back; a fellow reader commented at the time that KSR had lost control of his idea to bloat. And the Ender books, looked back on, are … perverse (as many people have pointed out in considerable detail).

  15. bill: 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… 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.

    Oh please, KSR’s books may be well-researched, but reading them is like trying to dine on an entire meal of cardboard without so much as a glass of water to wash it down, and Ender’s Game is revered mainly because it’s a massive Marty Stu fantasy while egregiously failing to have its main character engage at all with the ethical ramifications of the individuals he kills and the genocide he commits.

    I’d still be a well-read fan even without reading those books.

    And this is why I say that there is no such thing as an “SF canon”; it’s a mythical beast touted by people who mistakenly believe that their idea of which works are historically indispensible must surely be universal.

  16. JJ says quite correctly And this is why I say that there is no such thing as an “SF canon”; it’s a mythical beast touted by people who mistakenly believe that their idea of which works are historically indispensible must surely be universal.

    Quite so. Once the genre had reached the Sixties, it had diversified enough that there was was no canon possible. And it gets more diverse in every possible sense as it goes on. Read what you like, that’s what it’s for.

    Now reading: every one of Aliette de Bodard’s Xuya Universe stories I can find.

  17. @JJ —

    Ender’s Game is revered mainly because it’s a massive Marty Stu fantasy while egregiously failing to have its main character engage at all with the ethical ramifications of the individuals he kills and the genocide he commits.

    This is SO not true. Have you even read Speaker for the Dead? Ya gotta remember that Ender’s Game is only the first book in a series — it’s not a standalone, so you don’t get the Whole Story unless you read the subsequent books. But even within Ender’s Game itself, the whole idea is that Ender has been manipulated into doing monstrous things — we are not expected to think that those are Good Things to have done.

    And this is why I say that there is no such thing as an “SF canon”; it’s a mythical beast touted by people who mistakenly believe that their idea of which works are historically indispensible must surely be universal.

    This part I pretty much agree with. I don’t think there are any particular books that any person “must” have read to call themselves well-read.

  18. Contrarius: I don’t think there are any particular books that any person “must” have read to call themselves well-read.

    In your enthusiasm, don’t forget that some of these words only have meaning in the context where certain writing is regarded as having elevated importance. Specifically, if you want to call somebody “well-read” that idiomatic expression only has meaning in relation to the reading of what has been elevated.

  19. @Mike —

    In your enthusiasm, don’t forget that some of these words only have meaning in the context where certain writing is regarded as having elevated importance. Specifically, if you want to call somebody “well-read” that idiomatic expression only has meaning in relation to the reading of what has been elevated.

    Umm. What?

    I think what I’m trying to say — I may change my mind tomorrow — is that to me, a “well-read” person is someone who has read widely in the field and given some thought to the topics/issues/tropes explored in that field, but not necessarily someone who has read a given set of “canonical” books in that field.

  20. Contrarius: This is SO not true. Have you even read Speaker for the Dead? Ya gotta remember that Ender’s Game is only the first book in a series — it’s not a standalone, so you don’t get the Whole Story unless you read the subsequent books. But even within Ender’s Game itself, the whole idea is that Ender has been manipulated into doing monstrous things — we are not expected to think that those are Good Things to have done.

    It’s absolutely true.

    How many “You MUST Read” lists have you seen which list Speaker for the Dead on them? None. They all list Ender’s Game as if it’s a standalone, and the EXACT PROBLEM is that none of those people who lionize Ender’s Game got the whole story, because what they’re lionizing is the awful parts — which they perceive to be positive. Yes, the dealing with the ramifications occurs in SOTD — but most of the fans of EG never get there.*

    “Ender fatally beats up — yes, he kills them! — two different people who were mean to him! AWESOME! Ender is such a fantastic, smart child that the military and galaxy rely on him to save everyone by wiping out the enemy! FANTASTIC! Ender is an absolutely brilliant child who was never understood or appreciated, just like MEEEEEEEE, I’m so smart and no one gives me enough credit, but at least Ender gets recognized!”

     
    *my library has 20 copies of Ender’s Game and 3 copies of Speaker for the Dead.

  21. OGH says In your enthusiasm, don’t forget that some of these words only have meaning in the context where certain writing is regarded as having elevated importance. Specifically, if you want to call somebody “well-read” that idiomatic expression only has meaning in relation to the reading of what has been elevated.

    And some works admittedly only stay noticed as far as the large public is concerned because they’re made into films. Ender’s Game certainly is one of these as is Dune. Asimov’s Foundation novels no doubt will get a nice boost in sales from the forthcoming series. The popular canon to a large extent, if it exists, is market driven.

  22. @JJ —

    It’s absolutely true.

    It’s absolutely NOT true. See the second part of my post — it’s not even true if you forget that Speaker exists at all (which would be kinda dumb to do, especially seeing as how it won more awards than Ender’s Game did). We are supposed to see the things that Ender did as monstrous, not Good Things — and that’s true whether or not you read Speaker.

    How many “You MUST Read” lists have you seen which list Speaker for the Dead on them? None.

    See my comments about there not being any essential books. Also see my comments about Monstrous Things.

    “Ender fatally beats up — yes, he kills them! — two different people who were mean to him! AWESOME! Ender is such a fantastic, smart child that the military and galaxy rely on him to save everyone by wiping out the enemy! FANTASTIC! Ender is an absolutely brilliant child who was never understood or appreciated, just like MEEEEEEEE, I’m so smart and no one gives me enough credit, but at least Ender gets recognized!”

    Please quote any review that actually says these things.

    *my library has 20 copies of Ender’s Game and 3 copies of Speaker for the Dead.

    Most every series has more readers for the first book in that series than for subsequent books. Just look at the patterns of ratings for any series on GR — you’ll consistently find that book 1 has many more ratings than book 2, which will have more ratings than book 3, and so on. That’s just how series work.

    And again — even if you never read Speaker, you’re expected to realize that Ender has done monstrous things. That monstrosity is simply expanded on in Speaker — it’s not as though Card said one thing in Ender’s Game and then suddenly changed his mind when he wrote Speaker.

  23. Ender’s Game is officially some kind of canon because it’s often required reading in middle school. My son says many Zoomers and Millennial are bitter about this.

  24. @JJ again —

    How many “You MUST Read” lists have you seen which list Speaker for the Dead on them? None.

    You got me curious, so I spent a few minutes Googling. And actually, you’re quite mistaken here.

    Just a few examples:

    Have You Read the 25 Best Science-Fiction Books of All Time?
    The Greatest Science Fiction Novels of All Time
    The Classics of Science Fiction
    10 Sci-Fi Books That Even Non-Geeks Would Love
    Top 100 Sci-Fi Books

    I’m sure I could find more if I were willing to invest more time in the search.

    You’re welcome. 😉

  25. With regards to well-read, I don’t really think it is about having read a specific book. For people of my generation calling themselves well-read in SF, I’d expect them to have read some book by Asimov. Some book by Heinlein. Some book by Niven. But after that, it’s mainly up to taste if they’d liked it enough to continue reading the author. If you didn’t like Ringworld, why continue with Lucifer’s Hammer?

  26. @Madame Hardy

    I would be curious to hear your further thoughts on Lucifer’s Hammer.

    I read it thirty or so years ago, and enjoyed it. As you might guess from our earlier discussion of Farnham’s Freehold, I didn’t find the racial aspects of it particularly offensive (and I don’t think their presence say anything about Niven or Pournelle’s racial attitudes). It’s not the first post-apocalyptic book by any means, but I think it’s emphasis on small group society and survivalism after the apocalypse was influential on many books that followed (Stirling’s Dies the Fire, for example).

    @Cat Eldridge

    You just stitched together a list of works you liked. All male writers I notice.

    No, I stitched together a list of “works whose time seems to have passed”, as I clearly said in the post. (and I fully accept that the maleness of the authors is part of why their time seems to have passed). And FWIW, I didn’t particularly like Dune, and DNF Red Mars, or even start the other two.

    So, 0 for 2 in that first sentence there.

  27. Contrarius: It’s absolutely NOT true… We are supposed to see the things that Ender did as monstrous, not Good Things — and that’s true whether or not you read Speaker.

    I’m not convinced that’s the case. I absolutely did not get that from the text. Did Card intend it to be there? Possibly, but as the text itself reads, none of the bad things are actually presented as bad. The closest it gets is with Ender sort of feeling a vague regret at the end that he had to commit genocide in order to save humanity. The people he killed? That doesn’t even get a second thought, because he never finds out that he killed them.

     
    Contrarius: Please quote any review that actually says these things.

    I’m sure if I bothered looking I could find some — because an absolutely massive number of the fans of Ender’s Game are huge fans of it specifically because of its Marty Stu aspects.

    I worked with one of them. He thought EG was the absolutely greatest book EVAR because Ender is just an awesome hero. Told me that he loved it when he was young, because he identified with Ender being the unappreciated brilliant child.

    (This was a guy who was barely competent in his IT job, and wouldn’t have known brilliant if it walked up and smacked him in the face.)

  28. I read Lucifer’s Hammer within a year or two of coming out, and liked it a lot. I re-read it ten years ago and was horrified. It is absolutely steeped in racism: literally the only black people who decline signing up with the cannibal cult are the handful who are all in on mountain survivalism and the nuclear power fetish, who bask in being praised by their white neighbors as not being like any other black people. Meanwhile, the only practitioners of pedophilia are buddies of the survivalists.

    This is apart from the nuclear reactor thing being ludicrous. No, a reactor in the middle of the Central Valley will not survive that geological upheaval.

    The whole thing would make more sense as an in-setting fantasy told among the racist, ailing, cannibal cult in the mountains about how everything is actually great for them, while down in the valley, well away from the meltdown zone, a multi-racial community of survivors is building towns and farms and doing pretty well for itself, before the emerging ice age puts paid to the mountain weirdos once and for all.

    I didn’t like the book so much in 2010, is what I’m saying, and my hyperbole aside, there’s a lot to loathe in it.

  29. @JJ @Contrarius
    Re: Ender’s Game, first book only: I think I’m one of those who identifies(/identified) with Andrew Wiggin which I first read around the time the sequel came out and both books were prominent. It appealed to my early twenties self, outsider, unappreciated for my brilliance (in my own head only, i am certain in hindsight).

    My liking of the series gradually diminished book by book and lasted probably until the 4th book, when said Marty Stu died to save the universe, iirc.

    Haven’t reread it in some 10-15 years, but I have read all the main Ender-verse tales and would read the supposed final book that’s in the making, if only to have the resolution.

    In maybe a funny way, i kinda agree with both of you in my own way-except the movie totally plays like the ends justifies the means.

    But the books -it starts out that way in the initial short story(this may be me wrongly remembering the short story which i read only once, long after I read the then whole set of 4 books.)

    Then for aesthetic or commercial reasons, Card turns it upside-down and tries to convince us Andrew is a compassionate soul who was manipulated into doing something outside what he would have done if he knew. At first I bought the premise, lock stock and barrel.

    But over time, the more I discovered about Card-I came to think he is more like Graff, manipulating the readers into empathising with Ender and co-opting their acceptance of the monstrous things done by the human race; and Ender; and Graff in the extermination of the Hive Queen.

    I have not reread much of the series in the last 10-15 years. It shows too much the blatant manipulation of the reader’s response by Card.

    Bean, to me not as much-since I’m not a brilliant strategist mutant or self-aware super-being; or identify as much with him.

    So ymmv.

  30. I’m not terribly well-read in sci-fi–growing up, I didn’t get much beyond the Cs at my local library. Still, when I read books from the time many of the “canonical” works were produced, I’m always pleasantly surprised when they’re well-written with fully developed ideas and characters. For the most part my reaction is I can see how great literature can come from this.

    I’m suspicious of canons in general, but if they exist, sci-fi strikes me as being far too young to have one.

  31. @JJ —

    as the text itself reads, none of the bad things are actually presented as bad.

    That is just pure bullshit.

    Just a few examples from the text of the last chapter — there are many more examples earlier in the book, but I’m not going to go digging for them right now:

    In battle I killed ten billion buggers, whose queens, at least, were as alive and wise as any man, who had not even launched a third attack against us, and no one thinks to call it a crime. All his crimes weighed heavy on him, the deaths of Stilson and Bonzo no heavier and no lighter than the rest.

    The one thing he could not bear was the worship of the colonists. He learned to avoid the tunnels where they lived, because they would always recognize him—the world had memorized his face—and then they would scream and shout and embrace him and congratulate him and show him the children they had named after him and tell him how he was so young it broke their hearts and they didn’t blame him for any of his murders because it wasn’t his fault he was just a child — He hid from them as best he could.

    I’ve spent my life as someone’s pawn.

    “It’s not my idea of freedom to go live in the house of the people that I killed.”

    “I’m going because I know the buggers better than any other living soul, and maybe if I go there I can understand them better. I stole their future from them; I can only begin to repay by seeing what I can learn from their past.”

    “I’ll carry you,” said Ender, “I’ll go from world to world until I find a time and a place where you can come awake in safety. And I’ll tell your story to my people, so that perhaps in time they can forgive you, too. The way that you’ve forgiven me.”

    If only we could have talked to you, the hive-queen said in Ender’s words. But since it could not be, we ask only this: that you remember us, not as enemies, but as tragic sisters….

    @MixMat —

    I think I’m one of those who identifies(/identified) with Andrew Wiggin which I first read around the time the sequel came out and both books were prominent. It appealed to my early twenties self, outsider, unappreciated for my brilliance (in my own head only, i am certain in hindsight).

    And that’s fine. The part of JJ’s post I objected to was not that people might identify with Ender — after all, we are typically MEANT to identify with any protagonist to one degree or another. What I objected to was her claim about the text “egregiously failing to have its main character engage at all with the ethical ramifications of the individuals he kills and the genocide he commits” — which is rank nonsense.

  32. @JJ: A few years ago, I read an account from a woman whose boyfriend wanted her to read “Warrior’s Apprentice” so she could ‘understand’ him. Now I love Miles as a character, but someone who thinks he is Miles is probably not a person I want to hang out with – and Miles is a much saner person than Ender can possibly be.

  33. In my youth we were all Harrison Bergeron.

    Wowza, would I not date anybody who thinks he’s Miles. Most of the people who love Miles consider him unstable.

  34. @Hampus Eckerman–

    With regards to well-read, I don’t really think it is about having read a specific book. For people of my generation calling themselves well-read in SF, I’d expect them to have read some book by Asimov. Some book by Heinlein. Some book by Niven. But after that, it’s mainly up to taste if they’d liked it enough to continue reading the author. If you didn’t like Ringworld, why continue with Lucifer’s Hammer?

    Yes. This.

  35. @Cat Eldridge: I had the impression that Ender’s Game became a movie because it was still widely read (or at least had been widely read for a long time), not that its print fortunes were revived by it becoming a movie; I can’t back that up with numbers, but note @Madame Hardy’s comment.

    wrt Ender vs SotD: I was there when Card received the Hugo for SotD and said that he’d written EG so he could write SotD. The problem is that they are two separate works, with decades of them-time between them; ISTM that demanding that EG not be considered separately, especially when it fulfills a lot of MilSF fantasies and SotD doesn’t, is unreasonable.

    And for me, Lucifer’s Hammer made clear that Niven had run out of ideas, even if I didn’t find it as immediately repulsive as Oath of Fealty or Footfall. ISTM that it based a strain of SF that we can hope to see die off, since it argues a morally-bankrupt position with all the fervor and factuality of “The Cold Equations”. (I am reminded that the works of John Norman, most of which originally came from DAW, have been republished by a house specializing in softcore porn; one can hope to see the strain that LH bases similarly marginalized.)

    @Andrew (not Werdna): that boyfriend sounds like someone with an oversize ego. Like many fans my age, I grew up thinking myself underappreciated like some SF heroes-of-the-time (I even had the test scores to prove it to myself), but I grew out of it — if only by being taken upside the head with the way “underappreciated genius” tends to go with “can’t lead and drives people away”. (“Carwash Blues” might have made an impression, but it came out later.)

  36. @Chip
    I wonder how much of “Lucifer’s Hammer” was Pournelle, rather than Niven.

  37. Ahhhh Oath of Fealty. Some Puppy blog I was reading last year was touting that as a novel that should’ve won a Hugo but those liberals kept it to from doing so. An absolutely repulsive work from beginning to end. Baen now publishes it.

  38. I have an odd relationship with the concept of “canon”. I spent waayyy too much time in high school grumbling about the lack of respect for (then) modern SFF authors/works.

    There are some works that I find to be worth the effort. I acknowledge that there are works that I’ve missed that others might find to be worth the effort.

    Among others, I found “Lucifer’s Hammer” to be worth the effort. And a bunch of other books as well.

    But I’m going to stop well short of saying “read this or you aren’t well a informed SFF fan”.

    Regards,
    Dann
    When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser – Someone ~2008

  39. @Chip Hitchcock:

    You said:

    “@robinareid: I’m seeing ZERO knowledge/references to the 1970s feminist wave.” My previous comment referred to that without using the specific term — I didn’t think it was necessary to spell out after the public dismantling of cyberpunk’s sneer about the no-fun 70’s that you reference following this excerpt.

    I assume you mean this comment (which was made August 9, 2020 at 8:49 am, three hours before my comment which you quote) on the previous page: I saw it, thought, well maybe he’s talking about the feminist sf in the 1970s but maybe not. Impossible to tell since you never use the dreaded F-word or mention a single woman author (let alone lesbian author) at all. Plus, the New Wave which has been referenced in this discussion also took place during the 1970s.

    @Brown Robin: 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;

    Claiming you didn’t need to include specifics in your earlier comment (you know, like feminist, or women) because of something I was going to post three hours in the future is…special.

    The vagueness and ambiguity in your comment doesn’t affect the erasure in the least, or the fact that the majority of specific authors named are white and male (with an occasional reference to Butler and Delany). Le Guin has been mentioned several times and is arguably part of that feminist wave (though among the more established/older authors in it as opposed to those who started publishing in the 1970s). However, since the kyriarchy has always allowed for ONE Exceptional/Token X (“X” standing for the marginalized group), Le Guin alone isn’t sufficient to show any knowledge of the (almost entirely white) women writers who started winning more Hugos during the 1970s and who got the last big backlash from all the Dudes who were upset at that change…..

    So I might amend it slightly to say “there was NO SPECIFIC mention of beyond a vague hint that was nearly meaningless to people who lived through it and remember it unlike some of the commenters in this thread.” That better (and yes this is sarcasm).

  40. @Contrarius
    What I objected to was her claim about the text “egregiously failing to have its main character engage at all with the ethical ramifications of the individuals he kills and the genocide he commits” — which is rank nonsense.”

    I do think that the book is written disingenuously to unreasonably absolve Ender of malice for two children he killed when he had them down and helpless. I mean, he’s supposed to be a super-genius child, but it never occurred to him that kicking unconscious people in the face and gut might kill them, until he’s told outright months and years later that he did? And the absolution he receives from the people who he unknowingly annihilated seems a bit deus ex machina.

  41. Re. people thinking they’re Ender or Miles V: When I was literally a small child growing up in fandom in the sixties, I heard about the whole “Slans are Fans” thing–a craze which had passed, but which was still remembered. When I finally got around to reading Slan (which, for those who haven’t read it, has a plot which resembles the X-Men), I was appalled at the incredible arrogance it took to think your taste in literature gave you superpowers! 🙂

    (That’s a bit of an oversimplification of my thoughts, but the gist is there.)

    As for the whole “need to read” thing, well, I have read Starship Troopers, The Forever War, and Old Man’s War, and I genuinely don’t see either of the former as offering anything that would provide any additional insight into the latter. Yes, they have a few points in common, but that’s to be expected, since they’re all MilSF. But all three (or at least, the latter two, which I actually like) stand on their own just fine. I don’t need to know that Heinlein once wrote about basic training to appreciate the basic training in OMW. A lot of people have written about basic training over the years, both inside and outside of SF.

    OMW might have been intended to be in dialog with ST, but in this particular case at least, I don’t think that knowledge actually improves the work. (Though I don’t think it harms it.)

  42. *captures wandering “except” and corrects sentence in my comment above:

    So I might amend it slightly to say “there was NO SPECIFIC mention of beyond a vague hint that was nearly meaningless EXCEPT to people who lived through it and remember it unlike some of the commenters in this thread.” That better (and yes this is sarcasm).

  43. @jayn —

    I do think that the book is written disingenuously to unreasonably absolve Ender of malice for two children he killed when he had them down and helpless.

    First, let’s be clear that this is a different claim than JJ’s. Whether or not the text “unfairly absolves” Ender, it’s absolutely false to aay that the acts were either ifnored or never called bad.

    Second, I think a large part of the book’s message was that much of the society did absolve Ender, but Ender himself did not. Ender felt the responsibility for his crimes very deeply, and spent the rest of his life trying to atone for them.

    I mean, he’s supposed to be a super-genius child, but it never occurred to him that kicking unconscious people in the face and gut might kill them

    Of course it did. He was very aware that the only way to win was to finish the battles quickly and permanently.

    And the absolution he receives from the people who he unknowingly annihilated seems a bit deus ex machina.

    Again, Ender spends the rest of his life atoning. It’s not like he dusted off his hands and started whistling a happy tune as he ambled off down the road.

    One of the egregious things about Ender’s Game is that Ender can be seen as a blatant Christ analog, in a Mormon vision of Christ. Instead of literally being crucified for everyone’s sins, he takes on humanity’s sins — he commits the biggest sin of all, genocide, for the sake of humanity. Ender knows he did a terrible thing, and he spends his life making up for it — sacrificing himself for the sake of others. And then he travels the universe preaching the new gospel, as the Mormon version of Christ traveled the New World preaching his gospel.

    Now, many readers could very easily find that offensive — but it does not in any way ignore the moral implications of what he did, as JJ claimed.

  44. Xtifr, I was always annoyed, even when I was a wee Heinlein fan, by the Deux Ex Machina of his old teacher’s letter arriving right when Juan was about to quit.

  45. @Contrarius: It’s been a while since I read Ender, but I recall that the military keeps the death of the two children that Ender kills a secret from Ender (Ender believes he has seriously injured them, but not killed them) – and I’ve definitely met fans who are upset by explicit violence in SF books not remember at all that Ender kills a kindergartener with his bare hands.

  46. @Andrew —

    and I’ve definitely met fans who are upset by explicit violence in SF books not remember at all that Ender kills a kindergartener with his bare hands.

    That says a lot more about some readers’ comprehension and memory than it says about the text of the book.

  47. Xtifr says OMW might have been intended to be in dialog with ST, but in this particular case at least, I don’t think that knowledge actually improves the work. (Though I don’t think it harms it.)

    It actually works better as novel unto itself. Know that JS wrote as a response to Heinlein’s novel serves no purpose at all. I amused by all the attempted to link that book to an earlier as if the commonplace reader is interested in that connection. Most readers read novels, not the stoties of why a author wrote a given novel. Does the usual reader get the religious background of Dune? I seriously doubt it. Does that lessen their enjoyment of the novel? Of course not.

  48. I mean, he’s supposed to be a super-genius child, but it never occurred to him that kicking unconscious people in the face and gut might kill them.

    Of course it did. He was very aware that the only way to win was to finish the battles quickly and permanently.

    No. I’m fairly certain that Ender never explicitly contemplates to himself that what he does to the kids he’s kicking when he has them down could kill them – either during the fights or their aftermaths. His aim was to make sure the child and his followers would fear attacking him again by being especially, frighteningly brutal. And as Andrew (not Werdna) points out, the military hides the deaths of the children from Ender, who is depicted as being shocked when he is told of their deaths at the end of the book – thus showing that he did NOT realize what he was doing could kill them. This, as I said, is not credible in a supergenius, child or not.

    And IMO, the reason for Card writing Ender’s implausible obliviousness is to absolve Ender of real guilt in the eyes of the readers. “He’s not really a murderer even though he deliberately kicked two unconscious kids to death! He never thought it would kill them to kick them in the faces and guts while they lay unconscious! He was so Very Very Shocked and so Terribly Terribly Sorry when he finally learned about their totally predictable deaths that he remains a Good Guy!” That transparent sleight of hand and the mealy-mouthed defense of child abuse underlying the story turned me off Card’s fiction after Ender’s Game.

    And the absolution he receives from the people who he unknowingly annihilated seems a bit deus ex machina.
    —-
    Again, Ender spends the rest of his life atoning. It’s not like he dusted off his hands and started whistling a happy tune as he ambled off down the road.

    Not my point. Only Ender is awesome enough to annihilate an entire advanced alien race with his superhuman battle skills. Only Ender is awesome enough to actually receive and understand the psychic emanations of that alien race, and awesome enough to get forgiven by that annihilated race for their annihilation and thus get handed the means to revive it and magically fix his mistake, and so redeem the sins of all mankind – thus making him a moral compass worthy of laying down the law to it.

    It IS Marty Stu. And it’s plotting that is more reminiscent of Freudian undoing – magical thinking – than a thing that seems credible even given the universe it takes place in. IMO, it allows some readers to have their cake and eat it too – to enjoy the brutal revenge fantasy of murdering a bully once you have him at your mercy and still be considered good and laudable and worthy. And it softpedals child abuse – Ender was forged into greatness by the fire of his torment, so the torment is to some degree justified by its result, and the tormentors aren’t really therefore that bad. Colonel Graff only tormented Ender to save the world – he didn’t really have a choice but to do it! Even squirrel-torturer Peter isn’t really that bad a guy!

    Left a really bad taste. I avoided Card’s fiction after reading that one book – and that was long before he’d revealed any of his other distasteful personal beliefs.

  49. @robinareid: New Wave which has been referenced in this discussion also took place during the 1970s. This must be some definition of “New Wave” that I haven’t previously been acquainted with; having lived and read through the time, I would have said it was primarily a phenomenon of the 1960’s — see for instance the discussion in SF Encylopedia, e.g.

    The kind of story to which the term refers is in fact rather older than the (late-1960s) term, which anyway has never been defined with any precision. The first writers whose work was later subsumed under the New Wave label were British, notably Brian W Aldiss and J G Ballard. These two were publishing stories in *New Worlds* while it was still under the editorship of John Carnell, but it was not until Michael Moorcock took over with the May/June 1964 issue that the kind of imagistic, highly metaphoric story, inclined more towards Psychology and the Soft Sciences than to Hard SF, that both men wrote (in quite different styles) was given a setting where it seemed at home.

    Your sarcasm (to the extent that it is recognizable) is uncalled-for and narrow-minded; my “vagueness” consisted of referring to settled arguments (made recently, not just referring to people who had lived through the period) rather than repeating them as news. Your claim of exceptionalism is intellectually dishonest shifting; the rest of my comments discusses assertions that the New Wave was radical rather than evolutionary, citing flashy writers of the 1950’s and responding to another comment offering a non-cyberpunk 1980’s author.

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