Pixel Scroll 9/13/18 A Pixel Without A Scroll Is Like Leslie Fish Without A Bicycle Card

(1) COMING DISTRACTIONS. Space.com presents a gallery of photos of Hurricane Florence taken from space.

With Hurricane Florence dominating this view from the International Space Station, Alexander Gerst warns the East Coast to get ready, “this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you.” Click through this gallery to see the latest images of Hurricane Florence.

(2) SF CONCATENATION. The new issue of SF Concatenation is up “Science Fiction News & Recent Science Review for the Autumn 2018”. Jonathan Cowie outlines what’s in store for readers —

Most recently added (mid-September) is our autumnal edition of news and reviews.  As usual its news page has sections on film, books and publishing, TV, as well as the season’s forthcoming books listing of new titles (also fantasy and non-fiction) from the major SF/F imprints in the British Isles, many of which will soon be available elsewhere in the world.  (A great way to see what will be coming out and ideas for your Christmas shopping.)  And then there is the news page’s science consisting of short paragraphs on the season’s key, primary research papers that are cited so our scientist regulars can Google Scholar the papers for themseleves (and our non-scientist regulars can see that we don’t do fake news).  Plus there’s the news page’s science-and-SF-interface section where yesterday’s SF is becoming today’s fact.

Other content includes articles and convention reports. Here there is another in our series by scientists are also SF authors as to their science heroes born in the 20th century.

The issue delivers over 40,000 words of selected news. That selection includes not reporting most of the Hugo winners:

…We continue (from last year) to define the Hugo ‘principal categories’ as those that had over a thousand nominating in that category (down from two thousand as our definition in 2016 as the numbers involved in Hugo nominating have declined since 2016).  The 1,813 number nominating was down on last year’s number (2,464) (the second year of decline).  The 2,828, voting on the final shortlist was down on the 3,319 voting in 2017 which in turn was marginally up on the number voting in 2016 (3,130).
So not surprisingly, the principal Hugo categories (those categories with over one thousand nominating) were markedly fewer than last year. Indeed, for the first time in many years we are not counting the ‘Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form’ as principal category (it only saw 819 nominating ballots and just a paltry 87 nominating the programme that went on to win). The principal category Hugo wins this year therefore were:-

Best Novel: The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin (fantasy) which back in January (2018) we cited as one of the ‘best books’ of 2017. This is the third consecutive win for ‘best novel’ for Jemisin something that has never happened before in this category.
Best Novella: All Systems Red by Martha Wells
Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form: Wonder Woman (Trailer here) which back in January (2018) we cited as one of the best SF/F/H films of 2017.

(3) THE MILITARY USES OF VENTRILOQUISM. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Bluetooth earpieces have made people apparently talking to themselves normal—at least sort of. But at least one can spot the earpieces if you look carefully. A product in development for military use could change that, moving the mic and speaker inside the mouth (Smithsonian: “Military Invests in ‘Molar Mic’ That Can Route Calls Through Your Teeth”).

Communications devices have taken over our pockets and our wrists, but soon the gadgets may go even deeper. Patrick Tucker at Defense One reports that the Air Force has signed a $10 million deal with a California company to continue development of a communication device that is fitted to a users’ teeth.

Dubbed the “Molar Mic,” the gadget is being designed by San Mateo-based Sonitus Technologies  Officially called the ATAC system, the two-way communication system consists of a small microphone that clips to a users back teeth. This enables them to hear communications through their cranial bones which transmit the sound to the auditory nerve. Users also wear a low-profile transmitter loop around their neck that connects to the Molar Mic via near-field magnetic induction, a system similar to Bluetooth that can be encrypted and also passes through water. The loop then connects with with a phone, walkie-talkie or other communications device.

The device has seen field testing—albeit not in combat—with good results reported according to the contractor:

Tucker reports that airmen in Afghanistan tried it for 14 months while deployed, though not in active missions. Pararescuemen from the Air National Guard’s 131st Rescue Squadron based at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California, also tested the device in Houston last year during Hurricane Harvey. The team faced high water, noisy helicopters and other external noises that make traditional communication difficult.

“This guy is standing in neck-deep water, trying to hoist a civilian up into a helicopter above. He says, ’There is no way I would be able to communicate with the crew chief and the pilot if I was not wearing your product,” [Sonitus CEO Peter] Hadrovic tells Tucker.

Might you ever see a civilian walking around with a “molar mic”? Gizmodo weighs in on that question (“Weird Tooth Phone Wins Millions in Pentagon Funding”):

A spokesperson for Sonitus told Gizmodo the company won’t speculate about when the technology will be available for commercial, industrial, or consumer markets—and the company won’t scale beyond military use until it completes the contract the Department of Defense just awarded them.

So, we probably have at least a few years before civilians start lodging phones into their throats.

(4) FRESH COMPETITION. Deadline is determined not to be left behind: “Former Hero Complex Columnist Geoff Boucher Joins Deadline As Genre Editor”.

Veteran journalist Geoff Boucher, best known for launching the Hero Complex column in the Los Angeles Times that built a vast following, has joined Deadline in the newly created post of Genre Editor. He will be based in Los Angeles and specialize in breaking news, features and analysis of “Comic-Con culture.” His stomping ground will encompass superhero fare, science fiction, fantasy, horror, and animation, the hottest film and television sectors in today’s Hollywood.

(5) CONSPIRASKI. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A conspiracy theory promoted by Russian media have it that a NASA astronaut deliberately damaged the docked Soyuz that was leaking air from the International Space Station. A joint NASA/Roscosmos statement reported in The Verge (“NASA is trying to squash conspiracy theories about the space station leak”) tries to quash that rumor… this despite earlier media reports that Roscosmos personnel are feeding those rumors through back channels.

Wild theories of sabotage still persist two weeks after a mysterious pressure leak occurred on the International Space Station, and the gossip has gotten so nonsensical that both NASA and Russia’s state space corporation, Roscosmos, are now trying to quell the rumors.

In a joint statement released today, NASA and Roscosmos claim that the US space agency is working closely with Russia to figure out the cause of the leak. The statement also notes that no information will be released until the Russian-led investigation is over, despite rampant speculation in the Russian press that the leak was possibly caused by one of NASA’s astronauts in space.

…the gossip over the leak seems to have only grown in the last couple of weeks. As first reported by Ars Technica, a story published in Russia’s Kommersant cited anonymous sources from Roscosmos, who claimed that investigators were looking into the possibility that the hole was caused by a NASA astronaut. The theory was that one of the three American crew members had gotten sick, so one of the astronauts caused the leak in order to force a quick evacuation to Earth.


Setting aside his technical first appearance in 1981’s Donkey Kong, today is a fun anniversary to take note of for fans of the Super Mario video game franchise. The fat plumber who sports the iconic overalls and red cap debuted as a titular video game hero 33 years ago today, in Super Mario Bros. which was released in Japan on Sept. 13, 1985.

Not that anyone needs to be reminded, but when the game made its way over to North America and started selling here, it became one of the best-selling video games of all time. With some 40 million copies sold for the original NES.


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 13, 1894 – J.B. Priestley. Who apparently wrote SF but I’ll admit that even after reading his page at the Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction that I’ll be buggered if I can figure out precisely what that means. One of y’all will need to explain what sort of genre fiction he did.
  • Born September 13, 1916 – Roald Dahl. Writer, though how much of his work I’d consider genre is a good question, Witches certainly as well as Gremlins, James and the Giant Peach and Fantastic Mr Fox but what else are genre to your thinking? He would win the 1983 World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, so I may be being overly fussy tonight.
  • Born September 13 — Bernard Pearson, 72. Discworld specialist. Would I could kid you? He wrote the Compleat Discworld Atlas with Ian Mitchell and Isobel Pearson and Terry Pratchett and Bernard Pearson and Reb Voyce; Also such works (and for sake of brevity I’m skipping co-authors though you can assume Pratchett was listed as being involved though how involved he was is a good question) as the Discworld Almanak: The Year of the PrawnDiscworld Diary: A Practical Manual for the Modern Witch and Miss Felicity Beedle’s The World of Poo.
  • Born September 13 – Bob Eggleton, 58. He has won the Hugo for Best Professional Artist an amazing eight times, he also won the Hugo for Best Related Book for his art book Greetings From Earth. He has also won the Chesley Award for Artistic Achievement. He was the guest of honor at Chicon  in 2000.
  • Born September 13 – Tom Holt, 57. Humorous fantasy such as Expecting Someone Taller and Who’s Afraid of Beowulf?  One of his latest works, The Good, the Bad and the Smug is roughly a take on Rumplestiltskin based economies where Evil goes for modern, hopefully appealing appearance.


  • This Over the Hedge strip is not what Kirk had in mind when he asked for more power:

(9) DRIVERLESS MOTORCYCLE ON THE WAY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Don’t worry, this is probably not going to develop into the first Terminator. BMW has taken the wraps off a research project — said to be more than two years old — and has published video of a self-driving motorcycle (Mashable: “BMW’s riderless motorcycle can handle curves, obstacles”). In the video, the cycle is shown driving both with and without a rider along. What appears to be an early version has wide outrider wheels, but the current prototype looks pretty much lke a regular motorcycle with extra metal boxes attached that presumably contain the electronics.

This week BMW Motorrad — the motorcycle division of the German car company — showed a prototype driverless bike on a test track accelerating, navigating curves, and braking all on its own. In Munich, safety researchers have been using the autonomous motorcycle to test out features for its real motorcycles to handle dangerous situations.

(10) MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE UNCANNY SLUSHPILE. You can’t say they don’t know what they missed.


(12) ST. KOONTZ. Benedictine College English professor Stephen Mirarchi, reviewing Dean Koontz’s new novel The Forbidden Door, says that Koontz is an orthodox Catholic who is “a wildly successful writer who has infused his art with God’s grandeur.” National Review Online has the story: “The Transcendent Dean Koontz”.

… To take a wider view, Koontz is presenting in the series a large-scale defense of the ability to choose meaning and virtue. One of his recurring characters is an anxiety-prone latter-day Puritan, while another is an intellectually and physically domineering hulk straight out of a Max Weber tract. Koontz fairly and logically shows the necessary consequences of these characters’ thoughts and actions by creating storylines of such accessibility that the general reader can see how their ideologies contradict any coherent notion of the good life. The modern Puritan, for instance, moves nervously from scene to scene, constantly seeking perfection and never finding it, unjustly critiquing others while placating his own ego. The ideologies Koontz critiques inevitably lead to disaster — not just for the characters, but for the societies built on such chimeras.

Hawk, on the other hand, embraces the natural religion to which Koontz’s wide fan base responds with awe. She finds solace in the wonder of creation while calling out evil for its supernatural maliciousness, ever uniting reason with hope against secular hedonism. Koontz does “diversity” the right way, too: He features an autistic character in this series who is a compelling hero because he faces down his particular suffering by accepting grace. And as Flannery O’Connor and Léon Bloy before her have shockingly reminded us, the reception of grace usually hurts — badly.Speaking of the reception of grace, I am going to prognosticate: There is one mesmerizing scene in The Forbidden Door, an explicitly Catholic one, that many readers may wildly misinterpret….

(13) THOSE MISTY WATERCOLOR MEMORIES. Jason Heller intended to write an evocative, nostalgic tribute to the world of Piers Anthony – until he reread A Spell for Chameleon: “Revisiting the sad, misogynistic fantasy of Xanth” at AV Club.

I know other people who have read Anthony’s Xanth books. All of them did so in their youth—and like me, they drifted away from them long before graduating high school. There’s something inherently juvenile about the Xanth series, even though it wasn’t marketed as young adult, a distinction that didn’t exist as such back then. Even worse, as the series progressed it became increasingly reliant on really bad puns. That was more of a turnoff than any perceived lady hating, at least when I was a teenager and less attuned to such things. I do wonder how much of the books’ warped view of women trickled into my sensibility back then. Or other readers’ sensibility.

I grew up to be involved deeply in science fiction and fantasy, but it doesn’t take an insider to know that those genres have trouble with gender issues—both on the page and in real life, where sexual harassment at sci-fi conventions is an ongoing problem. Anthony’s books were huge in their day, and their influence runs deep; dozens of similarly humorous series, from Robert Lynn Asprin’s Myth Adventures to Alan Dean Foster’s Spellsinger, popped up in Xanth’s wake. I read and loved them, too, when I was a kid. But they don’t evoke an icky feeling the way Xanth does—a creepiness that retroactively corrodes any lingering nostalgia.

(14) LUNCH WAS SERVED. Can you guess “Who killed the largest birds that ever lived?” Bones show that humans lived beside “elephant birds” on Madagascar for millennia before wiping them out for food.

Prehistoric humans are under suspicion of wiping out the largest birds that ever lived after fossilised bones were discovered with telltale cut marks.

According to scientists, it’s evidence that the elephant birds of Madagascar were hunted and butchered for food.

The remains have been dated to about 10,000 years ago.

Until now, the first settlers were thought to have arrived on the island about 2,500 to 4,000 years ago.

“This does push back the date of human arrival by 6,000 years, at least,” says Dr James Hansford, a scientist at Zoological Society London, UK.

(15) WALLACE WINS. “Smarty pants: Robot trousers could keep the elderly mobile” — linings of legs fitted to act as supplementary muscles.

Johnathan Rossiter proudly displays his new trousers. Brightly coloured and fit for the running track, but packing more than just Lycra. They’ll be robotic.

“We are all going to get older and our mobility is going to reduce,” he says. “What we want to do is give people that extra bit of boost, to maintain their independence as long as possible.”

A team of British researchers thinks the future lies in wearable soft robotics. They’ve developed robotic muscles; air-filled bubbles of plastic that can raise a leg from a seated to a standing position.

(16) FLY ME TO THE MOON. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] SpaceX is up to something… the Moon. Or, at least they want to be. They’ve announced (via a tweet) that they have signed their first customer to take a trip around the Moon (The Verge: “SpaceX says it will send someone around the Moon on its future monster rocket”):

SpaceX has signed its first customer to fly on the company’s huge new rocket, the BFR, the company says. The passenger will fly on the monster ship around the Moon, though there are no details yet regarding when the trip will happen. SpaceX says it will announce who is flying — and why — on Monday, September 17th.

The BFR, or the Big Falcon Rocket, is the giant rocket that SpaceX is currently developing to send humans to the Moon and Mars. The BFR design, [presented] by CEO Elon Musk last year, consists of a combined rocket and spaceship, called the BFS for Big Falcon Spaceship. The main rocket will have 31 main Raptor engines and be capable of sending up 150 tons to low Earth orbit, according to that presentation.

(Yeah, yeah, BFR stands for “Big Falcon Rocket.” Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Say no more, say no more.)

SpaceX had already announced (in early 2017) plans for two people to take such a trip; it’s not immediately not clear if this new announcement is one of those or yet a third person. The tweet does say that the name of the person as well as the reason for the trip will be announced Monday 17 September.

(17) MESSAGE FROM A CRYPTIC KRYPTONIAN. Erin Donnelly, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Henry Cavill Posts Complex Superman Vibe as Reports Claim He’s Leaving Superhero Role” says that Henry Cavill posted a video on Instagram wearing a “Krypton Lifting Team” and waving a Superman action figure around, leaving his 6.4 million followers wondering what this means.

View this post on Instagram

Today was exciting #Superman

A post shared by Henry Cavill (@henrycavill) on

(18) DAREDEVIL. Nextflix release the Daredevil Season 3 teaser trailer.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Daniel Dern, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

67 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 9/13/18 A Pixel Without A Scroll Is Like Leslie Fish Without A Bicycle Card

  1. According to scientists, it’s evidence that the elephant birds of Madagascar were hunted and butchered for food.

    The remains have been dated to about 10,000 years ago.

    Until now, the first settlers were thought to have arrived on the island about 2,500 to 4,000 years ago.

    “This does push back the date of human arrival by 6,000 years, at least,” says Dr James Hansford, a scientist at Zoological Society London, UK.

    Who said the hunters had to be human…

  2. 7) Hey, you left off KJ Parker, whose birthday is naturally on the same day as Tom Holt’s. 🙂

  3. “Barron Trump fighting illegal aliens at the border wall in a mech suit….” What the actual….

  4. (6) BGR’s research goes beyond sloppy into the land of downright negligence. Mario Bros. debuted in July 1983. Even if you don’t want to count Donkey Kong as the character’s first appearance, there’s no excuse for omitting Mario Bros. from his history.

    (13) I remember the exact pun that turned me off of the Xanth books for good: the Spelling Bee, an insect which communicated by flying in letter paths. (Insisting that plaid was a color didn’t help matters, either.) Hell, I stuck with the Gor books longer than that, and aside from the first half-dozen of those, I still maintain that they all amount to telling the same three stories over and over again. (Captured feminist turns submissive, transplanted man embraces dominance, and the new tribe/setting travelogue, if anyone cares.) Xanthony got lazy, relying on readers to send in puns and churning out a new book whenever he got enough, and even as a teen I knew I deserved to read better work.

    (Hey, fifth! I’ll take vodka, thanks…)

  5. Nothing wrong with linking to an old article, but you did realize the Xanth thing was posted in 2013?

  6. @7: The only Priestley work I know is An Inspector Calls, in which the “inspector” is clearly supernatural (possibly divine); however, Wikipedia has an entire article about his “time plays”so called because each constructs its plot around a particular concept of time. I haven’t read the ESF entry, but if it’s Clute’s I’m not surprised it’s less than transparent; Wikipedia lays out what’s non-mimetic about each of the plays.

    @8: I wonder if the cartoonist is aware of the Bob Shaw “serious scientific talk, in which he proposes a space drive using energy from greenhouse glass (it’s obviously filtering warmth somehow) and reaction mass from a continuously-open bar — since “everyone knows” that output after a pint of beer is more than a pint. (Yes, it’s slightly true in that alcohol is a dehydrant; that wasn’t the operating principle.)

  7. 13) I picked up the first 3 Xanth books in my early 20s, liked those well enough, and got a couple beyond that before my interest waned. None of them ultimately survived a series of library culls, although I couldn’t say exactly when I got rid of the last of them. No, I lie — according to LibraryThing, I still have A Spell for Chameleon… but I suspect it will go in the next cull.

    And I know I’m a lone voice howling in the wind here, but THOSE ARE NOT PUNS. What the Xanth books do is literal interpretations of idiomatic expressions, which is not at all the same thing. And yes, it gets old pretty fast. If you want actual puns, read the Callahan’s Place books.

  8. the two-way communication system consists of a small microphone that clips to a users back teeth

    “Paging Mr Dick, Mr Phillip K Dick”

    @dexf “Who said the hunters had to be human…”

    From the paper itself:

    A tarsometatarsus (USNM A605208; Fig. 3) exhibits two linear grooves on the distal aspect of the lateral condyle of the central trochlea. A third groove is present on the medial condyle of the central trochlea (posterior to the previous two marks), and a fourth groove is present on the medial condyle of the medial trochlea. A fifth is more centrally located on the lateral trochlea. All of these grooves have centrally oriented bevels and v-shaped floors. While the penetrating marks are intact and well defined, the edges are irregular and undefined at their centers, with portions of the bone surface absent. These marks are consistent with kerfs made by single-bladed, sharp lithic tools and multiple cutting actions intended to disarticulate the central phalanges (35).

    I’m unaware of any animal, extant or extinct, which makes stone stools and cuts things with them!

  9. Goodreads last night:
    Because you enjoyed Nina Allan’s The Rift (2017 surreal literary fiction with a tinge of SF), we recommend Robert Aspirin’s Another Fine Myth (pun-filled, slapstick fantasy pastiche from 1978)!


  10. 7) the genre Priestly that occurred to me is Johnson Over Jordan in which a man dies and has to make a confusing journey to get to Heaven.
    Saw it years back with Patrick Stewart in the central role and a rare Yorkshire accent. Not entirely sure I understood what it was getting at.
    There’s Time and the Conways as well, but the audience time travels rather than the cast. Does that count?

  11. Rev. Bob:

    I remember the exact pun that turned me off of the Xanth books for good: the Spelling Bee, an insect which communicated by flying in letter paths.

    For me it was somewhere after about the first third of Ogre, Ogre, I think. (My friends passed them around when I was a freshman in high school.) I don’t even remember the joke, but I finally thought, “Ugh, I’ve had enough of this.”

    Heller’s article fits what I remember of the first book. I found the portrayal of the women tiresome and immature (and to put that in perspective, you have to keep in mind I was pretty immature at that age myself), though at the time that wasn’t quite enough to turn me off the books. Many many years later, when I was working in a used bookstore, I was straightening the SFF section and the first of his books on sale I saw was The Color of Her Panties, and I just shook my head and thought, “Well, of course it is. Yeesh.”

  12. 7) Other people have commented on the “time plays” and An Inspector Calls… Priestley seems to have been on the fringes of British SF a good deal, interacting with people like J.B.S. Haldane and J.D. Bernal, who wrote a lot of speculative material (some fiction, some not) and inspired writers like Arthur Clarke. So, Priestley is at least genre-adjacent, I’d say.

    (And the wiki article reminds me, he adapted “Level Seven” for TV, as part of “Out of the Unknown” – possibly the best single episode of that show, IMHO.)

  13. Some of Priestly’s TV work counts. He adapted a story for Out of the Unknown didn’t he?

    But a lot of Priestly kind of fits in if you squint. Especially a chunk of the shorter fiction. P. Schuyler Miller reviewed Priestly’s collection The Other Place for Astounding.

  14. @Rev Bob – Spelling Bee. I remember reading many years ago a fantasy novel that a friend loaned me. As I recall it was fairly serious in tone, until I came to the chapter about the May Bees, which were magical bees infesting a swamp. The chapter consisted of the characters being consumed with doubts and unable to leave the area. ‘Maybe (geddit?) the quest is not such a great idea…’ sort of thing. I stopped reading at that point.

  15. In some ways, Super Mario Bros is a soft reboot of the Mario character, that or the nameless damsel of Donkey Kong must be wondering where Mario and his brother Luigi disappeared to.
    :imagines Missing Persons poster:

    Mario also must have had a face-heel-face turn if it really is the same character through all the DK games, Mario brothers, and then the Super Mario Brothers games.

    13) The first couple of Xanth books didn’t turn me off to Piers Anthony’s work, although looking back, they SHOULD have. No, it was his story “In the Barn”.

    One of the few times I’ve thrown a book against a wall in a literal sense.

  16. 13) I don’t think I ever actually read any of the Xanth books; my exposure to Anthony was primarily via the first couple of Proton/Phaze books and Thousandstar (one of his weird SF novels). I do still have fond memories of Thousandstar, but am a bit reluctant to revisit it at this point.

  17. 3): Scene. A Synagogue somewhere in the western world.
    Moyel: “So Mr. & Mrs. Goldfarb, will you be going with the standard procedure, or the deluxe, that includes the mastoid communication implant? It costs less if we do both at the same time….”

  18. Back in the Usenet days, I recall a fellow with amazing divinatory powers. You could say you like chocolate malt, and he would convert the words to numbers and crunch the numbers and come back with positive proof of your feelings on Bimetallism and Original Sin.

    I lost track of him, but I wonder if he isn’t working at Amazon now, using his remarkable powers to populate those “you may also like” messages.

  19. Cliff on September 14, 2018 at 2:31 am said:

    Spelling Bee. I remember reading many years ago a fantasy novel that a friend loaned me. As I recall it was fairly serious in tone, until I came to the chapter about the May Bees, which were magical bees infesting a swamp. The chapter consisted of the characters being consumed with doubts and unable to leave the area.

    OTOH, The Phantom Tollbooth is chockful of these wordplays, etc. E.g., per above, The Doldrums; Jumping To Expectations; The Whether Man, etc.

  20. Just Say No to Xanth. Even the first book makes one feel filthy after critical faculties develop.

    No Anthony series should ever be read past the third book, if that far.

  21. (13) I kept seeing Xanth books in SF sections and bookstores along time ago, but there always seemed to be something else that was better to read first. I seem to have had a lucky escape!

  22. Daniel Dern: The Phantom Tollbooth is chockful of these wordplays, etc. E.g., per above, The Doldrums; Jumping To Expectations; The Whether Man, etc.

    When I was part of Cassy’s Reading Group discussion of Summer in Orcus, one or more of the other participants mentioned its similarity to this book, which I had never read. So I got it from my library and read it.

    I can see why the book would be a delight to a child who is just learning the intricacies — and bizarreness — of the English language, but as an adult my response was “meh”. I found it mostly just an exercise in wordplay, and didn’t think it really compared to Oor Wombat’s book, which is a fully-fleshed out story.

  23. @Ann Somerville
    I’m unaware of any animal, extant or extinct, which makes stone stools and cuts things with them!

    It was a joke. Being a community of sci-fi/fantasy fans, terrorbirds being hunted to death by ancient Morlocks, time traveling sport hunters, Orcish tribes or alien chefs to feed inbound tourists seems a far more satisfying answer.

  24. Honestly, the puns were what kept me invested in Xanth, even as I became increasingly aware of just how creepy the sexual politics of the series was becoming (and had always been, although I was too young to recognize it, but he was also getting worse about it as he went along). ‘The Color of Her Panties’ was the point where I finally just nopetopused out.

  25. I’ve read some Koontz, and he seemed to be a pretty good bestsellerish writer, but I got tired of his rants about how awful the human race is. Not terribly long rants, but it’s not something I have a lot of tolerance for. Now I’m wondering whether they had something to do with his religion.

  26. Apropos of nothing —

    In case anyone is interested, my father FINALLY went home from the rehab facility this morning. He’s 85, been in the hospital then rehab since the end of March/beginning of April for a badly broken hip and failure to heal thereof.

    I’m crossing my fingers that: 1. he’ll actually USE the gods-becursed walker now, so he doesn’t fall again; and 2. Mom won’t kill him and hide his body in the basement now that he’s underfoot again!

  27. Xanth is a combination of many things including but not limited to What if the map was the territory, a parody of fantasy quest books (including the gender roles in those books), a bit of hen doku i yaku, etc. The ones I read turned out to be mostly better than expected and I’m glad to have read them. They’re probably too dated for younger readers, however.

  28. I have a question for the Filers here.

    Does anyone know anything about this group?

    I have some three to four thousand SF and fantasy books, in fair to good condition, that honestly I’m never going to read again; they’re stored on short bookcases in a crawlspace that I’m finding it increasingly difficult to move around in as I get older. My library has been transitioning to an e-library for the last decade or two.

    I want to find a good home for them. I could probably get a couple of hundred bucks for them from Half Price Books or some such outfit… but, honestly, I don’t need the money that badly. I’d rather donate them somewhere where they’d be appreciated (and not pulped!). Mostly they’re from the mid-1970s through about 2000 or so; the vast majority are from the 1980s and 1990s.

    I’ve been contemplating what to do with the books for the last few years; I think it’s finally time for me to admit that they need to move on.

  29. @Contrarius, I’m glad to hear that. And I hope he will use the walker properly. My dad mostly pushes his ahead of him at arm’s length, until he’s leaning over and it’s giving him no support. He also tries to haul himself out of chairs by pulling on it. My stepmother has to remind him constantly, as did I when I was there. It’s distressing to watch.

    @Cassy B, I know Helen Montgomery of the Science Fiction Outreach Project, and they are good people / legit. They travel to lots of media cons and hand out books free. I happily gave them leftover freebie books a few years ago when WisCon got a particularly large batch donated by Del Rey, and they didn’t all get taken by our attendees. (Amazingly large donation. Normally you don’t see left over books!)

  30. I liked Xanth as a kid, although I gave up after The Color of Her Panties and I gave up on Piers Anthony completely after Firefly, which is flat out pedo apologia. When I was reading them I definitely noticed the misogyny, but at that particular time, it didn’t stand out. Science fiction and fantasy was full of it; serious SF establishment writers like Harlan Ellison and Robert Heinlein (and alleged feminist MZB) weren’t much better, and best case scenario (e.g. LOTR) we were merely invisible. I started out writing my own SF back then when I was a teenager because I wanted some female characters who weren’t either bimbos or bitches, but I didn’t see stories like that getting published until much later.

  31. @Cassy B.: I will add to @Lenore’s endorsement; I don’t know them personally, but I’ve heard good things about their work. MCFI (sponsor of Noreascons 2-4) was giving them a little money to cover the expenses of moving books, back when it still had funds left over.

  32. There was one point midway through the Xanth books where Anthony seemed to have suddenly realized that kids were reading them and started to clean up his act a bit – it was the one where the after-book author notes/rant was about some kid in a hospital who loved them. Some time in the 80s, because that’s when I was just reaching the post-teenage acquisition of critical thinking skills that causes people to stop reading them.

    Which is not a recommendation to go read the books after that minor epiphany or a defense of any sort, just a comment. In some ways it makes everything else worse – all the rest of it was because he just didn’t care how it came across to readers.

  33. Thanks, all!

    He says he is very nervous about being home instead of in a nice controlled rehab environment, but at least that’s better than being overconfident — which is what got him into trouble in the first place!

    Stupid men and their stupid testosterone poisoning…..::mutter mutter::…. 😉

  34. I read Anthony in High School somewhat. I stopped after I realized only the first or second book in a series was readable and then they just slid downhill.

  35. 13: Well, I’ve been happy to defend the Xanth books a lot more than others, and have 40 of them on my shelves (I think I’m a couple behind now though.) No, they are in no way great literature; his plot construction is superb though. More to the point, however, I don’t consider him to be especially misogynistic; rather, like Charlie Brooker, he’s just misanthropic – I think he’s pretty even-handed in how he (mis)treats characters of all genders, and certainly as the series progressed his female characters become much stronger and somewhat less stereotypical. That’s still no recommendation, of course!
    On the whole, I’m with Anna Mardoll I think – what Anthony is writing in the Xanth series are really fantasy-inflected Romance novels (certainly he follows those tropes pretty well) and the extraordinary part is that they were being read by teenage boys who wouldn’t normally have dreamt of reading anything in that genre…

    (Oh, and on the pun front – I think it’s fair to say that his titles are generally quite punny: I still think that Stork Naked is quite a good one.

  36. @Contrarius
    Glad to hear that your Dad is out of rehab and on the mend. Sadly, it’s a common problem that elderly people don’t want to use walkers, even though they need them.

    9. My initial reaction was, “What’s the point of a riderless motorcycle? Bikers actually enjoy riding.” But then I read the article and the riderless bike is used to test and research safety systems which will help human drivers. And since BMW is a leader in motorbike safety technology (I know several people who ride BMWs precisely because of the safety technology), this makes sense. Those metal boxes look like standard transport cases that are available for various BMW motorbikes, though these are apparently stuffed full of technology.

    10. His definition of fun and apolitical SFF differs significantly from mine. Though I do feel sorry for the poor Uncanny slush reader who had to deal with this.

    12. Somehow I’ve managed to go through life without ever reading anything by Dean Koontz. This article does not make me any more likely to pick up a Koontz book.

    13. As a teenager, I read a single Piers Anthony book, his SF novel Chthon, which is considered one of his better works and was even nominated for the Hugo and Nebula. I picked it up, because my weakness for SFF prison break stories (or indeed any prison break stories) was already well developed at that age. The prison scenes were actually good (and memorable enough that I can still recall some plot details thirty years later), but unfortunately, the rest of the book was so full of problematic sexual stuff that I never read another book by him again, so I never actually got to Xanth.

    In fact, Chthon, together with a Jerry Cornelius book I read at around the same time convinced me that I did not like New Wave SF to the point that I avoided books I would have enjoyed for many years. Of course, Chthon isn’t usually considered New Wave, but I was fifteen and largely cut off from the wider SFF sphere, though I must have picked up the term New Wave somewhere and connected it to 1960s SF. And since both Chthon and the Jerry Cornelius book were from the late 1960s, I assumed they had to be part of this New Wave thing I’d heard about and decided that I did not like it.

  37. When The Phantom Tollbooth did it, it was novel and amusing. Nobody else gets that pass.

    This! big time. I may have to get my copy out and read it again.

  38. Contrarius–glad to hear your Dad is home and hopefully on the mend. Mine is also 85 with a walker(disc in his back went bad). Took awhile to get him to use it but we had the example of my mom to help. That is, she needed one before him and he used to have a fit when she wouldn’t use it. So that gave us some added leverage.
    Now what we have to watch for is when he gets down about using it. He’ll threaten to not go places because he doesn’t “want everyone looking at him like an old man”. And I know that sometimes it’s hard for him to think about what he’s had to give up in mobility and freedom. For us, the fact that he’s still able to drive helps keep him active and not sitting around feeling sorry for himself.
    But it’s hard to watch him not be the active guy he was. He kept working until he was 75 because he liked being busy.

  39. @Jamoche: post-teenage acquisition of critical thinking skills that causes some people to stop reading them. I remember being appalled when a colleague in his ?late twenties? pulled out a copy during down time. Possibly some posts take longer than others.

    @David Brain: Anthony is not quite as sick as John Boyd.

  40. @Contrarius–I’m happy your dad is out of rehab and on the mend.

    @David Brain–I think that’s the mostly wildly optimistic description of the Xanth books I’ve ever read.

  41. Jamoche:
    I never read any of Anthony’s books, but I know the kid you’re talking about. Piers sort of took over our local con one year, because he was going to get to meet his young fan, so there he was, and everything had to be about him. Lots of fun for the concom, which probably didn’t include me, or I might remember specifics.

    The John Cullen Murphy version of Prince Valiant was a regrettable chapter in a great comic strip. I was disappointed with his continuation of Foster’s work from the start, having heard that Wallace Wood had tried out for the job and not gotten it, but Murphy’s apathetically drawn version of the strip was just plain dull, even beyond that. The apotheosis of how cheesy it was came when Val visited some kind of magic kingdom where changing a letter in something’s name changed it to something else. It was like an extended Sesame Street conceit, only devoid of humor, charm, and wit. Turned a gem into a germ. (See what I did there?)

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