Pixel Scroll 9/18/18 When Lessa Told Me To Do It, I Succumbed To Weyr Pressure

(1) BIGFOOT’S POLITICAL OPINIONS. Registration is required to read Adweek’s article “Bigfoot Tries to Get Footage of an Elusive Congressman in This Enjoyably Odd Political Ad”. Fortunately, the commercial itself is available at YouTube.

Congressional hopeful Dean Phillips, a Democrat running in Minnesota, says Republican incumbent Erik Paulsen is so detached from his home district, he’s practically impossible to find.

 

(2) STORMY WEATHER. Mur Lafferty’s Hugo win (with Matt Wallace) for Ditch Diggers was not completely washed out by Hurricane Florence, but the news did get bumped to fifth place in her latest post at The Murverse Mothership (where you can also see a photo of her wearing a chicken hat at the Hugo Losers Party).

Florence: We are fine. Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina and South Carolina last weekend, and wandered slowly through the state, dumping lots and lots of rain. The flooding was catastrophic. Oddly enough, when we thought our area would get hit with the eye, the storm turned and moved south of us, then turned north. We got wind, rain, Fiona’s school lost a big tree, but our area is largely unscathed. We did have some excitement yesterday when the last tail end of the storm whipped around and smacked us, letting Durham get a taste of the flooding and tornadoes that the rest of the state has suffered, but that didn’t last too long. If you can give to hurricane relief to help the eastern part of the state, please do.

(3) OBSERVATIONS ABOUT SF IN FRENCH. Matthew Rettino reports on “Congrès Boréal 2018: Differences between Anglophone and Francophone SF” at Archaeologies of the Weird, including the panel “L’imaginaire a-t-il une langue? Différence culturelle dans l’imaginaire anglophone et francophone” (“Does the imagination have a language? Cultural differences in the anglophone and francophone imaginary.”)

…One interesting idea that arose: language does not inherently carry the values of a society. Rather, culture does. The different traumas and schisms that define a society do have a much greater influence on national literature. For example, Cixin Liu’s Three Body Problem, remarked one of the panelists, is marked by the impact of the Cultural Revolution in China. This echoes how French SF is marked by the policy of laïcité (state secularism), the origins of which go back to the French Revolution. There did seem to be truth to this observation, given how French-language SF is in a sense more “secular” in its embrace of violent and sexual themes that would religious people shiver. On the other hand, anglophone SF retains a more “puritanical” attitude in the literature it produces and censors, particularly in the United States.

This being said, certain attitudes to the French language itself do influence French SF. Patrick Senecal pointed out later in the discussion that French-language editors have a tendency to homogenize the different registers of the language, leading to less linguistic diversity. When editing dialogue, French publishers often edit out regional dialect in favour of “le Français internationale.” The result is a banal, grammatically correct French, where all characters sound the same. These editing decisions do not accommodate the regional French spoken in certain regions of Québec, for example, which leads to a more monovocal (as opposed to polyvocal) body of literature. This is not just unappealing; it’s unrealistic and unrepresentative of how French is actually spoken. As Senecal quipped, “Il n’y a personne qui parle comme Radio Canada!”

(4) BELGIAN INFLUENCE ON SPACE PROGRAM. “Elon Musk Says SpaceX’s BFR Design Is Inspired by Tintin Comics”Inverse has the story.

Elon Musk unveiled a new design for SpaceX’s BFR rocket on Thursday, and he’s taking inspiration from a famous series of Belgian comics. The CEO confirmed on Twitter that the new design “intentionally” bears resemblance to the vehicles depicted in The Adventures of Tintin, the whimsical series that depicts Tintin and his friends embarking on far-flung trips to find new stories.

…The redesign shared with the moon announcement bears similarities to rockets as featured in Hergé’s comic series. The 1950 comic Destination Moon shows a red-and-yellow checkered rocket with three giant fins on the base, elevating the rocket above the ground, which Tintin and his friends use to visit the moon and explore a secret government project.

(5) THE ACADEMY. At Quills, Fretful Porpentine’s new discourse is: “On the performativity of ‘What have you been reading lately?’” Here’s the kind of thing college professors are supposed to say when asked what they have been reading:

– If you are a humanities professor, you say something that is clearly pleasure-reading, but at least vaguely cerebral. Witty mysteries about British academics are good, or the sort of science fiction that doesn’t have aliens on the cover.

– If you work in tech support, you are allowed to read the kind of books with aliens on the cover.

(6) YOU ARE HERE. A new version of a reference frame for the universe is being released (Gizmodo: “Where Are We in Space? Astronomers Update Their Celestial Frame of Reference”). The third International Celestial Reference Frame is based with (0,0,0) at the center of mass of the Solar System, with the axes fixed in relation to a number of distant quasars.

“Nitty-gritty stuff like this is super important when you’re sitting on an Earth moving 70,000 mph around a star that is moving 450,000 mph around a galaxy center,” Grant Tremblay, astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told Gizmodo.

…The ICRF-3 […] places the center of the reference frame at the Solar System’s center of mass, and is oriented based on the position of distant bright radio sources called quasars. Those measurements were made using Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), essentially a method of using the entire Earth as a telescope, collecting data from multiple radio telescopes and combining them to get the highest-resolution image possible.

This most recent frame derives from measurements of 4,536 quasars, all between 100 million and 10 billion light-years away. […] The most recent edition also takes the motion of our own Milky Way galaxy into account for the first time, according to a press release from the Helmholtz Centre Potsdam.

(7) MEXICANX INITIATIVE. The second installment of Hector Gonzalez’ report — “My Road to Worldcon 76. Part 2: Who the hell is John Picacio?”

I even remember the first conversation I had with my dad about being a Mexicanx recipient. He was initially wary, doubting a stranger on the internet would give away something like that. I explained the situation and mentioned John’s name. “¡Si! ¡John es un monstruo de la ciencia ficción!” Translation note: If I tried to literally translate what my dad meant to say, it would sound as if John was a monster. My dad meant it more as “He is HUGE in the science fiction world.” Bottom line, he knew more about John than me.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 18, 1964 The Addams Family premiered on television.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 18 – Lynn Abbey, 70. Author best known for her Thieves World fiction though her first works for was for TSR games including stories set in the Forgotten Realms and the Dark Sun games. Daughter of the Bright Moon was edited by Gordon R. Dickson and I’ll let someone here tell that  story.
  • Born September 18 – Caitlin Kittredge, 34. Author of the Black London urban fantasy series featuring Jack Winter and Pete Caldecott which I think is one is the finest such series ever done. Also wrote the Iron Codex, Nocturne City and Hellhound Chronicle series.  Currently writer on Witchblade series.

(10) W76 PANEL RESOURCES. Bogi Takács has released notes prepared for use when appearing on two panels at Worldcon 76.

I promised the writeups of my notes for Worldcon 2018 panels! The first one is for Queer Joy. I am honestly not sure which of these works I actually mentioned on the panel, these were my advance notes and I just tidied them up and hyperlinked them.

[At the post are lists of works under each of these categories — ]

  • Presents oppression / discrimination and/or suffering, but also joy:
  • Recent-ish anthologies with related material (not all stories might be related):
  • More grim SFF which is still queer-inclusive and queer people are not persecuted in-universe:

Queer Families

These are my advance notes, but I also mentioned on the panel how queer families seem to be non-multigenerational in SFF, and we had a fairly lengthy discussion about that. So I tried to add which of the works buckle that trend.

Contemporary work…

(11) IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND THERE LIVED A WRITER. The latest Brandon Sanderson newsletter talks about constructing his office – which is epic, just like his books. (See photos at the link.)

I always like to include something about my life in these newsletters—something unrelated to the books. So today, I thought I’d post some updates on my office, which we’re building in the empty lot beside my house.

I’m building it underground, because…well, what else would you expect from a fantasy novelist? It’s been an interesting process, since the city really has no idea what to do with someone like me. I call it my Underground Supervillain Lair, something that the suburbs in Utah really aren’t that equipped to deal with. But, after some work, we’ve gotten permissions. Peter has been taking pictures of it.

First, we dug out a huge pit. I don’t go halfway on underground lairs—so we’re doing 20-foot ceilings. The kids had a wonderful time digging in this hole, and I’m convinced they’d have loved it if we never put anything in it.

(12) PUNCH-CARD-PUNK. Mary Robinette Kowal is writing two new lady astronaut novels. Andrew Liptak interviews the author for The Verge“Return to an alternate history space race with two new Lady Astronaut novels”

After signing a six-figure deal with Tor Books, author Mary Robinette Kowal will expand to her Lady Astronaut series over the next several years with two new novels, The Relentless Moon and The Derivative Base, as well as a standalone sci-fi murder mystery novel, The Spare Man. The new Lady Astronaut titles will join this summer’s fantastic The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky, which followed pilot and mathematician Elma York through an alternate history 1950s space race aimed at sending humanity to off-world colonies after an extinction-level asteroid strike on Earth. The Relentless Moon is expected to drop in 2020, with The Spare Man to follow in 2021, and The Derivative Base in 2022.

Both novels are set in the “punch-card-punk” world that Kowal established in her 2013 novelette, “The Lady Astronaut of Mars.” The Calculating Stars begins in 1953, as the asteroid lands off of Washington, DC, devastating the US East Coast. York and her colleagues quickly realize that the incident has started a chain reaction that will change the climate of the Earth in decades, making it inhospitable to human life. In response, a coalition of nations forms the International Aerospace Coalition (IAC), which works to first reach space, and then figure out how to live there.

(13) WHEN PERFECTION ISN’T ALL IT’S CRACKED UP TO BE. James Davis Nicoll discusses “Six Stories That Find the Drama in Utopian Settings” at Tor.com.

Tanith Lee’s classic duology Don’t Bite the Sun and Drinking Sapphire Wine is set on a desert world hostile to unprotected life. Not that this matters, because all of its human inhabitants live in one of three domed cities: Four BEE, Four BAA, and Four BOO. Within those cities, virtually every need and desire is met. Even death is only a momentary inconvenience before one is incarnated in a new designer body.

The nameless protagonist, offered material paradise, commits the unforgivable sin of realizing that while the options offered are pleasant, none of them are meaningful. That realization is the border between life in paradise and life in a cossetted hell. Unfortunately for our hero, the Powers That Be in the three cities are determined to maintain the status quo of their cozy societies, keeping them just as they are…which means crushing (by any means necessary) any pesky aspirations for personal fulfillment.

(14) YOUNG VETERAN ACTOR. Sandie Angulo Chen in the Washington Post interviews seventh-grader Owen Vaccaro, star of The House With a Clock in Its Walls, about how he became an actor and what it was like to work on the film: “Sports didn’t interest Owen Vaccaro, but a theater class sparked a passion for acting”

Soon, the theater classes led to his first auditions, which eventually landed him his first film gig, “A Product of Me,” at age 7. In the years since, Owen has been in eight more movies, most notably acting opposite A-list stars Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg in the comedies “Daddy’s Home” and “Daddy’s Home 2.”

(15) BACK LOOKING FOR SUNSPOTS. In a September 16 press release (“AURA Statement about the Status of the Sunspot Solar Observatory at Sacramento Peak, New Mexico”), the sponsoring organizations (Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy and the National Science Foundation) have released some information on the mysterious closure of the Sunspot Solar Observatory.

On September 6th, the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) made the decision to temporarily vacate the Sunspot Solar Observatory at Sacramento Peak, New Mexico as a precautionary measure while addressing a security issue. The facility closed down in an orderly fashion and is now re-opening. The residents that vacated their homes will be returning to the site, and all employees will return to work this week.

AURA has been cooperating with an on-going law enforcement investigation of criminal activity that occurred at Sacramento Peak. During this time, we became concerned that a suspect in the investigation potentially posed a threat to the safety of local staff and residents. For this reason, AURA temporarily vacated the facility and ceased science activities at this location.

The decision to vacate was based on the logistical challenges associated with protecting personnel at such a remote location, and the need for expeditious response to the potential threat. AURA determined that moving the small number of on-site staff and residents off the mountain was the most prudent and effective action to ensure their safety.

In light of recent developments in the investigation, we have determined there is no risk to staff, and Sunspot Solar Observatory is transitioning back to regular operations as of September 17th. Given the significant amount of publicity the temporary closure has generated, and the consequent expectation of an unusual number of visitors to the site, we are temporarily engaging a security service while the facility returns to a normal working environment.

We recognize that the lack of communications while the facility was vacated was concerning and frustrating for some. However, our desire to provide additional information had to be balanced against the risk that, if spread at the time, the news would alert the suspect and impede the law enforcement investigation. That was a risk we could not take.

(16) CAN’T SAY THAT. Ryan George discovers “Being a Motivational Speaker in the MCU Sucks.”

[Thanks to JJ, David K.M. Klaus, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Michael J. Walsh, Alan Baumler, Andrew Liptak, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

48 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 9/18/18 When Lessa Told Me To Do It, I Succumbed To Weyr Pressure

  1. 6) In 1982 or 1983, I was working in the map room of Cathy’s library, and the library had displays that came and went. I did one with materials from the map library. I started with the most general map I could find, of the solar system. Then as one walked along the hallway, there’d be the Earth, then our hemisphere, our continent, country, state, county, town, campus, and lastly, a “you are here” map of the corridor with the display, indicating where they’d be when reading it.

    Best of all, the hallway had two entrances, so you could start at either end.

    I scroll, you scroll, we all scroll for Pixel Scroll.

  2. Not morning.

    Sideswipe by remains of Florence apparently done.

    More Lady Astronaut is a Good Thing to look forward to.

    Fifth?! That never happens!

  3. (6) “…a number os distant quasars.”
    Should probably be OF distant quasars.

    (11) A classic ‘Mine’s Deeper’ reaction to Peter David’s Writing Lair?

    The cake-shaped rocket is a lie…

  4. 1) I have absolutely no dog in this race and have never heard of either of the candidates before, but that ad was hilarious.

    3) That’s a very interesting post.

  5. A few days back a pixel scroll included a trailer for the direct-to-Netflix Nextgen and Rev. Bob noted the seeming similarity to Big Hero 6. I’ve just watched it, and it is not a rip-off of BH6 or any other movie in particular. If I had to pick movies it borrowed from, there is more of movies like Short Circuit, The Iron Giant, and T2 in it. The production value is pretty good but not quite at Disney/Pixar levels. The story/pacing has some rough edges, but is good enough that it could have been a theatrical release instead of going direct to video. (There have been much worse CG movies that made it to the big screen.)

  6. 3) It is very interesting to have this outside vision on our French speaking scene. I am moderately aware of it, through my recent (and modest) role as an amateur writer, and amateur editor in a fanzine. The last especially allows me to confront to a slush pile, where cultural trends will show up even more, I think.

    Maybe adding a few personal considerations :

    -Nothing to add on what the panelist said on the relationship to violence or religion we have, or our taste for the bleak, or the sociological analysis, I think it was very well captured. On this last point I just would like to add that political culture also shows very much in the way our authors are going to approach the subject. The libertarian trend to SF that seems very influential to US SF, at least historically, is very foreign to us, even exotic, it feels like reading a western :-). And when political opinions tends to the left (what I think is in majority the case in both scenes), it will do in different ways : our left political wings here will call themselves socialists, not liberal, and no, both terms are definitelt not permutable.

    – Quebec SF scene is very lively, especially taking into account the relatively small population pool that represents french-speaking canadians, compared to France for instance. It is inspirational to us French on what our scene could look like if we did things just a bit better.

    – However, we are tiny, and it is often difficult for english-speaker to grab just how tiny we are. This goes far beyond simply being proportionally less french-speaking readers then english-speaking readers in the F&SF genre. The mechanisms are known, with the heavy market-shares that the anglophones F&SF are able to conquer even in markets where there is a solid potential for domestic authors to bloom. Just to give you a figure : I work as a slush reader for AOC, which is a french equivalent of the “Brins d’Eternité” fanzine Matthew is talking about. I don’t know their figures, but we sell around the 300 copies, and I would be very surprised if they outrange us by an order of magnitude. And the only ones less tiny then us are the generalists magazine (“Galaxies”, “Bifrost” in France) who try to do both reviews, some short stories… with an important proportion of translations. That does make a very, very tiny scene for short story writer to bloom. Needless to say we are completely amateurs.

    – I think the “tiny” thing is part of the explanation for the homogenization of language that the panelists complain about. As I said, I have huge respect for what the french-speaking Canadians are able to achieve, but it is most likely they could not do so well without getting read by french speakers outside Canada, and the biggest chunk of those readers is probably in France. I said we are tiny, and I can understand the temptation, for Canadian authors and editors, not to pile up on this by publishing in a language that will at least puzzle the majority of the reading base. It is part of a sad trend that more generally does not favor risk taking when publishing french F&SF.

    – I was confronted once to the issue, on what I think was a more complicated case then one of our transatlantic friends speaking a bit weird. We, very (too) rarely recieve short stories in the slush pile from African authors. I remember reading one and bumping off heavily on the language. Local turn of phrases, but also, I must admit sadly, heavy grammatical mistakes which showed a lack of formal education. But the voice was definitely… from somewhere else. We didn’t publish it. It was original, but really lacking too much on many aspects to be a contender. But it really stroke me : could we have reckognized its value was it just a little better, or would I have been too estranged by the language ? Even on this one, was I finding some excuses not to publish it ?

    – On a shameless self-promotion point of view (aren’t we on a anglophone website after all 🙂 ?) : Matthew or someone else, don not forget French publications in your explorations, starting by our own AOC : we even do ebooks most recently so no dead tree will have to cross the atlantic. Just don’t mistake us for who we are not : they are some pro editors (in novel format) and a few French authors which are at least tending to be pro or semi-pro, but on my side I am a R&D engineer with a knack and taste for reading and writing SF when I have time to do so. And I will have a short story coming up in one of the next issues of “Brins D’Eternités” if you stick to the Canadians. It will be bleak, sociological “fantastique” : I hope you appreciate it, but I’ve got little doubt you will find it very french :-).

  7. I’m French and i know french SF history. I don’t recognize it in the description. No french SF isn’t more violent or more erotic than anglo-saxon one.
    Influence of laicité is particurally on the vision of religion in french SF and fantasy. Transcendent religion are considered like dystopic ideology and must be fighted.

    French SF and fantasy are majorly progressist and conservative author are very rare.

  8. (12) PUNCH-CARD-PUNK.

    The first two novels were pretty great, so this is excellent news, and I see MRK is getting a pretty penny out of the deal as well

  9. @P J Evans (re @11): LED bulbs last a very long time — and if they burn out before he gets tired of the space, there’s this suction-cup-on-a-stick apparatus that already exists just to replace bulbs in high ceilings. Similarly there are extensions for dust mops.

  10. @Chip
    20-foot ceilings are silly, IMO. He could do fine with 10-foot (which is still higher than usual).

  11. Unless he wants a photography studio. My husband would salivate at the idea of 20′ ceilings…. (His studio has 12′ ceilings, which is, honestly, plenty of height, but I just know he’d find a reason he needs the additional eight feet…)

  12. A 20-foot ceiling is absolutely absurd, even underground where it won’t make a difference to the exterior visuals. A 9 foot ceiling instead of 8 can massively change the proportions of a house, and feel oddly spacious. 10 feet can make it feel huge.

    20 feet would make me feel like I was in a warehouse, or an indoor archery range. (Actually, our indoor archery range, formerly a bowling alley, doesn’t have that kind of ceiling. I wish it did, it could be longer.) You might want that for a ballroom.

    For a writing workspace? Unless you have a habit of trying to set up your pitched battles with live actors carrying full sized pikes, I just can’t see why.

  13. You can see in the photos that he’s got kind of a miniature version of the Louvre’s glass skylight construction above the half of the bunker which is his writing studio. That, combined with the high ceiling, will make it seem like a big, airy, light-filled space and stave off feelings of claustrophobia and cave-dwelling. (The other half is a theatre, which sensibly does not have skylights.)

  14. My parents’ house in Texas had a basement, where my father had his office and workshop. They were well-lit and had a fairly standard ceiling height. I didn’t get claustrophobic down there; in fact, it was better-lit than the living areas, despite having no windows. (My father was fairly ingenious: he set a nail in the floor in front of each stud, so the the studs were easy to find. Some of the nails could have used being a little farther out; the baseboard almost covered them.)

  15. Additional: my parents originally wanted an underground/earth-sheltered house, but found that it would require steel framing and be far more expensive than a conventional house with a basement.

  16. @Vivien @Fabien (and Matthew)
    I can’t say much about francophone SFF, because my French is just about good enough to handle comics, but not prose.

    But I agree that there are subtle and not so subtle differences in worldview between different countries and languages. For example, I also occasionally bounce off the extreme individualism and particularly the worship of the military in US SFF. And I always find it ridiculous that John Scalzi of all people is considered a leftwing writer in the US, because he strikes me as a moderate conservative, someone who would fit well into Angela Merkel’s party.

    As for portrayal of religion, I prefer my SFF largely free of religion and at least without endless talking about religion. I also find that religion as a theme is far less noticeable in German SFF than in American and also British SFF, which has always surprised me, because the UK strikes me as a very secular country. Though neither the UK nor Germany has something like the French laicité and indeed we just recently had another go around, when a conservative party wanted to put crucifixes into every public building in Bavaria.

  17. (4) Read the article, expecting to see something like this. Was sorely disappointed. How hard can it be to paint a red and white checkerboard pattern?

    The ladder, though, would probably get him into pretty serious trouble with space-OSHA, and with his factory conditions already under scrutiny, he may want to avoid that.

  18. @Cora Buhlert:

    I also find that religion as a theme is far less noticeable in German SFF than in American and also British SFF

    Can you give some examples of American/British SFF with religious themes? I can think of some examples, but most of them would be decidedly SFnal, rather than an extension of US religiosity into fiction:

    * “A Canticle for Leibowitz” is certainly religious, and to some extent appears to reflect the author’s religious views.
    * I remember that Greg Bear’s “Heads” had an extended spoof on a certain contemporary religion ending in “-ology”.
    * The protagonist of “The Goblin Emperor” was rather the church going kind.
    * Game of thrones has numerous religious subplots, but wouldn’t it be downright ahistorical if the world in which it was set were secular?
    * Red Wombat’s work tends to incorporate religion of various kinds quite a bit.
    * I suppose the work of H.P. Lovecraft and Yoon Ha Lee is religious in nature, though the Gods in question are Elder or Calendrical, respectively.
    * In Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence, Gods also play a major role.

    But I don’t really see how any of these would reflect a particular religiosity of US society, rather than regular worldbuilding. If anything, evangelical christianity and conservative catholicism seem rather underrepresented in these worlds, to the extent that one would assume them to be extrapolations of contemporary US society. Not that I’m complaining—if I wanted that kind of SFF, I know where to find Castalia House.

    In contrast, one of the reasons why I find it hard to re-read Karl May today is the utterly weird way in which religion shows up in HIS works, e.g. Winnetou’s deathbed conversion to the sounds of “Ave Maria”.

  19. Zenna Henderson (soooo good, read them) and Madeline L’Engle have very Christian grounded books. And Orson Scott Card’s are steeped in Mormonism. Harry Potter, Narnia, Stranger in a Strange Land, The Mangoverse books….

  20. Many of Gene Wolfe’s novels have a fairly significant Catholic underpinning.

    And Dune has some pretty substantial religious themes …

  21. @jayn

    A lot of Connie Willis’ work has overtly Christian religious themes.

    I don’t remember much of that. “Firewatch” seems more about concern for a church as a cultural object rather than a religious place.

    I was more bothered by Passage, which struck me as more New Age-ish.

  22. @David Shallcross, I loved that story. I have the anthology I read it in somewhere. (“Wandering Stars”, perhaps?) My memory for stories I haven’t read in a long time tends to be fuzzy, but I remember that one pretty well.

    Bujold’s recently awarded Five Gods series has religious themes. Religion shows up in the Ancillary Justice series as well. And Tolkien, of course.

  23. @9 “Daughter of the Bright Moon was edited by Gordon R. Dickson and I’ll let someone here tell that story.”

    Would someone please? That is one of my all-time favorite books and I am intrigued. *chinhands*

  24. @microtherion
    While she’s wriiten a book of Christmas-themed stories, I was thinking more of Doomsday Book, where the theme of the protagonist helping a religious man keep his faith (not to give too much away) would lose IMO a lot of poignancy if one assumes she’d just aided him in a therapeutic lie.

  25. @Jayn, I was a big fan of Doomsday Book, and now you mention it, I kind of remember that narrative, but it did not strike me as particularly odd, given the time and circumstances. And, to compare American with French fiction, which started this thread, there is a novel by Camus where the characters make not too dissimilar choices in similar circumstances, in my opinion.

    I think my confusion in this thread stems from the fact that when I think of visible religiosity in US life, I think of the Religious Right, and I don’t see a whole lot of that in mainstream SFF. There’s certainly ample evidence of people living their personal faith in US SFF. But is there more of that than in continental European SFF? I don’t know; I basically stopped reading German SF as an adult, and I never read French SF (what little I know of Spanish fiction seems to have a lot of religious undertones).

    As a random experiment, I picked up my copy of Mark Brandis’ “Bordbuch Delta VII” (I tried to get my son interested in the SF I read as a teenager):

    * There’s the president who is grabbed by the bad guys: “For some seconds, he closed his eyes and did, what he hadn’t done in a long time: He prayed”.
    * There’s the pilot about to fly a suicide mission: “Great God, Commander Harris thought, be with me now!”
    * And there are assorted other references to God and prayer.

    I don’t have any Perry Rhodan e-books, but here’s one of the authors defending his choice of employing a religious subplot.

    Haven’t got around to reading Christopher Ecker’s Der Bahnhof von Plön, but a quick search for “God” turned up lots of hits.

  26. I would distinguish between stories about how people cope with their religion (e.g., the above-cited “On Venus, Have We Got a Rabbi”, or Silverberg’s “The Dybbuk of Mazel Tov IV”) in the face of technology (or even lost technology — cf “A Canticle for Liebowitz” or “The Quest for Saint Aquin”) and the ones that use religion as a substructure or theme (Lewis, L’Engle, Card, …). (Card is a …special … case, having rewitten (AFAICT) the Mormon backstory as SF.) There are also very different degrees; e.g., Henderson uses Old Testament references (“Ararat”, “Captivity”, …) as titles/scene-setting for stories that IMO do not entangle with belief.

  27. Some very interesting examination of religion and the religious impulse in Hyperion and co, I thought.

  28. James Blish’s A Case of Conscience and Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow come to mind. Both focusing on Jesuits.

  29. @microtherion: “Can you give some examples of American/British SFF with religious themes?”

    C.S. Lewis springs to mind, as does J.R.R. somebody-or-other…

  30. @microtherion
    It’s true that Doomsday Book is a great and moving story regardless of whether you look at it from a religious point of view or not (though it could have stood quite a bit of editing of its present-day sections, IMO). But her Christmas story of the time-traveling Mary and Joseph, her story “Samaritan” of the slightly genetically augmented gorilla who wants to be baptized – it seems to convey that she’s writing from a place of religious Christian faith – but not the narrow, intolerant version of Christianity that the extreme right wing is using as a club…quite the opposite. I could be wrong, but that’s my impression.

  31. Jayn: I was thinking more of Doomsday Book, where the theme of the protagonist helping a religious man keep his faith (not to give too much away) would lose IMO a lot of poignancy if one assumes she’d just aided him in a therapeutic lie.

    I read it as her helping him to hold onto, and be emotionally sustained by, the spiritual belief which had been the most important thing in his life, nf ur ynl qlvat — and I don’t think that it lost any poignancy for my secular reading of it.

    Willis’ short fiction tends to reflect her religious beliefs a lot more strongly than her novels. I agree that most of the time it’s done with a light hand and with compassion rather than judgment, such that her fiction can still be immensely enjoyable to non-believers (though I have vague memories of wanting to throw something really hard after reading, I think it was, “Death on the Nile”).

  32. Yes, Willis seems to write from a place of Christian faith that reflects what I was raised with and still hold to. What the extreme right wing holds out as the only way to be Christian bears no resemblance to it.

  33. @JJ: I suppose I expressed myself badly; I’m an agnostic Jew myself and I was terribly moved by that scene. I meant that the scene would have been a lot less moving, I think, if it had been written without properly conveying how terrifying is the fact that faith isn’t knowledge or certainty, and leaves one vulnerable to shattering doubts among the comforts it can give, how great the effort is to act with faith even in the midst of those doubts…while showing those doubts can be just as much of part of being a compassionate human.

    …which obviously is not at all what I wrote before. Sorry.

  34. @Cora

    (hopefully not too late to the party)

    Agree with what strikes me as individualism, or strong faith in individual development in US F&SF. On a similar note to your impression on Scalzi’s work, I read recently (finally…) Kim Stanley Robinson Mars trilogy. While KSR is definitely not a conservative ^^, it stroke me how even from his standpoint those themes of “space as the new frontier where any individual accomplishement is possible” was present.

    On the subtle or not so subtle influence of culture, I sadly don’t have an extensive culture of many F&SF scenes, but I read more and more direclty in english and a lot of short fiction. And it surprised me after a point in how, for no precise reason I can analyze, I often connected more to Britsh SF. Perhaps we have some tiny bits of euro culture after all…

    And finally, I wouldn’t say religion is a common theme in French F&SF. I wouldn’t say personal religion is (even to be criticized), in the sense that I don’t think it would be so natural and easy for a french author to expose bits of his/her religious beliefs the Connie Willis does. “Laicité” also means the subject is treated with a lot of reserve or modesty in our public conversation.

    But we have a very, very common trope of religious people making good vilains, an opinion which would often reflect accurately the opinions of people leaning to the left.

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