Pixel Scroll 9/28/20 I Don’t Want To Scroll The World. I’m Not Looking For New Pixels

(1) GRIND IT OUT. Cat Rambo’s latest Cat Chat is an interview with David Steffen of the Submission Grinder.

If you’re not familiar with the Submission Grinder, it’s a web utility that many genre writers spend a lot of time staring at: https://thegrinder.diabolicalplots.com/ I thought it would be interesting to talk to David about how the Grinder came about and what it does.

(2) THE NARRATIVE. Constance Grady, in “The false link between Amy Coney Barrett and The Handmaid’s Tale, explained” on Vox, says the rumor that People of Praise, the charismatic Catholic group Amy Coney Barrett belongs to, was the basis for The Handmaid’s Tale isn’t true and Margaret Atwood has not only denied it, but says she can’t currently say which groups were the basis for the “handmaids” because her papers are at the University of Toronto library and she can’t access them because the library is closed because of Covid-19.

…The inaccurate link between the People of Praise and Atwood’s story, perpetuated by a series of confusing coincidences and uneven fact-checking, first emerged in a Newsweek article and was later picked up by Reuters. Both articles have since been corrected, but the right was furious at both. The Washington Examiner called it a “smear that just won’t die.” Fox News noted several other outlets have mentioned Barrett and The Handmaid’s Tale in the same story.

To be absolutely clear: People of Praise is not an inspiration for The Handmaid’s Tale, and the group does not practice sexual slavery or any of the other dystopian practices Atwood wrote about in her novel. But the argument over whether or not the two are connected reflects the deeply contentious atmosphere in which Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court occurs — and the immense symbolic weight The Handmaid’s Tale carries in American popular culture…

…Her archive of work and research is at the University of Toronto, where she can’t currently access it due to Covid-19 restrictions. But she’s on the record as going through her Handmaid’s Tale archives for journalists plenty of times in the past, and during those interviews, she’s always cited People of Hope, a different Catholic charismatic spinoff that calls women handmaids.

(3) NEW SFWA BLOG EDITOR.  The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) have selected C.L. Clark as the new SFWA Blog Editor. The position of Blog Editor was previously held by Todd Vandermark, who stepped down earlier this past summer.

C. L. Clark

Clark graduated from Indiana University’s creative writing MFA. She’s been a personal trainer, an English teacher, and an editor, and is some combination thereof as she travels the world. When she’s not writing or working, she’s learning languages, doing P90something, or reading about war and [post-]colonial history. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in FIYAH, PodCastle, Uncanny, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Now she’s one of the co-editors at PodCastle. The first novel in her upcoming trilogy is The Unbroken (Orbit, 2021).

“Todd Vandermark has done years of wonderful work and is moving on to work on his own projects. SFWA is grateful that he’s been a rock of stability for so long. Going forward, I am very excited to have C.L. Clark coming aboard to edit and curate SFWA’s website content,” SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal said. “Her experience as an editor and writer make her the perfect choice to nurture fresh new voices in the nonfiction side of the genre. I look forward to seeing how she shapes the blog during her tenure.”

The Blog Editor provides oversight and direction regarding articles published on SFWA’s blog. This critical position is responsible for soliciting and publishing online content to support SFWA’s goals of informing, supporting, promoting, defending, and advocating for writers of SF/F.

“I’m thrilled to be joining the SFWA team and so excited to bring the SFFH community helpful articles that reflect the diversity of our community while also addressing the systemic issues within it,” said Clark. “I’m committed to making sure the blog is a great resource for writers at all stages of their career, and is especially welcoming to writers in the early stages. I’m looking forward to seeing new pitches!”

(4) WAIT, WHEN? I was sold at timey-wimey. James Davis Nicoll discusses “Five SF Books Featuring Relativistic Relics and Timey-Wimey Problems” at Tor.com.

Houston, Houston, Do You Read? by James Tiptree, Jr. (1976)

The Sunbird loses contact with Earth while circumnavigating the Sun. Initially, the three men on board assume that a solar flare knocked out their communications. Only after making contact with another space vessel do they learn the truth: whatever happened to them cast their ship across time and space.

The human society of the future arose, as so many societies of the future do, from the ashes of the past. Catastrophe swept away the old order, including all men. Human society is now exclusively female. The crew of the Sunbird are the first men seen since the rise of the current civilization. How can these curious relics be integrated into modern society?

(5) SUNBURST AWARD GOES ON HIATUS. The Sunburst Award Society, which recently announced their 2020 winners, today announced they have put the Sunburst Award on hiatus.

 Like many other organizations, the Sunburst Award has been affected by the Covid-19 shutdown. As a consequence, the Sunburst Award Society is announcing a hiatus in its awards program for the coming year. The Sunburst Awards Society members plan to use this time to re-imagine the most effective means available to them for continuing to highlight the stellar work done by Canadians in the field of speculative literature.

Since its inception, the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic has raised the public’s awareness of works of speculative literature, and rightfully honoured deserving works, through its prestigious awards program. Over two hundred and twenty-five works have been acknowledged for their contribution to the arts in Canada, and thirty-eight truly outstanding authors have also benefited from monetary recognition.

Members of the Sunburst Board extend their thanks to their members, their jurors, the publishing community, authors and readers for their support over the last twenty years.

The Sunburst Award also administers the Copper Cylinder Award, which went on hiatus in 2019 and has yet to resume activity.

(6) IT’S A SECRET. 20020, the sequel to Jon Bois’s 17776, is here. New chapters every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on Secret Base, September 28 through October 23. Here’s the first installment:

(7) FAIRY TALES. Jennifer Orme discusses “Queer enchantments: Finding fairy tales to suit a rainbow of desires” at Xtra.

…Fairy tales, we are made to believe, are not for queers. Cishet culture’s magic trick of making itself seem natural, inevitable and universal depends in part on the ubiquity and repetition of fairy tales throughout our lives. We are told these stories of compulsory heterosexuality from cradle to grave—and even though everyone knows they are just fantasies, their enchantments are so seductive that it is difficult to resist their charms and not wish we could all live the fairy tale.

And yet.

The fairy tale realm is the perfect place for the shifting, resisting, transformative and hard-to-pin-down cultures of LGBTQ folks. Ignore the happily-ever-after endings that imply a kind of blissful stasis that goes on and on forever. The wonder-filled, strange and surprising worlds of fairy tales have the potential for a kind of queer enchantment. Don’t let all those ever-after weddings fool you: Fairy tales are the perfect environment for LGBTQ folks and queer desires…

(8) CANONS TO THE RIGHT, CANONS TO THE LEFT. Stephen Thomas Erlewine, a critic/voter in the recent Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Etceteras poll has things to say about the idea of canon which might interest Filers: “Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums: Say Goodnight to the Rock & Roll Era”.

Rolling Stone asked me to participate in this year’s project, a request I accepted without hesitation. I was happy to be part of a project that stretched back to the original 1987 issue that was so important to me as a teenager. As I began to assemble my ballot of 50 albums, I came to the quick realization that my decades of listening, list-making, and reading have drastically changed how I view lists and canons. I no longer think of them as some definitive word being passed down from on high or some definitive historical document but rather a reflection of how the pop music community views the past. 

Looking at the new Rolling Stone list of 500 Greatest Albums, it’s striking to see how the times have changed. The most obvious seismic shock is how Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band is no longer the Citizen Kane of pop. It’s been dethroned from the top spot, pushed all the way to number 24, with Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On taking its slot. What’s Going On has been floating in Rolling Stone‘s Top 10 since 1987, the same year where it made it into the Top Five on The World Critics List masterminded by Paul Gambaccini. In other words, What’s Going On has been acknowledged as a consensus classic for decades, so it’s not shocking to see it at the top of the list. The shocks arrive within the guts of the poll, where it becomes clear that the rock & roll era has come to an end….

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • September 2000 — Twenty years ago at Chicon 2000, Galaxy Quest, a DreamWorks film, would win the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. It would beat out The Matrix (which lost by just three votes), The Sixth SenseBeing John Malkovich and The Iron Giant. It was directed by Dean Parisot from a screenplay by David Howard and Robert Gordon who worked off the story by David Howard. It’s considered by many Trekkies to the best Trek film ever made. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 28, 1897 – Mary Gnaedinger.  Edited Famous Fantastic Mysteries and its companions Fantastic and A. Merritt’s Fantasy Magazine.  Conducted “The Readers’ Viewpoint” in FFM and “What Do You Think?” in FN.  May have been a Futurian.  (Died 1976) [JH]
  • Born September 28, 1909 – Al Capp.  His wildly popular comic strip Li’l Abner was made a Broadway musical and a motion picture; it was read by 70 million in the U.S. when the population was 180 million.  It had fantastic elements: Evil Eye Fleegle, the Shmoos, the Bald Iggle.  Capp spoke at NYCon II the 14th Worldcon.  (Died 1979) [JH]
  • Born September 28, 1913 – Edith Pargeter, O.B.E.  Two novels for us, four shorter stories; other work under this name; perhaps her detective fiction under another name about a medieval monk, Brother Cadfael, is best known.  EP was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to Literature.  (Died 1995) [JH]
  • Born September 28, 1930 – Lívia Rusz.  (Hungarian-style her name would be Rusz Lívia; Rusz is the family name.)  Cartoonist, illustrator, sometimes including fantastic elements e.g. Csipike the dwarf (with Fodor Sándor, or as we’d write, “Sándor Fodor”).  Illustrated The Hobbithere is her cover (in Romanian), here is an interior.  (Died 2020) 
  • Born September 28, 1938 – Ron Ellik.  You can see his fanzine Fanac (with Terry Carr; fanac = fan activity) here; it won a Hugo.  Rick Sneary called him the squirrel for his chatter; he cheerfully adopted it; cartoons appeared.  Lived, among other places, in Los Angeles and Berkeley.  Hitch-hiked from L.A. to New York for NYCon II the 14th Worldcon.  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate; his trip report was The Squirrel’s Tale.  Served in the Marines.  Under another name, wrote a Man from U.N.C.L.E. novel, The Cross of Gold Affair.  (Died 1968) [JH]
  • Born September 28, 1950 – William Barton, 70.  A dozen novels, thirty shorter stories.  Reviews in SF Eye, interviewed there too (with co-author Michael Capobianco).  Acts of Conscience won a special Philip K. Dick Award citation; he later served a term a a judge.  [JH]
  • Born September 28, 1950 John Sayles, 70. I really hadn’t considered him a major player in genre films but he is. He’s writer and director The Brother from Another Planet and The Secret of Roan Inish; andhe wrote the scripts of PiranhaAlligatorBattle Beyond the StarsThe HowlingE.T. the Extra-TerrestrialThe Clan of the Cave Bear and The Spiderwick Chronicles. (CE)
  • Born September 28, 1956 Kiran Shah, 64. A dwarf (and yes that’s relevant) who’s been in SupermanSuperman IIRaiders of the Lost Ark,  The Dark Crystal , Return of the JediLegend , Aliens, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Sign of Four. He stunt doubled for Elijah Wood as Frodo and Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins. He’s got two Who appearances, first as Emojibot 1 in “Smile” and as the mysterious unnamed figure In “Listen”, both Twelfth Doctor stories. (CE) 
  • Born September 28, 1963 Greg Weisman, 57. Writer who’s best remembered for GargoylesSpectacular Spider-Man and Young Justice. He also scripted some of Men in Black: The Series and Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles. He also wrote children’s novel World of Warcraft: Traveler, followed by a sequel, World of Warcraft: Traveler – The Spiral Path. Children’s novels in the Warcraft universe? Hmmm… (CE) 
  • Born September 28, 1982 Tendai Huchu, 38. Zimbabwean author who’s the editor along with Raman Mundair and Noel Chidwick of the Shores of Infinity zine. He’s also written a generous number of African centric stories of which “The Marriage Plot” won an African Speculative Fiction Society Nommo Award for African Speculative Fiction for Best Short Story. The latest issue of Shoreline of Infinity (Issue 18, Summer 2020) is available from the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born September 28, 1986 Laurie Penny, 34. They are the writer of one genre novella to date, “Everything Belongs to the Future“, published at Tor.com, and a generous number of genre short stories. They were a finalist for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer at Worldcon 75 won by Ada Palmer.  “Vector at Nine Worlds: Laurie Penny”, an interview with them by JoWalton is in Vector 288. (CE)

(11) CORFLU CONCORDE. The 2021 fanzine fans’ convention, Corflu Concorde, has posted its first progress report on the official Corflu website. The con is planned for March 26-28 in Bristol, UK. Rob Jackson is the Chair.

The FAAn Awards Administrator will be Nic Farey. (Mothers, shield your children!)

Jackson notes provisions are being made for alternate timings for the con “if — as is very possible indeed — we have to postpone from the original date.” A decision about timing will be in PR2, which will be published before Christmas.

(12) THEY’VE GOT YOUR NUMBER. At LitHub, Dan Rockmore considers “How Storytellers Use Math (Without Scaring People Away)”.

…Writing about mathematics presents some special challenges. All science writing generally amounts to explaining something that most people don’t understand in terms that they do. The farther the science is from daily experience, the tougher the task. When it comes to mathematics, its “objects” of study are hardly objects at all. In his famously heartfelt if somewhat dour memoir A Mathematician’s Apology, the mathematician G. H. Hardy describes mathematicians as “makers of patterns.” While all sciences depend on the ability to articulate patterns, the difference in mathematics is that often it is in the pattern in the patterns, divorced from any context at all, that are in fact the subject.

None other than Winston Churchill was able to tell us how it feels to have tower of mathematical babble transformed to a stairway to understanding: “I had a feeling once about Mathematics—that I saw it all. Depth beyond depth was revealed to me—the Byss and Abyss. I saw—as one might see the transit of Venus or even the Lord Mayor’s Show—a quantity passing through infinity and changing its sign from plus to minus. I saw exactly why it happened and why the tergiversation was inevitable, but it was after dinner and I let it go.” Let’s assume it wasn’t just the whiskey talking.

(13) WARFARE WITHIN BUDGET. Vanity Fair has an excerpt from a forthcoming book: Game of Thrones: The Chaotic Scramble to Film the Battle of the Blackwater”. Tagline: “George R.R. Martin, David Benioff, and Dan Weiss break down one of the drama’s greatest episodes in this exclusive excerpt from the new Thrones tome Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon.”

It’s hard to remember now, but there was a time when Game of Thrones couldn’t afford to stage a battle. For all its groundbreaking, world-building ambition, the HBO fantasy drama’s 2011 debut season struggled to populate even modest crowd scenes on its $6 million-per-episode budget. Yet going into the show’s sophomore year, GoT producers were faced with the challenge of depicting one of saga author George R.R. Martin’s most colossal events: the Battle of the Blackwater, the climax of his second Song of Ice and Fire novel, A Clash of Kings.

George R.R. Martin: We had a director who kept saying, “Cut this! Cut that! I can’t make the day.” I kept removing elements and it was getting to the point where it was getting as bad as the jousting tournament.

And then, just a few weeks before filming, the director had an unexpected family medical emergency and had to drop out. “I’d done quite a lot of work prepping that episode,” the director said. “Very sadly, I had an illness in the family and I had to leave. I knew I was leaving them with a difficult time, but it was absolutely unavoidable.”

Now the production had another tough problem. After all their pleading and negotiation with HBO for the money and latitude to stage a climactic battle, they were less than a month from shooting and didn’t have a definitive plan or a director.

Bernadette Caulfield (executive producer): That was my first year on the show and probably my first fight with David and Dan. They were like, “Oh, let’s get so-and-so.” I said, “Ninety percent of this is action. We need somebody who really knows action. It’s not easy. We should really look at Neil Marshall.”

David Benioff: Neil did Centurion and Dog Soldiers, movies where the guy is doing an incredible amount of really impressive action on a very thin budget.

Bernadette Caulfield: And other directors kept being mentioned and I kept saying, “I’m telling you, we need an action director!” Then David calls me up. At the time we didn’t know each other that well. And he goes: “Okay, Bernie, we’re going with your idea to hire Neil.”

I swear to God, my stomach dropped. I’m like, “Wait, my idea? This is a community decision!” I hung up the phone and I thought, Shit. Now it’s my idea. I’m responsible for this guy doing our first battle.

Neil Marshall (director): I was aware of Game of Thrones when season one was happening. I thought, This is really my kind of thing, and had my agent contact HBO and say, “If there’s any chance, I’d like to be able to direct an episode.” Their response was like, “We have our directors, thank you very much.”

Then a year or so later on a Saturday morning, I got an emergency call from Bernie to come and fix a situation that, from what I gathered, was a bit out of control. She asked if I would like to direct an episode. I was like, “Absolutely!” I’m thinking this will be in few months’ time. Then she said, “It’s on Monday morning and you’ve got one week to plan.”…

(14) GET STARTED ON YOUR HOLIDAY SHOPPING. Time Travel Mart offers a Robot Toupee. Know anybody who needs one?

They have lots of amusing novelties. Consider the Pastport:

Whether heading to Pangaea or the future Moon Colony, no time traveler would dare go without their Pastport. Only documentation officially recognized by the Intertemporal Travel Commission.

Travel stamps may be obtained whenever travel to era is approved. Watch social media for era approval stamps.

(15) UNDERGROUND OCEANS OF MARS? The Independent reports “Multiple ‘Water Bodies’ Found Under Surface Of Mars”.

Several liquid bodies have been found under the south pole of Mars, according to a major new study.

The findings give extra credence to previous research that suggested there could be a large saltwater lake underneath the Martian surface, the researchers claim – and also led to them discovering a number of other wet areas.

The findings could be key in the search for alien life on the planet, the researchers note, given life as we know it requires liquid water to survive.

They will also be key to “planetary protection” work that ensures that humanity doesn’t contaminate other planets with life from Earth during missions to explore them.

…The discovery was made using MARSIS, or the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding, which is onboard the Mars Express spacecraft sent by the European Space Agency to orbit around Mars.

(16) THAT SOUNDS DANGEROUS. The AP report “New measurements show moon has hazardous radiation levels”.

Future moon explorers will be bombarded with two to three times more radiation than astronauts aboard the International Space Station, a health hazard that will require thick-walled shelters for protection, scientists reported Friday.

China’s lander on the far side of the moon is providing the first full measurements of radiation exposure from the lunar surface, vital information for NASA and others aiming to send astronauts to the moon, the study noted.

A Chinese-German team reported on the radiation data collected by the lander — named Chang’e 4 for the Chinese moon goddess — in the U.S. journal Science Advances.

(17) A DOLLAR SHORT. The Space Review’s Dwayne Day looked at the 12 reality shows that claimed to send the winner into space and explained why they all turned into vaporware. “Reality bites”.

…Of course, this is Hollywood, where production companies announce all kinds of plans, some of them much more solid than others, where often the announcement of a project does not mean that the project is about to happen. The article contained this bit of information: “The series will be taken out soon, with a global streaming platform and a broadcast partner in each country, including the U.S., explored as distribution options.”

“Taken out” is Hollywood jargon for “go looking for somebody to pay us to do this.” And when it comes to space-based reality television, lots of proposals like this have been “taken out” before, giving the term a more ominous meaning. In fact, by one count, this is now the twelfth time that somebody has attempted to create a reality TV show with a spaceflight as the prize.

Around 20 years ago, there was the first of a long string of announced reality television shows that would culminate in a flight into space for a lucky winner. The one, or at least the first one that became public, was “Destination: Mir” proposed in 2000 by Mark Burnett, the producer of numerous successful reality television shows, most notably “Survivor.” Burnett wanted to fly the winner of a reality show competition to the Russian space station aboard a Soyuz spacecraft. NBC even announced that the show would be on its 2001 schedule. After the Mir space station was deorbited, Burnett renamed the show “Destination: Space,” featuring a flight to the International Space Station instead. The reputed price tag for the show was $50 million. Burnett’s project never made it to television….

(18) INSATIABLE. Pac-Man, the iconic arcade game from the 1980s, turns 40 this year. To celebrate, the video game now enters the world of virtual reality.

(19) BRACKETT OUT OF CHANDLER. K A Laity, in “Classic Noir: The Long Goodbye (1973)”, comes up with a bunch of reasons to make you want to find the movie and watch it – even though I don’t remember it being all that good!

I read the novel so long ago (back in my L. A. days so looooong ago) I could only remember the basics of the story. There were probably more of them in the original script by the legend Leigh Brackett, but Robert Altman’s style of filmmaking always left room for improvisation and Elliott Gould—unlikely to be most director’s ideal choice to play Phillip Marlowe—works well here.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “After Earth Pitch Meeting” on YouTube, Ryan George notes that the 2013 Will Smith film is set in a future Earth where there’s no oxygen even though there are plenty of trees and animals, and how creatures can smell human fear in a world where humans haven’t lived for a thousand years.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, N., Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, JJ, Olav Rokne, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, John A Arkansawyer, Todd Mason, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

45 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 9/28/20 I Don’t Want To Scroll The World. I’m Not Looking For New Pixels

  1. (9) By Grabthar’s Hammer, what an anniversary

    (10) In Asimov’s autobiography, I learned that Al Capp once threatened to sue Asimov. Very fannish (judging from what I’ve read of the Futurian lawsuits).

  2. Andrew (not Werdna) says By Grabthar’s Hammer, what an anniversary

    Indeed. It’s a film that hasn’t dated at all since it was released. I’ve watched it more times than I can count. And I’ll watch it again this Autumn as I always do.

    Now watching: another episode of Midsomer Murders with the second Barnaby.

  3. (6) IT’S A SECRET.

    I was hoping that this one would be about something other than football. No such luck. The first few episodes of 17776 were really good, and then it just got tedious, and went on and on being tedious.

  4. Kiran Shah “as the mysterious unnamed figure In “DpSmile”, both Twelfth Doctor stories”
    Slight correction: The episode is “Listen”.

  5. (10) Mary Gnaedinger: I looked her up in Damon Knight’s “The Futurians,” and found on p.53 that she attended a formal meeting of the Futurians on August 21, 1940. I’d say without reservation that she was, indeed, a Futurian. Her three prozines were mainly reprint zines, which were invaluable in helping early fans read the best of the early pulps without trying to find the original issues (even then, they were hard to come by). She ought to be considered, along with Wollheim, Healy & McComas, Bleiler & Dikty, and Conklin as one of the earliest reprinters of Golden Age and pre-Golden Age SF&F. One service she provided to early fandom was contributing art to be auctioned at several of the earliest conventions (see Warner’s “All Our Yesterdays”). Not surprisingly, she isn’t mentioned in Moskowitz’s “The Immortal Storm”–that author didn’t care much for the Futurians.

  6. 1) I’ve considered David Steffen to be one of the hardest working people in SF for some time, between Submission Grinder, Diabolical Plots, the Long List volumes, and the rest of the etcetera. It’s good to see a face and voice attached to the name.

  7. 8) In the first paragraph, he claims that the period from 1967 to 1987 “just happened to coincide with the peak of the rock & roll era, the time when it moved from the underground into the mainstream”.

    Even if you use “rock ‘n roll” as a general synonym for rock music and not just for the specific rock music of the 1950s, this still doesn’t make no sense. You do have rock music in the 1967 to 1987 period, sure, but you also have disco and electro pop and early rap and hip hop, none of which count as rock music, but all of which were hugely influential.

  8. 8) Gotta rant and vent.

    Erlewine writes that Pet Sounds is “pointedly not a rock & roll record; it’s as far from the sound of four or five musicians banging away at a handful of chords in a small room as can be imagined. It’s an album born of the studio and, in that sense, it points the way to so many of the key records to come.”

    Has this guy never listened to the ingenious arrangements of late-50s/early-60s pop hits? The songs that moved doo-wop from the street corner to the studio, with strings and backup singers and effects? This is the stuff that was on the radio when I was in high school (1959-62, for the, um, record) that also fed into the writing and arranging of both the Beatles and the Beach Boys.

    That five-guys-in-a-garage notion is only one side of rock (the roots of which are in the 1940s and jump blues). Many of the pop stars of my youth were manufactured or discovered-and-polished and supported by gifted Brill Building-type songwriters (Carole King & Gerry Goffin, Randy Newman, Leiber & Stoller, Barry Mann, Neil Diamond) and high-level session players (Bucky Pizzarelli, for godsake). This was a branch of Tin Pan Alley, with product designed for a particular demographic–teen angst and romance in a can.

    Of course, if the original 1987 Rolling Stone list came out when Erlewine was a teenager, then “my” music rose and fell before he was born. Which shouldn’t stop a music journalist from having a better sense of history. (Ask me about Louis Armstrong or McKinney’s Cotton Pickers.) And in any case, best-ever lists are a mug’s game. Come on over and I’ll start to play you my favorite 1000 albums, in no particular order. (Well, wait until the COVID backs off, or I’ll have to sit you in the side yard and turn the stereo up a lot, and the solo lute pieces will be hard to make out.)

  9. I love watching other people discover how American rock journalism can be bloated and insular and silly and pretentious. With a layer of overblown kayfabe “this is TOO serious art” solemnity.

    Pop music does owe a great deal to the producers, composers and arrangers behind the scenes, even if there’s a concentrated theatrical effort to make it look like it’s flowing directly out of a handful of cute boys like it was divine inspiration.

    I have been meddling with home studio stuff lately, and I had forgotten all about how much of it consists of playing that stupid riff 87 times and then sampling out the best one.

  10. 8) I read that list and thought more or less the opposite: I was amazed how dominated it was by rock music. I think there were four albums by Led Zeppelin alone. Now, I love Led Zeppelin, but they got nearly as much representation as the entire genre of jazz (five albums at my count, and only three unique artists). I don’t recall seeing much country, either, or electronic dance music, or New Romantics.

  11. @Charon, I used to be a music journalist (though of the folky-dokey type) and subscribed to Rolling Stone when it was delivered as a folded-over tabloid. It was not quite as pretentious back then, though it certainly engaged in romanticizing the music of the under-thirties (as most of its reader were). I think I’d stopped subscribing by 1977 or so. In my experience, writers who cover jazz or folk (let alone classical) have a much more solid sense of history than pop-music journalists. Though I’m becoming more impressed by treatments of hip-hop (about which I know little), which might be helped by the fact that many of its originators are still around to tell their stories.

    And a correction of a slip of the finger: I started high school in 1958, not 1959. Such things matter when you’re 13 and the “big kids” are all of a year or two older. I mean, some of them are 16 and can drive (in daylight hours, anyway).

  12. Charon Dunn: I love watching other people discover how American rock journalism can be bloated and insular and silly and pretentious.

    The people who consume rock journalism require the same pretensions as critics of opera and classical music to reinforce their self-image. The Damien Walters of pop music.

  13. @8
    That RS list confirmed for me that the album was a product of a particular time and that it is as dead as a kipper on a cracker.

    Which is good. Surely the music is more important than the packaging.

  14. @Brown Robin: “Surely the music is more important than the packaging.”

    Marketing singles for easier sales is another form of packaging. Disrupting the sequence of the four songs at the center of Court and Spark does them a disservice. So does unsequencing side three of Exile on Main Street. And how weird to see Legend far above Catch A Fire on that list.

  15. Take a look at the history of recording technology, then reflect on how the constraints of the production medium interacted with the marketing of the product. Also look at the origin of “album” as applied to recorded-music product.

    Similar exercises light up other art forms, probably going back to scroll vs codex.

    (signed) Yr. Pedantic Correspondent, etc.

  16. Myself, even though I listen to all of my music digitally these days, I do still always listen to entire albums from beginning to end rather than random assortments of songs. (Possibly because much of my listening these days is some combination of folk, international, early music and film scores?)

  17. I just subscribed to Apple Music which so far has nearly everything that I’d play regularly including such groups as Blowzabella, Old Blind Dogs (who I booked for their first North American gig), Frifot and Nightnoise. Since I’ve only listened to music digitally for at least twenty years now, this isn’t a big switch, just a matter of convenience.

    Now playing: Blowzabella’s cover of Violent Femme’s “Hallowed Ground”

  18. @Russell Letson: Some albums of 78s were designed to be played in sequence. Albums of musicals certainly were. And some albums were themed if not necessarily sequenced. All that is very interesting, but what’s most interesting is what use an artist made of the form–like the ability to force a song sequence on the listener.

  19. @Russell Letson
    Yes, a lot of 1950s and 1960s pop music is extremely well made and arranged and a far cry from five boys in a garage. And the much derided disco music of the 1970s also features excellent arrangements, sampling, full orchestra scores, etc… which were only made possible by the advances in recording technology of the era. Ditto for the New Romantics and the electro-pop of the 1980s, which again was only made possible by the advances in synthesizer technology. And of course, it’s obvious that the reason why first disco and later the New Romantics and electro-pop were so derided is largely, because those styles of music did not center straight white boys.

    Of course, if you chance to see a TV appearance of a disco band, it’s very obvious that what’s going on on screen has nothing whatsoever to do with the actual music. My favourite example is this clip of “Sky High” by a band called Jigsaw on German TV in 1975. The band has the traditional four guys, guitar, bass, drums and early synthesizer set-up, but it’s totally obvious that everything is playback, because the instruments on stage simply don’t match the music. It’s not even clear, if the people on stage are the actual people making the music or just people hired for their stage presence. I do think the drummer/singer is real, because he certainly wasn’t hired for his looks, and the syntheiszer guy is probably real, too.

    A few years later, they weren’t even pretending anymore. Take a look at this 1978 clip of Boney M. performing “Rasputin” live at Musikladen. Not only are there no instruments at all visible (and Musikladen was famous for the fact that the artists performed live), Bobby Farrell, though a brilliant dancer, is also not the actual singer. That’s German music producer Frank Farian, who’s a white guy. Indeed, Boney M. the band was only born, when “Daddy Cool” hit the UK charts and Boney M. was invited to perform on Top of the Pops. Now Farian has a dilemma, because there was no Boney M., there was just Farian and his recording studio. And Farian thought, “As a white guy, I can’t go on Top of the Pops, performing Caribbean inspired disco music.” So he hired four black singers/dancer to appear as Boney M. on stage. Two of the women really were singers and their voices can be heard on later records, one woman was a model and the male band member Bobby Farrell was a dancer moving his lips to Farian’s vocals. And this was no big secret. I knew it as a young girl, because I was a fan of the band and someone felt the need to tell me that “They’re not really singing, you know” and indeed I was stunned that everybody was so shocked when Milli Vanilli turned out not to be the ones actually singing the songs, because Farian was producing them, so of course they weren’t singing live.

    Here is another interesting clip of Boney M. performing “Ma Baker” at the Sopot Festival in 1979. This time, you can actually see back-up singers and a band, though everything is still playback. Plus, you can see Bobby Farrell dancing without a shirt.

  20. @Cora: Thank you for reminding me of “Sky High”; I had to doublecheck that it was the song I immediately thought of when I saw the title – but it was. Takes me back…

  21. Whoever chooses the the music-service stream at our favorite burger palace (Culver’s, for any upper-midwest Scrollers) favors the early rock/pop stream, so I’m used to having high-school flashbacks as I munch my french fries and coleslaw. And grownup-me marvels at the singing (such falsetti! such harmonies!) as well as at the early wall-of-sound studio arrangements. (Also the amount of adolescent angst being exhibited or celebrated.) I have a special soft spot for doo-wop and pre-Motown soul–Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson and the rest of those church-trained great-pipes singers. And rock beats backed with string sections. A lot of talent and ingenuity on display for 45-rpm singles that sold for pocket money.

  22. @Andrew
    You’re welcome.

    @Russell Letson
    My local radio/TV station Radio Bremen has always played a lot of older music, so I was as familiar with the music of the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s as with the music of my own era as I grew up. They also had/have very knowledgable DJs, who could tell you about the bands and who often knew them personally.

    BTW, the Musikladen clip I posted above. Radio Bremen produced the show. It has been around in one form or another for 55 years now. These days it’s a radio program.

    @John A. Arkansawyer
    Some time ago I read an article about how many of the US beat and hippie bands of the 1960s were no more “real” than The Monkeys and often couldn’t even play their instruments, while skilled studio musicians performed on the records. At first I was stunned and then I thought, “But wait a minute, why am I surprised? After all, I know about Boney M and lots of other examples of ‘The people on stage are not actually the ones making the music’. So why did I think it was different in the 1960s?” Of course, the reason I thought it was different in the 1960s, because the generation of my teachers always insisted how 1960s flower power era music, the music they grew up with, was “real music”, whereas the music we were listening to was all fake.

    My next thought was, “Damn, I should have known this earlier. I would have loved to tell some of those smug teacher types that their beloved 1960s music was just as ‘fake’ as our music.”

    And yes, it is kind of ridiculous. Does it really matter, if the people whose faces are on the record sleeve and the people who perform on stage are the ones who are making the music? At least to me, it never did, because I never cared much what the performers looked like, because I’m heavily music synaesthetic and the picture my brain provides were usually better than any video clip anyway.

  23. @Cat Eldridge — I saw Old Blind Dogs at least a couple of times; ditto Frifot. More than just about anything else in this Age of Pandemic, I desperately miss live music and hope that someday I’ll be able to sit in an audience in front of a live performance again.

  24. Joe H. says I saw Old Blind Dogs at least a couple of times; ditto Frifot. More than just about anything else in this Age of Pandemic, I desperately miss live music and hope that someday I’ll be able to sit in an audience in front of a live performance again.

    I didn’t book them but I saw Frifot live and Lena by herself as well. Ale Moller I saw with Aly Bain once as well.

    Live music is a blessing that’s rapidly disappearing as a future thing as we’ve had at least three venues here close and a fourth is for sale. Consider that the average venue has been closed since early March and I see no change before spring next year, we’ll see more close too.

    Many musicians unlike authors need live performances to make a living. An author getting paid to attend a literary event is a Good Thing Indeed but that is very much not how they make a living.

    Now playing: Blowzabella’s “Eight Step Waltz” (and yes I once booked part of the band — English bagpipes played out at sunset was really interesting!)

  25. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Minneapolis, but the Cedar Cultural Center here is where I saw Old Blind Dogs and Frifot and many, many others over the course of the past 25 years. The last show I saw there was EDIT: Talisk, just a couple of days before everybody started canceling their shows back in March. I’m just hoping against hope that that won’t be the last show I ever see there.

  26. Joe H. says I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Minneapolis, but the Cedar Cultural Center here is where I saw Old Blind Dogs and Frifot and many, many others over the course of the past 25 years. The last show I saw there was EDIT: Talisk, just a couple of days before everybody started canceling their shows back in March. I’m just hoping against hope that that won’t be the last show I ever see there.

    Only by their stellar reputation. And I’ve got a number of live albums done there such as one by the Swedish trio Väsen whom I’ve heard quite a few times. I once, courtesy of Drew Miller at Northside, ended up with hundreds of promo CDs that he was discarding. Quite a few were recorded there.

    (It took weeks to get all of the small plastic bits where the cases had been punched to prevent resale of them cleaned up out of office space.)

  27. There’s a non-zero chance that I’m part of the audience on more than one of those live albums, including Väsen, the tallest band in folk music.

  28. Joe H. noted that There’s a non-zero chance that I’m part of the audience on more than one of those live albums, including Väsen, the tallest band in folk music.

    Not surprised as Rob obviously loved recording there. It certainly has a sweet sound on those recordings.

    Oh and I once Väsen as a duet when one of them had a family crisis and had to stay in Sweden. It was an amazingly sweet concert.

  29. I think I saw them on that tour as well — I’ve seen them pretty much every time they came through Minneapolis since the late 1990s, including one or two shows when they were still a four-piece.

  30. Joe H. says I think I saw them on that tour as well — I’ve seen them pretty much every time they came through Minneapolis since the late 1990s, including one or two shows when they were still a four-piece.

    Yeah I saw them as a quartet once a long ways back. Most times it was the trio, a very sweet sound indeed. It’s got really hard on groups like them not being able to tour.

  31. Journey? nope
    Styx? nope
    Rush? nope
    Vince Guaraldi? nope
    Miles Davis? nope
    Herbie Hancock? nope
    Dave Brubeck? nope
    Queen? nope

    I suppose tastes differ, but I see some misses on his list and some misses in the things left out.

    More seriously, the biggest problem with these huge lists is that there’s never enough time to listen to them all. Spotify is well worth the price of admission if you want to listen to a broad range of music, FWIW.

    Now playing Bad Example by Pistol Annies.

    Regards,
    Dann
    Never preach harder than you can entertain. – Jim Butcher

  32. @Dann – Rush were represented by Moving Pictures, which I think is their best album. Miles Davis got two: Bitches Brew and Kind Of Blue. Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters also made the cut.

    It’s a long list and I guess it’s easy to miss stuff.

    Now that you mention it, the omission of Queen seems bizarre.

  33. @Cliff

    I suspect you are thinking about the actual RS top 500 albums list. I was referring to the person that wrote the article at the link.

    I think they had about 50 “top albums”. Lots of good stuff. Lots of stuff which I had never heard about much less actually listened to.

    Now playing In The Mood by Robert Plant.

    Regards,
    Dann
    War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. John Stuart Mill

  34. @Cliff

    No worries at all.

    Even on the RS list proper, there are bound to be a few included that won’t meet an individual’s taste as well.

    Regards,
    Dann
    In a room full of ducks, sometimes the one that woofs is needed to point out the quacks.

  35. I found the Rolling Stone top 500 list interesting because there wasn’t an item in their top ten that’s in mine and because it acknowledges the rock and roll era is over.

  36. Though now that I think more carefully and quantitatively, it’s also interesting that their top ten is three R&B records, three R&R records, three Singer/Songwriter records (this version of Fleetwood Mac ain’t rock), and one Prince, which you’d have to split right down the middle of R&B&R.

    Which tells you a lot about Rolling Stone and the singer/songwriter fad, if that’s something you want to hear.

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