Pixel Scroll 9/29/18 People Are Still Scrolling Pixels And Nothing Seems To Stop Them

(1) LOOK OUT BELOW. On S.T. Joshi’s blog, the sclerotic author posted the Table of Contents for his next book, 21st-Century Horror. The third section takes aim at these well-known writers —

III. The Pretenders

Laird Barron: Decline and Fall
Joe Hill: Like Father, Like Son
Brian Keene: Paperback Writer
Nick Mamatas: Failed Mimic
Paul Tremblay: Borrowing from His Predecessors
Jeff VanderMeer: An Aesthetic Catastrophe

(2) WORLDCON DOCUMENTS. Kevin Standlee reports the “Rules of the World Science Fiction Society” webpage has been updated with:

  • the 2018-19 WSFS Constitution
  • the Standing Rules
  • Business Passed On to the 2019 WSFS Business Meeting

You can also find there the —

  • Minutes of the 2018 WSFS Business Meeting
  • updated Resolutions and Rulings of Continuing Effect
  • the link to the recordings of the 2018 WSFS Business Meeting

(3) PLANETS ANNIVERSARY. NPR commemorates an influential musical work — “‘The Planets’ At 100: A Listener’s Guide To Holst’s Solar System”.

100 years ago, a symphonic blockbuster was born in London. The Planets, by Gustav Holst, premiered on this date in 1918. The seven-movement suite, depicting planets from our solar system, has been sampled, stolen and cherished by the likes of Frank Zappa, John Williams, Hans Zimmer and any number of prog-rock and metal bands.

To mark the anniversary, we’ve enlisted two experts to guide us on an interplanetary trek through Holst’s enduring classic.

First, someone who knows the music: Sakari Oramo, chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra…

Next, someone who knows the real planets. Heidi Hammel is a planetary astronomer who specializes in the outer planets, and the executive vice president of AURA, the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy….

Filers will remember that Jubal Harshaw used the Mars movement as Valentine Michael Smith’s anthem in Stranger in a Strange Land.

“Mars is a war machine,” Oramo says. “You could refer to Mars as the forefather of music for films describing interstellar warfare.”

Since we’re talking movies, what about the “Imperial March,” perhaps the most recognizable music John Williams wrote for Star Wars? I played a clip of it for Oramo as we discussed Holst’s music.

“Yes, Star Wars. Oh, I love it!” Oramo says. But isn’t it a rip-off of “Mars?”

“I wouldn’t call it a rip-off,” Oramo answers. “It’s based on the principals Holst created for ‘Mars.’ And all composers steal from each other.”

(And some get caught. Oscar-winner Hans Zimmer was sued by the Holst Foundation for writing music an awful lot like “Mars” in his score for Gladiator.)

(4) SHORT FICTION MARKET, QUICK TURNAROUND. Over on Gizmodo, io9 is looking for short fiction on the subject of “the Future of Death.” They want pieces of speculative fiction (not horror) shorter than 2000 words and promise rates starting at 50¢ a word for first publication rights plus a 90-day exclusive window. The submission deadline is 25 October.

Perhaps death has become a thing of the past—for some humans, at least. Maybe a newly sentient AI must decide whether to program some form of death into its universe. Whatever the premise, we’re looking for creative takes on what it means for an object or entity to cease to be. We’re most interested in futuristic and science fiction-infused tales; no gore or straight horror, please.

…To submit, please email a short summary (a few sentences will do) of the scope and plot of the story, as well as links to any other published work you’d like for us to see, to fiction@io9.com. Please include your story as an attachment.

(5) PEOPLE AT NASA WHO LOVE SFF. In a lengthy (well, for today’s short attention spans anyway) article on CNET, Amanda Kooser talks to several NASA scientists, including an astronaut, about their connections to and love of science fiction (“When NASA meets sci-fi, space adventures get real”).

A love of science fiction threads through the space agency, and it’s also part of NASA’s public outreach. The agency has sought out exoplanets that mirror Star Wars planets, sent scientists to commune with fans at Comic-Cons and partnered with William Shatner, Capt. Kirk of the original Star Trek, to promote the Parker Solar Probe.

The love runs both ways. In a NASA video honoring Star Trek’s 50th anniversary in 2016, Shatner said, “It’s phenomenal what NASA’s doing with science that is, when you look at it, the equal of science fiction.”

I talked with some of the people of NASA who hunt for asteroids, study dwarf planets and actually step out into the blackness of space, and together we roamed across a shared universe of science fiction.

Kooser talks with astronaut Mike Fincke (381 days on orbit) who also has an appearance on Star Trek: Enterprise on his resume. Marc Rayman, director and chief engineer for the Dawn mission, talks of reading Asimov’s “Marooned off Vesta” as a child and now overseeing a spacecraft that has actually been to Vesta. Amy Mainzer, who was the principal investigator for the asteroid-hunting mission Neowise, says, “science fiction has always been about thought experiments and letting you see a vision of the future and trying out ideas.” Tracy Drain’s current focus is the upcoming mission to visit the metal asteroid Psyche; she’s a second-generation fan, getting the love of science fiction from her mother.

(6) SECOND CAREER CHOICE? Mashable has the clip from Wednesday’s episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert where Colbert has New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as a guest. Among other things, he asks  if she was in the Lord of the Rings or Hobbit movies (“Of course, New Zealand’s Prime Minister tried to get a role on ‘Lord of the Rings’”).

Jacinda Ardern dropped by The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Wednesday night, revealing that she had been knocked back for a role on the movie, as she lived close to where the films were shot.

“I do find it slightly offensive that everyone thinks that every New Zealander starred in either Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit,” Ardern said. “Some of us auditioned but weren’t successful, OK? That’s all I’m going to say.”

The two also discussed whether Colbert could become a citizen of Hobbition. No key to the city is involved, but he’d get a mug. Ms. Ardern did say Colbert would need to visit New Zealand to make it official.

 

(7) NO SH!T SHERLOCK. Here’s a mystery – who cast Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly in a Sherlock Holmes movie?

The Step Brothers are reunited – this time playing the world’s greatest consulting detective and his loyal biographer

 

(8) MARTIN-SMITH OBIT. New Zealand fan Sue Martin-Smith died September 23 reports SFFANZ’ Ross Temple.

Sue was a central figure in NZ fandom over a couple of decades starting in the late ’70s. She made very major contributions to conventions, the club scene, fanzines and other fannish activities. She founded the Phoenix SF Society in Wellington which is still running today (and was first editor of its magazine). She was also one of the founders of FFANZ which also continues to operate promoting fannish cooperation.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born September 29, 1810 – Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, Writer. Much to my surprise, this English author who was not known for her fantasy writing – to say the least – had two volumes of The Collected Supernatural and Weird Fiction of Mrs. Gaskell published by Leonaur, a U.K. publisher more known for serious history works. Her The Life of Charlotte Brontë, published in 1857, was the first biography of Brontë, so these tales are quite unexpected.
  • Born September 29, 1927 – Barbara Mertz, Writer under her own name as well as under the pseudonyms Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels. While she was best known for her mystery and suspense novels and was awarded Grandmaster by both Bouchercon’s Anthony Awards and the Mystery Writers of America, a significant number of her works are considered genre, including the supernatural Georgetown Trilogy and the novel The Wizard’s Daughter.
  • Born September 29, 1940 – Peter Ruber, Writer, Editor, and Publisher of many works written by Arkham House founder August Derleth between 1962–1971, some under his own Candlelight Press imprint, and researcher of Derleth’s life and time for nearly forty years. He became the editor for Arkham House in 1997, after Jim Turner left to found Golden Gryphon Press.
  • Born September 29, 1942 – Madeline Kahn, Oscar-nominated stage and screen Actor, Comedian, and Singer who appeared in many Mel Brooks movies including Young Frankenstein, the sci-fi comedy Slapstick of Another Kind based on the Vonnegut novel, and several episodes of Sesame Street and The Muppet Show, before her life was tragically cut short by cancer at the age of 57.
  • Born September 29, 1942 – Ian McShane, 76, Actor of English/Scottish heritage who has appeared in many genre TV series and movies, including the John Wick films, The Twilight Zone, Space: 1999, American Horror Story, Game of Thrones, and currently has a lead role as the con artist god Odin in the series based on Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.
  • Born September 29, 1944 – Mike Post, 74, Composer, winner of numerous Grammy and Emmy Awards and best known for his TV series theme songs (many of which were written with partner Pete Carpenter), including the themes for The Greatest American Hero and Quantum Leap.
  • Born September 29, 1954 – Cindy Morgan, 64, Actor best known for the dual roles of Lora and Yori in TRON, as well as roles in science fiction B-movies Galaxis and Amanda and the Alien.
  • Born September 29, 1971 – Mackenzie Crook, 47, British Actor, Comedian, Writer and Director known as the comic relief in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and the Warg Orell in Game of Thrones. He collected Star Wars figurines as a child, and is now immortalized in plastic as a six-inch-high pirate action figure.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) SCIENCE FICTION FROM THE FRINGES. And now an entry from the “science fiction is d@mn near everywhere” department: Women’s Wear Daily brings news of two actors at the Elie Saab fashion show discussing their latest genre projects (“Roxanne Mesquida, Paz Vega Talk Science Fiction at Elie Saab”).

STRANGE ENCOUNTERS: The leading ladies sitting front row at Elie Saab may have been dolled up for the occasion, but their latest acting jobs are of a more alien kind. Roxanne Mesquida said she had lots of fun shooting the Steven Soderbergh-produced series “Now Apocalypse,” due out in April. […] Paz Vega’s latest project is of a similar genre. The Spanish actress stars in the second season of the Netflix series “The OA.”

(12) CAT SPACE. A pet adoption event in the LA today promoted itself with a space theme —

(13) CBS SHUTS DOWN TREK FAN PROJECT. Reports have surfaced that a fan-made VR recreation of the Next Gen era Enterprise has been scuttled by a legal threat (EuroGamer: “Cease and desist forces impressive fan recreation of the Enterprise from Star Trek: The Next Generation to self destruct ‘The line must be drawn here. This far, no farther!’”).

A fan-made recreation of the Enterprise from Star Trek: The Next Generation has been pulled offline following a cease and desist.

Stage-9 was a two-year-old fan project that let users explore a virtual recreation of the Enterprise-D, the spaceship made famous by The Next Generation tv show.
The hugely-detailed virtual recreation was built using the Unreal game engine, and was available on PC as well as virtual reality headsets Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. […]

… Then, on 12th September, the cease and desist letter from CBS’ lawyers arrived. The decision was made to put all of the Stage-9 public-facing channels into lockdown while the team tried to convince CBS to change its mind. They suggested tweaking the project to ditch the inclusion of VR, ditch the use of the Enterprise-D specifically and even change the name, but CBS insisted Stage-9 end.

 

(14) HOTHOUSE. According to National Geographic, “Want to Find Alien Life? Look at Older, Hotter Earths.”

If alien astronomers are out there searching for signs of life on Earth, they might just find it in the telltale pattern of light reflected by our plants, from redwood forests to desert cacti to grass-covered plains. That reflected fingerprint has been visible since vegetation first began carpeting our rocky terrestrial landscape about half a billion years ago. And as Earth aged and evolution marched onward, the reflected signal strengthened.

Now, two astronomers are suggesting that plants could leave similar fingerprint-like patterns on distant exoplanets, and perhaps the first signs of life beyond our solar system could come from light reflected by forests covering an alien moon like Endor or cacti living in Tatooine’s deserts.

(15) THERE’S A HOLE IN THE ISS. RT sums up the latest developments — “ISS hole saga’s new twist: More drill scratches discovered on outside hull”.

…It was initially thought (let us leave conspiracy theories behind) that the air leak, which was discovered in late August on Soyuz spacecraft docked at the ISS was caused by a micrometeorite. Later on, Russian media revealed the drill hole was made on the ground by a reckless assembly worker – he was identified and properly sanctioned, we were told.

Yet, the story does not end there. “There are drilling traces not only inside the living module [of the ISS], but also on anti-meteorite plates,” a space industry source told TASS news agency. These plates are mounted outside of the station’s hermetic hull.

“The one who made the hole in the hull passed straight through it and the drill head hit external non-hermetic protection,” the source explained.

Judging by previous media reports, there is a high probability of negligence. The worker in question apparently accidentally drilled the hole, but instead of reporting it, simply sealed it, according to Russian media.

The makeshift sealant held for at least the two months the Soyuz spacecraft spent in orbit, before finally drying up and being pushed out of the hole by air pressure. The ISS crew had noticed the drop of pressure in late August.

Having found themselves in an emergency, the crew fled in the Russian segment of the station as soon as the alarm went off. They began locking down modules of the station one after another, and were eventually able to detect the source of the problem in the Soyuz spacecraft docked to the ISS.

The hole was located near the toilet and covered by decorative fabric. Using an ordinary toothbrush and an endoscope, they found that only one of the two-millimeter cracks had actually pierced the hull and was leaking air.

The Russian crew members used impromptu means of fixing the problem: epoxy-based sealant with metallic additives to plug the hole. Mission Control later advised the crew to place another patch on the crack, which was immediately done

(16) TIM ALLEN ON CONAN. Don’t go to a superhero movie with Tim Allen.

Tim doesn’t understand how the Hulk’s pants still fit when he grows.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Brian Z., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title creditgoes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

46 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 9/29/18 People Are Still Scrolling Pixels And Nothing Seems To Stop Them

  1. @3: that’s a hell of a performance in the middle of the story — a lot more definition than I’ve heard in other versions.

    @9: Kahn also appeared, years before being “introduced” in What’s Up Doc, in the Bergman pastiche “De Düva“, which (like at least two Bergmans) is genre. It was interesting seeing her live in Born Yesterday, in the role created by Judy Holliday and replayed on screen by Melanie Griffith; much more edge in her version.

    edit: First?!? Does everyone else have something better to do on Saturday night?

  2. @JJ
    Ah, the TV shows of the 1970s and 1980s, starring men and cars and sometimes women and helicopters.

    1) To be fair, I’m not a huge horror reader, but I know who all of the people Joshi calls names are. However, I have only heard of one of the authors he apparently approves of. Make of that what you will.

  3. (1) LOOK OUT BELOW.

    What a pity that Joshi’s personal campaign to wipe out any shred of a credible reputation he might have once had in favor of being remembered as a bitter, washed-up hack continues unabated. 🙄

  4. (1) Oooh, ahhh, he’s got contrarian hot takes. What is he, 17? zzzzzz

    (12) Cats in spaaaaace! Further proof that the beasten are credentials.

    Speaking of credentials, the one you guys helped pay the bill for is doing fine.

  5. (1) I only know of Joshi because of his reactionary mutterings. Does he have unreported positive features?

  6. @NickPheas,

    I first heard of Joshi as someone who put together collections of Lovecraftiana, so my impression was that he’s a Lovecraft superfan. It wasn’t until recently that it became apparent that he viewed Lovecraft as beyond reproach or criticism, and anyone who said anything negative about Lovecraft became a target.

  7. (3) PLANETS ANNIVERSARY … Jubal Harshaw used the Mars movement as Valentine Michael Smith’s anthem in Stranger in a Strange Land.

    James Blish (in a footnote in The Issue at Hand) reproved Heinlein for inventing a “Nine Planets Symphony” rather than citing the Holst suite “which, being real, would have served his purposes much better …” Was this point fixed in the longer version of Stranger, which I’ve never read?

  8. @Soon Lee, I suspect it’s one of those things where having firmly nailed his colours to that mast, anything threat seems to suggest different lines of thought, or evolution in the genre send to him a personal attack.
    But honestly, it would be nice to occasionally discover he rescues kittens from trees.

  9. 5) And let’s not forget Dr. Stan Love, the astronaut who accepted Andy Weir’s Campbell Award at MidAmericon II and is a regular attendee at Texas cons.

    16) It’s handwavium! Everybody knows that!

  10. A mildly amusing note from the con I attended last weekend. CUL was there, and at one point while he was standing in front of our booth, another dealer came over and handed him something, saying, “These fell out of your bag at my booth at [some event I didn’t catch], and I never saw you again there, so I’ve just been hanging onto them until I did run into you.” He stood in front of us fussing with them for a bit, and I realized that what he’d lost was his Hugo-winner tack-pins. Again. I wouldn’t even have noticed if he hadn’t gone thru such a performance the last time.

  11. 9) Ian McShane was also in the 1970 film “Tam-Lin”. The only film directed by Roddy McDowell (and the reason he’s absent from one of the Planet of the Ape instalments) is a folk horror set in Engand where Ava Gardner plays a glamorous witch who surrounds herself with beautiful young people and takes vengeance against any who displease her. Worth watching if it ever comes your way.

  12. 1) Reason 1,274,492 to take comments from his corner with a grain of salt the size of the Grand Canyon. I read horror. I’ve hears of three off of his first two lists, read work by them and like them. His “Pretenders” list, I’ve read work extensively by every author named and think much more highly of them than he does.

    7) Clearly, I’m not part of the target audience for this collection of future guitar picks. That trailer was actively painful. Even for a paycheck film, that’s an embarrassment. Reilly at least has Stan and Ollie coming up.

  13. Lee on September 30, 2018 at 3:48 am said:

    A mildly amusing note from the con I attended last weekend. CUL was there, and at one point while he was standing in front of our booth, another dealer came over and handed him something, saying, “These fell out of your bag at my booth at [some event I didn’t catch], and I never saw you again there, so I’ve just been hanging onto them until I did run into you.” He stood in front of us fussing with them for a bit, and I realized that what he’d lost was his Hugo-winner tack-pins. Again. I wouldn’t even have noticed if he hadn’t gone thru such a performance the last time.

    Maybe we should rename him Johnny HugoPinseed, spreading Hugo pins wherever he travels…

  14. Robert Reynolds says Reason 1,274,492 to take comments from his corner with a grain of salt the size of the Grand Canyon. I read horror. I’ve hears of three off of his first two lists, read work by them and like them. His “Pretenders” list, I’ve read work extensively by every author named and think much more highly of them than he does.

    Can anyone hazard a guess why Laird Barron is on his list? What possible offence against the sacred memory of Lovecraft did he commit? I’ve read quite a bit of his fiction and don’t remember him even mentioning HPL.

  15. @Cat Eldridge:

    Barron has done a fair amount of Lovecraftian work and had had stories in several anthologies edited by Ellen Datlow. That alone probably puts him down as a “Pretender”.

    That he writes well and is successful/popular likely has something to do with it as well.

  16. Robert Reynolds notes that Barron has done a fair amount of Lovecraftian work and had had stories in several anthologies edited by Ellen Datlow. That alone probably puts him down as a “Pretender”.

    That he writes well and is successful/popular likely has something to do with it as well.

    I very obviously need to read his short fiction as I’m much more familiar with his novels. Where should I start? Short stories are my forte due to my narrative restriction post-head trauma so do recommend what I should be reading,

  17. @Cat Eldridge: I suggest Barron’s collection The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All.

    @Robert Reynolds: That he writes well and is successful/popular likely has something to do with it as well.
    I suspect that’s what put VanderMeer on Joshi’s hit list as well.

  18. David Langford: I don’t know if it was fixed, I only know that when I originally read Stranger in a Strange Land in the Sixties I soon afterward borrowed the library’s copy of Holst’s symphony. So if I was mistaken in making that association, at least I can claim credit for having continued to make it for a very long time….

  19. (3) If I recall correctly, a portion of the soundtrack of the Bakshi Lord of the Rings sounds remarkably like part of Holst’s Planets (back in the 1970s, I listened to both the soundtrack and “The Planets” very often, and noticed the resemblance).

    Oh, I’ve got a brand new Null-A consciousness, you’ve got a new Sevagram

  20. @Andrew: thanks for the earworm.

    @Lee: So we know exactly how much CUL values his nominations. Loses them for months/years, carries them around where they can get lost.

    @Matthew Davis: That movie sounds very cool. Wonder if it’s available.

    At this point, I’d say it’s a compliment if Joshi says something bad about you. It means you’re probably successful and you can spot blatant racism and purple prose when you see it. Is he hoping senpai — any senpai — will notice him? And has he not noticed that his hero HPL would have considered him subhuman?

  21. Just finished Tim Powers’ latest, Alternate Routes. While it wasn’t one of his deepest novels, it was a particularly wild ride, plunging us straight into the patented Powers weirdness right from the start. Powers’ usual technique is to have his characters (and the reader) gradually discover the strangenesses behind everyday reality. These characters started right in the heart of the madness, which might be a little disconcerting to readers who are new to Powers. On the flip side, this was faster paced and more of a page-turner than most of Powers’ books, which might appeal to new readers.

    There also wasn’t a lot of the “secret history” Powers is famous for, though we do learn some new-and-improbable things about ancient Crete. But the book is mostly focused on the present day Los Angeles, and those strange, dangerous engines of occult power known as “freeways”.

    I was very briefly reminded of Seanan McGuire by this book, but Powers’ ghosts of the road are a whole lot different from McGuire’s. Less willful or deliberately harmful, but, in some ways, even more dangerous.

    This may be the closest thing to an action novel that Powers has ever written. As a result of which, the characterization may have suffered a little. But the end result still had me on the edge of my seat for most of the story, so I’m comfortable recommending this to anyone who doesn’t mind a healthy dose of weirdness in their fiction.

  22. 1) I’m not a horror person, and I don’t want to dis such fine writers as Gemma Files, Glen Hirshberg, Reggie Oliver, and especially John Langan (who truly is excellent), but for most part (with the exception of Langan) I’d rate all of Joshi’s “pretenders” ahead of everyone else he’s covering.

    On the other hand, I’m not surprised that my opinions and Joshi’s don’t align.

  23. @David Langford: It was not changed/fixed (depending on your point of view), except that it is the “The Ten Planets Symphony” in the expanded version.* That’s odd, because in Mike and Jubal’s last long conversation, Jubal thinks the Martian ‘Fifth Planet’ story sounds like a myth.

    *I am such a geek that it took me two thumbings** in the book to get within three pages of the reference, and had it literally at hand, without even having to bend or twist.)

    **Surely there’s a word for that, when you jump-search through a book.

  24. Re 1- The Barron thing is personal, I believe. Joshi wrote a bunch of nasty essays earlier this year, including ones about Barron and Keene. The Barron one is call the Decline and Fall of laird Barron. Essentially, if you insinuate H.P. Lovecraft was racist/hmisogynistic/anything less than a paragon, that’s not OK.

  25. @Xtifr: today I am one of the ten thousand — even though I usually pay enough attention to notice when a new Powers is out. I like his brand of weird, and this sounds like it’s at least not awful, so I’m off to the library.

    @John A. Arkansawyer: I wonder who Heinlein thought had written the other movements?

    various, re @1: I know Joshi has been in a snit ever since the movement to take HPL off the World Fantasy Award trophy started (over 4 years now); he got 2 WFAs himself, one for “scholarship” (that’s all the page says) and one for a book big enough that it came in 2 pieces. (He declared he was returning them when the trophy change happened? was announced? (I forget which); I haven’t heard from anyone on whose doorstep they appeared, but it might not have been considered worth mentioning.) But I see the Wikipedia page says he has a reputation, so I’m not surprised he overreacted (it’s not as if HPL was his only topic). I’ve never met the man, and am not sorry I’m not likely to.

  26. Wait, Jeff VanderMeer is a horror writer? I had been considering checking out some of his works from the buzz here, which made his stuff sound like science fiction (of a particularly odd bent). I can’t deal with horror.

  27. @Nancy Sauer: I only know Vandermeer’s fiction from the “Southern Reach” trilogy, which is definitely a weird tale – possibly a Weird Tales sort of weird tale. It’s the sort of multiply-fringe thing that you can class as horror if you’ve a mind to, but it’s definitely more weirdness than unpleasantness.

  28. Nancy, some of Jeff V.’s stuff does have a horror tinge, but not all of it. Start with Area X..A fair number of people have talked about Jeff’s supposed Lovecraftian inspiration, but he has always siad no and pointed to his actual inspirations.

  29. (2) Colin Harris pointed out that Appendix B of the WSFS Minutes (the rather large report of the Hugo Awards Study Committee) was omitted from the main minutes document. At the prompting of WSFS Secretary Linda Deneroff, I’ve posted Appendix B (which was on the Business Meeting page of the 2018 Worldcon) to the WSFS Rules page (and the 2018 WSFS Rules archive page).

  30. @Chip, I was on a retreat with the women’s chorus I sing in, at a YMCA camp with crappy signal. I’m just catching up now.

    My normal Saturday nights are more staid.

    The campfire with s’mores was great. We could actually see stars, which where I live (near NYC) are very hard to see. The high overhead was nice and clear and starry, but the horizon was more affected by light pollution. We were still in NJ, after all.

  31. (1) The Barron thing is personal. What I heard (via Brian Keene’s podcast) is that Joshi published a story by Barron, one he praised in the introduction for the anthology in which it appeared. Then Joshi wanted to republish it and Barron’s asking price for the rights was deemed too be high by Joshi, or Joshi’s offer too low by Barron. After that, Joshi “re-evaluated” the story, found it lacking, and went on to pen his anti-Barron screed.

    So it goes.

  32. Cat Eldridge:

    Can anyone hazard a guess why Laird Barron is on his list? What possible offence against the sacred memory of Lovecraft did he commit? I’ve read quite a bit of his fiction and don’t remember him even mentioning HPL.

    You can read his comments here; as with many of the other chapters people are bashing Joshi for, it’s up at at his blog. (I agree with Joshi’s comments on many of those writers more than some Filers seem to; unfortunately, it’s certainly true that many of his criticisms degenerate into schoolmarmy grammatical admonitions and in a few cases seem based on poor readings of the text, and more generally his tastes and mine differ greatly.) In short, he doesn’t bash Barron for hating Lovecraft or anything silly like that. Here’s what he says about Barron, whose early work he greatly admires:


    The hallmark of much of Barron’s writing is a prose style of singular panache and deftness, along with a complex fusion of several genres—among them the superhero topos, espionage, science fiction, and hard-boiled crime fiction—with supernatural horror. At their best—as, say, in the novella “The Broadsword” (2010)—these elements can produce scintillating effects unlike those found in any other writer in the field; but at their worst they devolve into a schtick, as Barron overuses the same motifs over and over again in tales that fail to cohere into a tightly knit unity.

    He continues that these faults have increased over time. He’s not alone in thinking so, by the way; a good discussion of Barron (and of Joshi’s critical foibles, for he certainly doesn’t lack them) is in this discussion at Thomas Ligotti’s site of Joshi’s review. (It also provides some good suggestions for places to start with Barron, to answer another of your posts.) A number of people there suggest that Barron has gotten tired of the genre and doesn’t give it his all any more.

  33. Chad:

    The Barron thing is personal. What I heard (via Brian Keene’s podcast) is that Joshi published a story by Barron, one he praised in the introduction for the anthology in which it appeared. Then Joshi wanted to republish it and Barron’s asking price for the rights was deemed too be high by Joshi, or Joshi’s offer too low by Barron. After that, Joshi “re-evaluated” the story, found it lacking, and went on to pen his anti-Barron screed.

    Which is Keene’s take on the matter. Joshi describes it differently (from his blog, 15 Nov 2017; all of each year’s posts are glommed into one page, so search on the date to find it):

    Mr. Keene also maintains that my recent analysis of Laird Barron’s work was done out of “spite” because Mr. Barron refused to let me reprint his story “Man with No Name” in the paperback edition of my anthology A Mountain Walked. Since Mr. Keene could have no firsthand knowledge of this matter, he must have derived his information from Mr. Barron—and I am sorry to see the latter telling such a bald-faced lie. Here is what actually happened:

    As I have said before, Mr. Barron and his various bootlickers were miffed at the fact that my review of his third collection, The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All (2013), was less than wholeheartedly enthusiastic, even though it was still generally favourable. It was at this time that I was compiling A Mountain Walked; but my publisher, Jerad Walters of Centipede Press, was intimately involved in the compilation as well. Some submissions came to me, some to him. Mr. Barron sent his story to Jerad, who then passed it on to me, recommending that we print it. I confess to having misgivings about the story, since (a) I did not think it particularly good (and, at nearly 19,000 words, it would take up a fair amount of space in the anthology), and (b) I felt that it was not even remotely Lovecraftian, hence inappropriate for an anthology whose subtitle was “Great Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos.” But this was 2013 (or maybe 2014), and one did not reject Laird Barron; so I reluctantly agreed to include the story in the Centipede Press edition. Then my agent negotiated terms with Dark Regions Press for a paperback edition. The publisher offered a modest advance, which I—in accordance with standard practice—sought to distribute to contributors on a pro rata basis, based on the length of their individual stories. Every other contributor was happy to assent to this plan; but Mr. Barron, in addition to wanting his pro rata share, demanded an additional sum of money that would have exceeded the entire amount given to all the other contributors (and, presumably, would have had to come out of my own pocket).

    To this day I do not know why Mr. Barron made such an unwarranted demand. Perhaps he was in need of money at the time; perhaps he wished to dissociate himself from me, and therefore made a demand to which he knew I could not accede. I replied to Mr. Barron (politely, I trust) that I could not give him this kind of special treatment, and so we mutually agreed to drop the story from the Dark Regions edition. Far from being angered by this result, I was rather relieved; for not only was I able to remove a story that I felt should not have been in the anthology in the first place, but I was able to include a much better story—namely, Jason V Brock’s “The Man with the Horn”—in its place.

  34. Yeah, I don’t think I’d describe VanderMeer as horror, but I wouldn’t quibble if you wanted to call him horror-adjacent. 🙂

    Regarding Heinlein references: I don’t remember that bit at all, but I think that if I saw “Nine Planets Symphony” written down, I would probably assume it was a reference to Holst unless I had some specific reason not to.

    @Chip Hitchcock: Alternate Routes is definitely not awful! I think my attempt to avoid gushing may have made my little mini-review slightly less positive than I had originally intended. I wouldn’t call it Powers’ greatest novel by any means, but it was certainly a lot of fun. I’d almost call it light-hearted. By Powers’ standards.

  35. Lee Whiteside:

    Essentially, if you insinuate H.P. Lovecraft was racist/hmisogynistic/anything less than a paragon, that’s not OK.

    That’s not what he says; he himself has analyzed Lovecraft’s racism and misogyny at great length, and I think fairly enough. He views it this way (the jab in brackets is Joshi’s; in the same post on 15 Nov 2017 I linked to before):

    Is it not obvious that my dispute is solely with those commentators who tendentiously [Mr. Keene had better look this word up, as I doubt he knows what it means] seize upon the single issue of Lovecraft’s racism to cast aspersions on his entire literary achievement and his character, or (and this is, unsurprisingly, Mr. Keene’s favoured method) those who dumb down the issue into a simple-minded caricature and, not coincidentally, make a public display of their own self-righteous sanctimony?

    I think he misrepresents many of the people he’s charging with that supposed sin; I also disagree with a number of his plaudits for Lovecraft’s prose and many of his critical views (he respects Lovecraft as a grand thinker much more highly than he deserves because of their shared atheism, for one thing), and I disagree with the position he took over the statues. However, charging that Joshi tries to cover over Lovecraft’s racism is false and fully deserves the punches he deals back to people like Keene who make it.

  36. Vicki Rosenzweig:

    In what universe is “like Stephen King” a diss for a horror writer?

    Well, that’s another of Joshi’s weird foibles. He demands high literary standards like those in the best classic weird fiction (my impression is that he gives extra points to writers who use the most impeccably British English they can; some of the solecisms he checks off in authors’ failings are widely accepted US conventions, like “different than” versus “different from,” some usages of which I personally have been called illiterate in linguistics forums for defending by Britons I might well have gotten [NB. Not “got”; I ain’t no Brit] on well with in real life, so that one Joshi can stick in a pipe and smoke) and tilts against the windmills of popular writers who don’t strive for the same standard. And really, King does often perpetrate bad writing, though Joshi slams him for it rather more viciously than he merits. When I’m in the mood to read Stephen King, I know enough not to expect a ghost story by Edith Wharton (my own point of entry a couple of decades ago into weird fiction).

  37. Me:

    [Joshi] respects Lovecraft as a grand thinker much more highly than he deserves because of their shared atheism, for one thing…

    As an example, Joshi’s compendious compendia of his essays going on and on and on about HPL’s influences and responses to them, parsing his letters to a fare-thee-well to make him out to be anything other than a somewhat well-read amateur with no real scientific training. Similar is his evident joy at stating that HPL was turning a socialist of some sort in the later parts of his life because he was strongly anti-capitalist. I’m sure this is one target of this perfectly accurate comment by John Gray:

    It has been suggested in Lovecraft’s defence that in later years his attitudes mellowed…Nazism and fascism were hostile to capitalism, at least in their rhetoric, precisely because many of their supporters believed that capitalism promoted liberal values. In the 1930s, racism and anti-capitalism often went together. For all his scorn for the age in which he lived, Lovecraft embodied some of its ugliest (and most commonplace) beliefs and attitudes.

  38. Joshi may not deny Lovecraft’s racism (because that would be such a patently ridiculous claim that no one would take him seriously after that), but he’s certainly tried to minimize it, going so far as to suggest that HP was not unusually racist for his time. There were more racist people, but HP was still clearly a serious outlier.

    But I think Joshi’s worst, and most discrediting flaw, is that he seems to believe Lovecraft was a good writer! HP was a hack. A hack with some absolutely brilliant ideas (and not a few horrible ones), but a hack nonetheless. Given that, I have zero interest in Joshi’s opinions of other writers.

    Nearly as bad is his annoying habit of starting feuds all over the place. It’s not quite as discrediting, but it’s certainly sad. I don’t know anything about the man personally, but his public persona is definitely a sad, bitter, shallow little man.

    I can, and do, respect his scholarship, as far as it goes, but I really can’t find much else to respect about him. The best I can do is muster up some mild sympathy for the pain his raging insecurities must cause him. And I have less than zero interest in his opinions as a critic, rather than a scholar.

  39. My only contact with S.T. Joshi’s work that did not involve Joshi showing his (metaphorical) naked backside concerned that he apparently dug up the original draft of Fritz Leiber’s novella “Adept’s Gambit” and compared it to the published version. I stumbled upon this, when I recently wound up reading my way through Leiber’s Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories after planning to reread just the one story that was up for the Retro Hugo this year.

    “Adept’s Gambit” stands out, not just because it is set in our world rather than in Nehwon, but also because it has references to sex that Leiber stories from the 1930s and 1940s normally don’t have and also includes several mentions of LGBT people, a character of ambiguous gender, all of which I was surprised to find in a story written around the same time as the various stories from “Unknown”, which often don’t even have any female characters at all. So I wondered whether the version of “Adept’s Gambit” in the collection I have was a later rewrite or whether all the references to LGBT people were already in the version published in the 1940s.
    So I googled and hit upon S.T. Joshi and his comparison between the early draft from the 1930s and the published version. Though apparently (there is no electronic version of Joshi’s comparison available) Joshi’s comparison focusses on how there were a lot more Lovecraftian references in the early draft that were edited out for the published version. Which is certainly interesting, but doesn’t really answer my question at all.

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