Pixel Scroll 9/8/19 To Be Placed On Our “Do Not Teleport” List, Please Press 1

(1) WRITTEN AS A WARNING. Margaret Atwood was featured today on CBS Sunday Morning: “’The Handmaid’s Tale’ author Margaret Atwood: ‘I have never believed it can’t happen here’”.

…When asked her inspiration for the handmaids’ outfits, Atwood replied, “The concealment of the body, number one, and the limitation of the body, number 2, so other people can’t see you, but you also can’t see other people.

“So, that, and the Old Dutch Cleanser package from the 1940s,” she added. “A vision from my childhood.”

Outside the church, Atwood is recognized by teenagers attending day camp. At 79, she is Canada’s most famous living writer. She’s published 60 books, but “The Handmaid’s Tale” has overshadowed the others. In English, it’s sold more than eight million copies.

She began the book in West Berlin in 1984: “A symbolic year because of Orwell, and how could I be so corny as to have begun ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ in that year?  I couldn’t help it!”

(2) NO AWARD. David Pomerico was incensed that Anne Groell finished behind No Award in the Best Professional Editor, Long Form Hugo category. While some of these tweets are a bit overwrought (“Of course, maybe Anne wronged 97 of you somehow, but knowing her like do, I find that hard to believe”), it’s very fair to say most voters have only a very general idea what an editor does, and to wonder how they decided to fill out their ballots. Thread starts here.

I have observed in the fan categories that No Award votes can function as a protest against the existence of a category. If something similar is at work here, it would only be unfortunate collateral damage that a person received fewer votes than No Award on the first ballot. Note that although she wasn’t the first choice of very many voters, the sixth place runoff shows 446 people ranked Groell ahead of No Award.

(3) PKD’S FINAL RESTING PLACE. “Arts and Entertainment: Community celebrates Philip K. Dick” — The Fort Morgan (CO) Times covers a local PKD festival. Why Fort Morgan? For a couple of good reasons:

…PKD died in Santa Ana, California, on March 2, 1982, at the age of 53. After his death, Hollywood would make some of his work popular with films such as “Blade Runner” (based on his short story “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”); “Total Recall” (based on “We can Remember it Wholesale”); “Minority Report” and “The Adjustment Bureau.”

Dick is buried at the Fort Morgan cemetery next to his twin sister, Jane, who died at 6 weeks old. That grave is a popular draw for fans of the prolific science fiction author from all over the world, with cemetery workers often seeing little trinkets related to his tales left on the stone.

Another connection to Fort Morgan with the late author is that his father’s family was from Fort Morgan.

Two years ago, an expert on author Philip K. Dick who goes by Lord Running Clam (aka David Hyde) saw his dream of having a PKD Festival held in Fort Morgan come true.

And this year, the second version of that every-two-years festival was held.

… One of the big events at this year’s PKD Festival was a panel discussion about “The Man In The High Castle.”

“The Man in the High Castle” is what many consider to be Dick’s first masterpiece, but not everyone feels that way. The panel consisted of Ted Hand, Dr. Andrew Butler, Tessa Dick and Frank Hollander.

(4) CLINGERMAN APPRECIATION. The Library of America’s “Story of the Week is “Mr. Sakrison’s Halt” by Mildred Clingerman (1918–1997), originally published in 1956 by Anthony Boucher in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and recently anthologized in The Future Is Female! 25 Classic Science Fiction Stories by Women.

During the last couple of decades the name Mildred Clingerman has popped up in prominent spots around the science fiction universe. Her works have been included in several significant anthologies and even in textbooks; indeed, her story “Wild Wood” is one of the more memorable entries in the late David G. Hartwell’s landmark collection of Christmas fantasy tales. In 2014 she received a posthumous Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award, joining such previous honorees as R. A. Lafferty, Leigh Brackett, and the collaborative team Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore. And two years ago her family assembled The Clingerman Files, a book collecting most of the science fiction stories that appeared during her lifetime, along with two dozen unpublished tales found in her papers.

(5) TRUE CONFESSION. Cat Rambo is taking inventory:

(6) Q&A. Odyssey Writing Workshops taps into the experience of a successful grad — “Interview: Graduate Erin Roberts”.

Your story “Thanks for the Memories,” an interactive story about a woman piecing her life together one memory at a time, came out in Sub-Q in December 2018. What were some of the challenges in writing a story structured that way?

I had so much fun writing “Thanks for the Memories,” and it’s based on a story I wrote for my last week of Odyssey. I could never make it quite work in prose, but making it interactive and letting the player/reader experience the feeling of trying to work out the main character’s past from within her shoes, using her memories, was the perfect fit of story and format. The hardest part of doing it, other than learning a new coding language to write the piece, was figuring out how to make the piece non-linear (so you could experience the memories in any order), but also structured (so there was a set beginning, middle, and end to drive the story). My solution was to create a frame narrative with a ticking clock and key moments that always happened when the player got through a certain number of memories. That way their experience of the memories could always be different, but the story would still have a shape and forward plot momentum. I like to think it worked out in the end.

(7) HINTS OFFERED. At Writer’s Digest, Robert Lee Brewer has curated a list of links to other WD articles that will show you “How to Write a Science Fiction Novel”.

Whether you want to write about peace-loving aliens or a heartbreaking dystopian future, there are a number of practical strategies for starting your novel, building your world, and landing a satisfying finish. In this post, learn how to write a science fiction novel using some of the best advice on WritersDigest.com.

(8) A HISTORIC CONNECTION. Actor Robert Picardo celebrates Star Trek’s premiere 53 years ago today by sharing Trek-related things found in storage boxes at The Planetary Society’s headquarters. One is a signed letter from Gene Roddenberry encouraging the Star Trek community to join the Society.

Star Trek: Voyager’s holographic doctor, Robert Picardo, also serves on The Planetary Society Board of Directors. However, he is not the first connection between Star Trek and The Planetary Society. In 1980, the creator of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, wrote a letter and sent it out to a Star Trek fans mailing list. In the letter, Gene invited his fans to join us on our mission to explore the cosmos. Hear the letter as read by Robert Picardo, listen to his Jean-Luc Picard impression, and see inside Bill Nye’s office for more Star Trek artifacts on hand at The Planetary Society.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 8, 1966 Star Trek’s first aired episode, “The Man Trap,” was written by George Clayton Johnson.
  • September 8, 1973 Star Trek: The Animated Series premiered on this day.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 8, 1911 William Morrow. He’s the first original Trek Admiral appearing as an Admiral in two episodes, Admiral Komack, in “Amok Time” and as Admiral Westervliet “For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky”.  Other genre appearances include Cyborg 2087, Mission ImpossibleColossus: The Forbin ProjectPanic in Year Zero!The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler, Rollerball and Fantasy Island. (Died 2006.)
  • Born September 8, 1925 Peter Sellers. Chief Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther films which are surely genre, aren’t they? Of course, he had the tour de force acting experience of being Group Captain Lionel Mandrake and President Merkin Muffley and Dr. Strangelove in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. He also took multiple roles (even the Queen) in The Mouse That Roared. Amusingly he was involved in another of folk tale production over various mediums (film, radio, stage) including Cinderella, Tom Thumb, Mother Goose and Jack and The Beanstalk. (Died 1980.)
  • Born September 8, 1945 Willard Huyck, 74. He’s got a long relationship with Lucas first writing American Graffiti and being the script doctor on Star Wars before writing Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. And he was the writer and director on Howard the Duck which, yes, is a Lucasfilm. It’s the lowest rated on Rotten Tomatoes Lucasfilm production ever at 15% followed by Radioland Murders, the last script he’d write for Lucasfilm which would be a not quite so dismal 24%. 
  • Born September 8, 1948 Michael Hague, 71. I’m very fond of East of the Sun and West of the Moon retold by he and his wife Kathleen. Not to be missed are his Wind in The Willows and The Hobbit which are both lovely takes on those tales. 
  • Born September 8, 1954 Mark Lindsay Chapman, 65. Sorry DCU but the best Swamp Thing series was done nearly thirty years ago and starred the late Dick Durock as Swamp Thing and this actor as his chief antagonist, Dr. Anton Arcane. Short on CGI, but the scripts were brilliant. Chapman has also shown up in Poltergeist: The Legacy, The New Adventures of SupermanThe Langoliers and Max Headroom to name a few of his genre appearances.
  • Born September 8, 1965 Matt Ruff, 54. I think that his second book Sewer, Gas & Electric: The Public Works Trilogy is his best work to date though I do like Fool on The Hill a lot. Any others of his I should think about reading? 
  • Born September 8, 1966 Gordon Van Gelder, 54. From 1997 until 2014, he was editor and later publisher of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, for which he was awarded twice, and quite well deserved they were, the Hugo for Best Editor Short Form. He was also a managing editor of The New York Review of Science Fiction from 1988 to 1993, for which he was nominated for the Hugo a number of times. 
  • Born September 8, 1971 Martin Freeman, 48. I’m not a fan of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films but I really do think he made a very fine Bilbo Baggins. Now I will say that I never warmed to Sherlock with him and Benedict Cumberbatch. Elementary with Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu works better for me.  
  • Born September 8, 1975 C. Robert Cargill, 44. He, along with Scott Derrickson and Jon Spaihts, worked on the script for Doctor Strange. More intriguingly they’re writing the script for The Outer Limits, a movie based on the television show. The film, produced by MGM, will be adapted from just the “Demon with a Glass Hand” episode begging the question of what they’re writing for a script given that Ellison did write the Writers Guild of America Awards Outstanding Script for a Television Anthology script. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) LOOK OUT BELOW. Speakers’ Corner finds an author who did a literal book launch: “Science Fiction Should Be Re-Named Science Prediction: Q&A With Sarah Cruddas”.

What inspired you to pick up a pen and write a book for children?

The Space Race: The Journey to the Moon and Beyond – which was released this May – is my third children’s book. Although I don’t see it as just a children’s book. Nearly all of us have a child like wonder about space, and I want to inspire as many people as possible about why space matters and how it is shaping our lives. What inspired me to write this book is that I wanted to inspire as many people as possible about why space matters. I even launched the book to the edge of space (using a balloon) to help showcase just how close space really is.

Wait, hang on – you actually launched your book into space?

Haha yes!

I launched my book to space using a special type of balloon filled with hydrogen gas. The science behind it is relatively simple, the gas in the balloon weighs less than the air around it, so that causes it to rise. The balloon continues to rise and expand until the air that surrounds is equal in pressure – at the edge of space at an altitude which in this case was 33.1km. It then pops and falls to the Earth by parachute.

However it’s also complicated in the sense, you have to notify the CAA and also track the balloon and predict rough landing sight using weather patterns. But it shows that space is truly not far away.

(13) GOOD AS GOLD. Somewhat unexpectedly, Joker has taken top prize at the Venice Film festival. Slate has the story: Joker Steals Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival!”.

               The Joker, that caliph of clowns, that prince of pranksters, that malevolent mischief-maker whose cunning capers continually confound the courageous crimefighters of Gotham City, has struck again! This time, the caped crusaders’ archest arch-nemesis has left Gotham for bella Italia—ancestral home of local heiress J. Pauline Spaghetti—to pull off his most daring, dastardly deed to date: Stealing the Golden Lion, the top prize at this year’s Venice Film festival, and awarding it to Joker, screenwriter and director Todd Phillips’ critically-acclaimed meditation on poverty, grief, and the myriad ways the social and economic forces of the Reagan era turned decent people into Clown Princes of Crime.

               The Joker’s fiendish feat of film flimflammery is a festival first: According to the Cinematic Milestone Bat-Disclosure Unit, Joker is the first superhero movie to win the Golden Lion. The festival jury, headed by Argentinean director Lucrecia Martel, has not commented on its role in the Joker’s scheme, but Commissioner Gordon believes that an empty box of “Joker Brand Film Festival Jury Hypnotic Gas Pellets (Italian Formulation)” found in the gondola where deliberations were held may hold a clue to the mystery. Authorities acknowledge, however, that their theory that the festival jury was biased in favor of supervillains is not entirely consistent with the fact that they awarded the festival’s next highest award, the Grand Jury Prize, to a small-time sex offender named Roman Polanski for An Officer and a Spy, a movie about the Dreyfus affair. Holy Ham-Handed Historical Analogy, Batman!

(14) NAVIGATING OZ. Daniel Tures looks back at the books and 1939 movie in “Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Lion, Oh My!” at the Los Angeles Public Library blog.

…As one of the cultural touchstones of the 20th century, almost any look into the history or production of The Wizard of Oz will spin the reader down endless rabbit holes of film criticism and intellectual wandering. From Judy Garland’s ruby slippers, silver shoes in Baum’s original book, illustrated by W.W. Denslow, to E. “Yip” Harburg and Harold Arlen’s iconic songs, and with heirs from The Wiz to the films of David Lynch, it stands at the crux of Hollywood history.

We tend to think of the books as being written in one place, and the movies based on them being made in another—yet strangely enough L. Frank Baum and his wife Maud Gage actually lived in the town of Hollywood from 1910 to 1919, at the end of his life, just as it was being transformed from a little-known agricultural paradise to a world-famous moviemaking one.

(15) KYLO REN IS DONE WITH IT. “Darth Vader’s Screen-Used Helmet From Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Goes up for Auction”: ComicBook.com says you’ll need a wheelbarrow full of cash.

Are you a Star Wars fan with $250,000 to spend? If so, iCollector has an item for you! The online collectibles auction is boasting a Darth Vader helmet worn onscreen by David Prowse in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

(16) HISTORY OF SF FILMS. Mr. Sci-Fi, Marc Scott Zicree, has been doing a History of Science Fiction, and in the third installment covers 1955 to 1959. He hopes viewers will support his efforts at www.patreon.com/marczicree.

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

93 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 9/8/19 To Be Placed On Our “Do Not Teleport” List, Please Press 1

  1. Yeah, it’s got to be a wonderful book, right?

    Since you mention it, something odd is going on with the sales rankings of that book. Somebody must have been putting in a lot of work on pitching it somewhere. About a week before the Dragons were announced, it started moving up — all the way from 409,841 to #142,250 (Kindle sales) the day before the awards, and today at the relatively astronomical ranking of 22,122.

    Now, how in the world does a book organically go from 409,000 to 142,000 in one week immediately BEFORE an award is announced, without even being put on KU? None of the other Dragon books did anything like it, either before or after the awards. Things that make ya go hmmm!

  2. Contrarius: something odd is going on with the sales rankings of that book. Somebody must have been putting in a lot of work on pitching it somewhere.

    The Puppies frequently do “book bombs” where for a short span of time they all do blog posts, tweets and Facebook posts promoting (and buying) one book by a member of the group. The incentive, of course, is that every author eventually gets a turn to have their own book promoted, which gives a huge boost to authors who are relatively unknown.

  3. @PhilRM: our memories differ; I distinctly remember some stupid white people at least trying a ritual and starting to get somewhere. I don’t have a copy on hand to check.

  4. @Chip: There is a scene in the first section with a bunch of stupid white men attempting a ritual – but there’s nothing Lovecraftian about it. Gurl’er hfvat Nggvphf gb punaary gur svefg yvtug va gur havirefr (juvpu evghny jvyy abg vapvqragnyyl qrfgebl Nggvphf) – ohg Pnyro (fba bs gur puvrs fghcvq juvgr thl) tvirf Nggvphf gur jbeqf juvpu jvyy cebgrpg uvz, naq nyfb abg vapvqragnyyl ohea nyy gur fghcvq juvgr zra gb n pevfc, vapyhqvat uvf bja sngure.

  5. @ Contrarius – A Kindle book going from ca 400,000 to ca. 140,000 can be managed by a single sale. While I don’t have direct personal evidence for what it takes to hit ca. 20,000 in Kindle rankings, some extrapolation suggests that sustained sails of two ebooks a day for a week might manage it. Unusual perhaps without a specific context for the interest, but not implausible.

  6. 12) I confess I was going to something snarky about how we should hope a lot of SF stories aren’t predictive, but really that’s a neat, enthusiastic little interview. And the balloon stunt is wonderful, especially for a book about space. I don’t know why no SF or science writer hasn’t thought of that before.

    And now I’m remembering the weather balloon my family had as a kid, that he used as a toy. I have no idea why we had a weather balloon-probably arelic of my dad’s time at NASA in the 60s. I could have sent one of my Tom Swift books into the stratosphere…

  7. @Rose Embolism:

    I was once involved in building a (small) trebuchet for a book launch. It was to be used during the launch party, to ensure the book had been launched.

  8. Re: Book Bombs I remember, before I was banned from certain places and just stopped going to others, that Book Bombs was (and I guess, circumstantial evidence suggests still is) a technique Puppy and Puppy adjacent aiuthors have perfected to drive sales.

  9. Heather Rose Jones says A Kindle book going from ca 400,000 to ca. 140,000 can be managed by a single sale. While I don’t have direct personal evidence for what it takes to hit ca. 20,000 in Kindle rankings, some extrapolation suggests that sustained sails of two ebooks a day for a week might manage it. Unusual perhaps without a specific context for the interest, but not implausible.

    I’m be careful extrapolating on what sales are needed as you get higher up the rankings. I’m guessing, and it’s a only guess from what I’ve been told by publishers I know, that you need increasingly significant number of books to effect even a small change in standings.

  10. @Heather —

    @ Contrarius – A Kindle book going from ca 400,000 to ca. 140,000 can be managed by a single sale. While I don’t have direct personal evidence for what it takes to hit ca. 20,000 in Kindle rankings, some extrapolation suggests that sustained sails of two ebooks a day for a week might manage it.

    I don’t waste much time worrying about absolute sales numbers, because I simply don’t have that data. I stick with comparing one book’s rank to another book’s rank, and how those relative rankings change over time.

    And the fact is that I’ve been following book rankings off and on for something like two years now, and I simply don’t see books moving this way — unless there is some obvious external factor like a book suddenly being offered for free, or on KU. For a bit of reference, that 409,000 number would place the book very near to the bottom of the current rankings for all Dragon Award winners for all years combined, while that 22,000 number places it at #11 out of 28. And, I’ll repeat, none of the other Dragon winners OR Hugo nominees have been moving nearly that drastically. You can take a look over at the 2019 Dragon Awards page for the full listing of Hugo nominee and Dragon winner rankings, comparing rankings between weeks, to see how consistent most of the numbers tend to be.

    Incidentally, Torgersen’s lranking is back down to #40,684 today. I’m betting that the Book Bomb or whatever was going on is now finished, and the book will gradually be sinking back towards the depths from which it came.

  11. There’s a couple of things in the second and third tiers of that humble bundle which I’ve been wanting to try (Lee/Miller , Catherina Asaro, as non-exclusive examples) but so much is on my total nope list (Besides the obvious Puppies — and I did read a Hoyt book ages ago, albeit a fantasy — I really have no interest in trying more of David Weber, with or without co-writers) that I can’t see this as the way to start. I have no beef with promoting it or others choosing their own books, and probably wouldn’t have even bothered to type this if OGH and Contrarius hadn’t discussed.

  12. @JJ: Many thanks for the info/link for the 2019 Long List Anthology! As a previous backer, I’m kinda surprised I didn’t get any notice of this. Or somehow I missed/deleted an e-mail or four.

  13. Addendum: Today I got an update to the previous Long List Kickstarter campaign about the new 2019 Kickstarter. 😉

    BTW the draft cover is groovy!

  14. @ Contrarius

    I don’t waste much time worrying about absolute sales numbers, because I simply don’t have that data. I stick with comparing one book’s rank to another book’s rank, and how those relative rankings change over time.

    Not worrying about absolute sales numbers means that except at the very high levels, you can end up attributing coordination to ordinary movement. If you saw a kindle book at #500,000 and then 24 hours later saw it at 50,000 would it be a reasonable conclusion that some sort of underhanded coordination was involved? No. Because a book can get that kind of movement from one or two sales. Without knowing how relative rankings compare to absolute sales (which, as you note, you can’t know) it can be easy to misinterpret the incredible volatility of ranking numbers below a threshold of around 30 or 40,000.

  15. @Heather –

    If you saw a kindle book at #500,000 and then 24 hours later saw it at 50,000 would it be a reasonable conclusion that some sort of underhanded coordination was involved? No. Because a book can get that kind of movement from one or two sales.

    Says who? Please present your evidence. I’m always eager to learn.

    I don’t think those sales rankings are nearly as volatile as you seem to believe — and I’m willing to bet that I’ve looked at a lot more of them than you have.

  16. The Pigeonhole Principle says that by the time you get into the 400,000 rankings, there has to be a set of ranked books x to x + y (say, for example, 400,000 to 400,100) where even though two books have different rankings, they have to have the same sales number (that is, the book ranked 400,010 and the book ranked 400,030 [and all books ranked between them] sold 3 copies each).

    There must be some other factor that Amazon uses to distinguish, and give relative rankings to, the two. That being the case, how do you know that same factor doesn’t affect sales at higher rankings? If, for example, they use as a secondary sorting field the ISBN number, if two books have the same actual sales (or if Amazon puts sales numbers into bins, and the two books stay in the same bin of sales number), then one book will always have a higher ranking than the other (until it moves into a bin of higher sales numbers).

    This is the issue I was getting to a couple weeks back. For books ranked #3 and #4, we can be pretty sure the ranking difference represents something meaningful in sales differences. But at rankings in the 100,000’s (and 10,000’s, probably), there’s no reason to assume that a difference in ranking # means a significant difference in sales numbers (and there are good reasons, outlined above, to suspect that they can’t mean a significant difference).

  17. @Bill —

    Heh.

    Your argument seems to be that if there’s no significant difference between a chihuahua and a rat terrier, then there must be no significant difference between a chihuahua and a Great Dane. 😉

    First, remember that I have never claimed there’s a significant difference between a book ranked at 100,000 and a book ranked at 100,001.

    Second, remember that I am mostly looking at overall patterns within and between groups of books, not just individual books.

    Third, remember that when I do look at individual books, as with the current case with Torgersen, I am making note of large jumps — like 400,000 to 22,000 — not tiny steps like 100,000 to 100,001.

  18. On 9/2 you said:

    It’s obvious that the Hugo nominees are selling much better overall.

    (H) The Calculating Stars — #1,277
    (H) Trail of Lightning — #2,464 (KU)
    (H) Spinning Silver — #9,947
    (D) Thrawn: Alliances— #11,466
    (H) Record of a Spaceborn Few — #15,678
    (D) Uncompromising Honor — #17,687
    (D) House of Assassins — #18,062
    (H) Space Opera — #32,773
    (H) Revenant Gun — #33,275
    (D) A Star-Wheeled Sky — #37,642
    (D) Bloodwitch — #50,822
    (D) Little Darlings — #54,413
    (D) Black Chamber— #154,305

    (Where (H) is a Hugo nom and (D) is a Dragon).

    What is “much better”?

  19. @Bill —

    What is “much better”?

    On the Dragon Award thread where I compared all Dragon novel winners over all years of the award to all Hugo novel nominees over the years 2015-2019 — 56 books total, 28 books for each — the average sales rank for the Hugos was roughly 30,000, and the average sales rank for the Dragons was about 90,000. And that difference was reproducible from one week to the next.

  20. That’s a difference in ranking (which I’ll agree is big, and consistent). You are concluding a difference in sales (“selling much better”). I’m asking what you think the difference in sales is.

  21. @Bill —

    That’s a difference in ranking (which I’ll agree is big, and consistent). You are concluding a difference in sales (“selling much better”).

    Oh, please let’s not start getting any more terminologically manipulative than we can help. “Sales ranking” is determined by rate of sale. “Selling much better” means selling books at a faster rate. As I specifically stated just a couple of posts ago, I don’t even try to translate relative sales rates (ranking) into concrete numbers of books, because I simply don’t have that data.

    Incidentally, I just gathered another iteration of the same set of numbers — comparing Hugo novel nominees 2015-2019 to Dragon winners over all years.

    Here’s the pattern over three weeks’ worth of numbers — 9/3, 9/9, 9/15 (it’s 1AM here):

    Average sales rankings:
    Hugo nominees — 36,367 — 36,833 — 46,877
    Dragon winners — 91,651 — 87,952 — 104,163

    17/28 = 61% — 61% — 64% of the Hugo nominees are ABOVE the median in the sales rankings.
    17/28 = 61% — 61% — 64% of the Dragon winners are BELOW the median in the sales rankings.

    Quartiles: number of Hugo nominees in each quartile of the rankings (Top 14, Second 14, Third 14, Bottom 14):
    9/3 — 8-9-8-3
    9/9 — 9-8-8-3
    9/15 — 9-9-6-4

    As I keep saying — individual books move up or down the sales rankings, but the overall patterns stay the same.

  22. @Standback:

    (Best-of-the-Year anthologies, in particular, always make me really uncomfortable, because it feels so… dispiriting if you don’t like a bunch of stories that are the best of the year!1 . And those anthologies feel like they’re under a lot of constraints.
    It helps when you realize not to take them quite that literally. And yet.)

    Ahhhh, thanks! I’ve gotten my hands on various “Best of the Year” collections from past and long past decades and sometimes I just want to throw up my hands and say “Really?”

    Interesting historical documents, sometimes. But very odd choices, often.

  23. @Peace: Yup yup yup.
    I read them as “Best Of The Year (As Optimized For Shorter Stories Over Long; Good Spread of Major Magazines; and Popular Authors For The Front Cover)”.

    All of which are good and reasonable considerations, buuuuuut–

  24. @ Contrarius

    Says who? Please present your evidence. I’m always eager to learn.

    I don’t think those sales rankings are nearly as volatile as you seem to believe — and I’m willing to bet that I’ve looked at a lot more of them than you have.

    Says my Amazon sales figures, which I have access to on a long-term trending basis with data points for each day’s ranking for each format of each book. I am entirely too familiar with what a single sale on a particular day looks like in the sales ranking changes.

  25. @Heather —

    Says my Amazon sales figures

    While that’s an interesting anecdote, you haven’t backed it up with actual numbers. I can show you reams of actual sales rankings for multiple books followed over significant periods of time, and they just don’t show the extreme volatility you keep claiming.

  26. @Contrarius
    Heather is looking at her own numbers, which she doesn’t have to provide. You’re looking at something else.

  27. @PJ —

    Nobody said she had to provide them. But there is no way for us to know if we are actually talking about comparable things if she does not, so there is no reason for me to take her currently unsubstantiated claims as established facts unless and until she does.

  28. Contrarius, I don’t take Amazon rankings seriously, because there’s no way to know if they’re accurate or what they’re based on.
    I do know that I have copies of three of Heather’s books, and will buy the next one when it’s available.

  29. @PJ —

    Contrarius, I don’t take Amazon rankings seriously,

    That’s okay, you don’t need to. But lots of people do, and there are multiple web sites out there explaining them if you ever get interested.

    because there’s no way to know if they’re accurate or what they’re based on.

    Amazon tells us that they reflect relative rates of sales. Do you wish to accuse Amazon of lying?

    have copies of three of Heather’s books, and will buy the next one when it’s available.

    I have no doubt that Heather is a fine writer, but her writing talent has nothing at all to do with the numbers we’ve been discussing.

  30. Yeah, not interested in playing a game of “how many hoops can I make you jump through with the incentive of maybe not calling you a liar at the end.” I’m not sure why I would invent an intimate familiarity with the drastic movements that a single book sale can generate in one’s amazon ranking. It’s not as if it’s something to brag about. Once you start playing the game of “I demand specific forms of documentation for observations made in the context of casual conversation” we’re no longer in the realm of conversation and are in the realm of point-scoring.

  31. @Contrarius: You might instead take what Heather says at face value and ask yourself whether and how you might reconcile it with what you’ve seen. She’s got a much better view of her part of the action than you do. It’s hard to infer back from partial, aggregated numbers. What she says is very plausible. You ought to think about it.

  32. @Contrarius
    First rule of holes. You’re well down in this one, and far from whatever point you think you’re making. Also it’s making you look like a fugghead.

  33. I’m fairly sure it’s considered to be a bit of a faux pas to demand details of income (sales) from someone.

  34. I’ve been away, and was going to jump back in, but see that someone who actually has sales data is making the point for me.

    If rankings of 90,000 to 100,000 represent something like sales of 7-9 books per unit time, and rankings of 36,000 to 46,000 represent something like 10-12 books per unit time, then there’s no reason to believe that a difference in ranking from 95,000 to 40,000 means “selling much better” — it could mean “selling 3 extra copies”.

    To be sure, I don’t know if that’s what rankings of those magnitudes means. But OTOH, you don’t know it doesn’t. With a “long tail” as big as Amazon’s, there must be tens of thousands of authors who sell just a few copies per week/month/season. A simple comparison of a ranking of the order of 35,000 to a ranking of the order of 95,000 only means that one is selling more than the other. It doesn’t say anything about how much more, either in absolute numbers (Hugos sell thousands more books than Dragons), or in proportion (Hugos sell twice as many books as Dragons). It just barely lets you say “selling better”; “selling much better” assumes facts not in evidence.

  35. @Heather —

    Yeah, not interested in playing a game of “how many hoops can I make you jump through with the incentive of maybe not calling you a liar at the end.”

    I’m sorry that you think that’s what I’m doing. It actually isn’t. What I’m doing is trying to verify facts in the course of learning things about book sales and Amazon rankings — and it’s impossible to do that without hard facts and figures. Anything less can easily turn out to be misunderstandings, miscommunications, misrememberings, misinterpretations — all sorts of things other than actual facts.

    But let’s get back to the book that started this branch of the discussion — A Star-Wheeled Sky. Here’s the actual trajectory it has followed over the last few weeks:

    8/25/19 — #409,841
    8/31/19 — #142,250
    9/2/19 — #37,642
    9/3/19 — #30,069
    9/9/19 — #22,122
    9/10/19 — #36,625
    9/13/19 — #71,579
    9/14/19 — #42,111
    9/15/19 — #39,999
    9/16/19 — #88,176 (very early morning)
    9/16/19 — #101,451

    Is there some volatility there? Sure! But is there also an easily discernible trajectory underlying the noise? Also sure! The two characteristics — volatility and trajectory — are not mutually exclusive.

    I think more people need to remember that no data is perfect. Noise is always going to be present, but that doesn’t mean the data is useless.

  36. @Bill —

    If rankings of 90,000 to 100,000 represent something like sales of 7-9 books per unit time, and rankings of 36,000 to 46,000 represent something like 10-12 books per unit time, then there’s no reason to believe that a difference in ranking from 95,000 to 40,000 means “selling much better” — it could mean “selling 3 extra copies”.

    Again, you’re ignoring the fact that I’m looking at GROUPS of books — not just individual books. And following them over time — not just single snapshot views.

    Again — all data contains noise, but that doesn’t mean the data is worthless.

    To be sure, I don’t know if that’s what rankings of those magnitudes means. But OTOH, you don’t know it doesn’t.

    At its root, all I really need to know is that it’s reproducible, and that it’s a noticeable difference.

    It just barely lets you say “selling better”; “selling much better” assumes facts not in evidence.

    Now you’re just picking nits. Anyone who looks at the numbers 36,000 and 96,000 can see that’s a substantial difference.

  37. @Bill again —

    It just barely lets you say “selling better”; “selling much better” assumes facts not in evidence.

    Also, remember that I’ve been very generous in my comparisons — I’ve been comparing Hugo nominees to Dragon winners.

    If you do a straight comparison — Hugo winners to Dragon winners — then the difference in sales is many times more obvious:

    average sales rankings:

    Hugo winners — 2,601 — 3,035 — 4,552
    Dragon winners — 91,651 — 87,952 — 104,163

    Is that obvious enough for you? 😉

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