Pixel Scroll 3/20/18 If You Are Stuck In A Kerfuffle, Pixel A Trench And Scroll Your Way To Freedom

(1) #METOO. Pat Cadigan opened up about her #metoo experiences in a public post on Facebook.

Heard Germaine Greer on BBC Radio 4 this morning, disparaging #metoo

Germaine should also talk about welding, engineering, astrophysics, and brain surgery, because she knows as much about them as #metoo

And just for the record: #metoo

I’ve talked about the first job I ever had after I graduated from high school. I lasted a week cold-calling people, trying to sell the photographic packages for a photography company. My supervisor was a woman struggling to be a single parent after her divorce. Her supervisor, who was onsite almost all the time literally chased me around the office, trying to get his hands on me.

When I complained to my supervisor, she said, “You better keep running, because if he catches you, it will be your fault.”…

(2) THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED. National Air and Space Museum will mark the 50th Anniversary of 2001: A Space Odyssey with an immersive art exhibit celebrating the film’s impact on culture and technology.

This spring, the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum will host a special temporary exhibition of the immersive art installation “The Barmecide Feast,” a fully realized, full-scale reflection of the iconic, neo-classical hotel room from the penultimate scene of Stanley Kubrick’s and Arthur C. Clarke’s landmark film, 2001: A Space OdysseyOpen to the public April 8 – May 28, the installation will be the centerpiece of the Museum’s celebration of the film’s 50th anniversary. Museum visitors will be able to enter the re-created room in small groups for short periods to experience the surreal environment depicted in the film. The public will get its first chance to see the installation as part of the Museum’s Yuri’s Night celebration, a ticketed, 21-and-over evening event presented with Brightest Young Things Saturday, April 7

National Air and Space Society members will get a special sneak peak of the exhibition on April 5. There is no charge for this members-only event, but advance reservations are required.

(3) SIAM SOUVENIRS. A Filer’s relative actually attended the Siam Sinfonetta concert!

She said, “It was a great concert – ran about 3 hours. During the various pieces they had different characters wandering through the concert hall and sometimes lightsaber fighting. They all came out at the end (except the little ones who had probably already left to go home to bed).”

(4) STEM, STEP BY STEP. BBC reports a study: “Children drawing more women in science”, from 1% in 1960’s and 70’s to 28% today.

Children in the US are drawing more women scientists than in previous decades, according to a new study.

The “Draw A Scientist” test has been administered by sociologists in various studies since the 1960s.

Researchers at Northwestern University, US, analysed five decades of the test.

When asked to draw a scientist, less than one per cent of children in the 1960s and 1970s drew a woman. This rose to 28% between the 1980s and present day.

However, children are still far more likely to draw a traditionally male figure when asked to depict a scientist.

…Yet, the study highlights, by 2013 women were 49% of biological scientists, 35% of chemists, and 11% of physicists and astronomers in the United States.

(5) IN THE MIX. Camestros Felapton gives us a “Review: Black Lightning”.

I’m up to episode 8 of a 13 episode season and I think I can pull apart what I like and don’t like about it.

I’ll start negative. I don’t think it has yet managed to find the right mix of humour, gritty crime drama, family drama, superhero-antics. That’s not a surprise, as all superhero shows and movies struggle to find that sweet spot (and the right spot is going to vary among viewers). At times the show is quite violent (or suggestive of extreme violence) but within a show that feels more like it has been written for a more general audience. Like the Marvel Netflix shows, the central character regularly beats up criminals to get information but unlike those shows, the behaviour feels at odds with Black Lightning’s non-superhero persona.

However, there is also a lot to like about this show. The central character, Jefferson Pierce, is unusual for a superhero. He is an older man with a successful career as a high school principal. He has a family and responsibilities and ‘Black Lightning’ is something from his past. By having him as a superhero who is coming out of retirement (due to gang violence initially) is a clever way of avoiding a protracted origin story, while giving viewers an introduction to the character. We have not, as yet, been given an explanation for the source of his electrical powers – although there are hints in a subplot around the death of his journalist father some years ago.

(6) SENSITIVITY. The Washington Post’s Everdeen Mason looks at how Keira Drake changed her forthcoming Harlequin Teen novel The Continent in response to sensitivity readers, which included changing the name of one clan from “Topi” to “Xoe”  to remove any comparisons to the Hopi, making another clan less Asian-looking, and eliminating “savage,” “primitive,” and “native” from the text. The article includes many examples contrasting the original and revised text.

Drake and Wilson maintain that the book was never supposed to be about race. “The main theme of ‘The Continent’ is how privilege allows us to turn a blind eye to the suffering of others,” Drake said in a phone interview in February.

Wilson explained that when she originally edited the novel, she was looking for potential problems with pacing, plot and dialogue. “I was simply not thinking about things like racial stereotypes,” she said. “It’s almost mortifying to say that because it was so blatantly obvious when it was pointed out.”

The Washington Post compared the old advance copy with a newly revised copy received in 2018 and spoke with Drake about changes she made.

(7) BLOCK AROUND THE CLOCK. The Paris Review quotes Ray Bradbury: “On Writer’s Block: Advice from Twelve Writers”.

“I have three rules to live by. One, get your work done. If that doesn’t work, shut up and drink your gin. And when all else fails, run like hell!” —Ray Bradbury

(8) PARTY MAVEN. The website Gastro Obscura records Stephen Hawking’s champagne-laden effort to prove whether time travel exists or not:

It was a little unusual that when he threw a party in 2009, not a single guest attended.

A film of the event depicts a dismal cocktail party. Three trays of canapes sit uneaten, and flutes filled with Krug champagne go untouched. Balloons decorate the walls, and a giant banner displays the words “Welcome, Time Travellers.”

…By publishing the party invitation in his mini-series Into the Universe With Stephen Hawking, Hawking hoped to lure futuristic time travelers. You are cordially invited to a reception for Time Travellers, the invitation read, along with the the date, time, and coordinates for the event. The theory, Hawking explained, was that only someone from the future would be able to attend.

(9) COOLEY OBIT. Texas fan Earl Cooley III died March 20, his sister announced on Facebook:

Earl Cooley III

I am Earl’s sister, Dot Cooley. Earl left this world early this morning. He moved back to the San Antonio area 3 years ago when his health started getting worse and because of that Earl got to spend so much more time with me and our brother, Paul. Mom recently discovered Skype, so she got to visit with him more. We would love for you to share any thoughts or stories with us. Rock on ArmadilloCon!

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian encountered a Biblical joke in Shoe.

(11) MARVEL AT MOPOP. The Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle unveiled the official poster artwork for its upcoming exhibition Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes.

Designed by Marvel artist Nick Bradshaw, the illustration depicts some of the most iconic characters created during Marvel’s nearly 80 year history including Spider-Man, Thor, Black Panther, Ms. Marvel, Hulk, Iron Man, Black Widow, Captain America, and others. Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes is the first and most extensive exhibition celebrating the visual and cultural impact of Marvel Entertainment. The exhibition will debut at MoPOP on April 21, 2018. Tickets are on sale now at MoPOP.org.

Organized by the Museum of Pop Culture, SC Exhibitions and Marvel Entertainment, Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes will feature more than 300 original artifacts, including some of Marvel’s most iconic and sought-after pages, costumes and props, many of which have never-before been seen by the public. The exhibition will tell the Marvel story through comics, film and other media, taking place as it celebrates 10 years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and ahead of the 80th anniversary in 2019.  The exhibition will trace the story of the company and its influence on visual culture – including how it’s responded to historical events and addressed wider issues such as gender, race and mental illness – as well as uncovering the narratives of individual characters such as Captain America, Spider-Man, Black Panther and Doctor Strange. Immersive set pieces will bring the comic book world to life, and the exhibition will be accompanied by an immersive soundscape created by acclaimed composers Lorne Balfe and Hans Zimmer.

(12) DO-IT-YOURSELF. Lucy A. Snyder’s satirical “Installing Linux on a Dead Badger: User’s Notes” appeared on Strange Horizons in 2004, but it’s news to me. Very funny!

Reanimation puts most creatures in a foul mood, and the test badger woke up murderously angry, requiring a hasty launch of FleshGolem to get the beast under control. It is highly recommended to have the computer close at hand during the incantation.

(13) VACUUMING UP THE BITS. Via today’s Boston Globe: “Data storage beyond the clouds: Wasabi promises a super-secure system in space”. “…Which sure sounds like the start of a ‘what where they thinking/yeah sure’ techno-heist thriller,” says Daniel Dern.

In space, no one can steal your data.

Well, that’s the theory, anyway — one that the Boston data storage company Wasabi Technologies Inc. hopes to help prove.

Wasabi is partnering with a California company to create a database from outer space. The system, called SpaceBelt, will feature orbiting data centers capable of storing thousands of terabytes of information. SpaceBelt will be marketed to businesses and corporations that need instant access to their most valuable data, but who are also desperate to keep that data from being stolen or corrupted.

(14) ALL STROSS CONSIDERED. Joe Sherry describes a mixed bag in “Microreview [book]: Dark State, by Charles Stross” at Nerds of a Feather.

My experience of reading Charles Stross is a persistent struggle between the quality of his ideas and my perception of the quality of his writing, which is to say that I seldom find that the writing lives up to the promise of the ideas.

When I wrote about Empire Games (my review), I noted “the level of Stross’s writing is actually beginning to rise to the level of his ideas” and that once Stross got the story rolling, nothing distracted from the cool ideas of the world walking between the worlds we’ve already known and the opening up of new worlds and the drama of the how the United States interacts with the world walkers from a parallel universe.

Dark State picks up almost immediately after the conclusion of Empire Games, and despite the increasingly breakneck pace of the second half of that novel, Dark State suffers from some of the same issues that Empire Games did. Stross spends at least a third of Dark State resetting the playing field and planting the seeds for where the rest of the novel and trilogy will go. That’s fine, as far as narrative conventions go, but Stross is not at his best as a writer when working with a more deliberate pace.

(15) CHARACTER IN CRISIS. Adrienne Martini reviews The Genius Plague by David Walton at Locus Online.

In Walton’s hands, what could be a straight­forward “we must save humanity with science” thriller (not that there’s anything wrong with that), becomes, at times, a meditation on what makes us human and why that alone is a survival advan­tage. Those moments offer a chance to catch your breath before the next calamity, some of which our hero brings on himself. Walton makes Neil into a layered character, one who is frequently torn between family bonds and saving the world – and, frequently, making the situation worse because he is still working out that other people are also torn by their own layers. He’s also still learning that NSA security is never f-ing around.

(16) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter was gazing at the tube during Jeopardy! and spotted this stfnal clue:

Answer: “Kardashians are reality TV stars; Cardassians are an alien culture in this sci-fi universe.”

No one got the question, “What is Star Trek”?

(17) YOU CAN GET THERE FROM HERE. You can now get to Gotham City, the Emerald City, Neverland, Middle Earth, and other places via roundabouts on the A4130 in Didcot, Oxfordshire reports the BBC.

A county council statement read, in part:

“We will investigate as soon as the weather improves. While on the surface amusing, it is vandalism and a potential distraction for drivers.”

The story also mentions:

Local resident Charlotte Westgate said she saw a hooded man in his 20s adding “Gotham City” to a sign on Friday afternoon.

She said: “He was on his own, and didn’t seem worried that anyone might be looking at him, but no one driving past did anything to stop him.”

(18) BARRAYAR BOY. Miles Vorkosigan posted the lyrics to “Dendarii’s Privateers” on Facebook. The first verse is —

Oh the year was 2978
(How I wish I’d stayed on Barrayar!)
When I flunked my military test
By breaking my legs, as I do best

(19) HOW IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN PLAYED FOR LAUGHS. From the folks at HISHE, “A Comedy Recap / Review of Pacific Rim voiced by How It Should Have Ended.”

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, and MT Davis for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Elisa.]

 

All Bradbury

(1) Bradbury is the centerpiece of another Big Read in Kansas City. Biographer Sam Weller helps launch the event in ‘Fahrenheit 451’ forever: a literary classic’s uncanny cultural longevity.

In 1953, a little-known 33-year-old writer named Ray Bradbury wrote his first novel.

Sixty-two years later, “Fahrenheit 451” is a bona fide international classic.

The masterwork about a dystopian society where books are contraband is a staple of school curricula. It has been translated into more than 30 languages around the world and is, today, one of the most selected titles in community reading programs across the nation (along with Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”).

The Kansas City area this week joins the list of community celebrants. The Mid-Continent Public Library system has kicked off a series of events surrounding the book in conjunction with the National Endowment for the Arts “Big Read” initiative. Having worked closely with Ray Bradbury for over a decade as his authorized biographer, I am thrilled to participate.

“Fahrenheit 451” is one of those rare books that transcend time and generations. But why? Why does this short 50,000-word novel continue to have such cultural relevance?

Even Ray Bradbury was somewhat vexed by the waxing success of his novel over the decades.

“I was just writing an adventure novel,” he told me on multiple occasions. Bradbury described his book as “a fugitive chase disguised as literature,” in reference to the plotline of a fireman who burns books for a living and one-day decides to take one home to see what all the fuss is about. When Guy Montag discovers the magic, wonder, philosophy and poetry inside books, he leaves his life as a book burner behind and becomes a bibliophilic fugitive in a society where books are illegal.

(2) Adrienne Martini reviews Blythe Woolston’s MARTians at Locus Online.

Like Bradbury, whose work Woolston honors both in the title and as a running theme, this au­thor has a knack for finding just the right details to flesh-out a world without bogging down the action in reams of description. Take, for example, this nugget: ‘‘I won’t have a vote to sell until my eighteenth birthday, and that’s 619 days away.’’ Not only do you learn Zoë’s age but you also learn reams about the world that surrounds her. MARTians is a marvel of linguistic economy.

(3) Bidding is open and lively for the strongest rare book auction Heritage has offered to date, Auction #6155.

Many excellent copies of Bradbury works with personal inscriptions to Bob O’Malley are also present here, such as Dark Carnival (Lot 45014), Fahrenheit 451 (Lot 45016; minimum $1250), The Martian Chronicles (Lot 45021; minimum $1250) and The October Country (Lot 45024; minimum bid $500).

(4) Brigadier Mick Ryan on “Why Reading Science Fiction is Good For Military Officers” at Grounded Curiosity.

And it informs us about bad potential futures.  Reading science fiction allows one to think about a range of bad potential futures.  The dystopian future genre, particularly for younger readers, has been popular of late.  But this is not new.  Whether it is King’s The Stand, Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Matteson’s I am Legend, or Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, science fiction has always dealt with futures where society breaks down or must deal with a far more pessimistic view of the future.  Some even deal with the end of the world, with a recent example being Stephenson’s Seven Eve’s.  It is good that military officers should read such descriptions of alternate futures; it is the first step in us ensuring that they do not come to pass.

The Hugo and Gender Controversy, A Year Later

When people discovered only one work of fiction by a woman was on the 2007 Hugo ballot lightning rent the blogosphere. Writers seeing this as a denial of women’s contribution to sf voiced surprise, disappointment and anger. Some of them decided to work for change, creating websites with information about works by women published in 2007, in hopes of making them more competitive for awards. Then came the backlash from bloggers defending the makeup of the Hugo ballot, or arguing that it wasn’t symptomatic of any problem that needed to be solved. The debate made sf fandom’s corner of the web crackle with electicity.

The 2008 Hugo ballot came out in March: it listed four works of fiction by women. A few people immediately predicted that last year’s controversy would repeat itself. Patrick Shepherd, who in 2007 essentially argued that sf is more nearly gender-blind than it once was, sighed:

Once again, there are no women represented in [the Best Novel] category, although there are several in the other categories. There will probably be some more flack about this, which I believe is really irrelevant…. Of far more importance is just what the quality level is of those that are nominated.

And John Scalzi, author of a 2008 Best Novel nominee, said he expected to see criticism “that none of the authors of the books nominated are women.”

Yet the blogosphere remained tranquil.

In fact, K. Tempest Bradford, Non-Fiction Editor for Dark Fantasy, who also started the SF Bookswap and often blogs about power and privilege issues that affect the sf field, said in her opinion piece titled “And the Phallic Symbol Goes To…” —

Denvention posted this year’s Hugo nominees a few days ago, and much rejoicing was heard across the land. I’m happy to see that there wasn’t a repeat of last year’s ovary-free fiction categories, though there are still fewer women than I’d like. Just means I’ll have to work harder for next year!

Bradford seemed to feel that the increase in women nominees, from one to four, represented a satisfying reward for the work she and others had invested in putting out the word about fiction by women.

What accounts for the change since last year?

Some of the explanations I thought of included:

  1. The calm has less to do with the issue and more to do with how the blogosphere works – something that ignites a brushfire of comment can use up the topic, even in the case of an issue people care about.

  2. The number of women nominees isn’t, in itself, a significant issue, it was just an opportunity to draw attention to women’s or feminists’ concerns. People will move on to a fresh issue.

  3. The number of nominees matters, and moving the needle from one to four is satisfying progress. Or,

  4. The quality of the works nominated is the main thing, and some people have in hindsight decided last year’s controversy took away from that focus, but they still hope more women get nominated.

I asked Adrienne Martini, Evelyn Leeper and Nancy Kress, all women who are very familiar with the sf field and these issues, why the heated discussion did not resume where it left off.

I began with Adrienne Martini because her column for Bookslut was the most interesting and pungent thing I read about last year’s controversy. Actually, I was incensed when I first read it. As I realized later, that was the first clue that I would feel compelled to give the question serious thought. (After all, I was also incensed when Harlan Ellison used the 1978 Worldcon to agitate for the Equal Rights Amendment, but I ended as a convert to the idea.) I sent her an e-mail outlining these ideas and asking for comment.

Adrienne Martini responded:

Pungent — I like that. For me the whole episode itself was rather pungent. FWIW – my initial Bookslut post was borne out of anger, not necessarily because of the Hugo noms that year. Until the list of nominees made it startlingly apparent that nothing had changed, it did feel like women in the SF/F field had gained some momentum. Not just the old reliables — the women that men point to to say “look, we have some” — but doors for all female writers in the field felt more open. Then it slammed shut, rather abruptly.

In hindsight, I would have said that differently than I did and wouldn’t have taken it out on Eifelheim. But I don’t regret the anger, which did seem to touch off a number of discussions, most of which were worth having.

I’m not certain there is just one explanation for why it’s so quiet this year. I do lean toward the first two. Plus, I don’t think that year-to-year comparisons shake out useful data. What will be interesting is to see what happens in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Evelyn Leeper knows sf, is well versed in the history of the Worldcon and its Hugo Awards, and has been up for the award herself a dozen times in the Best Fan Writer category. Evelyn said this about my four suggestions:

The calm has less to do with the issue and more to do with the way the blogosphere works – something ignites a brushfire of comment that uses up the topic, even in the case of an issue people care about.

Could be, although if Usenet is any indication, there is never a topic so dead that a brushfire can’t be lit in it.

The number of women nominees isn’t, in itself, a significant issue, it was just an opportunity to draw attention to women’s or feminists’ concerns. People will move on to a fresh issue.

This definitely seems the case to me.

The number of nominees matters, and moving the needle from one to four is satisfying progress

Not really. That is, I don’t think the number matters that much. One needs to look at what percentage of SF writers (not the population at large) are female, etc. That is, if only 10% of the writers are female, then you can’t complain that they aren’t 50% of the nominees.

And 20 authors out of the entire set of authors is such a small figure that it is not statistically significant.

For 1992, 12 of the 23 fiction nominees were by women. Does anyone ever talk about that? Did we reach some sort of high point then?

The quality of the works nominated is the main thing, and some people have in hindsight decided last year’s controversy took away from that focus, but they still hope to see more women get nominated.

If I had to choose one answer, it would be this one (though frankly, the gender, or race, or religion of the nominees is pretty low on my list of concerns for the Hugos).

When Rowling won the Hugo, no one seemed to be thrilled a woman had won. There was more concern that a fantasy had won.

The people who are complaining — can they list works by women that better than what made the ballot? I have found that if you have a panel on “The Top Ten [X],” people will criticize the list and say, “Well, what about such-and-such.” To which the answer is, “Okay, but which work will you take off the list to make room for it?” It’s not enough to say, “There were lots of good works by women,” one needs to be able to point to works better than what is on the list, and indicate what should be removed.

Now, of course, the nominations are all subjective, so this should be easy, but while people will occasionally list things to be added, no one ever seems to do the other half.

And people don’t seem to complain that not enough “people of color” are nominated. Why the focus on gender?

Nancy Kress’ 1993 speech on “Women in American Science Fiction,” a horizon-expanding exploration of the sf genre’s history, brought me a lot closer to understanding the grievances behind last year’s Hugo and gender controversy, as I wrote in File770 #150, pages 15-17. Here’s what she answered:

Nancy Kress: I don’t know why there aren’t more women on the Hugo ballot this year. If you read my 1993 speech, you saw that women SFWA members win awards (Hugos and Nebulas combined) in roughly the same numbers as their membership. Here are the updated figures, from the 2007 SFWA Directory:

Male names: 58%
Female Names: 35%
Other: 7% (These people are unknown to me personally and are using initials, have unisex names like “Pat” or “Terry,” or have non-English names which I don’t know the usual gender for).

From 1977-2007:

Female Hugo winners: 35
Male Hugo winners: 93

Female Nebula winners: 57
Male Nebula winners: 70

So women are under-represented for Hugos and over-represented for Nebulas. Why? I have absolutely no idea.

While Kress doesn’t claim to know the answer, her statistics do help answer one of Evelyn Leeper’s queries about the proportion of male and female pro writers. (Kress also posted these figures on her blog. Mike Flynn added some comments that also are worth reading.)

In the final analysis, why wasn’t there a replay of last year’s Hugo controversy?

Reason Number One: No mana. Larry Niven’s story “The Magic Goes Away” postulates that magic works until the local supply of mana is exhausted. The Hugos were thoroughly worked over last year. Bloggers like to be read, and repeating the exact same arguments that were made a year ago is not the way to get an audience.

Reason Number Two: If a person literally was only concerned about getting more women nominated for the Hugo, he or she may have been satisfied by the progress represented by there being four fiction nominees by women instead of one.

For others whose complaints about the Hugos were linked to the larger inquiry about whether women have equal access to succeed as sf/fantasy writers, the Hugo Awards are just one set of data among many that can be mined for statistics to support a feminist critique.

As people are aware, the validity of statistics depends on the size of the sample. For example, prozine editors have bought and published hundreds of stories over the past 15 years. Something is shown by comparing the percentage of stories by men and women these editors have selected over that timespan, as Feminist SF – the Blog recently did.

But I really feel that Sheila Williams [editor of Asimov’s] should get more notice (perhaps even accolades) for doing exactly what all of us who are annoyed by gender imbalance have asked other editors to do. (And let me point out again: we have not asked them to publish stories JUST because they were written by women, or to not publish stories JUST because they were written by men.)

(Tip of the hat to  SF Signal.)

Another post on the Feminist SF blog using proportional representation as the hook, 17.948%: Best of Best New SF, challenged Gardner Dozois’ The Best of the Best New SF on grounds that only 7 of its 39 stories were by women.

When someone uses a statistic to level criticism at very small sample, like the Hugo ballot or Dozois’ selection of top stories from the last 20 years, I think it’s fair to expect them to anticpiate Evelyn’s question, “Okay, but which work will you take off the list to make room for it?” Or the question I’m most interested in, “What work do you want to add?”

The bare number 17.948% doesn’t carry the argument. Would anyone read a murder mystery that only dealt in the probability of there being a victim? I want to know whose story was unjustly left out. Tell me about the good stuff I am missing. There are a lot of good stories published every year, and when I add the critics’ lists to the Hugo ballot or Gardner Dozois’ list, it gets easier to find them all.

Update 5/12/2008: Fine-tuned the lead-in to K. Tempest Bradford’s quote.