(1) THAT LESSON DOESN’T MEAN WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS. Charlie Jane Anders breaks down the “7 Wrong Lessons That Creators Learned From Game of Thrones” for Tor.com readers.
2. Viewers still love the “smartest guy in the room”
Superficially, Tyrion Lannister might appear to fit in with the “smartest man in the room” archetype, as made famous by House, Sherlock and certain Doctors on Doctor Who. And I think that the widespread love of Peter Dinklage’s fantastic performance as Tyrion helped give this already-popular trope a new lease on life.
Except that when you scratch the surface, Tyrion is lovable because he’s frequently one step behind his enemies, and wrong more often than right. Season one of Thrones features Tyrion blundering from one bad situation to another, without much of a clue, and he survives by luck as much as cunning. His best moments in season one are ones in which he acts recklessly, slapping Prince Joffrey and joking about turtle soup in front of people who already want to execute him.
And when Tyrion sets his mind to playing politics, he’s never particularly good at it. As Hand of the King, he’s mostly a disaster—he doesn’t work well with the king he’s supposed to be serving, and he wastes all his energy feuding with Cersei and trying to figure out whether he can trust the Grand Maester or Varys or Littlefinger. (News flash: he can’t trust any of them.) His big brainwave, sending Myrcella away for her own safety, results in Myrcella’s utterly predictable death. When Tyrion becomes Daenerys’ Hand and starts giving her terrible advice, it’s a continuation of his previous track record.
Nobody loved Tyrion because he was smarter than everybody else, but because he was funny and entertaining and obnoxious in a good way, and he wore his broken heart on his sleeve.
(2) SUBSTACK UNDER THE MICROSCOPE. Newsletters are proliferating as more writers find them useful for publicity and to create another revenue stream. Substack has been a popular platform for managing and distributing people’s content, but one of their programs has been a source of controversy because the company has been satisfied to let the money rain on the just and unjust alike.
Andrew Liptak provides a concise and lucid explanation of the issues in a recent issue of his Transfer Orbit newsletter (which extends well beyond this excerpt).
…That brings us to this week: Substack recently unveiled an initiative called Substack Pro, which subsidized a group of 30 or so writers by paying them an advance, which would get paid back through a newsletter that’s given the boost to self-sufficiency. In theory, that’s a good idea for both writers and Substack.
But — and there’s a but — in doing so, Substack crosses the line from being a platform that hosts user-generated content, to something that’s actually facilitating its publication. It’s an inherent editorial choice, one that comes with some particular problems. Author Jude Ellison Sady Doyle highlighted some of the issues that this poses: “In Queers We Trust. All Others pay Cash” in which he laid out some systemic issues that they’re seeing with the company, and how Substack Pro is troubling in that some of the authors who seem to be part of the program have engaged in some anti-Trans rhetoric….
… This whole thing has caused a bit of a firestorm amongst folks within the SF/F community. I’ve seen a bunch of folks like Aidan Moher, Karin Lowachee, Annalee Newitz, and Maddie Stone depart the platform over this….
Liptak is not leaving Substack at this time, but he is looking for a suitable place to move.
Elizabeth Bear explained to her readers why she’s staying at Substack in “On the Kerfuffles of Capitalism” at Throw Another Bear in the Canoe.
… If I refuse to work with publishers who pay royalties to objectively crappy people, I’m going to have to go get a job as an office manager and frankly I no longer have the wardrobe for that gig. Also I’ve developed a morbid fear of telephones.
Heck, there are a few people in publishing who think I’m an objectively crappy person, for reasons of their own. I haven’t seen any of them refusing to work with my publishers.
I also don’t see why progressives should en-masse abandon a pretty useful tool for outreach and a decent income stream without a much better reason than “capitalism is kind of fucked, internet capitalism doubly so.” It is, but we all have to live here for now.
So for the time being, this content will continue to be available both here and over on Patreon. (If you’re no longer comfortable with Substack feel free to follow me over there. Same content, also delivered to your mailbox, different capitalist overlords.) Much of it free, a percentage of it for paid subscribers only….
Sarah Gailey is moving their Stone Soup newsletter from Substack to another platform: “We Are A Snail”.
I would say it’s time for us to go, but we aren’t really going anywhere. We don’t have to leave the home we’ve built out of each other; we can move through the world without risking the elements.
Over the course of the next couple of weeks, our little community is going to travel from Substack to Ghost.io.
If you’re curious about the motivation behind leaving Substack, here’s a good place to start, and here’s a good place to learn more. The short and diplomatic version is that Substack is doing some questionable financial business, and simultaneously isn’t protecting trans people the way it ought to. There’s quite a lot I’d like to say about the situation, but for now I’ll leave it at this: the choice between protecting profit and protecting people feels like a difficult one, but in reality, it is a false choice. It’s easy to make that decision feel complicated, but it’s not. If there can be no profit without investment in exposing trans people to harm, then there should be no profit.
I think we’ll all be very happy at Ghost, and I know my heart will be quite a bit lighter once we’ve made the shift….
(3) ALMOST BUT NOT QUITE. This list of “114 Fiction Sub-Genre Descriptions for Writers” from Writer’s Digest should give you plenty to nitpick!
Here’s a breakdown of some of your favorite fiction genres, including romance, horror, thriller/suspense, science fiction/fantasy, and mystery/crime. Find more than 100 fiction sub-genre descriptions for writers….
(4) MULTIPLE CHOICE. YouTuber Dominic Noble reviews Kiln People by David Brin in “Detective Mystery… BUT WITH CLONES!”.
(5) HABIT NUMBER 5. The Onion’s slideshow “Habits Of Silicon Valley’s Most Powerful Fortune 500 CEOs” includes a bitter joke about the fate of the publishing industry.
(6) THE BIG STFNAL SLEEP. James Davis Nicoll rounds up five examples of “Classic SF About Extremely Long Naps”.
Sleep! How precious, how precarious! Many of us struggle with insomnia. Perhaps we have apnea. Perhaps we own a cat who believes motionless humans are food. Perhaps we are simply aware that up to forty thousand redback spiders can fit into the volume of the average pillow. But sleep can be overdone. Imagine waking to discover that decades or centuries have passed…
This is a convenient way for an author to arrange for a protagonist not unlike the reader to tour an alien setting. Unsurprisingly, a lot of authors have taken advantage of the plot possibilities of the long sleep…
(7) MORISSEY OBIT. Artist Dean Morrissey (1951-2021), a four-time Chesley Award winner, died March 4. The family obituary is here. Morrissey was a self-taught artist who was inspired to become an illustrator through his admiration for the work of painters ranging from Rembrandt to N.C. Wyeth.
(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
March 18, 1981 — On this day in 1981, The Greatest American Hero premiered on ABC. Created by producer Stephen J. Cannell, the series features William Katt, Robert Culp and Connie Sellecca. It had to fight off lawsuits from the owners of the Superman copyright who thought the concept and look of the suit was too close to their product. After that, a real Mr. Hinckley tried on March 30th of that year to assassinate President Reagan, so scripts involving protagonist Ralph Hinkley had to be rewritten to be named Ralph Hanley (or sometimes just “Mr.H”). You can see the pilot here. And yes, it’s up legally courtesy of the copyright holders.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born March 18, 1909 – C. Walter Hodges. Author-illustrator, theatrical costume & scenery designer, student of the Elizabethan stage; Shakespeare’s Theatre won the Greenaway Medal. Here is The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Here is a Chronicles of Robin Hood. Here is The Little White Horse (a unicorn). Here is Make-Believe. Here is Enter the Whole Army. Here is The Wouldbegoods. After a Wayne State Univ. plan to reconstruct the Globe Theatre collapsed, CWH sold nearly a thousand drawings to the Folger Lib’y; they can now be browsed electronically. (Died 2004) [JH]
- Born March 18, 1926 — Peter Graves. Star of Mission Impossible and the short lived Australian based Mission Impossible which if you not seen it, you should as it’s damn good. I’m reasonably certain his first genre role was on Red Planet Mars playing Chris Cronyn. Later roles included Gavin Lewis on The Invaders, Major Noah Cooper on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Doug Paul Martin in Killers from Space and Paul Nelson on It Conquered the World. It’s worth noting that a number of his films are featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 series. (Died 2010.) (CE)
- Born March 18, 1932 — John Updike. It might surprise you to learn that there are two Eastwick novels, The Witches of Eastwick and The Widows of Eastwick, the latter set some three decades after the first novel ended. No idea what it’s like as I’ve never heard of it before. He wrote a number of other genre-friendly novels including The Centaur, Brazil and Toward the End of Time. (Died 2009.) (CE)
- Born March 18, 1936 – M. Thomas Inge, Ph.D., age 85. Professor of Humanities at Randolph-Macon College (Ashland, Virginia), where he teaches, among much else, American humor and comic art, film & animation. Edited A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court for Oxford World Classics; James Branch Cabell, Centennial Essays (with E. MacDonald; JBC said “Tell the rabble my name is Cabell”); Comics as Culture; wrote The Incredible Mr. Poe on comic-book adaptations of EAP works; Anything Can Happen in A Comic Strip; threescore books. Faulkner scholar. Davis Award for Lifetime Contributions to Southern Letters. [JH]
- Born March 18, 1947 – Drew Struzan, age 74. Seventy covers, a few interiors; movie posters. Here is Blade Runner. Here is Back to the Future. Here is Rebel Dawn. Here is The Art of Drew Struzan. [JH]
- Born March 18, 1949 – Tullio Proni, age 72. Master machinist and electronics expert, co-founded General Technics. Leading concocter of the blinkies which seemed to appear everywhere in the 1970s under the name Isher Enterprises. This led to annual house parties called Ishercon. Mad Scientist Guest of Honor at DucKon IV. [JH]
- Born March 18, 1950 — J.G. Hertzler, 71. He’s best known for his role on Deep Space Nine as the Klingon General (and later Chancellor) Martok. He co-authored with Jeff Lang, Left Hand of Destiny, Book 1, and Left Hand of Destiny, Book 2, which chronicle the life of his character. His very TV first role was a genre one, to wit on Quantum Leap as Weathers Farrington in the “Sea Bride – June 3, 1954” episode. Setting aside DS9, he’s been in Zorro, Highlander, The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Charmed, Roswell and Enterprise series; for film genre work, I see The Redeemer: Son of Satan, Treasure Island: The Adventure Begins and Prelude to Axanar (yet another piece of fanfic). In addition, he’s done a lot of video game voice acting, the obvious Trek work but such franchises as BioShock 2, The Golden Compass and Injustice: Gods Among Us. (CE)
- Born March 18, 1959 — Luc Besson, 62. Oh, The Fifth Element, one of my favorite genre films. There’s nothing about it that I don’t like. I’ve not seen Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and reviews leave me disinclined to do so. The Transporter is not genre but I recommend it as a great film none the less. (CE)
- Born March 18, 1960 — Richard Biggs. He appeared as Dr. Stephen Franklin on Babylon 5, reprising the role in the final aired episode of Crusade, “Each Night I Dream of Home”. Other genre roles included playing Roger Garrett on Tremors, Hawkes In The Alien Within, An Unnamed Reporter on Beauty and the Beast, Dr. Thomson on an episode of The Twilight Zone and a Process Server in an episode of The Magical World of Disney. (Died 2004.) (CE)
- Born March 18, 1961 — James Davis Nicoll, 60. A freelance game and genre reviewer. A first reader for SFBC as well. Currently he’s a blogger on Dreamwidth and Facebook, and an occasional columnist on Tor.com. In 2014, he started his website, jamesdavisnicoll.com, which is dedicated to his book reviews of works old and new; and which later added the highly entertaining Young People Read Old SFF, where that group read prior to Eighties SF and fantasy, and Nicoll and his collaborators comment on the their reactions. (CE)
- Born March 18, 1973 – Max Barry, age 48. Six novels, half a dozen shorter stories. Invented electronic game NationStates. Aurealis Award, Western Australian Premier’s Book Award. Website. [JH]
- Born March 18, 1993 – Samantha Hoffman, age 28. Fourteen novels. Says of herself, “Her favorite genre to write is paranormal romance, but she also likes to dabble in fantasy and horror, as well as having a new love of science fiction.” [JH]
(10) A SPECIAL DAY IS ON THE WAY. The International Carnivorous Plant Society recently announced that the first-ever World Carnivorous Plant Day, a worldwide event dedicated to spotlighting carnivorous plant public awareness and education, starts on May 5, 2021.
The ICPS is proud to promote the first ever World Carnivorous Plant Day, to be held on the first Wednesday of May (May 5th, 2021). In lieu of the international conference in Himeji, Japan, World Carnivorous Plant Day 2021 will serve as the preeminent carnivorous plant event of the year. This day-long web event will stand in for the delayed ICPS conference. The conference has been rescheduled to occur in Japan in 2022.
To assist with these efforts, events involving the Richardson-based carnivorous plant gallery The Texas Triffid Ranch (Dallas’s Pretty Much Only Carnivorous Plant Gallery) run through May 5, 2021, and continue through the end of 2021.
(11) KING’S CHOICE. “Ten Pulp Crime Authors Recommended By Stephen King” at CrimeReads. And guess who’s on the list!
In honor of what would have been his 100th birthday, Hard Case Crime published Killer, Come Back to Me, a brand new collection of the master’s crime fiction—less well known than his trademark fantasy, but just as unforgettable. At the time of his death, King wrote, “Ray Bradbury wrote three great novels and three hundred great stories. One of the latter was called ‘A Sound of Thunder.’ The sound I hear today is the thunder of a giant’s footsteps fading away. But the novels and stories remain, in all their resonance and strange beauty.”
(12) WEEP WAIL. In the latest episode of Octothorpe. “John is excited, Alison is oh boy oh boy oh boy, and Liz… isn’t.” Listen here: “Eeyore of Eastercon”.
We celebrate our anniversary with a myriad of letters of comment, we discuss Eastercon’s platform news, and then we talk excitedly about fanzines and that new Douglas Adams book.
(13) LEVERS OF CHANGE. Mental Floss extols a documentary that shows “How ‘Star Trek’ and Nichelle Nichols Changed the Face of NASA”.
Nichelle Nichols is best known for her role as Lieutenant Uhura in Star Trek: The Original Series. But the 88-year-old actor also carries with her a lesser-known legacy: Playing a foundational role in the formation of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program and inspiring generations of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) leaders.
A new documentary titled Woman In Motion: Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek, and the Remaking of NASA details the powerful, revealing, and uplifting story of Nichols’s advocacy and the crucial part she played in not just bringing diversity to NASA’s astronaut classes but in shaping the American space program we know today….
(14) PUT A LID ON IT. “New analysis shows potential for ‘solar canals’ in California” – Tech Xplore has the story.
UC Santa Cruz researchers published a new study—in collaboration with UC Water and the Sierra Nevada Research Institute at UC Merced—that suggests covering California’s 6,350 km network of public water delivery canals with solar panels could be an economically feasible means of advancing both renewable energy and water conservation.
The concept of “solar canals” has been gaining momentum around the world as climate change increases the risk of drought in many regions. Solar panels can shade canals to help prevent water loss through evaporation, and some types of solar panels also work better over canals, because the cooler environment keeps them from overheating….
(15) FULL OF STARS. “A photographer spent 12 years capturing this Milky Way image – and it’s breathtaking” – Microsoft News has the story, and a link to the picture.
What have you been working on for the past 12 years? Whatever it was, I bet it’s not as awesome as this ridiculously awesome Milky Way image by J-P Metsavainio. His work on the composite photo began in 2009 and a dozen years later he has one of the most spectacular works of astronomy art you’ll ever lay eyes on. The image is huge both in its pixel resolution and its ambition, as the photographer had to collect a whopping 234 photos in order to piece together the final product.
As PetaPixel reports, Metsavainio began capturing specific features of the Milky Way with his high-end camera equipment and astronomy accessories. Those images are works of art in their own right, but the composite image that they helped to produce is even more spectacular.
(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Super Mario 3D World & Bowser’s Fury” on YouTube, Fandom Games says the latest Mario release reintroduces gamers to “the strangely proportioned fictional plumber you love more than your own parents” with a bonus feature where Mario enters a “strange cat-centric alternate dimension” where he fights giant cats.
[Thanks to Ruth Sachter, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, John A Arkansawyer, Frank Olynyk, Michael Toman, Jennifer Hawthorne, Moshe Feder, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, JJ, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Lise Andreasen.]