Pixel Scroll 1/17/22 In Five Years, The Pixel Will Be Obsolete, Said The Salesman

(1) MORE AMAZON SHENANIGANS. Nick Cole says Galaxy’s Edge had its account nuked by Amazon over the weekend. The action has since been undone. “CTRL ALT Revolt FLASH REPORT”. He plays it the way his readers like to hear it.

Spent all weekend dealing with a situation on Amazon. Saturday night we got a letter saying our Galaxy’s Edge account was terminated and we were permanently banned.

This morning the books are back up. Was it a purge, a hacker running amok, the AI screwing up… I have thoughts.

But for now this is my official statement :

“We don’t know anything concrete. This happened on Saturday night on a 3 day weekend.

That sounds suspiciously like a hacker got into Amazon. Also, a few other people have had it happen to them.

But the times are crazy due to the leftists strangling everyone’s small business and acting like some kind of woke mafia within major corporations and so it must be considered, that until Amazon says different, this was some kind of Purge.

We are hoping Tuesday morning sees a resolution. Until then our cash flow has been destroyed, our customers are upset, and potential new customers are being lost forever….

(2) LIFE INFLUENCES ON LEM. [Item by Tom Becker.] Two recent books by Polish authors make clear how much Lem’s wartime experience weighed on him. In Agnieszka Gajewska’s deeply researched “Holocaust and the Stars,” translated by Katarzyna Gucio (Routledge) … and “Lem: A Life Out of This World,” a lively, genial biography by Wojciech Orlinski, which has yet to be translated into English. “A Holocaust Survivor’s Hardboiled Science Fiction” in The New Yorker. [Note: The Latin “l” is used in Lem’s first name because WordPress does not support the special character.]

In “His Master’s Voice,” a 1968 sci-fi novel by the Polish writer Stanislaw Lem, a team of scientists and scholars convened by the American government try to decipher a neutrino signal from outer space. They manage to translate a fragment of the signal’s information, and a couple of the scientists use it to construct a powerful weapon, which the project’s senior mathematician fears could wipe out humanity. The intention behind the message remains elusive, but why would an advanced life-form have broadcast instructions that could be so dangerous?

Late one night, a philosopher on the team named Saul Rappaport, who emigrated from Europe in the last year of the Second World War, tells the mathematician about a time—“the year was 1942, I think”—when he nearly died in a mass execution…..

Privately, Lem told people that he had witnessed the executions described by his fictional character. “Dr. Rappaport’s adventure is my adventure, from Lwów 1941, after the German army entered—I was to be shot,” he wrote to his American translator Michael Kandel. When Orlinski asked Lem’s widow which elements in the scene were drawn from life, she replied, “All of them.”…

(3) LIGHTNING STRIKING AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN. You knew it all along – the creators of the term “squeecore” graduated from the “I made you look! I win!” school of clickbaiting. Whose graduates always try to get John Scalzi to say their names, or failing that, they announce to the world he paid some attention to them. Yay them.

And here’s that big, succulent dose of attention:

That was it. Show’s over.

(4) THE SOUND AND THE FURY. Or is it? Camestros Felapton is convinced there’s more candy left in that piñata, as he argues in “Yeah, but”.

I was going to write something else today but as squeecore arguments are still raging on my social media I wanted to pull out some of my own views on where the discussion is, partly because there’s a lot of directions the arguments are going.

      1. Is there’s a dominant style in SFF in the sense of the works that critical buzz and award nominations? Yes, so long as we a generous with both “dominant” and “style” but it is fairly nebulous (as was New Wave for example.
      2. Is there a dominant style in SFF (in the sense above) that is so ubiquotous that is pushes out nearly everything else? No unless you define “style” so expansively that it can’t not to be true i.e. the claim becomes tautological.

He reaches number eight before he’s done.

(But wait! If you use a sufficiently high-powered vacuum, there might be more candy yet! Camestros reacts to Reddit’s discussion of the topic: “A log entry in the voyage of genre name looking for a genre”.)

(5) I SEE A LITTLE SILHOUETTO.  Meanwhile, Doris V. Sutherland has interesting points to make in “’Squeecore’ and the Cartoon Mode in SF/F” – thoughts that deserve to be discussed without the handicap of being attached to this arbitrary term.

…There’s an old rule in animation that a cartoon character should have a readily-identifiable silhouette — think of Mickey Mouse’s ears or Bart Simpson’s spiky hair. In the strongest examples these silhouettes incorporate not only the character’s body and/or clothes but also a posture that tells us something of their personality: Bugs Bunny casually leaning back as he chomps on a carrot; Spongebob excitedly waving his arms about. This is a visual counterpart to the old rule in writing that says you should hook the reader with the first line.

With that in mind, take a look at the opening line to Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth, the novel about the teenage lesbian necromancer who likes comic books and porn mags:

In the myriadic year of our Lord—the ten thousandth year of the King Undying, the kindly Prince of Death!— Gideon Nav packed her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and she escaped from the House of the Ninth.

Succinct, funny, comprehensible in a flash — this is the prose equivalent of a cartoon character’s silhouette.

Can these stories, as wholes, be described as cartoonish? That’s more debatable. The purest examples of the aesthetic I’m talking about are in short stories like Vina Jie-Min Prasad’s “Fandom for Robots” and “A Guide For Working Breeds” or Naomi Kritzer’s “Cat Pictures Please”, each of which uses its cartoon-character-silhouette as the basis for its entire narrative trajectory. This is harder to sustain in a full-length novel. There are novels built wholly around the cartoon mode, but they fit into a narrow genre of giddy, goofy comedies (David Wong’s Zoey Punches the Future in the Dick is a good example)….

(6) THINKING INSIDE THE BOX. In case you were still wondering what hopepunk is: “The sci-fi genre offering radical hope for living better” at BBC Culture.

…In the midst of current political, economic and environment uncertainty, many of us may have noticed a tendency to fall into cynicism and pessimism. Could hopepunk be the perfect antidote?

If you feel wary of optimism, you are far from alone. Writers and philosophers across human history have had ambivalent views of hope. These contradictory opinions can be seen in the often opposing interpretations of the Pandora myth, first recorded by Hesiod around 700 BC. In his poem Works and Days, Hesiod describes how Zeus created Pandora as a punishment to humanity, following Prometheus’s theft of fire. She comes to humanity bearing a jar containing “countless plagues” – and, opening the lid, releases its evils to the world. “Only Hope remained there in an unbreakable home within the rim of the great jar,” Hesiod tells us….

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2002 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty years ago this day, the musical Chicago premiered. I just rewatched it on HBO Max which is why you are getting it as the Anniversary piece tonight. Well that and that Mike is extremely generous in what I can cover in this feature. Extremely generous. You are forewarned as to what the future might hold. 

I first saw this film at the theater when it came out. It’s based off the 1975 stage musical of the same name which had music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and book by Ebb and Bob Fosse. That in turn was based off Chicago, a very successful 1926 play written by Maurine Dallas Watkins. 

This film was directed by Rob Marshall and produced by Martin Richards from the screenplay by Bill Condon.  Fosse was contracted to direct this but died before he could do so. The film marked the directorial debut of Marshall, who also choreographed the film, with music by Kander and lyrics by Ebb, both had worked on the Fosse musical. Marshall would later direct Into the Woods and Mary Poppins Returns.

Chicago was primarily set in Cook County Criminal Court Building and Jail. And this is a musical which means we get to a stellar cast sing including performers I swear I never knew could do so —  Richard Gere, Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Queen Latifah, John C. Reilly, Lucy Liu, Taye Diggs, Colm Feore and Dominic West.  Gere in particular is very, very impressive though the women performers are great in part because they pass the Bechdel test in that much of the script is dialogue between women smartly done without men present. 

Reception for Chicago was almost unanimously positive. I think Robert Ebert summed it up best when he called it “big, brassy fun” which it definitely is.  It gets a most excellent eighty-six rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.  Oh, and though costly to produce at almost fifty million, it made over three hundred million. 

And yes we can tie the film into the genre as Mike pointed out to me that “?Chicago is the source of a tune Maytree used to create one of the best-ever Puppy satire filks” — here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 17, 1899 Nevil Shute. Author of On the Beach. It originally appeared as a four-part series, The Last Days on Earth, in the London weekly Sunday Graphic in April 1957.  It was twice a film. He has other SF novels including An Old Captivity which involves time travel and No Highway which gets a review by Pohl in Super Science Stories in 1949. There’s In the Wet and Vinland the Good as well. (Died 1960.)
  • Born January 17, 1927 Eartha Kitt. Though you’ll have lots of folks here remembering her as Catwoman from the original Batman, she appeared in but four episodes there. Genre wise, she was in such series as I-SpyMission: ImpossibleMatrix, the animated Space Ghost Coast to Coast and the animated My Life as a Teenage Robot. Film wise, she played Freya in Erik the Viking, voiced Bagheera in The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story and was Madame Zeroni In Holes. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 17, 1931 James Earl Jones, 91. His first SF appearance was in Dr. Strangelove as Lt. Lothar Zogg.  And I think I need not list all his appearances as Darth Vader here. Some genre appearances include Exorcist II: The HereticThe Flight of DragonsConan the Barbarian as Thulsa Doom and I actually remember him in that role, and Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold. Did you know the 1995 Judge Dredd had a Narrator? Well he’s listed as doing it, and Fantasia 2000 as well.
  • Born January 17, 1949 Donald Palumbo, 73. Well someone has to take us seriously. In this case, it’s this scholar. He’s done such studies as Chaos Theory, Asimov’s Foundations and Robots, and Herbert’s Dune: the Fractal Aesthetic of Epic Science FictionEros in the Mind’s Eye: Sexuality and the Fantastic in Art and Film and Worlds Apart?: Dualism and Transgression in Contemporary Female Dystopias. He has an interesting essay, “Reiterated Plots and Themes in the Robot Novels: Getting Away with Murder and Overcoming Programming” in Foundation, #80 Autumn 2000 . His latest work is A Dune Companion: Characters, Places and Terms in Frank Herbert’s Original Six Novels. Huh. I’d like to see that. 
  • Born January 17, 1952 Tom Deitz. He’s best remembered for the David Sullivan series which ran for nine novels, plus The Gryphon King, which technically isn’t part of that series. The Soulsmith is quite excellent as well. He was founding member of the SCA’s Barony of Bryn Madoc, and he won the Phoenix Award for lifetime achievement in promoting Southern fandom. Fitting for a lifelong resident of Georgia. He’s reasonably well stocked at the usual suspects. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 17, 1962 Jim Carrey, 60. His first genre film is Once Bitten whose content is obvious from its name and which get a mere thirty-nine percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. The ‘dorable Earth Girls Are Easy was next followed up by Batman Forever in which he played a manic Riddler that I rather liked, then there’s the The Truman Show which was way cool. So may we not talk about How the Grinch Stole Christmas?  (SHUDDER!) We settled several years ago that we think that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is genre.  And I think that I’ll stop there this time. 
  • Born January 17, 1970 Genndy Tartakovsky, 52. Like Romulnan Ale, animation style is a matter of taste. So while I like his work on Samurai Jack and Star Wars: Clone Wars, I can understand why many SW fans don’t as it’s definitely an acquired taste.  He also is responsible for directing the animated  Hotel Transylvania franchise. You can see a sample of his Clone Wars animation here.
  • Born January 17, 1989 Kelly Marie Tran, 33. Best known as Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi  and  Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. She voices the same character in the Star Wars Forces of Destiny animated series. She also voiced Raya in Raya and the Last Dragon and Dawn Betterman in The Croods: A New Age

(9) FAMILY FAREWELL. Christopher Rice wrote a long Facebook post about Anne Rice’s funeral in New Orleans, including the text of his eulogy.

Dearest People of the Page. We have brought Anne home. On Saturday January 15th, as we rolled to a stop on the tarmac at New Orleans International Airport, the heavens opened, and the thunder rolled, and it was as if the spirit world had heralded her return to the city of her birth, the city that always held her heart. The service was quiet and private, and a chance for close family to express their grief. The public celebration of life we will hold later in the year will be open to all of you, and it will be loud enough for Anne to hear us in heaven. She has now joined my father in the tomb in Metairie Cemetery she designed for him after his passing; their marriage, unbroken for decades, has entered immortality. My sister resides with them as well. I share with you now a portion of the eulogy I read graveside as the rain drenched our tent and a flock of blackbirds took to the sky behind me….

(10) DEL TORO’S HISTORY. “Guillermo Del Toro: ‘I saw real corpses when I was growing up in Mexico’” – the director is profiled by the New York Times.

Guillermo Del Toro used to describe Hollywood as “the Land of the Slow No”. Here was a place where a director could die waiting for a project to be greenlit. “The natural state of a movie is to be unmade,” he says over Zoom from his home in Los Angeles. “I have about 20 scripts that I lug around that no one wants to make and that’s fine: it’s the nature of the business. It’s a miracle when anything at all gets made.”

Nevertheless, Del Toro has established himself as this century’s leading fantasy film-maker, more inventive than latter-day Tim Burton and less bombastic than Peter Jackson (with whom he co-wrote the Hobbit trilogy). From the haunting adult fairytale Pan’s Labyrinth and the voluptuously garish Hellboy romps to his beauty-and-the-fish love story The Shape of Water, which won four Oscars, he is the master of the glutinous phantasmagoria….

(11) LENSMAN LOVE. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Parody ranks somewhere in there, too.“Foist Lensman: Early Fan Pastiche From the Works of Edward Elmer Smith, Ph.D.”First Fandom Experience has scans of a half dozen examples.

Fans love to pay tribute to the authors they love most. This takes the form of flattery and at times, its most sincere cousin: imitation. Imitation can stray accidentally or venture boldly into parody. The works of Edward Elmer “Doc” Smith, Ph.D. attracted all of this.

The earliest instances of fan pastiche based on Smith’s Skylark and Lensman novels appeared in fanzine that have largely been lost to history. Spurred by an inquiry from the Online Science Fiction Book Club, FFE has endeavored to make these works available. For Smith enthusiasts, we hope this is fun.
Click any image for a full-screen view.

“The Skylaugh of Space” by “Omnia”
Fantasy Magazine, v3n3, May 1934 and v3n4, June 1934
(The identity of “Omnia” is unclear. The author is described in the July 1934 issue of Fantasy Magazine as “a young chap who has shown promise in the science fiction field, having already sold stories to Wonder and Amazing. Besides, he is editor of his college humor magazine…”)

(12) WSFS. Kevin Standlee tells LiveJournal readers he has finished “Updating WSFS Documents” with changes from DisCon III. (The Business Meeting minutes are still in progress.)

The WSFS Rules website is now mostly updated. The 2021-22 WSFS Constitution and Standing Rules are updated, as is the Resolutions and Rulings of Continuing Effect, a cumulative list of resolutions passed by the WSFS Business Meeting that are likely to have an ongoing effect and rulings made by the Chair (or sometimes rulings made that were overturned on appeal) on various procedural matters.

The Minutes of the Business Meeting and the Business Passed On to the 2022 WSFS Business Meeting are nearing completion, and when they’re finished and certified by the 2021 meeting officers, I’ll update those as well.

(13) THE SHOW MUST GO ON. The New York Times says thanks to omicron “Now Is the Winter of Broadway’s Discontent”. Includes this item of genre interest —

… Now, producers have figured out how to keep shows running, thanks mainly to a small army of replacement workers filling in for infected colleagues. Heroic stories abound: When the two girls who alternate as the young lioness Nala in “The Lion King” were both out one night, a 10-year-old boy who usually plays the cub Simba went on in the role, saving the performance.

…And then there was “The Lion King,” where the young Simba went on as young Nala (uncostumed, and after a preshow explanation to the audience).

“I didn’t want the show to close,” explained the child actor, who performs as Corey J. “I was nervous at first, but then the person who plays Shenzi winked at me, and I wasn’t nervous anymore.”

In the wings between scenes, cast members cheered him on, and at the end of the show, the cast gave him the honor of the show’s final bow….

(14) BIGBUG. Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s next film is going to be released by Netflix next month.

A group of bickering suburbanites find themselves stuck together when an android uprising causes their well intentioned household robots to lock them in for their own safety.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Alan Baumler, Dann, Tom Becker, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day David Shallcross.]

41 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 1/17/22 In Five Years, The Pixel Will Be Obsolete, Said The Salesman

  1. Please, O Great Tastemakers. let me be clear: the world will be a better place if genres of any sort do not have names ending on “-core” or “-punk.” Thank you.

  2. Eartha Kitt: One of her last roles was as Yzma in “The Emperor’s New Groove”. Needless to say as the scheming advisor to the Inca Emperor she was a delight

  3. Rob Thornton says Please, O Great Tastemakers. let me be clear: the world will be a better place if genres of any sort do not have names ending on “-core” or “-punk.” Thank you.

    Now, now. I’m very, very fond of mannerpunk that Ellen Kushner created as a term to explain the culture of her Swordspoint novel including the preference for hot chocolate.

  4. (1) Ack. Here we go again.

    And I wonder if some authors will have a different (angrier) response to this ban?…

    (3) I think the dominant genre of some authors has become Clickcore. Or is that Clickbore? Twitterbore?

  5. Re: the El Sandifer link Cam shared: To be strictly accurate, if I’m remembering my fannish history correctly, Temeraire started out as an attempt to write a Master and Commander AU but very early on refused to stick within the fanfic lines. It wasn’t reskinned (“the serial numbers filed off” in our parlance) because it was never a finished fic – the fic project was scrapped and turned into an original work well before that.

    (Oh hey I looked and I’m right.)

  6. (7) In John Varley’s novel The Golden Globe, when Valentine is tried for murder he hires Billy Flynn, the best lawyer on the planet, to defend him.

  7. How many pixels to Babylon?
    Four-score pixels and ten.
    Can I scroll to Babylon?
    Yes. There and back again.

  8. I think “Punkpunk” is a genre of stories about making up inaccurate subgenre definitions and the following struggle to give them a meaningful name.

  9. @ Cat Eldridge

    Now, now. I’m very, very fond of mannerpunk that Ellen Kushner created as a term to explain the culture of her Swordspoint novel including the preference for hot chocolate.

    The problem is that in current SF/F, “-core” and “-punk” don’t mean anything other than “this is a genre.” At the very beginning, both parts of “cyberpunk” were supposed to have meaning (see Gibbson’s “the streets find their own uses for things”) like the meaning in musical genres (“hardcore” as in faster punk, “post-punk” as in artsy bands influenced by punk, “cowpunk” as in punk with a C&W twang).

    But starting with “steampunk,” SF/F people began to forget how “cyberpunk” was created and the new genre names started getting preposterous. All we do is attach “core” or “punk” as an indicator. The suffixes don’t mean anything outside of that. Doesn’t “hopeful SF” have more meaning than “hopepunk?”

    Oh well, I really guess this is my little bugaboo. But I feel better now. 🙂

  10. @Cat Eldrige: What’s ‘punk’ about liking hot chocolate?

    It’s been decades since I read ‘Swordspoint’, and I know I liked it a lot, but the way I remember it is when it comes to punk it’s more gravy than the grave.

  11. Thirding Eartha Kitt’s performance as Yzma as absolutely delightful — in contrast to my perception of her as Catwoman — not because she was bad, not at all. I preferred Julie Newmar, but even as a small child I could see the power of Eartha Kitt in that role.

    Surely it’s GennAdy Tartakovsky?

  12. Squeecore seems to be generating a lot of noise about very little. Maybe it should be rewritten as “squeak or…”

    “File the pixels, lest they squeak or scroll.”

  13. I always thought that “squee” was a sign that something was amiss in the car–usually a power steering pump belt in need of adjusting.

  14. @Rob Thornton: Yeah. Very early in “steampunk” there was some aspect of “the street finds its own uses” (which I think is the key element of “punkishness” in a subgenre), but that has faded (due to the appeal of the steampunk aesthetic taking over? – maybe).

  15. Thanks to all for sharing links and great comments/responses to the Squeecore debate — I so wanted to jump in, but the list of “X is overdue DO IT” had to take precedence. Last night, though, I could put together a Linkspam for my Dreamwidth journal for future reference: Squeecore Linkspam. (Journal is set to allow comments by everyone–you do not need a Dreamwidth account to post there but unless you provide a pseud/name in your comment, it will be posted as anonymous).

  16. p.s. Yes “discretion is advised” for adult content — but you’d have to dig pretty hard these days to get to the slashy stuff, so it’s safe to just click through. You won’t see NSFW stuff in the few posts of the last few years!

  17. @Jamoche,

    They claim to have ghost-written books by a number of well-known writers, including Nora Roberts…

    I don’t think they know what they’ve done…

  18. @Soon Lee–

    They claim to have ghost-written books by a number of well-known writers, including Nora Roberts…

    I don’t think they know what they’ve done…

    Indeed. Nora Roberts has the resources, and also a track record of caring about the less well-funded targets of such scams.

  19. They have unleashed the dragon, and her name is Nora.

    I also noticed Marvel comics listed on there. And an Avon romance (although the author’s name is not shown). They poked the Mouse!

  20. Jean-Pierre Jeunet is a spectacular director. The City of Lost Children is one of my all-time favorite movies.

  21. I don’t think they know what they’ve done…

    Do not call up that which you cannot put down.

  22. raquel s benedict
    @benedict_rs
    okay taking bets–how long will it take for some thoroughly Caucasian woman to write a blog post declaring that squeecore is a slur…

    Seriously? The absolute only thing about squeecore that was completely unambiguous from the get-go was that the label is intended as an insult to a work, its author, and its fans.

  23. “Chicago,” in its original stage version, has now set the record for the longest running musical on Broadway, in its revival version. As it happens…

    Kelson and I had just finished a show we were doing in Los Angeles, and we saw that the traveling company of the original production of “Chicago” was playing its last night, so we managed to get to the theater and ask if there were any tickets left.

    “Would front row center be ok?”

    Yes!

    This was not just any road company. This was the original cast. Gwen Verdun, Chita Rivera, Jerry Orbach, Mary McCarty….

    We put on our best white suits (actually jeans suits, but they were spotless white) and went to the theater.

    For some reason, maybe the last night thing, the audience was totally dead. So Gwen and Chita played the show to us. We were not dead at all. They gave roses to some of the audience at the end of the last piece, and we got the first roses.

    Afterward we decided to be stage door Johnnies and went around. The crew seemed to be perplexed that anybody wanted to meet the stars and ask for autographs, but they put us in a freight elevator and sent us up.

    I was pretty excited. I had loved Gwen Verdun since the first time I encountered her on records and film. And the rest of the cast… You could not get any better.

    The elevator doors slid open and way across a big room we saw Chita Rivera talking to somebody. Then she saw us stepping out of the elevator and she came running to us and threw her arms around us.

    “You were wonderful!” she exclaimed.

    She introduced us to the other cast members, and we got our autographs.

    I was not sure I was really meeting Gwen Verdun. On stage you could tell that she was the great star who had been on stage for years and years. But backstage, with the makeup off, she had the most perfect peaches and creme skin, and she looked about twenty three.

    Kelson told her about the problem we had just had it our show with a missed cue that ended up with an accidental shooting.

    “Oh, don’t worry about that too much,” Ms. Verdun said offhandedly. “In this show, when the guy gets shot with a shotgun… About every two weeks the blank charge is slightly wrong and he goes to the hospital. Its not serious, and nobody worries about it.”

    Those moments are etched in every sense I have, and I cherished that rose, pressed in the program, until the Lodge burned in 2015.

    When I saw that Verdun was playing Magnum’s mother on TV I could not comprehend it. But I am sure glad we still have Chita Rivera performing and making Life a better place to be.

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