Pixel Scroll 1/23/18 Always Scrolling Home

By JJ:

(1) THIS IS WHAT YOU NEED, I’LL GIVE YOU WHAT YOU NEED. (click on the date/time stamp to see the whole thread)


(2) SOUTHEAST ASIAN ANTHOLOGY. Rambutan Literary is launching its first anthology of works curated from its first two years of publishing Southeast Asian literature with a Kickstarter for Shared Horizons: A Rambutan Literary Anthology.

It’s been two great years since Rambutan Literary started publishing work from the global Southeast Asian literary community. We’ve grown from a tiny journal with a handful of readers to a robust, (proudly) small publication with a readership of thousands worldwide. We continue to publish literature from both established and emerging Southeast Asian writers, and we’re even currently sponsoring the Sing Lit Station 2018 Hawker Prize for Southeast Asian Poetry.

As we enter our third year, we want to celebrate the work that we’ve accomplished together, the amazing literature we’ve had the honor to publish, and the awesome writers we’ve gotten to work with by organizing an anthology of some of our favorite pieces from the last two years!

The Kickstarter thus far has achieved $1,224 in pledges toward a $3,370 goal, with 10 days remaining in the campaign.

(3) YOU GOT YOUR POLITICS IN MY SCIENCE-FICTION. At Tor.com, Judith Tarr provides a re-read review of Andre Norton’s Daybreak – 2250 A.D.:

Here, seven years after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Norton gives us the complete destruction of Western civilization and the near-destruction of the human race. She knows about radiation poisoning, she speculates about the range and quality of mutations from it, and she makes it clear that she sees no other end to the atomic age than a cataclysmic blowup.

She also, even before Brown v. Board of Education and right in the middle of the McCarthy era, made clear that the future will not be pure white, though it may be relentlessly patriarchal. Her hero may have fair skin but he’s something other than Aryan-Caucasian, and his closest friend is African-American, descended from the Tuskegee Airmen. The implicitly white Plains people actually have a female leader, and the only women who speak in the whole novel speak at the end against the men’s insistence on perpetual war…

Her theme here, just as much as in her works of the Eighties and later, is that all humans need to work together, that cultural differences are not measures of superiority or its opposite, and that the real future of humanity is among the stars.

Apolitical? Not even slightly.

(4) SPEAKING OF APOLITICAL SF. A tweet from the prematurely-declared SFFCGuild claiming that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was apolitical evolved into a long, raucous Twitter thread on political messages in SFF. At one point, Jim Hines threatens to use a magic tattoo to make Scott Lynch bald. (click on the date/time stamp to see the whole thread)

(5) VIRAL FICTION. Story Seed Vault announces this year’s Flash Fiction contest.

The Story Seed Vault is an online micro-fiction publication that aims to entertain and educate our readers about scientific research through fiction. We are an international publication based in Sydney, Australia. As Story Seed Vault is new to the industry, we are pushing to increase our reach and to partner with science communicators all over the world.

One of the ways that we do this is by holding thematic Flash Fiction contests.


  1. It must be based on topics/research relevant to VIROLOGY. The more recent the research, the better. We will judge a great story with science from a few years ago over an alright story with a study published yesterday.
  2. If the story is about VIROLOGY but the research provided is generic educational info, it will not be awarded a placing.
  3. The story has to be able to stand on its own – the science can provide context/make it more interesting, but it should not rely heavily on the science to be entertaining.

1st, 2nd, and 3rd place entrants will receive $10 each.

The submission period is Flash as well: Submissions open at 10pm AEST January 25, 2018, and close at 10pm AEST January 27, 2018. (That’s 7am EDT on those days, for you Yanks.)

Please, PLEASE nobody tell Timothy about this.

(6) KINGFISHER ENVY. Filer Cheryl S. sends a photo of her gorgeous Kickstarter Special Edition of Summer in Orcus by T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon). Those who missed out can still get an e-book edition, or read this magical tale for free online at the author’s website.

(7) DO YOU FEEL LUCKY, SOLARPUNK? DO YOU? Tom Cassauwers, on OZY, says Sci-Fi Doesn’t Have to Be Depressing: Welcome to Solarpunk:

Imagine a scene, set in the future, where a child in Burning Man-style punk clothing is standing in front of a yurt powered by solar panels. There weren’t many books with scenes like that in 2014, when Sarena Ulibarri, an editor, first grew interested in a genre of science fiction that imagines a renewable and sustainable future. Four years later, it’s different.

Welcome to solarpunk, a new genre within science fiction that is a reaction against the perceived pessimism of present-day sci-fi and hopes to bring optimistic stories about the future with the aim of encouraging people to change the present.

(8) VISUAL CONFUSION. SFF authors have provided their photo albums from last week’s ConFusion convention in Ann Arbor, Michigan. See Jim C. Hines’ photos and John Scalzi’s photos.

(9) THE FORCE AWAKENED. Bill Capossere, at Fantasy Literature, has posted an insightful review of the non-fiction work Superwomen: Gender, Power, and Representation by Carolyn Cocca:

Stylistically, Cocca is consistently engaging, her prose clear and fluid. The content is well researched, organized, focused, and incredibly detailed, and the entire work is wholly and thoroughly accessible throughout, making for reading that is enjoyable, stimulating, and thought-provoking.

Some of this is well traveled territory, and so those conversant with the topic won’t be surprised for instance to hear about how Wonder Woman’s creator had an overtly feminist motivation, or that female heroes such as Jean Grey or Sue Storm often fainted while exercising their powers. Nor will they be shocked at the difference in posing and costuming between male and female superheroes. Superwomen‘s value here for such readers then isn’t in the presentation of new information, but in how good a job Cocca does placing these things in context of time period and culture, as well as highlighting how a more diverse authorship and artistry (as opposed to just more diverse characters) can make a huge difference.

(10) INACCESSIBILITY. Despite exchanging numerous messages in advance with Ace Comic Con Phoenix, congoer Jen Sauve found the accessibility arrangements less than accommodating:

We had been told upon arrival register and then find an ace rep and they would make sure we were taken care of as per their disability policy. I must’ve asked about 15 different reps including their one at guest relations and the ace info booth and no one seemed to know of any policy or be on the same page. Irritated, I went down to the celeb photo ops redemption (missing the cap panel I wanted to see because hey, making sure I am accommodated and don’t have any sort of medical emergency is important). Celeb photo ops (they seemed rather pissed about this as well mind you) informed me that ace was telling them no one could be in their ada line unless they were in a wheelchair. I know the celeb photo ops staff rather well by this point attending so many cons and could tell they felt awful saying this to me.

(11) SHARKES IN THE WATER. Maureen Kincaid Speller has posted an intro for the 2018 Shadow Clarke project. As someone who was on the outside looking in last year, I find some of her conclusions regarding the reactions to last year’s results… questionable.

To begin with, we discovered that the phenomenon of award shadow juries is apparently not that well known outside Europe. There was an unexpected degree of resistance to the concept from some parts of the global sf community, people who saw our enterprise as part of an ongoing attempt to police their reading, which was certainly not our intention. More than that, we came to realise that a surprising number of people within the sf community had become deeply averse to the whole idea of critical writing…

Our basic approach will be almost the same as last year… But this time we’ll be placing an even greater emphasis on showing our critical working. So, alongside our individual reviews, we hope to include dialogues, round tables, and possibly some podcasts as well if we can sort out the logistics. We’re also going to be talking individually about our critical practice. It’s common to see fiction writers talking about what moves them to write, where their ideas come from, and so on, but nowadays it’s vanishingly rare to see critics and reviewers doing the same. It’s time we changed that. The Shadow Clarke jurors come from a variety of critical backgrounds, and it’s going to be very interesting to compare notes on what we do and how we do it.


(13) FAMILIAL FANTASY V. Fantasy photographer Alexandra Lee has embarked on a very special person project – portraits of her loved ones in fantasy costuming and settings. (click on the date/time stamp to see the tweet, then click on one of the tweet photos to open the gallery)

(14) THIS MUST BE JUST LIKE LIVING IN PARADISE. Viable Paradise 22, a writers’ workshop which will run from Sunday, October 21 to Friday, October 26, 2018, has a discount on applications during the January earlybird period.

Viable Paradise is a unique one-week residential workshop in writing and selling commercial science fiction and fantasy. The workshop is intimate, intense, and features extensive time spent with best-selling and award-winning authors and professional editors currently working in the field. VP concentrates on the art of writing fiction people want to read, and this concentration is reflected in post-workshop professional sales by our alumni…

Viable Paradise encourages an informal and supportive workshop atmosphere. During the week, instructors and students interact in one-on-one discussions, group critiques, lectures, and free-flowing Q&As. The emphasis at first is on critiquing the students’ submitted manuscripts; later, the emphasis shifts to new material produced during the week.

The application fee changes based on when in the application period your application is submitted:

  • For applications submitted from January 1 to January 31: $12.50 (USD).
  • For applications submitted from February 1 to March 31: $25 (USD).
  • For applications submitted from April 1 to May 15: $35 (USD).
  • For applications submitted from May 16 to June 1: $50 (USD).

The application fee is non-refundable and is separate from the tuition cost for applicants accepted to the workshop. For those applicants we accept as students, the non-refundable tuition cost is $1500 (USD) and is due on August 1st.


(16) ASIMOV DIDN’T SEE THIS ONE COMING. Scottish supermarket chain Margiotta, which trialled a ShopBot who they affectionately named “Fabio” in an experiment run by Heriot-Watt University for the BBC’s Six Robots & US, discovered that the First Law of Robotics should have been: Do Not Alarm the Customers.

Fabio was programmed with directions to hundreds of items in the company’s flagship Edinburgh store and initially charmed customers with his ‘hello gorgeous’ greeting, playful high fives, jokes and offers of hugs.

But within just a few days, the robot was demoted after giving unhelpful advice such as ‘it’s in the alcohol section’ when asked where to find beer. He also struggled to understand shoppers’ requests because of the ambient background noise.

Banished to an aisle where he was only allowed to offer samples of pulled pork, Fabio started to alarm customers who went out of their way to avoid him…

…when Franco Margiotta, who built the business from scratch, told the little robot they would not be renewing his contract, Fabio asked: “Are you angry?” and some staff were reduced to tears when he was packed away and shipped back to Heriot-Watt.

(17) DON’T HOLD YOUR BREATH WAITING FOR MOONBASE ALPHA. Author Mark R. Whittington, in a commentary in the Salt Lake Tribune which speculates that Mitt Romney will run to take the seat vacated by the retiring Senator Orrin Hatch, recommends that Romney reconsider the idea of planting a human colony on the moon.

One of Romney’s opponents, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, proposed the building of a lunar base by the year 2020, then eight years away. Mr. Romney [in 2012] took the occasion of a presidential debate in Tampa to savagely mock the idea of going back to the moon. “If I had a business executive come to me and say I want to spend a few hundred billion dollars to put a colony on the moon, I’d say, ‘You’re fired.’…

Having listened to the experts on the matter, Trump has duly signed a directive for NASA to set America’s course back to the moon. What Romney once found beyond the pale is now federal government policy.

So, the question arises, considering Romney’s prior position and his well-known antipathy to the president, what is his position now concerning a return to the moon? Would he still fire someone who suggested it to him?

In response, Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering at the University of Utah Noel de Nevers says “Sorry, Mark, but moon colonies are just science fiction right now”:

In support of this idea [Whittington] says, “Water and ice at the lunar poles can be mined and refined to rocket fuel,” and also, “Access to the moon and its abundant resources will be of benefit to the United States.”

Both of these ideas form the basis of entertaining science fiction, e.g. “The Martian.” But the moon (and Mars), as far as we know, do not supply visitors with air, drinking water, food or fuel. Visitors to the moon (or Mars) must bring all of those with them…

So far lunar exploration has not shown that there are “abundant natural resources”, on the moon, and to date there are none whose value on earth (e.g. gold or platinum) would justify the cost of bringing them to earth, even if those resources cost nothing to find and extract from the moon’s surface (or interior, as most earthly gold and platinum is). There is no evidence that the fossil fuels or mineral deposits that life on earth depends on were ever formed by lunar geology and biology, as geology and biology has formed them on earth.


(19) AMNESIA SF. Michael Jan Friedman, who is perhaps best known for his Star Trek tie-in novels and a writing credit on the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Resistance”, has created a Kickstarter campaign for Empty Space, a science fiction adventure in the form of a 128-page full-color graphic novel, with 115 pages of story and illustrations by pencil-and-inks artist Caio Cacau:

Your name is Robinson Dark. You don’t know where you are or how you got there or what happened to the crew you led into space. All you know is you can’t feel a thing – not even fear.

Then it gets weird.

I’ve described Empty Space as a cross between Star Trek and Lost, but it’s really more than that. It’s a twisty, turny, sometimes unsettling narrative set against the limitless backdrop of the stars, with the sort of bizarre alien species and against-all-odds derring-do that’s always characterized the best space adventure – along with a heaping dollop of the macabre.

This is the kind of tale I’ve wanted to tell for a long time. In fact, it’s a dream project for a guy who fell in love with comics and science fiction at the age of six and never stopped loving them.

It’s also a chance for me to give back to you – the readers who’ve been following me for decades – the best, most intriguing, and most entertaining work I can possibly come up with. If at any time in your immersion in Empty Space you think you know where the story is going… I humbly invite you to think again.

The Kickstarter thus far has achieved $3,435 in pledges toward a $10,000 goal, with 23 days remaining in the campaign.

(20) CUBIK MUSIK. It doesn’t get any geekier than this: YouTuber The Cubician plays the Star Wars cantina song as part of solving Rubik’s Cube.


 In Memory of Ursula K. Le Guin, who challenged all of us to become our better selves.

[Thanks to Cheryl S., Cora Buhlert, Hampus Eckerman, lauowolf, Laura Resnick, Lenore Jones, Mark-kitteh, Paul Weimer, Soon Lee, and Standback for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 Contributing Editor of the Day JJ.]

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63 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 1/23/18 Always Scrolling Home

  1. @Standback

    Now that your comment has posted, I can say I agree with it 🙂

    I think the goal of improving critical writing is a good one – I’ll certainly be looking forward to that element – but there’s a difference in approach between “you’re all doing it wrong” and “here’s how to do it better” that I hope they spot.

    Incidentally it occurs to me that Too Like The Lightning is eligible for the Clarke due to a later UK release date…

  2. @Standback
    I can’t speak for others, but for me the problem with some of the Sharkes was not that they wrote negative reviews or that they criticized a book I enjoyed. For example, I rarely agree with Abigail Nussbaum on anything, but I still find her reviews insightful.

    However, three of the Sharkes went beyond negative criticism (and it wasn’t just Becky Chambers either, though that was the worst example) straight into the failure mode of clever. Two of those reviewers I had already pegged as jerks, with one I tangled online more than ten years ago. Of the third, I had no negative image, but I sure as hell have one now.

  3. While I think I was less bothered by the Sharkes than many, the one thing that did bug me was the suggestion that certain subjects are inherently inferior. This from people judging works from genres that were once considered inherently inferior (and often still are). Saying, basically, “this book is too happy to be real art” strikes me as every bit as shallow and misguided as saying “this book has too many spaceships/dragons to be real art.”

    The idea that “darker and edgier” is inherently better is what ruined comics in the ’90s. I don’t want to see it ruin SF. And I got the feeling sometimes that the Sharkes were leaning towards this idea–that if they had their way, we’d all be worshiping Rob Liefeld instead of mocking him. 🙂

  4. @Cora: I’m seriously sorry to hear that. I dipped into the Sharkes here and there last year, but missed most of it.
    I support negative criticism; not caustic criticism.
    I’m interested in following the Sharkes more closely this year; I hope things will be better, and I’ll try to be attentive.

    @Xtifr: I definitely hear what you’re saying.
    It’s an issue I can see both sides of. Personally I do look, not for grimness, but for gravity. (Books with gravity and joy are relatively rare, but they’re what makes me soar.) I can see how they can be erroneously conflated.
    But TBH, I want to see the Sharkes gel enough for me to have a good sense of them. If they wind up being fun-hating, then you know what? There are plenty of times when what I really want is something bitter and curmudgeonly. 🙂
    Really, I think that’s an excellent point of criticism; it seems to me in dialogue with the Sharkes, rather than undermining them. 🙂

  5. @Mark:

    Incidentally it occurs to me that Too Like The Lightning is eligible for the Clarke due to a later UK release date…

    Why yes I did notice that, funny you should mention… ::TOOTHY GRIN::

  6. I for one am trying to remember which not-Chambers book reviews also hit the failure mode of clever… It certainly looms large in my memory. 🙂

    (Although to be more specific, the comments about the book itself didn’t necessarily bother me, it was when they leapt straight over that and into ‘people who think this book is a worthy nominee have a superficial understanding of literature and social justice’ which was, in my opinion, unjustifiable. Even after someone defended eugenics to my face.)

    I agree that they would be better off focusing on what they’re doing than what other people thought of last year’s work. Talk about priming people to get riled up before you even start. 🙂

  7. @Standback

    I’m seriously sorry to hear that. I dipped into the Sharkes here and there last year, but missed most of it.
    I support negative criticism; not caustic criticism.
    I’m interested in following the Sharkes more closely this year; I hope things will be better, and I’ll try to be attentive.

    I have engaged in some caustic criticism myself, but I usually confine caustic criticism to TV shows and movies, which are team efforts and where the chance of the creator seeing it is much lower.

    Besides, as Meredith, Kendall and JJ said, some of the criticisms particularly of Becky Chambers’ book went beyond negative criticism and insulted the author as well as people who actually liked the book. With at least one critic, this is their common mode of criticism, insisting that X is bad and if you disagree, you’re stupid and a bad person. Another critic even claimed that “A Closed and Common Orbit” was not science fiction, which is flat out ridiculous. It’s okay not to like a book, e.g. I hated Seveneves, but that doesn’t make it any less science fiction.

    I for one am trying to remember which not-Chambers book reviews also hit the failure mode of clever… It certainly looms large in my memory.

    The Chambers was the worst, but one critic also attacked Ninefox Gambit. I also have a faint memory of someone saying mean things about the Tricia Sullivan book, but since I hadn’t read it, I paid less attention to the reviews for that book.

  8. Well, it seems like last year’s Sharkes are still pretty fresh in everyone’s minds. It might end up being helpful to refer to Sharkes ’17 and ’18 (or 1.0 and 2.0?) for clarity?

  9. @JJ:

    What did you think that Cora, Kendall, Meredith, and I were talking about when we made those comments in this thread?

    I’m familiar with the discussion over Closed and Common Orbit, which I remember as the major point of contention (along with more general unfondness for the idea, and implied criticism, of a shadow jury).

    But Cora was talking about a larger, ongoing problem, manifesting re: many books and not just one flashpoint; that’s what I asked about and that’s what Cora and Meredith answered 🙂

  10. I went back and had a look at the Ninefox reviews – nothing quite so bad as the Chambers stuff, but quite a lot of ‘this is space opera therefore: not good’ and a couple of things which made me wonder if they’d skimmed a little because they were just flat-out wrong. I didn’t feel like I’d learned much about the book from most of the reviews, just that the reviewers don’t like their genre to be genre-y. Which is, you know, an opinion they’re entitled to, but also is not very useful to me as a piece of criticism because it isn’t my personal ticky box for whether I want to read or not-read something.

    In the end, by and large, I think I’ll stick to my earlier comment that some of it was interesting (yay!), some of it was obnoxious (boo!) – and I’ll add that quite a lot of it just wasn’t the sort of criticism that I find helpful or interesting. My overall response to criticism that essentially just states the subgenre is a blank stare and a “yes, and? talk about the book!” Reader, some of the Sharke’s thought the subgenre stood in for talking about the book. I would personally call that sort of criticism shallow, and I can see why a fair number of people also considered it to be pretentious.

    I look forward to seeing what happens this year with the new jury. Perhaps it will have a higher proportion of what I personally find worth reading.

    (Although, I also have a sort-of rec? Katherine Addison/Sarah Monette’s Goodreads profile has lots of reviews of a sort I find very useful for determining whether I want to read something, as well as being very readable in their own right, although I wouldn’t necessarily describe all of them as literary criticism. I have added many books, particular non-fiction, to my watchlist as a result. Also, if you too enjoy them/her fiction work, she has a Patreon.)

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