Pixel Scroll 10/26/19 A Møøse Once Bit My Pixel

(1) MORE MCU DEFENDERS, ER, AVENGERS SPEAK OUT. On The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, “The Avengers Respond To Marvel Movie Critics.”

You’re right, Hulk. The “Godfather” films do glorify violence.

(2) HELP IS ON THE WAY. S.L. Huang’s Ask an Author post “Cancelling Contracts and Norms in Publishing” does a full-spectrum post about contract cancellation – its infrequency, significance, how it can be handled badly, how a publisher ought to handle it, and what an author can do.

What makes cancellations worse:

There are two interrelated problems when a publisher has to suddenly cancel multiple contracts. The first is biting off more than they could chew as a press, which obviously isn’t ideal and can be a worrying comment on the state of their business, but it can happen without ill intent. But the second is how the publisher handles it.

Here are some things that can escalate a cancellation from unfortunate to disturbingly unprofessional: …

What a publisher should do in a situation like this:

Clarity. Communication. Transparency. Exploring any possible avenues before taking a route so extreme. If there are no other options, then: Apology, honest dialogue, taking responsibility, an immediate reversion of rights, an admission of the disservice they’ve done to the authors.

Ideally, a kill fee would be offered.

S&%t happens in publishing. How we treat people when it does is important. And yes, this is a business — but businesses have ethics, and norms, and professionalism. Contracts should be treated as if they mean something.

(3) TRICK OR TRICK. Former Horror Writers Association President Lisa Morton clues in the Washington Post about “The frightening history of Halloween haunted houses”.

It is unclear why exactly the pranks got so bad. Irish immigrants had carried over the Halloween tradition of pranking to the United States, but they had been pretty innocent. One of the most popular was to disassemble a neighbor’s front gate and reassemble it on top of a building. That one was so common that some people called Halloween “Gate Night.”But by the 1920s and ?30s, teenage boys had co-opted the pranking tradition, and they were on a Halloween warpath. They broke streetlights. They started fires. They tied wires across sidewalks to trip people….

“They were costing cities millions of dollars even in the early ’30s,” said Lisa Morton, author of “Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween,” in an interview with The Post. “There were a lot of cities that were really considering banning the holiday at that point. It was really, really intense.”

Parents and civil groups needed a solution. A distraction. Or a bribe.

And from this cauldron of parental panic, they pulled out an idea that, to this day, is part of what defines American Halloween.

They thought to throw the kids a party, but “because this was the Great Depression, a lot of people didn’t have the money … so one of the first things they did was called ‘house-to-house parties.’”

And the Guardian’s PD Smith devotes an article to Morton’s book in “Trick or Treat by Lisa Morton review – a history of Halloween”.  

(4) ALL OF HISTORY AND MORE Rudy Rucker’s book review “Two Dimensional Time and Annalee Newitz’s 2nd Novel” incorporates a detailed study of the genre’s different approaches to time travel – a virtual candy store of ideas.

The Newitz Option: Two Dimensional Time

Newitz takes an approach to the time paradoxes that’s kind of strange. She allows time travel and timeline editing. But she insists that there’s only one timeline. No parallel timelines, no branching timelines. Just our one timeline: “Our only timeline, whose natural stability emerged from perpetual revision.”

So, somehow, when you travel back in time, you alter the timeline..for everyone. But you yourself remember how it was before the change. This might be viewed as hopping to a different timestream, but Newitz doesn’t want that. She wants to have just one timestream. But the timestream is changing.

(5) FUTURE TENSE. Slate’s latest Future Tense story is Cory Doctorow’s “Affordances”, about how technical restrictions start with powerless people before coming for us all.

…Ninety-Two’s work in Building 34 was as an exceptions—catcher for a Re-Cog facial recognition product. All around the world, millions of people stepped in front of cameras and made a neutral face and waited: for their office door to unlock, for the lift to be summoned, for the gates at the airport to swing open. When the camera couldn’t figure out their face, it asked them to try again, and again, and again. Then it threw an exception, and 92, or someone else in Building 34, got a live view of the feed and tapped an icon: NO-FACE (for anything that wasn’t a face, like a picture of a face, or a balloon, or, one time, a pigeon); BAD SCENE (poor lighting, dirt on the lens); CRIME (once, a decapitated man’s head; once, an unconscious woman; once, a woman in terror, a hand in her hair); and OTHER (for suspected malfunctions).

Nettrice Gaskins, an artist-educator who collaborates with A.I., wrote the response essay “Not Just a Number”.

In “Affordances,” we see various forms of intelligence agents erase people’s names and identities, particularly those who are held back by and are fighting societal barriers. These people are reduced to numbers, to maps of their faces, to their risk scores. Facial recognition software identifies protesters and otherwise serves as a technological gatekeeper. Online filters flag or block video footage of migrants, and racially biased algorithms determine whether alleged perpetrators are taken into custody or released. In our world, the power of Facebook, Google, and other technology companies is so immense that it can feel futile to push back against them, especially for marginalized groups. But that sense of helplessness can also enable a dangerous complacency. It is exactly because these companies are so powerful that we need people to interrogate their work and challenge it….

(6) A BIG SQUEEZE FOR MAKING LEMONADE. James Davis Nicoll shows Tor.com readers “Five Ways To Benefit If Planet 9 Turns Out To Be a Black Hole”.

Finding a five-Earth-mass, ten-centimetre-diameter, 0.004 Kelvin object somewhere in the outer boroughs of the Solar System should be easy—I’m sure that some grad student or professor angling for tenure is hard at work right now! But what would be the use to the rest of us of a five-Earth-mass, ten-centimetre-diameter, 0.004 Kelvin primordial black hole (PBH) orbiting somewhere in the outer boroughs of the Solar System?

OK, sure: if it’s there, it offers us the chance to do some wonderful science; we’d be able to run experiments in regions of intense gravity. But people in general don’t seem to care all that much about pure science. So, what applied applications are there?


Ray Bradbury did not like the ending of It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown! because the Great Pumpkin did not appear.  Chuck Jones was a friend of Ray’s and he did not like the ending either.  Together they wrote a script about Halloween.  They could not sell it to any studio.  So, Ray turned the script into his book, The Halloween Tree.  The book was successful enough, it has never gone out of print, and it was finally sold as a half-hour animation special, which won an Emmy in 1994.  The lead character was voiced by Leonard Nimoy. [Source: John King Tarpinian.]


  • October 26, 1984 — Gale Anne Hurd and James Cameron’s The Terminator premiered. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton, it was received well by reviewers and audience alike with the notable exception of Ellison who noted successfully that the screenplay was based on a short story and the “Soldier” episode of The Outer Limits he had written. 
  • October 26, 1984  — V finally premiered as a regular weekly series  with “Liberation Day”. There were two previous miniseries.


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 26, 1942 Bob Hoskins. I’ll insist his role as Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is his finest genre role though I suppose Mario Mario in Super Mario Bros. could be said… Just kidding! He’s the Director of The Raggedy Rawney which he also had a role, a strange might be genre film, and he’s Smee in Hook as well. (Died 2014.)
  • Born October 26, 1945 Jane Chance, 74.Scholar specializing in medieval English literature, gender studies, and J. R. R. Tolkien with a very, very impressive publication list for the latter such as Tolkien’s Art: A “Mythology for EnglandTolkien the MedievalistThe Lord of the Rings: The Mythology of Power and Tolkien, Self and Other: “This Queer Creature”
  • Born October 26, 1954 Jennifer Roberson, 65. Writer of of fantasy and historical romances. The Chronicles of the Cheysuli is her fantasy series about shapeshifters and their society, and the Sword-Dancer Saga is the desert based adventure series of sort, but the series I’ve enjoyed her Sherwood duo-logy that consists of Lady of the Forest and Lady of Sherwood which tells that tale from the perspective of Marian. Her hobby, which consumes much of her time, is breeding and showing Cardigan Welsh Corgis.
  • Born October 26, 1960 Patrick Breen, 59. He’s Redgick, a Squid, a minor character that appeared in Men in Black. In beloved Galaxy Quest, he’s Quellek, a Thermian who forms a bond with Alexander Dane. it’s a wonderful role. 
  • Born October 26, 1962 Cary Elwes, 57. He’s in The Princess Bride as as Westley/Dread Pirate Roberts/The Man in Black. He also shows up in Dr. Lawrence Gordon in the Saw film franchise, and was cast as Larry Kline, Mayor of Hawkins, for the third season of Stranger Things.
  • Born October 26, 1963 Keith Topping, 56. Some of the best Who stories aren’t televised but written. The Hollow Men, his Seventh Doctor novel, is damn good and riffs off a Fifth Doctor story. He’s also written guides to that show plus The Avengers, Trek, Buffy and the X-Files.
  • Born October 26, 1971 Jim Butcher, 48. I really don’t know how far I got in the the Dresden Files, at least though Proven Guilty, and I will go back to it eventually. Who here has read his Cinder Spires series which sounds intriguing? 
  • Born October 26, 1971 Anthony Rapp, 48. Lieutenant Commander Paul Stamets on Discovery. His first role ever was Wes Hansen in Sky High, showed up early in his career as Jeff Glaser in the “Detour” episode of X-Files. He was Seymour Krelbourn in a national tour of Little Shop of Horrors.
  • Born October 26, 1973 Seth MacFarlane, 46. Ok, I confess that I tried watching the Orville which he created and is in and it just didn’t appeal to me. For those of you who are fans, why do you like it? Having it described as trying to be a better Trek I admit ain’t helping.

(10) GO AWAY OR I SHALL TAUNT YOU SOME MORE. Myke Cole and Sam Sykes got into it again.  Thread starts here (I hope).

And on the sidelines…

(11) THE FULL LID. Alasdair Stuart previews The Full Lid 25th October 2019.

Here’s the opening paragraph from the entry about Clipping.

Clipping are one of the most interesting musical acts on the planet right now. Jonathan Snipes, William Hutson and Daveed Diggs don’t so much embody modern hiphop as surround it. Diggs, best known of course as everybody’s favorite fighting Frenchman, is the crispest MC on Earth, No syllable escapes his sight, no word or metaphor gets free from the specific gravity of his boundless, graceful flow. This is a man who dances with the words, building structures and meaning, narrative and plot out of them and demolishing it just as easily. Snipes and Hutson in the meantime, excel at building audio landscapes for Diggs to bound across and occasionally be pursued through.Vast walls of noise, found audio, field recordings, structural jokes and aural wit. It’s all here and all at the control of these three flat out musical geniuses. And, in There Existed An Addiction to Blood, they’ve produced another genre adjacent work which is both completely in line with their previous work and sees them evolve once again.

(12) GREAT LEAP FORWARD. According to Forbes, “The UK’s First Moon Rover Will Be A Tiny Jumping Spider In 2021”.

Spacebit, a U.K.-based startup, has announced details of its planned lunar mission in 2021 – revealing a spider-shaped rover that will scuttle across the lunar surface.

As we first revealed last month, Spacebit has a contract with U.S. firm Astrobotic to hitch a ride on their Peregrine lunar lander. Originally part of the canceled Google Lunar XPRIZE, this private endeavor will now attempt to reach the Moon after launching on a Vulcan rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida in late 2021.

(13) WORTHY OF A MUSEUM. Behind a paywall In the October 21 Financial Times, Tom Faber profiles Jenova Chen, whose moody and artistic games have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Chen studied computer programming before moving to California to enrol at the University of Southern California.  It was there that he made Cloud, a game inspired by periods he spent hospitalised as an asthmatic child. Players are cast as a boy who daydreams about flying out of his hospital window and manoeuvering clouds to combat pollution.  For Chen it was wish-fulfillment.  In Shanghai there’s a lot of pollution, but during my childhood everyone said it was mist,’ he says.  ‘I think making the game I was subconsciously trying to clean the city and the air.’

It was an unusual game, with no scores, violence or competition. Still, it went viral, crashing the university servers with more than 600,000 downloads.  Chen received messages from fans all over the world.  ‘They told me they cried while playing, I think because of the deep desire to feel free.  People need to know gaming is not just about guns, soccer, and competition,’ he says.  ‘It can be something healing and positive.’

(14) VARIATIONS ON A THEME. The South China Morning Post tells readers “What cosplay is like in China, where home-grown heroes thrive, ‘play’ is emphasised and it’s not all about copying”

…Having characters that look Chinese matters, especially when the cosplay industry is obsessed with exactly replicating fictional characters, but the irony of cosplay in China is that it is less about copying and more about interpretation. According to Wang Kanzhi’s research for a master’s programme in East Asian Studies at Lund University in Sweden, cosplay in China is more open to interpretation because the “Great Firewall” has isolated the community from not only other cosers but also original source materials.

“Due to the different understanding of the original pieces, local cosplayers tend to add their own ideas and points of view into the activity, which obviously changes the original characters,” Wang says. “In other words, the local cosplayers do not only duplicate fictional characters, but add their own creative points to the original form and content.”

(15) LIGHTEN UP. NPR’s Mark Jenkins reports that “‘The Current War: Director’s Cut’ Shines At Low But Steady Wattage”.

Electricity’s domestication is a triumph of American ingenuity. But The Current War, despite depicting the likes of Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse, doesn’t feel very American at all. That’s probably one of the reasons the movie was received with so little enthusiasm when it debuted at the 2017 Toronto Film Festival. (Another problem is that the film was then a product of the Weinstein Co., which collapsed soon after.)

As its subtitle announces, The Current War: Director’s Cut is the not the same movie that nearly succumbed to critical disdain more than two years ago. For those of us who didn’t see the original, ascertaining any improvement is impossible. But the latest version is not bad at all. It’s just sort of odd.

Of the three central characters, only Westinghouse is played by an American, Michael Shannon. As Edison, Benedict Cumberbatch employs an accent that is, well, not British. Nicholas Hoult’s Nikola Tesla speaks in an indeterminate Eastern European mode that can be heard, symbolically at least, as true to his Austro-Serbian-Croatian origins.

The movie doesn’t mention that Tesla had worked for an Edison-affiliated company in Paris before was he encouraged to move to the U.S. In this telling, he’s hired on a whim by the Wizard of Menlo Park, who’s eager to light American cities with his newly perfected bulbs, powered by direct current.

Edison’s nemesis is Westinghouse, who promotes alternating current — cheaper and more versatile but potentially deadly. The two men are competing for the same prize: a contract to illuminate Chicago’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, a full 13 years after the film’s event-packed story begins. Edison wants to win so badly that he’s prepared to electrocute large animals to demonstrate AC’s dangers.

(16) GAMER STRIKES BACK. Not exactly man bites dog: “Gamer buys Fallout 76 add-on domain to criticise Bethesda”.

What would you do if a company did something you didn’t like?

Some people would take to social media to voice their frustrations. Others might consider writing a letter to the business.

But when game developer Bethesda introduced a new subscription to their online game Fallout 76, David Chapman felt he had to do something with more impact.

He made a website.

And not just any website – he pinched the domain from right under the developer’s nose, so anyone looking for information about the subscription would instead be greeted with his critique.

“My motivation stems from a frustration with Bethesda,” he told the BBC. “And in general the current trend of the gaming industry.”

He added: “They said players had been asking for this – players never asked to pay a subscription for features hidden behind a pay wall.

“That was the straw that broke the camel’s back and made me make this website.”

Wait, what did Bethesda do?

Bethesda Softworks developed and published post-apocalyptic game Fallout 76.

It is an online-only game, meaning that gamers must be connected to the internet to play, and will see other people they don’t know while they’re playing.

There is no monthly cost to play online, but in a sense this is about to change.

Now players will be offered additional features which affect the gameplay, such as the ability to play without strangers or store as many items as they like, for the annual price of £99.99.

The new service, called Fallout 1st, has angered gamers who point out Bethesda promised not to charge for additional features in the past.

(17) THE ADLER SANCTION. “Migrating Russian eagles run up huge data roaming charges”.

Russian scientists tracking migrating eagles ran out of money after some of the birds flew to Iran and Pakistan and their SMS transmitters drew huge data roaming charges.

After learning of the team’s dilemma, Russian mobile phone operator Megafon offered to cancel the debt and put the project on a special, cheaper tariff.

The team had started crowdfunding on social media to pay off the bills.

The birds left from southern Russia and Kazakhstan.

The journey of one steppe eagle, called Min, was particularly expensive, as it flew to Iran from Kazakhstan.

Min accumulated SMS messages to send during the summer in Kazakhstan, but it was out of range of the mobile network. Unexpectedly the eagle flew straight to Iran, where it sent the huge backlog of messages.

The price per SMS in Kazakhstan was about 15 roubles (18p; 30 US cents), but each SMS from Iran cost 49 roubles. Min used up the entire tracking budget meant for all the eagles.

…The SMS messages deliver the birds’ coordinates as they migrate, and the team then use satellite photos to see if the birds have reached safe locations. Power lines are a particular threat for the steppe eagles, which are endangered in Russia and Central Asia.

(18) TASTES LIKE CHICKEN. All That’s Interesting invites you to “Be One Of The First In History To Witness A Supermassive Black Hole Destroy A Star”.

Have you ever wondered what a star looks like as it’s ripped apart by a supermassive black hole? Probably not. But thanks to the diligent eyes at NASA and Ohio State University, you don’t have to wonder, you can see it for yourself.

According to local Ohio radio station WOSU, a NASA satellite and a network of robotic telescopes known as the All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae — or ASAS-SN for short — located at the university captured the cosmic battle for the first time on film.

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

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48 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 10/26/19 A Møøse Once Bit My Pixel

  1. (3) Last year, I heard an old radio comedy (Life of Riley, I think) in which the father bemoans the (then-current) trick-or-treating which has replaced the Halloween traditions he remembered (like pranking and breaking into abandoned homes).

    (9) Quellek, not Quelled (spell-check “helped” I suspect)

    “If Pixelries were all I Scrolled, I’d rather File a truck”

  2. (9) A minor point, but Who Framed Roger Rabbit takes no question mark (although the source novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit? does).

  3. @9: Elwes is also noted for his sly performance as Robin Hood: Men in Tights. (IIRC we decided some time ago that Robin Hood was genre.) He had a very strange borderline-genre role as someone who looked completely unlike John Houseman in Cradle Will Rock, which ends by dribbling from the Great Depression into 1999’s Times Square. Elwes also ~wrote Inconceivable!, a memoir of the production of The Princess Bride.

    News we wish wasn’t:
    U.S. Travel Ban Disrupts The World’s Largest Brain Science Meeting
    Viewpoint: What the ancient Greeks can teach us about Greta Thunberg trolls

  4. Cary Elwes also had a small but recurring role in the genre-adjacent mystery show Psych as the charming master thief Pierre Despereaux. The protagonist develops a rather severe man-crush on him, despite the fact that they were supposedly on opposite sides. (I was definitely shipping the two.)

    (17) I saw the headline about eagles and roaming charges on social media the other day, and it took me several minutes to realize it wasn’t a post from The Onion! 😀

    Why do I like The Orville? Because instead of the silly spoof I was expecting, I got a respectful homage. Instead of the goofball slapstick I was expecting, I got a surprisingly intelligent light-hearted dramedy. Instead of the shallow stereotypes I was expecting, I got interesting, diverse, complex-but-flawed characters and arcs that involve personal growth. It’s certainly not perfect–not even great–but I think it does better than most actual Treks at a lot of stuff. It’s less ham-fisted in its messages, and less pompous and self-important, but still has surprising depth. It’s actually made me stop and think. More than once. Not a lot of shows can say that.

    I mean, I come across better books all the time, but for a TV show, it’s really not that bad.

  5. (17) A favorite internet comment I have seen on this issue:

    “Well that explains why Gandalf wasn’t able to call the Eagles earlier.”

  6. 18) — I find all these kinds of things fascinating, but I wish they’d mention how long it actually takes in real life — is the animation in real time? Or does it represent a period of days? Or a period of just a few seconds? And I also wouldn’t mind more of a focus on exactly what happens to the star as it’s shredded.

  7. gottacook says A minor point, but Who Framed Roger Rabbit takes no question mark (although the source novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit? does).

    Yeah my brain runs them hopelessly together. And there’s a second novel as well though I can’t remember if I’ve actually read it.

  8. 5) I really liked Cory’s story; the response essay wan’t as good. I think he’s my favorite “new Heinlein”. He’s got the deep optimism and kindheartedness of early Heinlein. The other “new Heinleins” also share the technophilia, but most of them lack a full measure one or the other or both of those.

  9. @Xtifr re @17: there’s a cliché about real-world happenings that authors can’t put in fiction because too many readers would say “That can’t possibly happen!”

    @Cat Eldridge: I’ve read the 2nd Roger Rabbit novel, Who P-P-Plugged Roger Rabbit?. I recall it as a hopeless mishmosh of the previous novel (in which the toons were performers in newspaper strips rather than movies) and the movie; an example of a particularly messily-handled new idea is that fbzr gbbaf ner vaqvfgvathvfunoyr sebz crbcyr naq crbcyr pna orpbzr gbbaf, juvpu gurl znl qb sbe na rnfvre(?!?) yvsr. Wikipedia says a 3rd novel came out in 2013; I’ll pass, even though Wolf seemed a nice-enough type when he and Longyear discussed their massively different experiences as source authors during movie production (Boskone panel ~30 years ago).

  10. RE: Seth McFarlane and “The Orville”
    It started slow, and couldn’t seem to decide if it was a drama or a comedy. But it eventually got it’s feet under it and settled into being a pretty decent sci-fi show. It truly IS Seth McFarlane’s ‘Star Trek’ fanfiction.

    But later in the first season, and most of the episodes in the second season were meaty and tackled some pretty deep issues that only a sci-fi show can do.

    I particularly enjoyed:
    The romantic arc between the robot Isaac and the doctor Clare Finn, and the subsequent test of Isaac’s loyalty when his planet tries to conquer Earth.

    Episodes examining the Moclan’s belief system, including transgenderism and homosexuality, leading to tensions between Bortus and his husband.

    The 4th episode in the first season “If the stars should appear …” which was a GREAT generation ship episode. Although McFarlane missed an opportunity for an epic in joke at the very end.

    Like I said, slow start, eventually settled down. More importantly, I care about the characters. Even Ed, who started out as a jerk, and then … wasn’t.

  11. Ahem, it may be churlish to boast but VD has recently declared me to be “one of the more inept File 770ers”. The natural corollary to that is most of you are some of the LEAST inept File 770ers. A rare accolade for you all 🙂

  12. Camestros Felapton notes Ahem, it may be churlish to boast but VD has recently declared me to be “one of the more inept File 770ers”. The natural corollary to that is most of you are some of the LEAST inept File 770ers. A rare accolade for you all ?

    Out of sheer feline curiosity, what did you do to get that level of vile from him?

  13. @Camestros: I think that receiving insults from VD is worth at least a little boasting. Though maybe not a lot, since his skin generally seems to be about as thick as a sheet of graphene–and nowhere near as strong. 🙂

    @Kyra: Thanks! That’s definitely an excellent quote, re. eagles. Wish you had a source, so I could credit it properly, but I know it’s often impossible to track such things down on these here intarwebs.

    @m.c. simon milligan: Thanks for the interesting links!

  14. Camestros Felapton: VD has recently declared me to be “one of the more inept File 770ers”.

    A naked ploy to get attention. Why else mention this blog at all in VD’s complaint about something you wrote on your own site?

  15. Popped in for the first time in ever and saw it was Jane Chance’s birthday. I loved her Chaucer class ever so many years ago; she’s a great teacher.

  16. 9[Jim Butcher]) I’ve read The Aeronaut’s Windlass and my recollection is that it went at least as far as “hm, I now have to drop this down to 5” for my best Novel nomination shortshortlist (typically, there’s no angst until I have 2-3 more to discard).

    My recollection of the contents further tells me that I should probably go back and re-read it in the not-too-distant future.

  17. Born October 26, 1971 — Jim Butcher, 48. [….]Who here has read his Cinder Spires series which sounds intriguing?

    Only book 1 is out so far. I enjoyed it for the most part, especially the swashing and buckling bits in the air (flying sailing ships!) — if you like Age of Sail books you’ll probably appreciate the overblown narrative tone. But I absolutely hated the pseudo-cat creatures, which I found offensive.

    In re: Elwes — can we call Twister at least genre-adjacent? He did a good smarmy villain there!

  18. @Chip Hitchcock

    @9: Elwes is also noted for his sly performance as Robin Hood: Men in Tights. (IIRC we decided some time ago that Robin Hood was genre.)

    Well, some of you did.

    (Or, as a former co-worker used to say, “Whaddaya mean, ‘we’? You got a mouse in your pocket?”)

  19. Regarding The Aeronaut’s Windlass, I read it when it was up for a Hugo. It was fun enough, but it showed definite “too big for editing” signs, because the book coud have been cut by a quarter at the very least. Plus, worldbuilding is not Jim Butcher’s greatest strength and in a secondary world setting, that became much more apparent. Also, he has no idea how airships or ships for that matter work. You cannot divebomb with an airship, because they are not very manoeuverable. Airships firing broadsides at each other is also not a good idea and would probably result in both airships going down in fiery doom. But then, I suspect that Butcher defines “airship” as “tall ship sailing in the air” rather than as a dirigible, zeppelin or blimp. Which you can absolutely do – e.g. the airships in David D. Levine’s Arabella books are a cross between hot air balloons and sailing ships. But Levine explains early on how his airships work. Butcher never does and so many of the airship scenes in The Aeronaut’s Windlass left me very confused, because that’s not how airships work.

    And Captain Grim and Gritty (forgot the name of the character) behaves like a complete and utter idiot at the end and risks his airship, his crew and an extremely important person and book he has onboard of his airship on a risky and largely senseless battle, because he feels his city state needs a morale boosting victory. Which probably warms the heart of military SFF fans, but was just idiotic IMO.

    Also, the cat beings don’t behave like cats.

  20. I thought The Astronaut’s Windlass was perfectly “meh”. Not a waste of my time, but not Hugo calibre. The worldbuilding was tepid, and the characters were fairly cardboard, if memory serves (which it may not, to be fair).

    I found it unmemorable enough that I never went looking for a sequel, which is a shame, because I enjoy Butcher’s “Harry Dresden” books.

  21. (4) I haven’t read Newitz’s book, but based on Rucker’s description of it I don’t understand why he thinks there’s anything unusual about this approach to time travel. Isn’t it incredibly common, in stories where it’s possible to change the past, for everyone except the time traveler to be aware only of the new history while the time traveler still has memories of the previous one? It seems unlikely that I’ve read more science fiction than Rudy Rucker, but…

  22. @ Cora Buhlert:

    The “air ships” in The Aeronaut’s Windlass are wooden vessels (at least mostly wooden), carried aloft by means of a “lift crystal” mounted centrally in the ship, and a bunch of ancillary smaller crystals used to tilt and twist the ship. I would totally expect them to be able to dive-bomb, but not necessarily to be able to get out of a steep dive without incurring structural damage.

    @ Cassy B.)

    The sequel has definitely not been published yet. I don’t know to what extent it has been written, or even plotted.

  23. My notes from Butcher’s spotlight at this year’s Westercon say that he was planning to start writing Cinder Spires 2 “next week” (so the second week of July) and hopefully finish by the end of the year. He’s hoping to make the books a bit shorter so they come out more often.

  24. @Cassy B.
    Regarding the characters in “The Aeronaut’s Windlass”, I called the protagonist Captain Grim and Gritty, because I cannot recall the character’s name without looking it up. Nor can I recall the names of any of the other characters.


    The “air ships” in The Aeronaut’s Windlass are wooden vessels (at least mostly wooden), carried aloft by means of a “lift crystal” mounted centrally in the ship, and a bunch of ancillary smaller crystals used to tilt and twist the ship. I would totally expect them to be able to dive-bomb, but not necessarily to be able to get out of a steep dive without incurring structural damage.

    Which is perfectly fine. It’s a fantasy world, so Butcher’s airships can look and function however he wants to.

    However, in the real world, the word “airship” is used to describe dirigibles, zeppelins, blimps and the like, not wooden sailing ships that sail through the air. So if you want to write about wooden sailing ships that sail through the air and call those ships airships, you’d better make it very clear that your airships are not what is normally meant by this term. David D. Levine makes it very clear what his airships are like and how they work in the Arabella books, which so incensed Norman Spinrad. But in “The Aeronaut’s Windlass”, it took me half the book or so to realise that those airships are not airships in the traditional sense of the word, but magical sailing ships flying through the air.

    And talking of words have meanings, “windlass” is an older term for “winch”. It is not used to designate a type of ship/airship, as Butcher uses it. At least in this case, he explains how he is using the term.

  25. @Cora —

    But in “The Aeronaut’s Windlass”, it took me half the book or so to realise that those airships are not airships in the traditional sense of the word, but magical sailing ships flying through the air.

    Errr…. Did the book cover not make this pretty obvious? Perhaps the German edition doesn’t have the same pic as the American edition?

  26. I have the British edition, which crops the Chris McGrath artwork closer than the US edition, so very little background is visible. Besides, book covers are not always accurate, e.g. Harry dresden doesn’t wear a hat in the novels.

  27. I found The Aeronaut’s Windlass to be an extremely “meh” read anyway, but there were a few things which were absolutely egregious.

    One was that Butcher clearly doesn’t know what a windlass is, because if someone wanted to insult a ship, they wouldn’t come up with the label “windlass” — it just makes no sense. “Trash barge”, maybe, or “garbage scow”, or “rowboat”, or “dinghy” — but not “windlass”.

    Another was that, based on the book’s description, the so-called “spires” aren’t spires — they have the height-to-width proportions of a stack of two tuna cans (i.e., short and fat).

    After being forced to read two “meh” Butcher novels two years in a row, he’s on my “Do Not Read” list. Life is too short, and I’m gonna die before I get even close to reading all of the books that I know I want to read.

  28. @Cora and Contrarius: To me what made it obvious were the graphic endpapers, which in the U.S. hardcover edition depict the airship. I don’t know if that image was reproduced in other editions.

  29. My UK edition didn’t have graphic endpapers.

    Yes, Butcher doesn’t know what a windlass is, what an airship is, what a spire is and that cats are not tribal animals. So I guess I’ll skip the Cinder Spires books and stick to the Dresden Files books in the future.

  30. You mean a windlass isn’t a talkative young woman? Or one who eats too many beans? Well, gosh… 🙂

    I do have to say that unless it’s a graphic novel, you shouldn’t have to depend on the cover art to make sense of a story. And probably not even then.

  31. Oh, man, I forgot until you guys reminded me how IRRITATED I was that Butcher referred to a ship as a “windlass”

    It was like a different author (who shall remain nameless) who in an otherwise fine fantasy novel mentioned that the beam of a ship was 12 inches.

    12 inches. The beam of a ship is its width from side to side at the widest point. 12″ is substantially narrower than your average canoe.

    I suspect that the author meant either “draft” (possible, but unlikely, unless it was built like a barge) or (much more likely) “freeboard”. However, it was never actually made clear what dimension was being referenced, so I amused myself with mental images of the crew clambering over each other to get forward and aft….

  32. A beam of 12 inches is fine for a model ship. For a real one not so much, unless we’re talking about an Incredible Shrinking Man (or shrinking ship) scenario.

  33. @Cassy B: I would guess the author actually meant the keel. In other words, a “beam” in the carpenter/builders’ sense, not the nautical.

    I googled “keel beam” out of curiosity, and found a number of aeronautical sites which claim that ships and planes both have keel beams, but no nautical-nautical sites. So the term does have some currency. Just not with the right people. 🙂

  34. @xtifr, that would make sense, except if memory serves it was an observation by someone embarking on the voyage. Passengers won’t generally see the keel of a ship. (And if they do, there’s a whole host of other issues with their voyage!)

  35. @xtifr
    It’s usually just “keel” in a ship. Never heard that aircraft have one – though they may have a main spar (which runs through both wings and the body).

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