Pixel Scroll 10/6/19 Ground Control To Major Scroll, Take Your Pixel Pills And Put Your Helmet On

(1) SPACEWALKING, STEP-BY-STEP. Mary Robinette Kowal livetweets a spacewalk. Thread starts here.

(2) TICKET TO RIDE. In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport looks at the people who have been waiting to go to space on SpaceShipTwo for a decade.  He also examines the effort NASA made in the 1980s to place civilians in space that ended with the Challenger disaster in 1986. “How much does a ticket to space cost? Meet the people ready to fly.”

When Lori Fraleigh unwrapped the present her husband had given her for her 38th birthday, she found a curious surprise: a model of a spaceship. It was cool, sure, but a toy would be better suited for her young children, then 5 and 1, not her.

Then she noticed the ticket. It took Fraleigh, a Silicon Valley executive, a moment to realize what her husband had purchased for her: a trip to space with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. “I went through a lot of crazy emotions, like, ‘Did you really buy this?’ ” she recalled of the moment in 2011. “ ‘Do we still have enough money to remodel the kitchen?’ ”

Today, her children are 13 and 9. The kitchen remodel has long since been completed. But Fraleigh is still waiting for her trip to space.

…But now, 15 years after Branson founded Virgin Galactic, space tourism could be tantalizingly close to becoming a reality. The company has flown to the edge of space twice and says its first paying customers could reach space next year. Another space venture, Blue Origin, founded by Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos almost 20 years ago, hopes to conduct its first test flight with people this year, though it hasn’t announced prices or sold any tickets. (Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

And NASA recently announced that it would allow private citizens to fly to the International Space Station on spacecraft built by SpaceX and Boeing.

Which means that Fraleigh may soon finally get her five minutes of weightlessness, a view that promises to be spectacular and a test to see if she has the right stuff.

(3) THE CANALES OF MARS. The Cylinder Floats? International Trailer 3. BBC War of the Worlds. With Italian titles.

(4) I WILL SURVIVE. Leah Price contends “Books Won’t Die” at The Paris Review.

Increasingly, people of the book are also people of the cloud. At the Codex Hackathon, a convention whose participants spend a frenetic weekend designing electronic reading tools, I watch developers line up onstage to pitch book-related projects to potential collaborators and funders….

…The term “ebook” endorses such optimism. Whatever replaces the codex, it implies, will be functionally equivalent: the same textual content in a new and improved (usually shrunken) package. A darker strain of futurology, in contrast, emphasizes political decline over technological progress. Fahrenheit 451 represents book burning as an end in itself, not just a means to suppressing sedition whose medium happens to be print. A few years earlier, 1984 opened with the purchase of a “thick, quarto-sized blank book with a red back and a marbled cover.” A blank notebook speaks louder than a printed volume: “Even with nothing written in it, it was a compromising possession.” The final piece of evidence of thoughtcrime that sends Winston Smith to Room 101? A paperweight found in his possession. Here, as in Amtrak’s Quiet Car, the idea of the book remains more powerful than any ideas that it contains.

(5) THE TESTAMENTS ON BBC RADIO. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] As promised, the collected links to the BBC Radio 4 Book at Bed Time — Margret Atwood’s The Testaments. It ran for three weeks but Auntie has three omnibus episodes combining each week’s five. Enjoy….

15 years after Offred stepped into the unknown, the stories of three women whose fates are tied to Gilead concludes. Readers: Sara Kestelman, Katherine Press, Samantha Dakin.

This will only be available online for a couple of weeks so check it out while you can. (It’s a great advert for buying the physical book.)

(6) PYTHON ARCHIVES. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] And now for something completely different…

Monty Python at 50: The Self-Abasement Tapes: To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Monty Python, Michael Palin hunts down lost Python sketches. This programme contains rare and historical material never heard before.

This programme contains rare material never heard before on UK radio, or anywhere else – including the infamous Fat Ignorant Bastards sketch and a Country & Western version of Terry Jones’ I’m So Worried.

In this episode, the historical curiosities include a lost verse from Brave Sir Robin and an all new King Arthur Song. Also, Terry Jones remembers what it was like filming The Holy Grail at Doune Castle.

This third episode digs deep into the archives to excavate recordings relating to the controversial 1979 film, Life of Brian. Eric and Graham negotiate a voiceover fee for the film, John Cleese press-gangs his mother into doing a free radio advert and we meet the infamous freedom fighter Otto – with a deleted scene suggesting that, while the film was causing outrage and offence, even more contentious content was lying on the cutting room floor.

In this episode, Michael reveals a song for Mr Creosote that was left out of The Meaning of Life, and a quiz from the Big Red Book which will test your knowledge of goats.

This programme contains rare material of historical interest, never heard before from the 2014 O2 Shows, including run-throughs of The Argument Sketch and a sensational duet between Eric Idle and Professor Stephen Hawking.


  • October 6, 1997  — Earth: Final Conflict premiered. Based on ideas developed by Gene Roddenberry, it was produced under the guidance of his widow, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry. It ran for five seasons. The ratings success of the show led to the development of other posthumous Roddenberry projects, most notably Andromeda


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 6, 1942 Britt Ekland, 77. She starred in The Wicker Man as Willow MacGregor, and appeared as a Bond girl, Goodnight, in The Man with the Golden Gun. She was also Queen Nyleptha in King Solomon’s Treasure based off the H. Rider Haggard novels. 
  • Born October 6, 1946 John C. Tibbetts, 73. A film critic, historian, author. He’s written such articles as “The Illustrating Man: The Screenplays of Ray Bradbury” and “Time on His Hands: The Fantasy Fiction of Jack Finney”. One of his two books is The Gothic Imagination: Conversations on Fantasy, Horror, and Science Fiction in the Media, the other being The Gothic Worlds of Peter Straub.
  • Born October 6, 1950 David Brin, 69. Author of several series including Existence (which I do not recognize), the Postman novel, and the Uplift series which is superb. I’ll admit that the book he could-wrote with Leah Wilson, King Kong Is Back! An Unauthorized Look at One Humongous Ape, tickles me.
  • Born October 6, 1955 Ellen Kushner, 64. If you’ve not read it, do so as her now sprawling Riverside seriesis amazing. I’m reasonably sure that I’ve read all of it. And during the High Holy Days, do be sure to read The Golden Dreydl as it’s quite wonderful.
  • Born October 6, 1955 Donna White, 64. Academic who has written several works worth you knowing about — Dancing with Dragons: Ursula K. Le Guin and the Critics and Diana Wynne Jones: An Exciting and Exacting Wisdom.
  • Born October 6, 1963 Elisabeth Shue, 56. Best known as Jennifer, Marty McFly’s girlfriend, in Back to the Future Part II and Back to the Future Part III, she also had roles in Hollow Man and Piranha 3D.
  • Born October 6, 1986 Olivia Jo Thirlby, 33. She is best known for her roles as Natalie in Russian SF film The Darkest Hour and as Judge Cassandra Anderson in Dredd. And she was Holly in the supernatural thriller Above the Shadows


  • Grant Snider shares a comic about The Book Fair.

(10) PLAYING THE JOKER. The Washington Post’s David Betancourt ranks the actors who have played the Joker, including Zach Galifiankis as Lego Joker.  While he admired Joaquin Phoenix, he ranked Phoenix third, behind Heath Ledger and the greatest Joker of all, Mark Hamill in Batman:  The Animated Series. “Our definitive ranking of the Jokers, from Jack Nicholson to Joaquin Phoenix”.

This week, along comes yet another Joker, Joaquin Phoenix, in the bat-villain’s self-titled movie, which earned the top prize at the Venice Film Festival and generally positive reviews, although there were a handful of harsh ones. In the era of ever-expanding superhero entertainment, it appears we’ll have a new Joker for every generation. There will never be a last laugh.

(11) DEMYSTIFYING SPIDER-HAM. Looper will be happy to explain to you “The untold truth of Spider-Ham”, which also requires that they dispose of a few popular misconceptions, beginning with —

…One of the more well-remembered scenes of 2007’s The Simpsons Movie features the clueless Homer Simpson doing something characteristically stupid and hilarious — holding the family’s pet pig Plopper upside down and forcing it to walk on the ceiling. Meanwhile, Homer sings to the tune of the old ’60s Spider-Man cartoon, “Spider-Pig, Spider-Pig, does whatever a Spider-Pig Does. Can he swing from a web? No, he can’t. He’s a pig.”

It would be understandable if, in light of this, you wondered if Marvel swiped the idea for Spider-Ham from The Simpsons Movie. But alas, it isn’t so. Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham, pre-dates Homer Simpson’s Spider-Pig serenade by over 20 years, as he first appeared in 1983’s Marvel Tails #1. So in this is case — as opposed to just about every other example you can think of — the Ham came before the Pig.

(12) FROM PRUFROCK TO CASTLE ROCK. Brenna Ehrlich, in “Stephen King Is Quietly Enthralled By ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’” on CrimeReads, says that Stephen King loves the famous T.S. Eliot poem and quotes it many times in his novels.

…I first noticed King’s proclivity for Eliot when I delved into Pet Semetary in 2018. “Oh, do not ask what is it; let us go and make our visit,” Louis Creed tells himself as he recalls carrying the stiff body of his daughter’s cat Church to the magical burial ground. 

When I was a teen, that line was about possibility, in this context, though, it throbs with anxiety and horror. Creed doesn’t want to acknowledge what he did when he brought the moment “to its crisis,” when he “followed Victor to the sacred place,” as the Ramones put it. Church came back and now he owns that horror.

It was jarring to see my old friend Prufrock waving at me from one of the scariest books I have ever read….

(13) BEFORE YOU BUY. Looking for tons of book reviews? See the links at Friday’s Forgotten Books for October 4. These all were posted in the past week. The name of the reviewer comes first, then the work and author.

  • Patricia Abbott: The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman
  • Stacy Alesi: The I List: Fiction Reviews 1983-2013
  • Frank Babics: Starshine by Theodore Sturgeon
  • Mark Baker: O is for Outlaw by Sue Grafton
  • Angie Barry: Bootlegger’s Daughter by Margaret Maron
  • Anne Beattie: “The Earliest Dreams” by Nancy Hale, American Mercury, April 1934, edited by H. L. Mencken
  • Brian Bigelow: Life Comes to Seathorpe by Neil Bell
  • Paul Bishop: A Mule for the Marquesa (aka The Professionals) by Frank O’Rourke
  • Les Blatt: Champagne for One by Rex Stout; The Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories edited by Martin Edwards
  • Joachim Boaz: Xenogenesis: Tales of Space and Time by Miriam Allen deFord
  • Paul D. Brazill: GBH by Ted Lewis
  • Brian Busby: Kosygin is Coming (aka Russian Roulette) by Tom Ardies
  • Alice Chang: Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
  • Martin Edwards: Twisted Clay by Frank Walford
  • James Enge: The Deathworld Trilogy by Harry Harrison
  • Peter Enfantino: Atlas (proto-Marvel) horror comics, October 1952
  • Peter Enfantino and Jack Seabrook: DC war comics, October 1975
  • Will Errickson: Gene Lazuta’s horror novels; The Orpheus Process by Daniel H. Gower
  • José Ignacio Escribano: Bats in the Belfrey and other work by “E. C. R. Lorac” (Edith Caroline Rivett)
  • Curtis Evans: The Murder of the Fifth Columnist by Leslie Ford; “The Last of Mrs. Maybrick” and “The Ordeal of Florence Maybrick” by Hugh Wheeler
  • Olman Feelyus: The So Blue Marble by Dorothy B. Hughes; She and Allan by H. Rider Haggard
  • Paul Fraser: New Worlds SF, October 1965, edited by Michael Moorcock
  • Barry Gardner: The Innocents by Richard Barre
  • John Grant: Shadow by Karin Alvtegen (translated by McKinley Burnett); The Crimes of Jordan Wise by Bill Pronzini
  • Jason Half: X v. Rex (aka The Mystery of the Dead Police) by “Martin Porlock” (Philip MacDonald)
  • Aubrey Hamilton: Not Dead, Only Resting by Simon Brett; Dead Anyway by Christopher Knopf
  • Bev Hankins: The Restless Corpse by Alan Pruitt; The Mind of Mr. Reeder (aka The Murder Book of J. G. Reeder) by Edgar Wallace
  • Rich Horton: The Marquis and Pamela by Edward H. Cooper; In the Courts of the Crimson Kings and short stories by S. M. Stirling; “The Engine of Desire” and other stories by William Barton
  • Jerry House: “Crime on the Coast” (News Chronicle, 1954) and “No Flowers by Request” (Daily Sketch, 1953) by “the Detection Club” (the first by John Dickson Carr, Valerie White, Laurence Meynell, Joan Fleming, Michael Cronin. and Elizabeth Ferrars, the second by Dorothy L. Sayers, “E. C. R. Lorac”, Gladys Mitchell, “Anthony Gilbert”, and “Christianna Brand”)
  • Kate Jackson: Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie
  • Tracy K: Heartshot by Steven F. Havill
  • Colman Keane: Grinder by Mike Knowles; The Hard Cold Shoulder by L. A. Sykes
  • George Kelley: The Super Hugos, annotated by Isaac Asimov, Charles Sheffield, Edie Stern and Joe Siclari, et al.
  • Joe Kenney: Black Massacre by “Lionel Derrick” (Mark Roberts); From Russia, with Love by Ian Fleming
  • Rob Kitchin: The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonio Hodgson
  • B. V. Lawson: Is Skin Deep, Is Fatal by H. R. F. Keating
  • Des/D. F. Lewis: Vastarien, Summer 2019, edited by Jon Padgett
  • Evan Lewis: “Introducing the Author” by Robert Leslie Bellem, Fantastic Adventures, July 1941, edited by Raymond Palmer; “The Cutie Caper”, written by “Sam Hill” and art by Harry Lucey, Sam Hill, Private Eye #1, 1950
  • Steve Lewis: “Multiple Submissions” by Catherine L. Stanton and “A Deceitful Way of Dying” by Dick Stodgill, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, September 1989, edited by Cathleen Jordan; Footsteps in the Night by C. Fraser-Simpson; “Gone Fishing” by Jim Davis, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, November 2012, edited by Janet Hutchings
  • Gideon Marcus: Analog Science Fact->Science Fiction, September 1964, edited by John W. Campbell, Jr.
  • Todd Mason: The Year’s Best Horror Stories annual, edited by Richard Davis, Gerald W. Page and Karl Edward Wagner; US Best of the Year Fiction Annuals published in 1979; Harlan Ellison and divers hands: Partners in Wonder
  • Francis M. Nevins: The Sins of the Fathers by Lawrence Block
  • John F. Norris: Dead to the World by David X. Manners
  • John O’Neill: The World of Science Fiction: The History of a Subculture by “Lester Del Rey” (Leonard Knapp)
  • Matt Paust: Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck and Edward E. Ricketts
  • James Reasoner: Night Flight by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (translated by Stuart Gilbert)
  • Richard Robinson: Norman Rockwell: 332 Magazine Covers, edited and annotated by Christopher Finch
  • Sandra Ruttan: Wilted Lillies by Kelli Owen; Kelli Owen interview
  • Gerard Saylor: Richard Stark’s Parker: The Score graphically adapted from The Score by “Richard Stark” (Donald Westlake) by Darwyn Cooke
  • Steven H Silver: Donald A. Wollheim
  • Kerrie Smith: Sleeping Partner by James Humphreys
  • Kevin Tipple: The Bottom by Howard Owen
  • “TomCat”: The Tattoo Murder Case by Akimitsu Takagi (translated by Deborah Bolivar Boehm); The Spiked Lion by Brian Flynn; “The Stalker in the Attic” by “Edogawa Rampo” (Taro Hirai), Shin-Seinen, August 1925
  • David Vineyard: Lady Macbeth by Nicholas Freeling
  • Bill Wallace: You Can’t Win by Jack Black; Weird Tales, March 1926, edited by Farnsworth Wright
  • Mark Yon: Science Fantasy, September/October 1964, edited by Kyril Bonfiglioli

(14) PULLMAN SERIES. Trailer for HBO’s His Dark Materials: Season 1, premiering November 4.

His Dark Materials stars Dafne Keen, James McAvoy, Ruth Wilson and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Adapting Philip Pullman’s award-winning trilogy of the same name, which is considered a modern masterpiece of imaginative fiction, the first season follows Lyra, a seemingly ordinary but brave young woman from another world. Her search for a kidnapped friend uncovers a sinister plot involving stolen children, and becomes a quest to understand a mysterious phenomenon called Dust. As she journeys through the worlds, including our own, Lyra meets Will, a determined and courageous boy. Together, they encounter extraordinary beings and dangerous secrets, with the fate of both the living?—?and the dead?—?in their hands.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Todd Mason, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

41 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 10/6/19 Ground Control To Major Scroll, Take Your Pixel Pills And Put Your Helmet On

  1. (8) Existence is Brin’s most recent book (2012) – it includes the early novella “Lungfish” (and parts of it were published in 2008 (like “The Smartest Mob”)). It’s an “Earth” style near-future hard SF novel that I liked (though not as much as I liked the first Uplift books).

  2. 8) Brin also made a mini-career our of criticizing Star Wars as anti-democracy, starting with a 1999 article he wrote for Salon and onward to the anthology Star Wars On Trial featuring articles by Nick Mamatas, Laura Resnick, Adam Roberts, John C. Wright, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Keith R.A Candido, and others.

  3. Apropos of nothing, I saw Spiderman: Far From Home and dug it, but I’m disappointed they’re setting J. Jonah Jameson up as a straight-up bad guy. He’s a better antagonist than an enemy.

  4. @Rob Thornton: that’s contentious, but perhaps not as outright dumb as Glory Season, which he reportedly thought would win him the-award-then-known-as-Tiptree. (After his misbehavior at the 2003 Boskone, I’m not sure anything could get him this award.)

    I liked the first Uplift books, but the trilogy just went on forever for a trivial reveal.

  5. Fifth?

    8) I also liked the first set of Uplift books; I remember having mixed feelings about the trilogy, though, at least in part because of retcons it made to the history laid out in the original books.

    As for Ellen Kushner, in addition to Swordspoint, I’d highly, highly recommend her Thomas the Rhymer, based on the ballad of the same name. (And this weekend I rewatched the 1997 French film On Guard, and that’s kind of exactly what I want a Riverside movie or TV series to look & feel like.)

  6. I actually thought Glory Season was good, all things considered. Not necessarily as “woke” as he might have thought, but it did have some very interesting ideas and off-the-beaten-track worldbuilding, and was a decent page-turner. Unfortunately, the Tiptree controversy thingie did it no favors, but if that hadn’t happened, I suspect it would be moderately well respected.

    Elisabeth Shue is currently in The Boys, which is very definitely genre. And she was also in Adventures in Babysitting, which, while not technically genre, did feature one of the most charming fans in moviedom: the little girl who wore a Thor helmet throughout the film.

  7. 10) PLAYING THE JOKER. Well it’s not definitive by any means as it doesn’t include Troy Baker who voiced The Joker quite chillingly in Batman: Assault on Arkham nor the one on Batman: The Brave and the Bold as voiced by Jeff Bennett. Both are interesting takes on this character.

  8. After Brin did his thing earlier this year I got a brain itch to re-read Startide Rising for the first time in prob. at least a decade and : good gosh that book did not age well.

    The sexual harassment subplot was worse than I remembered, I had completely forgotten about all the cuttable “females!!!” lines, and the me-of-30-years-ago (not to mention the mes-of-all-the-other-times-i-read-it) totally missed how all but one of the major viewpoint characters (and all but maybe 3 of the minor viewpoint characters) were male.

  9. At LACon III (1996) there was a panel on the Tiptree Award. Brin was in the audience and made his feelings known about Glory Season not getting the award. This included him raising his voice at me after the panel, until I pointed out I was a fan and actually liked the book. I’ve also seen Brin in situations where he was infinitely patient with fans who were behaving badly, so I don’t begrudge being patient with him.

    Glory Season is an homage to feminist science fiction. Whether it is actually feminist itself is debatable. I think it was well-intentioned even though it didn’t come across well to its intended audience. I can see why it didn’t work but it is definitely not all bad. It is an interesting failure.

  10. Tom Becker says At LACon III (1996) there was a panel on the Tiptree Award. Brin was in the audience and made his feelings known about Glory Season not getting the award. This included him raising his voice at me after the panel, until I pointed out I was a fan and actually liked the book. I’ve also seen Brin in situations where he was infinitely patient with fans who were behaving badly, so I don’t begrudge being patient with him.

    Ok why did he think he should’ve won over the novel that did win which was The Sparrow If I’m reading the dates right for those Awards. No one’s entitled to an Award so it comes across as really sour grapes as his part to believe this.

  11. @Tom Becker: Glory Season is an homage to feminist science fiction. That may have been Brin’s intention — but it reads like an homage to those dopey male-written novels about all-female or heavily-matriarchal societies (cf “Consider Her Ways”, Rogue Queen, Virgin Planet, and all those other oh-how-cute-the-girls-think-they-can-run-things (with a side of but-they’ll-always-cut-real-men’s-freedom-too-much). I would not call any of the works he mimics feminist; compare them to (e.g.) “When It Changed”.

  12. @Chip Hitchcock: I don’t think it was quite that bad. I mean, yeah, it seems to start out that way, and had me wincing a bit, but by the end, there seems to be at least some nuance to it all. The second half of the book really kinda saves it, IMO. Heck, the Indranan War series actually has a stronger dose of the “but they’ll always cut real men’s freedom too much” trope than Glory Season does. And that was written by a woman–and is a much better work overall.

    Of course, I first read GS long before I knew about the controversies and Brin’s ridiculous “hey, I’m here to save the day as only a white man can, why don’t you all give me the accolades I so richly deserve?” If I’d known about that, I suspect I would have read it quite differently. But I didn’t, so I didn’t, and I’ve even re-read it a couple of times since, and still mostly like it, despite its undeniable flaws. And despite his.

  13. 11) “The untold truth of Spider-Ham”?

    As soon as the character appeared on Into the Spider-Verse, I told my wife “That’s Peter Porker, the amazing Spider-Ham.’ (That’s despite never having been much of a Marvel Comics fan.)

    Why do so many people think that history began 20 years years ago?

  14. @John: No idea way, but it seems to be spreading. Just today, I read an article that included the phrase “way back in 1998.”

  15. @Xtifr: wrt male freedoms, I was referring (insufficiently clearly) to the homaged novels rather than GS — I don’t even remember the latter having males in it, but I’ve never reread it (and don’t intend to — life’s too short). And at this point I’m afraid my memory would be colored by his execrable behavior toward Jo Walton at Boskone (the behavior that resulted in her pouring a can of Coke on him — TNH’s summary of the event ended something like “All applauded.”)

  16. Chip Hitchcock: Then I have to consider myself lucky. When I pissed off Walton all she did was write a book.

  17. Aw, come on — you can’t leave a line like that hanging! If you can’t tell about the incident, at least tell us what the book was.

    You probably pissed her off less than Brin did — after being called on being execrably stupid about fantasy in general and the Matter of Britain in particular, he patted her on the head and said she was a pretty girl — possibly with the sort of tone that adds “…so we don’t care if your head is full of cotton, hay, and rags.”

  18. @Chip Hitchcock:

    As one who has met and talked with Jo Walton at small conventions a few times (and will likely see her at Scintillation again this weekend in Montreal), all I can say is… if Brin challenged her on the Matter of Britain and was patronizing about it, it sounds like he got off lightly.

    (I had an interesting discussion with her once that basically jumped off from ‘Yes, Canadians think 100 years old is really old… but the English think 100km away is really far.’)

  19. @Jenora Feuer: AFAIK I haven’t offended Jo Walton at all and still got nuked. Twice. I also expect to be at Scintillation (scintillating, no doubt).

  20. The book that OGH inspired is An Informal History of the Hugos. To quote from the introduction:

    Mike Glyer posted on the File 770 website, saying that everyone agreed that Frank Herbert’s Dune was a better book than Roger Zelazny’s This Immortal, and Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book was better than Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep. He said this with casual assurance, as if nobody could disagree—but I disagreed strongly, in both cases. After I was done defending Zelazny and Vinge, I started thinking about the Hugos.

    Speaking for myself, I’d agree with the first and disagree with the second.

    BTW, @Jenora Feuer: “likely”? I think it would take some doing to attend Scintillation and not see Jo there.

  21. David Goldfarb: Yeah, I was much taken with the line “He said this with casual assurance, as if nobody could disagree.” This was about my post “Ties for the Best Novel Hugo”. Let’s try and remember that nobody wants to read something expressed in terms of, “Excuse me, please, but may I have an opinion?” Which is why Walton didn’t write her book in that tone, either.

  22. Mike Glyer on October 9, 2019 at 9:19 am said:

    David Goldfarb: Yeah, I was much taken with the line “He said this with casual assurance, as if nobody could disagree.” This was about my post “Ties for the Best Novel Hugo”.

    The City and the City versus The Windup Girl? That is interesting. At the time I was really impressed by the Miéville and it was a book I convinced non-SFF readers to read. The Windup Girl I didn’t enjoy that much but didn’t hate it. Nine years later I suspect The City… is the better regarded of the two more generally

  23. Camestros Felapton: I have to say I spoke about The Windup Girl mostly as a retrospective Hugo handicapper. I expected it to win, however, I couldn’t finish it myself because I disliked reading about the abuse of the point of view character.

  24. I agree on Dune and The Doomsday Book, but then Vernor Vinge is one of those authors whose appeal eludes me.

    I intensely disliked The Windup Girl and was okay with The City and the City, though my personal favourite of the finalists that year was Boneshaker and my actual favourites of that year weren’t even nominated.

  25. I have to strongly side with Walton on the Willis v. Vinge. And, while it’s anecdotal, and not real evidence, my experience when discussing things with “mundanes” is that the Vinge is a lot more likely to get a positive reaction–or, indeed, a reaction at all. If the question is “which looks to be more successful as time has passed?” rather than the far more subjective “which is better?”, then I suspect Vinge has the edge. And Dune, of course, is a big winner in that respect over the Zelazny, although the movie did give it a rather unfair advantage. As for Miéville v Bacigalupi, I think it’s too early to tell, but my feeling is that Bacigalupi is probably ahead on points, though I personally prefer the Miéville.

  26. I also intensely disliked The Windup Girl, especially because of the gratuitous sexual abuse. The City and The City was okay, but I just couldn’t get past the fact that there was no reasonable basis for so many people all agreeing to participate in such a false, imaginary construction.

    I thought that Kage Baker’s Empress of Mars, Lev Grossman’s Magicians, Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Diving into the Wreck, and Brandon Sanderson’s Warbreaker were far better. I didn’t expect to enjoy Priest’s Boneshaker, but I did, and thought it was better as well.

  27. I liked Windup-girl for its grittiness, disliked Magicians for its cloned storyline and apathy and was mostly bored by Boneshaker.

    For Best Hugo, teenage me would still go with The Moon is a Harsh Mistress or Gateway while adult me would pick A Fire Upon The Deep. But my favourites seldom win.

  28. I loved Fire when it first came out, but it’s eclipsed in my mind by Deepness now. I read Doomsday Book quite recently, and liked it, but prefer To Say Nothing of the Dog. Windup Girl didn’t seem like something I’d like (so I didn’t read it) – City and the City was great fun, though.

  29. I’m with JJ: The City and the City leaves me unable to suspend my disbelief. Of course, The Windup Girl does also, but for different reasons. (No, springs made out of conventional earthly materials can not have those properties.)

  30. @Mike: While I’ll agree that nobody wants to read something expressed in terms of “Excuse me, please, but may I have an opinion?”, I’ve more than once seen things expressed in terms of “Hear now the Revealed Trvth” that were then defended in just the same way.

    That said, I’ve now gone and read your piece, and I think it does a reasonable job of striking a middle ground as regards tone. I wouldn’t expect you to express bafflement that anyone could disagree, or like something you didn’t like.

  31. Geeze, what is wrong with you people! It’s like you’ve forgotten that everyone on this website thinks exactly alike, and that we have complete 100% control over what wins the Hugo! 😀

  32. @Xtifr: I lost some authority recently. While I still control the vertical, the horizontal is out of my control (and I don’t know who has been put in charge of rolling the image – but I’d like to have a word with them pronto).

  33. @Xtifr

    As for Miéville v Bacigalupi, I think it’s too early to tell, but my feeling is that Bacigalupi is probably ahead on points, though I personally prefer the Miéville.

    I’m not so sure. Yes, Bacigalupi takes on themes like climate change, which are currently trending, but his reputation seems to have faded since he was the hot new thing approx. ten years ago. None of his recent books have had the impact and buzz of The Windup Girl and Shipbreaker. And the reputation of The Windup Girl has suffered because of the sexual violence and the inaccurate portrayals of South East Asia.

    Meanwhile, Mieville is no longer as popular as he once was, probably because he is no longer the hot new thing either and the New Weird movement, which he was affiliated with, has since faded. But his reputation seems more solid to me than Bacigalupi’s.


    I thought that Kage Baker’s Empress of Mars, Lev Grossman’s Magicians, Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Diving into the Wreck, and Brandon Sanderson’s Warbreaker were far better. I didn’t expect to enjoy Priest’s Boneshaker, but I did, and thought it was better as well.

    The Empress of Mars and Diving into the Wreck would both have been much better choices than anything on the actual Hugo ballot in 2009. And while I don’t particularly care for The Magicians, I would still have preferred it to The Windup Girl. In fact, my reaction to best novel Hugo finalists in the 2000s was often, “With so many good books out there, how do they manage to find such absolutely dreadful ones to nominate?” A little later, I figured out how the Hugo nominations actually worked.

  34. @Cora Buhlert: Sorry, when I said “Miéville v Bacigalupi”, that was supposed to be shorthand for The City and the City v The Windup Girl. Not a reference to the authors themselves. In general, I seem to hear more buzz about TWG than about TC&TC. But Miéville’s other books are regularly mentioned far more often than any of Bacigalupi’s others, in my experience. So as far as an author v author comparison goes, I agree with you.

    (Aside: I didn’t find the premise of The City and the City as outlandish as some here, but then I’m constantly amazed by people’s ability to believe ridiculous things for no apparent reason. Perhaps I’m just too cynical to have disapproved of the book properly.) 😀

  35. @David Goldfarb, re ‘likely’:
    Hey now, excessive understatement is a mainstay of both British and Canadian comedy. Particularly British. Canadian tends to focus more on self-deprecation. Nobody else takes us seriously, so why should we?

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