Pixel Scroll 10/20/16 Pixeled In The Scroll By My Own Pixel

(1) PLAYING WITH REAL NUMBERS. Aaron tests the idea that EPH will not distort the results when there is no slate in a new post at Dreaming of Other Worlds. Find out what changed on the 2014 final Hugo ballot.

E Pluribus Hugo was passed largely in response to the results of the 2015 Hugo nomination process. I outlined the background leading up to this in my previous post about the 2016 E Pluribus Hugo Revised Hugo Finalists, and I’m not going to repeat myself here. Anyone who wants a summary of the Sad and Rabid Puppy campaigns, the responses from non-Puppy Hugo voters, and an outline of the mechanics of E Pluribus Hugo can go read about that there.

The E Pluribus Hugo system had several goals. One goal was to dampen the influence of bloc voting. A second goal was to create a system that presented a nominating voter with a means of voting that was substantially similar to the one that voter had under the old system. The third was to create a system that would return results that were as close to those that the old system did in a year in which there was no bloc voting. To test this third goal, the system was used on the 2014 Hugo ballots, which was a year in which there was a Sad Puppy campaign, but no slate in any meaningful sense, and therefore no real bloc voting….

(2) SUMMERTIME. Chapter 10 of T. Kingfisher’s Summer in Orcus has now been released.

When the witch Baba Yaga walks her house into the backyard, eleven-year-old Summer enters into a bargain for her heart’s desire. Her search will take her to the strange, surreal world of Orcus, where birds talk, women change their shape, and frogs sometimes grow on trees. But underneath the whimsy of Orcus lies a persistent darkness, and Summer finds herself hunted by the monstrous Houndbreaker, who serves the distant, mysterious Queen-in-Chains…

(3) RIDERS OF THE PURPLE PAGE. Max Florschutz enters the perpetual debate about “literary” vs. “genre” in “You Just Keep Pushing Me Away…” .

Granted, I could write a whole thing on how genre fiction can (and does) approach the tough questions, demands intelligent thought and reason, and present ideas (and when it comes down to it, most who disagree are either cherry picking their examples or of the mindset of “that doesn’t support the message and ideas I want,” which doesn’t help). I could talk about that, pull examples, etc. But I won’t. Not at this point.

No, instead, I’m going to tackle a different point. The idea that “literary” fiction is automatically intelligent and thought-provoking. Because this isn’t accurate. No, more accurate would be that it’s fiction that thinks it’s intelligent or thought provoking, written by someone who thinks they’re presenting something much more “intellectual” than it actually is. When it really isn’t … but they’re too “smart” to do the research to know otherwise.

… What’s sad about this is I could see myself enjoying more “literary” works.  The writing is more tell, sure, and more purple, but sometimes that’s pretty good purple. Sometimes there’s some neat ideas buried in there.

But my issue is that they are buried in there. It’s like “literary” writers can’t be bothered to do the most basic of research. And that pushes me away. Back towards genre fiction, where, despite not being the “intelligent” fiction choice, the science is real, the facts are usually real (or pretty close), and even when I’m reading about fantasy kingdom of some kind, said kingdom is actually laid out like a real government and civilization would be. As opposed to the “literary” version, which comes off feeling like Disney-mythology in comparison.

It just keeps pushing me away. Especially with all the battles over how “literary” fiction is the “superior” fiction, or the more intelligent, or the more meaningful, etc. I just can’t take a story seriously that can’t grasp basic parts of life, like how a car works. Or a TV. Or science.

(4) ANOTHER MIDDLE-EARTH TALE ON WAY TO PRESS. “JRR Tolkien’s Middle-earth love story to be published next year” reports The Guardian.

JRR Tolkien’s legend of the mortal man Beren and the immortal elf Lúthien – a story that meant so much to the Lord of the Rings author that the characters’ names are engraved on the headstone shared by him and his wife – is to be published next year.

The Middle-earth tale tells of the love between the mortal man and the immortal elf. Lúthien’s father, an Elvish lord, is against their relationship, and so gives Beren an impossible task to fulfil before the two can be married, said HarperCollins, which will publish Beren and Lúthien next May. The pair then go on to rob “the greatest of all evil beings, Melkor, called Morgoth, the Black Enemy, of a Silmaril”, or jewel.

(5) PULITZER EXPANDS ELIGIBILITY. Crain’s New York Business reports print and online magazines are now eligible for Pulitzer Prizes in all journalism categories.

The Pulitzer Prize Board announced Wednesday that entries of work done in 2016 will be accepted beginning in December for the 2017 prizes.

The board says it made its decision after two years of experimentation.

New entry guidelines are posted at Pulitzer.org.


  • Born October 20, 1882 — Bela Lugosi.


(7) HORROR READING.Ellen Datlow’s photos of the “Children of Lovecraft Reading October 16, 2016” are on Flickr.

Laird Barron, John Langan, A. C. Wise, Siobhan Carroll, Richard Kadrey, and David Nickle all read wonderfully at the Lovecraft Bar on Avenue B in NYC’s east village.


(8) PLAYTIME. I got a kick from John Scalzi’s first line in one of his mallet-is-out warnings:

  1. Hey, two political posts in the same day! Can you tell I finished my book?

(9) TIME TO LEVEL UP YOUR ALIENS. Motherboard’s post “The Way We’ve Been Imagining Aliens Is All Wrong” sets us straight.

Why do we always picture aliens as distorted humans?

Science fiction has failed to creatively, or even accurately, imagine alien life, said British science writer Philip Ball in an article, “The Aeon Idea: Why our imagination for alien life is so impoverished.” Now Aeon, a digital ideas and culture magazine, just released a video called Stranger Aliens, adapted from Ball’s theory and narrated by Ball himself.


(10) DIVERSITY ON DISCOVERY. Otaku-kun at Haibane comments on the proposal: “A Muslim crew member on Star Trek: Discovery?”

I think including an explicit Muslim would be jarring since tehre is no other “real world” religion represented in Star Trek, at least for the Human society. It was Roddenberry’s world and he chose to eliminate religion from it. Adding a character who is explicitly Muslim complicates canon and introduces tension that undermines Star Trek’s appeal to all of humanity. Then you also need canon explanations for the status of Jews, Christians, Hindus, etc. This mess is exactly why religion was introduced to DS9 using the alien Bajoran society rather than picking one from our own.

The solution is to recognize that Islamophobia is not an intellectual reaction to a religion’s precepts, but rooted in racial and ethnic fears. Having a stand-in on the crew for a “Muslim-y” ethnic type would be great because that way when someone sees a Muslim on the street, they should be able to counter their knee-jerk stereotype by relating that person to this crewmember. Therefore, the ethnic choice of the actor is relevant to maximize that stereotype-defeating analogy. Which ethnicity works best for this purpose?

(11) WHO’S THE GEEZER? selenay articulates the cross-generational stresses affecting fanfic writers in “Regarding all the AO3 bashing” (AO3 = Archive of Our Own).

Us olds remember the old days. The days when you had to label all slash–even when it was just hand-holding–as NC17 and plaster it with warnings. The days when only certain archives accepted slash at all, and you could get your FFN account or LJ suspended if someone objected to your boy kissing fics, so everything was locked down under f-lock or posted to the adult slash-friendly archives with a thousand warning pop-ups. The days when RPF was never to be spoken of because almost no archive accepted it. The days when we all danced around carefully because at any moment, our favourite fics could be deleted and never seen again if a site advertiser threatened to withdraw funding….

Current fandom has splintered and seems to have broken into generational buckets. The youngest part of fandom is on Tumblr and Snapchat. The older part of fandom is on Tumblr a bit, but not much, and many of us have stepped a long way back from it because we’re made so unwelcome. We’re still here on LJ, DW, Twitter, and Imzy, where the youngs aren’t so much. Due to those divides, there isn’t that interaction and mutual learning, so the younger fanfolk don’t know the history. They don’t know why AO3 exists and why we’re so passionate about not censoring it. They’ve never had to creep around on the edges of fandom because they were slashers, or RPF-ers, or wrote explicit fics after FFN banned them.

The divide is also contributing to the feeling that anyone over thirty shouldn’t be fannish anymore, and I suspect that’s part of the AO3 wankery. There aren’t many people from that very young end of the fandom involved with the OTW or AO3, so it feels like the olds run it. We created it, we fundraised for it, we continue to work on it and we’re old, by their standards. We should have shuffled off to our graveyards or our adult lives or something.

Except we haven’t, because when we were the fandom babies, there were all these fans older than us who were still active and we learned we’ll never be too old for fandom. With the divide getting so sharp between the youngest and everyone else, they’re not getting that part of the fannish experience, either. They can’t imagine being thirty (or forty, or fifty), never mind being that age and still being in fandom.

You’ve also got the problem that Tumblr-style activism is very different from what we were doing five or ten years ago. It’s all about protecting young eyes not just from the content, but from knowing the content is even there. About removing it so it doesn’t need to be thought of. For them, “don’t like, don’t read” isn’t enough. They don’t want anyone to read it or see it or write it.

(12) A VISIT TO ANTIQUITY. James Davis Nicoll has posted his latest Young People Read Old SF, assigning them “Snowball Effect” by Katherine MacLean.

Although she won a Nebula Award for The Missing Man, Katherine MacLean is hardly a household name these days. Her most productive period ran from the 1950s to the 1970s. That Nebula was won in 1971; other honours (such as being a professional guest of honor at the very first WisCon in 1977) are almost all of a similar vintage. She was admired for her ability to combine character with plot, character being an element of fiction many of her contemporaries seemed willing to do without.

In her heyday, MacLean was one of the few high-profile women working in the field. In the specific context of these reviews, she is remarkable in a different way: the first author selected who is still with us: born in 1925, she is but 91. Her birthday is January 22: join me in raising a glass to this grand figure of science fiction.

(13) LARPING FOR PEACE. In a piece on Vimeo called “Bjarke Pedersen:  Becoming the Story,”  Danish LARPer Bjarke Pedersen explains what “Nordic LARP” is and how in Scandinavia, LARPers work together to come up with stories they wouldn’t be able to create on their own.  Pedersen’s video was presented at the Future of Storytelling conference held in New York City two weeks ago.

As the Creative Director of Odyssé and one of the world’s experts on LARPing, Bjarke Pedersen has spent many years exploring the power of this collaborative form of storytelling. He’s observed that by getting a chance to engage with different characters, LARPers are also able to learn more about themselves. LARPing is also particularly powerful for the ways in which it relies on building trust among people. Many individuals are able to tell their own stories within a given framework, but it is the larger output of so many different stories being told at the same time that makes LARPing so unique and powerful.


[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Aziz Poonawalla, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Josh Jasper.]


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126 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 10/20/16 Pixeled In The Scroll By My Own Pixel

  1. Magic realism=Spanish for fantasy, initially. And then, since the flavor of what Spanish-language fantasy writers was different, people started doing that in English, too. So now, not so much.

  2. I never managed to work out what Bryan Thomas Schmidt actually edited to qualify him for BESF in 2014.

    He is credited as the editor of two anthologies released in 2013 – Beyond the Sun and Raygun Chronicles.

  3. @Chip
    “A&M” means “Agricultural and Mechanical”; i.e., it began as a high-level trade school. . . . I don’t know how much the reputation is [still] true, but students may expect less regulation of conduct than at some citadel of thought.

    In addition, A&M was, until the early 1960s, an all-male quasi-military academy. All students were part of the “Corps of Cadets” and took military leadership courses with the expectation that they could become junior military officers upon graduation.

    The bonfire started during those years, and it was not only a way to blow off steam, but was considered an important team-building exercise. And given that the students might well have left school to go and get shot at, the danger inherent in the bonfire was viewed in a different light. Over the years, though, the bonfire turned into a big party and excuse to get drunk, and this subsumed some of the better reasons it had for existing.

    This article describes some of the reaction immediately after the tragedy. And this is a recent article, about how it affected the community and how it is done today.

    Norwegians love a good bonfire.

  4. Chip Hitchcock on October 22, 2016 at 8:15 am said:

    @Xtifr: That essay might have been derived from Campbell; he used to maintain something very like your opening, although he didn’t treat fantasy as supersetting science fiction.

    Yes, I believe it was, and I believe it acknowledged his contribution to the concept. But it’s been a while since I read it, so I honestly can’t remember many details. I just liked the idea.

  5. “A&M” means “Agricultural and Mechanical”; i.e., it began as a high-level trade school.

    Engineering was a big part of all the “A&M” schools, along with agriculture (think animal husbandry). The two in California are called “Polytechnic”: the Cal Polys.
    Oklahoma had an A&M; it became Oklahoma State around 1950.

  6. Colorado State University was an agricultural college as well. The big A on the hillside still gets repainted from time to time. When I was a kid, they used to light it up for Homecoming, by burning cans of some liquid fuel or other.

    I worked at Rice University in Houston for a while, in the library. Once I found some back issues of the Thresher from around 1918, when Rice and A&M were rivals in some way, and groups of students from each would plot against the other. I read a first-person account from someone in a group of Rice desperadoes who made a foray into the A&M territory to get back a stuffed owl that was Rice’s mascot. The writing was entertainingly self-aggrandizing.

    I don’t know if the rivalry included football. When I was there in the 80s, my cousin (who has lived all over, but who settled in Houston) told me about Rice’s football program. Due to the inconvenient fact that their players had to meet academic standards, they never had much in the way of a winning team, so to keep it interesting, the Rice fans cultivated the art of Bad Sportsmanship. Not poor: bad. They pulled stunts at games like having someone dress up as an A&M yell leader and lead insulting cheers against A&M. I regret never attending a game, because Andy tells me that whenever Rice was scored on, the fans in the stands would shout, in unison:
    “AWWW, SHIT!

    Rice was also home to a thriving Gil Thorpe cult, which followed the sports strip avidly, and affected great concern for the cast of characters and their various teams. I remember seeing at least one letter in the school paper from “Gil Thorpe,” writing from “Kidswithproblems High.” Alas, I don’t remember what the letter said, so no boffo finish this time.

  7. Andrew M: I never managed to work out what Bryan Thomas Schmidt actually edited to qualify him for BESF in 2014. Can we be sure he was eligible? If not, EPH would have made even less of a change.

    The WSFS description of the category:
    Best Editor (Short Form): To be eligible the person must have edited at least four anthologies, collections or magazine issues devoted to science fiction and/or fantasy, at least one of which must have been published in the year of eligibility.

    Schmidt had one anthology published in 2012, and two anthologies published in 2013. It’s my belief that he was not eligible in 2014 — and that if he had made Finalist that year, his presence on the ballot would have been challenged, and he would have been determined ineligible.

    Of course, it’s possible that he might have produced evidence of a 4th work from amateur publication, and the Hugo Admins might have considered that eligible. As he did not make the ballot, and the Admins did not make a ruling, we will never know.

    ETA: Oops, BTS did have a 4th anthology, #6 of “Full-Throttle Space Tales”.

  8. @Kip
    I remember seeing at least one letter in the school paper from “Gil Thorpe,” writing from “Kidswithproblems High.” Alas, I don’t remember what the letter said, so no boffo finish this time.

    Here’s the letter.

  9. That must be it. We were still there in January, 1985. Did you find it using that Googly that all the young people are talking about nowadays?

    Many thanks!

  10. I am going to quote from this thesis [PDF] three definitions of “realismo mágica” by influential Latin American critics, one of which more or less matches what English speakers seem to be thinking of lately, the other two not.

    In 1955, Ángel Flores wrote of r.m. as a mixture of fantasy and reality.

    “Para [Flores], en el realismo mágico predomina el arte de las sorpresas, donde las cosas aparecen con un nuevo aspecto, con una nueva constelación que los hace maravillosos. Se trata de reconocer aquello qu siempre estuvo ahí; algo asombroso que después es aceptado por el lector y se entiende su estar ahí de una manera lógica, quita?dole al final cualquier asombro.” (For Flores, what predominates in magical realism is the art of surprises, where things are seen with a new appearance, in a new relation to each other, which makes them marvels. It’s a matter of recognizing something which was always there; something astonishing which is then accepted by the reader, and its always being there is understood in a logical way, which in the end takes away all astonishment from it.)

    In 1967, Luis Leal disagreed:

    “Para Leal básicamente es una actitud ante la realidad que no lleva al autor a la creación de mundos imaginarios, sino que lo induce a penetrar la realidad a profundidad, para descubrir los misterios que están ocultos en ella…. [su rasgo principal es] el descubrimiento de la relación misteriosa entre el hombre y las circunstancias que lo rodean.” (For Leal, basically, it is an attitude toward reality which does not lead the author to create imaginary worlds, but induces them to profoundly penetrate reality, in order to uncover the mysteries hidden in it…. [its principle characteristic] is the discovery of the mysterious relation between humans and the circumstances which surround them.)

    In 1948, Arturo Uslar Pietri was the first to apply the term realismo mágico to fiction; he wrote that its hallmark was to “considerar al hombre como un misterio rodeado de hechos realistas” (consider human beings as a mystery surrounded by realistic facts).

    In other words, out-and-out fantasy could fit into Flores’s definition as long as it was written with the right attitude, but not so well into the other two definitions.

  11. @ Chip: Also, remember that this event started quite a while ago, back in the halcyon days when there were no such namby-pamby things as safety regulations about much of anything, and people who foolishly risked their lives had only themselves to blame if they lost same — but FREEDOM!

    (Very likely also the rites in the early decades were much smaller affairs with far less risk. But by the time it had been going on for nearly a century, it had gotten completely out of hand. That collapse was going to happen sooner or later; it was only chance that picked the specific iteration.)

    There are still nasty jokes about A&M, and not completely without reason. Remember that the “cold fusion” fraud involved two A&M alumni; and then there’s this incident from a mere 10 years ago.

    Possibly tangential, possibly not: when I was in college (back in the days of the dinosaurs), A&M routinely made Playboy Magazine’s annual list of the Top 10 Party Schools in America. I have no idea whether or not this still holds true.

  12. Lee on October 22, 2016 at 8:11 pm said:

    While my sister was married, she spent time in that ares – her then-husband was teaching math at A&M. He had stories about students trying to steal the exams from the offices, for classes like beginning calculus.

  13. Longtime fan and comic-book dealer Kerry Gilley dead at 55. I knew Kerry when I lived in Nashville. I had no idea that he was younger than me.

  14. Just read: a sampler of stories from the anthology Clockwork Phoenix 5, found here. Five of the stories are sampled, and all of them are worth your time. The standouts, to me, are Beth Cato’s The Souls of Horses (lovely and hard-hitting in equal measure) and Jason Kimble’s The Wind At His Back (a startling, mythological Western). I’d seen this anthology a while back, but didn’t order it. I shall remedy that now.

  15. I don’t trust those lists of party schools. My local college, UC Santa Cruz (also my alma mater & that of my nice fellow & our kids & so on, & for full disclosure the nice fellow also worked there for 25 years as a cook), has been routinely showing up on those lists for several years now and it’s just not. It has a thread of that running through it since they allowed frats and opened the business school, but for the most part it’s still a place for earnest scholarship, and intellectual & social engagement. Since I know firsthand that the “party school” moniker is a lie with respect to the college I know best, I am disinclined to trust the veracity of any such claims.

  16. Mike Glyer: According to the Internet Science Fiction Database, Schmidt co-edited the anthology Shattered Shields with Jennifer Brozek in 2014

    Aye, but that wouldna count toward eligibility for a 2014 Hugo, nae wud it?

  17. @Bonnie McDaniel: yes I quite agree, nearly every story in Clockwork Phoenix 5 is a pleasure.

  18. And the “Full-Throttle Space Tales” would not have qualified toward the Campbell, since it was from a start-up publisher who did not pay cents-per-word but only split royalties amongst the participants after the costs of the volume had been recouped in sales — but it’s my understanding that Hugo eligibility does not require the 4 anthologies to qualify for BESF to be published in a “qualifying market”.

    Genre fans:
    splitting hairs since humans started growing hair

  19. @Bill: fascinating links — thanks!

    @Lee: exactly so; I carved out a lot of snarky sociopolitical comments before posting that.

  20. @Chip — you’re welcome. The tragedy struck the entire Texas A&M community hard, and it’s interesting to see the reactions, both good and bad. And I’d gently disagree with your characterization of an “A&M” school as a “high-level trade school.”

    Both generally, in that A&M schools all had origins in the Morrill Land Grant act, which endowed and required education in “such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts [read the latter as engineering, as P J alluded to], . . . in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.” Engineering should rightly be considered a profession, not a trade, given that one must be examined and certified by state or professional bodies to practice it at its highest levels, just like medicine and law (i.e., blueprints must be approved by a civil engineer with a PE certification). And to get the agricultural or engineering degree, you’ve got to take all that other humanities stuff to go with it, to be an educated well-rounded citizen. Trade schools, on the other hand, typically don’t require training beyond that necessary to become skilled in a particular craft. You can learn to be a plumber, electrician, auto mechanic, etc., without wasting time on Western Civ, English Lit, etc.

    And specifically in the case of Texas A&M, in that (per wikipedia) Originally, the college taught no classes in agriculture, instead concentrating on classical studies, languages, literature, and applied mathematics.

    Of six current A&M Universities, four are Historically Black Colleges/Universities. Historical prejudice against such schools may color (inadvertently, I’d hope) one’s perception of the quality of A&M universities in general.

    @P J Evans — Oklahoma still has an A&M college.

  21. The Texas A&M student science fiction group has been active and running conventions for something like 47 years. I think that is very impressive. Alumni include Steve Gould, Martha Wells, and Brad Foster.

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