Pixel Scroll 10/24/17 Harry Pixel And The Undeserved Scroll

(1) MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE RADCH. Ann Leckie gave away “Provenance Vestiges” on her book tour. See some of them at the link.

For the trilogy, I was giving out pins, which was great fun, but in all honestly were somewhat difficult to travel with. One pin may not weigh much. Several hundred are another matter entirely. And the mass of them tended to make airport security jumpy.

I wanted to do something fun this time, too, but maybe also something that wouldn’t set off every metal detector on my cross-continent trek, and might be more easily mailable once I got home. And the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like what I wanted was some kind of cool vestige! So I contacted Nikki Thayer. Nikki did me my GigaNotoSaurus banner, and it was Nikki who I turned to when I wanted some Emanations. So this time I went to Nikki and asked her to please make me some cool art to go on the back of some postcards.

If you came to one of my signings, you’ll have gotten (or been able to get) a vestige of the occasion with the first image here, but there are two others! And Nikki says y’all can use these for stuff–make things with them if you want! Do please try to credit Nikki if you can, though.

(2) ROLL ‘EM. The Tolkien biopic has started filming in northern England says Den of Geek.

Nicholas Hoult is taking on the title role in the movie, with the cast also featuring Lily Collins and Colm Meaney (Meaney was announced as joining the cast a week or two back). The latter two have been shooting scenes in Cheshire, under the eye of director Dome Karukoski.

(3) WRITE LIKE THE WIND. Mad Genius Club’s Amanda S. Green is incensed:

Last night, I started my usual prowling through the internet, looking for a topic for today’s post. Nothing resonated with me until I came across a discussion about indie authors. Even though the discussion remained civil, the disdain and condemnation was obvious. I’ll admit, I had a knee-jerk reaction where I wanted to go wading into the discussion to give the indie side of the argument. I didn’t because it would have gained nothing. The people taking part in the discussion are so entrenched in their beliefs, they wouldn’t have listened, no matter how convincing my arguments might have been.

You see, like so many who have been traditionally published, this group simply can’t fathom the speed with which a number of indie authors write. More than that, they can’t accept you can write, edit and publish a book in a month or two. They can’t wrap their minds around the fact that the year or more between books most authors experienced by traditionally publishing was an artificial delay in the production line. But, because this is the system they are used to, it is the only one they feel is valid.

Yes, that is a bit of an oversimplification. They understand that authors write at different paces. It is the rest of it that blows their minds. They have a hard time realizing it doesn’t take months to get edits back and have them finalized. They forget that indies don’t have to wait for publication slots to come open for release dates. Even so, when they start saying they fear for our industry, they point to the speed with which indie writers are putting out their product and assume the product must be inferior because it didn’t go through the same process their work did.

Roger Zelazny once wrote a novel in a weekend. I doubt you could tell which of his works it is.

(4) IN HER PRIME. As previously reported, Kit Reed died September 24 of an inoperable brain tumor. Andrew Porter furnished his photo of the author taken at the 1995 Readercon.

Kit Reed 1995 Readercon – Photo copyright © Andrew Porter

(5) PHILOSOPHICALLY SPEAKING. Ethan Mills delves into “The Contingencies of Histories: Ultima by Stephen Baxter” at Examined Worlds.

Aside from some deeper elements of the plot that really only come together at the end (which I will leave spoiler-free), some of the most interesting philosophical content surrounds the contingency of history.  Could human history of the last few thousand years have gone really differently than it did?  How do contingent events of climate and disease shape history?  Do science, technology, and ethics proceed in a linear fashion from one stage to the next, as a lot of science fiction supposes?  (See especially Star Trek, where the historical trajectory of Western Europe sets the standard for all civilizations in the galaxy in the form of Hodgkin’s Law of Parallel Planetary Development).  Could you imagine societies with spaceflight, but without sophisticated computers, even opting for low tech interstellar travel?  Or a society that eliminates hunger but not slavery?  A society that colonizes this and other solar systems but with a deeply traditional view of its past and acceptance of social hierarchies including empires and royalty?

(6) WHO’S COMING. Gallifrey One didn’t get Pearl Mackie after all but they have new guests to announce.

Greetings, Gallifrey One attendees! Our October update is now on our website and includes a lot of updates… first and foremost, we are absolutely thrilled to announce that Gallifrey One 2018 will be the very first *ever* convention appearance of Doctor Who’s amazing music composer, Murray Gold, who will be joining us for a special live performance on Saturday afternoon. We’ll have details about that soon. We’re also pleased to welcome Doctor Who’s current costume designer Hayley Nebauer, and a number of other program guests including Jane Espenson, Blair Shedd and Naren Shankar.

With the good news comes the bad: we can confirm that Pearl Mackie will indeed not be attending in February, due to her recent commitment to the new play The Birthday Party in the West End. As we mentioned on our last update in September, we tried to work out an alternative allowing her to come to L.A. for our weekend, but with the play’s schedule and Ms. Mackie’s burgeoning career, it simply wasn’t meant to be. Rest assured we’re already working on additional guests for February so stay tuned!

(7) LONGUEUIEL OBIT. Persephone Longueuiel was a victim of a house fire in April. Jay Allan Sanford has written a tribute in the San Diego Reader,  “Behind the fire at Mission Hills’ ultimate Halloween house: Letters from Persephone”.

Tall and dark, with long jet-black hair and inclined toward gypsy-gothy clothes, she was a part-time photographer and aspiring author who spent 30 years working on a never-published book about homosexuals in early Hollywood forced to hide their sexuality. She lost her virginity at a San Diego Comic-Con to a famous horror author for whom she spent the rest of her life pining. She once managed the Comic Kingdom store in Hillcrest, and she owned a horror memorabilia collection valued many times the $20,000 fire officials say the contents of the “hoarder” house were worth. She bought one each of all the Stephen King signed hardcovers and other contemporary authors such as Clive Barker, but she also had rarities like a second edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and original editions of HP Lovecraft books such as The Outsider and Others. She had original TV scripts for shows such as The Addams Family, crates of Universal monster toys dating back to the 1940s, and movie posters for lovable turds such as Son of Blob and Attack of the Crab Monsters.

Her pen pals over the years included authors Robert “Psycho” Bloch, Clive Barker (Hellraiser), and comic creators Neil Gaiman (Sandman) and Alan Moore (Watchmen). Persephone and Elizabeth got holiday cards from Ray Bradbury, Robert Crumb, and Isaac Asimov. One of those celebrated figures is the man who claimed her virginity at Comic-Con.

(8) WEITZ OBIT. Skylab rescuer: “Astronaut Paul Weitz Dies At 85; Veteran Of Skylab And Shuttle Missions”.

On his first space flight, he served as pilot on Skylab-2 (SL-2), along with Apollo 12 veteran Charles “Pete” Conrad, Jr., and Joseph Kerwin, also a rookie on SL-2. The mission to fix Skylab, which had suffered significant damage during the space station’s launch, is still considered one of the most difficult and dangerous in the annals of spaceflight.

…”We had to get the temperatures under control if we were going to salvage Skylab at all,” he told NASA in an oral history recorded in 2000.

Years later, Weitz returned to space when he commanded the critical first mission of Challenger, NASA’s second flight-worthy Space Shuttle orbiter, lifting off on April 4, 1983. The successful flight lasted five days.

Photos and more details on BBC.


The Disney chipmunks Chip and Dale are named after Thomas Chippendale, the furniture maker.


(11) GRAPHIC EXAMPLES. PJ Media’s Megan Fox finds “Prominent Conservative Artists Blacklisted Because of Involvement with Alt*Hero Comics Series”. (Although it sounds like Chuck Dixon already hadn’t been that busy for awhile.)

Timothy Lim, a talented freelance professional illustrator and cover artist, has been fired from Mount Olympus comics because he took a job to create the cover for subversive right-wing comic series Alt?Hero. After Alt?Hero creator Vox Day announced Lim’s contribution publicly, Lim received this message from his current employer.

Lim had begun work for Patriotika, Mount Olympus’s answer to SJW comics, because he had heard it would be pro-American and the SJWs who have taken over DC Comics and Marvel would hate it. “I found out about Patriotika from friends who had positive things to say about it,” Lim said. “I contacted the owner to volunteer my services for his next issue, free of charge, just to support a good cause. He decided to hire me for cover work on another title in the same universe, Valkyrie Saviors.”

But the goodwill took a bad turn when it became public that Lim was working with Vox Day. “When he saw the work that I had done for Alt?Hero, he was not enthused. Three days later he messaged me to tell me he would not print the Valkyrie Saviors cover or the Patriotika one which I was going to finalize the following week,” said Lim.

… Chuck Dixon, the Batman writer most known for co-creating the popular villain Bane and the man Bleeding Cool called “the most prolific comic book writer of all time,” has also been attacked for signing on with Alt?Hero. PJ Media spoke to Dixon about it.

… Dixon’s conservative politics have never been a secret. He wrote the graphic novel “Clinton Cash” during the last election, which hammered the Clintons for their dubious money grabbing schemes. Dixon says the blacklisting began in the early 2000s. “I’ve experienced a steep drop in assignments since 2000. Primarily from the two largest comics publishers [Marvel and DC Comics]….

…Dixon explained why he decided to work with Vox Day. “My decision to join with Vox on this project is because he offered me an interesting opportunity; a return to the kind of escapist superhero fantasy I used to be allowed to create at DC Comics and Marvel Comics. I’ve long lamented that the major comics publishers have walked away from their core audience over the past two decades,” he explained. “They  ran from them by creating ham-handed preach-athons that scold the readers rather than entertain them. And just within the last year, the diversity movement in comics has ratcheted up to chase away even the last of the die-hard fans who were holding on to the hope that one day superhero comics would return to their core appeal as wish-fulfillment fantasies.”

Dixon believes that the answer to SJW culture is to carve out a counter-culture in the realm of entertainment….

(12) THEY’LL BE BACK. It shouldn’t come as a surprise: “CBS has renewed Star Trek: Discovery for a second season” reports Andrew Liptak at The Verge,

The USS Discovery will continue to explore the galaxy. CBS announced this morning that it has renewed the latest iteration of the Star Trek franchise for a second season.

CBS noted that the show has been successful at bringing in new subscribers to its streaming service All Access, and has earned acclaim from fans and critics. Following the season’s premiere, CBS announced that sign-ups for the service had reached their highest level to date. CBS did not announce an episode count for season 2, nor when it would begin airing.

Star Trek: Discovery is set roughly a decade before the events of The Original Series. The show follows Michael Burnham, a disgraced Starfleet officer who serves aboard the USS Discovery following the outbreak of war between the Federation and Klingon Empire. Presently, CBS has aired six of the first season’s 15 episodes, and it has split the season into two “chapters.” The first nine episodes are set to premiere on a weekly basis through November, while the second half will premiere in January 2018.

(13) NOT A MEAL. Soylent isn’t people, and now it’s also not for people, at least Canadians: “Soylent Banned in Canada for Not Actually Being a Meal” according to Gizmodo.

In a major blow to Canadians who love bland on-the-go meal replacement goop, The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has blocked all shipments of Soylent into the country.

Soylent first began shipping to Canada in July 2015, announcing the move with a video of people reading fanatical complaints from Canucks requesting Soylent, with “O Canada” playing in the background. It seems Canada’s food regulatory agency is not as enthusiastic about having the quasi-nutritious substance shipped into the Great White North.

According to a statement from Rob Rhinehart, the CEO of Rosa Foods and the former software engineer who created Soylent, CIFA told the company in early October that their “products do not meet a select few of the CFIA requirements for a ‘meal replacement.’”

(14) ARCHEOLOGICAL GIFTS. NPR has the official word: “U.K. Offers Famed Arctic Shipwrecks As ‘Exceptional Gift’ To Canada”.  The Franklin expedition has spawned genre spinoffs ranging from an Alpha Flight take (right after the first corpses were discovered, 30+ years ago) to a Dan Simmons novel.

In an act befitting “our long shared history and the closeness of our current bilateral relationship,” the U.K. has announced it will give Canada the recovered shipwrecks of John Franklin, a British explorer who sought to chart an unnavigated section of the Northwest Passage in the Arctic in the 1840s — and died in the attempt, along with all of his crew.

“This exceptional arrangement will recognise the historical significance of the Franklin expedition to the people of Canada, and will ensure that these wrecks and artefacts are conserved for future generations,” British Defense Minister Michael Fallon said in a statement published Tuesday.

For more than a century and a half, the resting place of the two vessels remained a mystery — until a team of archaeologists finally found and identified the HMS Erebus in 2014. Just two years later, researchers acted on a tip from an Inuit man to find the HMS Terror, the flagship of Franklin’s 1845 expedition, sitting “perfectly preserved” nearby in the waters near King William Island.

(15) A BANG TOO BIG FOR CAMBRIDGE. Not-so-brief History: “Stephen Hawking’s Ph.D. Thesis Crashes Cambridge Site After It’s Posted Online”.

Interest in “Properties of Expanding Universes” is at an all-time high: Stephen Hawking’s doctoral thesis of that name crashed Cambridge University’s open-access repository on the first day the document was posted online.

The Cambridge Library made several PDF files of the thesis available for download from its website, from what it called a high-resolution “72 Mb” file to a digitized version that is less than half that file size. A “reduced” version was offered that was even smaller — but intense interest overwhelmed the servers.

By late Monday local time, the well-known theoretical physicist’s thesis had been viewed more than 60,000 times, says Stuart Roberts, deputy head of research communications at Cambridge. He added, “Other popular theses might have 100 views per month.”

(16) AGE OF DISCOVERY. “Astrolabe: Shipwreck find ‘earliest navigation tool'” — not exactly the Antikythera, but historic tech in its own right.

An artefact excavated from a shipwreck off the coast of Oman has been found to be the oldest known example of a type of navigational tool.

Marine archaeologists say the object is an astrolabe, an instrument once used by mariners to measure the altitude of the Sun during their voyages.

It is believed to date from between 1495 and 1500.

The item was recovered from a Portuguese explorer which sank during a storm in the Indian Ocean in 1503.

The boat was called the Esmeralda and was part of a fleet led by Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama, the first person to sail directly from Europe to India.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

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84 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 10/24/17 Harry Pixel And The Undeserved Scroll

  1. Can someone explain “Godstalk” to me? Is it “Gods talk” or “God’s talk” or even “God stalk?” (I suspect Zeus could have been charged with the latter.)

    And, most important of all, what does it mean?

  2. @Greg:

    It’s a reference to P. G. Hodgell’s novel “Godstalk” which was very popular in the comments when Filers were discussing best fantasies – so popular that people just popped in to say “Godstalk,” and so “Godstalk” became a default way of commenting just to tick the “Notify me of followup comments” box.

  3. Yeah, as I recall, when Kyra was doing her Fantasy bracket, in later rounds, at least one Filer *cough*youknowwhoyouare*cough* kept popping in to vote for God Stalk, despite the fact that it had been eliminated in an earlier round and was no longer one of the valid voting options. Pretty soon other Filers started voting for it, too, and then it became the default for box-ticking.

  4. Roger Zelazny once wrote a novel in a weekend. I doubt you could tell which of his works it is.

    Lots of writers have written novels very swiftly. I don’t think anyone would seriously argue that it can’t be done. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote the first draft of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE in three days, burnt it (or so he said) and wrote a second draft in under a week. By hand.

    [If there was an editing process and further revisions, though, I don’t know how long that took or what it contributed.]

    The writers who did it time after time, on a regular schedule, though, are not those we tend to prize as masters, though. Lester Dent wrote fast. Lawrence Block and others wrote softcore sex novels rapidly, and did some of their early more serious work just as fast.

    It’s not baffling that people can write fast. But man, doing it steadily can be grueling. I’m in a business where we write pretty damn fast (not novel-a-month fast, but fast), and it gets exhausting. Especially if you’re aiming for something more ambitious than straight plot-oriented genre fiction.

    I don’t think it’s the “way of the future” that so many indy writers keep saying it is, as they prophesy the death of “tradpub.” But I’m glad it works so well for Amanda S. Green, and that her success is so calming and pleasant for her.

    It would be sad if being the way of the future and the road to financial paradise left anyone angry at the benighted fools they were leaving in their wake, impoverished and doomed.

  5. @3: I know Hubbard (he of the roll-feed typewriter) is plausibly attested to have produced a short novel (novella?) in a week; I’d like to see the citation for Zelazny writing a novel in a weekend, including how long it had been gestating before he started typing. More relevant is that he didn’t do it over and over (based on his overall production), and neither did any other traditional author. (The densest publication I know of is 4 Anderson novels in 1 year, but that’s probably queue clumping.) Some (e.g. Pratchett, per Gaiman) started on the next book as soon as the previous was out the door — but that still doesn’t mean they produced a book a month (or more, like the infamous Lionel Fanthorpe). I don’t see any plausible explanation (as opposed to “We’re revolutionary!”) how somebody can consistently turn out readable work at that speed — even Seanan McGuire (who talks coherently at a mile a minute or better) doesn’t turn out work that quickly. Green also appears to be claiming that “light to read” and “easy to produce” are the same, but offers nothing outside her assertions to support this. I wonder how much the book-a-month people are actually selling.

  6. someone should point out to Amanda Green that this possibly explains why so very much of the indie pubs are unmitigated trash. I certainly buy plenty of it, but boy, it’s a crapshoot.

  7. Kurt Busiek: It’s not baffling that people can write fast. But man, doing it steadily can be grueling… Especially if you’re aiming for something more ambitious than straight plot-oriented genre fiction.

    rochrist: someone should point out to Amanda Green that this possibly explains why so very much of the indie pubs are unmitigated trash.

    Yep, I would bet that 99.9% of the novel-every-month authors’ product is formulaic, fill-in-the-blank cookie-cutter plots and characterization, if not just unmitigated trash.

    Green may find value in such books, but I don’t. I’m really, really thankful that I have access to such a fantastic breadth of SFF at my library — because I can’t afford to buy 20 novels every month, and there’s no way I could stomach reading a lot of the self-pubbed books which are being produced.

    I’d probably instead end up spending that time trying to become an SFF writer myself. I am therefore so thankful that it’s not an issue for me… and so, I am sure, are the rest of you. 😉

  8. 7) I never read the report about the fire, when it was first posted here. I read it now, and man, that article was a character assassination par excellence. Also sadly typical that what apparently was a unique and extremely valuable collection is dismissed as “hoarding”.

    The obituary by the person who actually knew mother and daughter was much nicer.

    3) I hate to agree with Ms. Green, but is absolutely possible to write very fast. Many, many writers have written multiple novels per year. Nora Roberts writes up to six novels per year, Michael Moorcock has written a novel in a weekend, Walter Gibson wrote two Shadow novels every months during the 1930s, S.L. Viehl a.k.a. Lynn Viehl writes several novels per year under different pen names, Amanda M. Lee writes more than 12 books per years (and they’re pretty good, Dean Wesley Smith once wrote twenty novels in a year or some such thing. Stephen King had to become Richard Bachmann, because publishers couldn’t keep up with his output. I have written a short story every day for a whole month.

    So yes, it’s absolutely doable, though it’s not easy to sustain this speed over a longer period without getting repititive or formulaic. Some writers can do it, but most can’t. There also isn’t that much of a link between writing speed and quality, at least not in my experience. Yes, many indie SFF novels are derivative or just plain bad, but that’s not necessarily due to the writing speed but more to the “write to market” dogma among many indie writers. In the end, we will never know how fast or slow a given work was written, unless the author decides to tell us.

  9. Since first visiting here a few years ago, I had always imagined “godstalk” to be a deliberate corruption of Gottschalk [as in the now-defunct western U.S. department store chain, or the armaments cartel in John Brunner’s The Jagged Orbit, or the American pianist and composer (1829-1869)] – this seemed no less likely than any other explanation.

    In my timeline, they’re named after the male, uh, exotic dancers.

    Godstalk is also, by way of convoluted pun, a way to signify that you’re checking the tickbox to get email notifications, thereby stalking the thread.

  11. Kendall: Meanwhile, I await @JJ’s first novel


    Nope, nope, nope.

    I’ve done the 2017 Eligible Best Series, and am close to done with the 2017 Novellapalooza, and if yer lucky next year, ya’ll get the 2018 versions of those, plus another set of “Here’s all yer Hugo Finalists for free online” and “Here’s all yer Hugo Finalist reviews”. That, and my mini novel reviews on which I am way behind, is ALL yer gettin’.

  12. (3) In many ways, indie publishing today points back to the old publishing landscape, with both serialised publishing (à la Dickens, Dumas, and Doyle) and the cheaply-produced paperbacks sold entirely outside of the bookstore channels. Sweden had several paperback series that followed that formula during the 70s and 80s, and Harlequin still uses that approach.

    But remember that a novel in the 50s or 60s was maybe half the size of the novels today.

    Swedish pulp novel specialist Kjell Genberg managed to have 18 novels published in 1976. Like some others extremely productive authors, I’ve found that being able to write that quickly is a talent of its own. And Genberg is far from a bad writer. In an interview I read it’s clear that that kind of productivity requires lots of planning and discipline, but there has been a long-time general stigma against that type of publishing.

    (11) *Checks Mount Olympus comics* Pass the brain bleach please. How is this scrollworthy in any sense?

  13. Karl-Johan Norén: How is this scrollworthy in any sense?

    I always keep an eye on what the evolving puppy and Alt- crowd is doing in the sff field. Not because they are “worthy,” though.

  14. Chip Hitchcock: I’d like to see the citation for Zelazny writing a novel in a weekend, including how long it had been gestating before he started typing.

    Chip Sealion is back! I heard the Zelazny story at a party in Arizona in 1976 where the author was present. The author was not the teller of the story.

    Nobody said he wrote all his novels that fast, or any other of his novels that fast. I don’t know whether even Zelazny could have told you how much of that novel had “gestated” before he started typing. Of course he’d be thinking about it — the reason he had to write the novel so quickly was to make a deadline and avoid being asked to return the advance.

  15. I don’t know whether even Zelazny could have told you how much of that novel had “gestated” before he started typing.

    Howard Waldrop’s an interesting example there — he testifies to doing the actual writing of most of his stories very quickly, but usually after exceptionally long gestation processes.

  16. Busy few weeks. I jotted down my thoughts on ST:Discovery now that we’re a few weeks in. They wound up kind of long for ROT13, though (spoilers abound, up to the current episode, S01E06) — so I popped it up on Medium.

    So, thoughts are there, but feel free to comment back right here 🙂

  17. 6) Hunh. This raises my interest in picking up the series, considerably. Because Space Romans 🙂

  18. @OGH: since when is it sealioning to question somebody else’s claim as part of challenging an overall argument? Is there no corresponding term for presenting an isolated fact as if it proves a case?

  19. @Karl Johan Noren
    Germany still has digest-sized pulp magazines in various genres, including SFF. Every issue contains a novella and they are published weekly, biweekly or monthly. Many of these series have the same writer for years or decades. One guy, Helmut Rellergerd a.k.a Jason Dark, has been writing 2000 issues of a horror series since 1973. Perry Rhodan got his start in this form back in 1961 and is still published in magazine form.

    I wrote a couple of English language articles about the German pulps for a long defunct fanzine years ago. I should maybe collect them someday and make them available again.

  20. There used to be a three day novel contest around, partly based on X,Y and Z famous authors writing a full novel draft in that time. (Novel in this case means “longer than novella”, as we know, not necessarily what is published as a novel now.) Because it came with a topic or such that needed to be fit in to the plot, it could not be a fully gestated story idea ahead of time.

    I have zero doubt a novel DRAFT can be finished in a month or less. Not only because of NaNoWriMo but because I managed to write a novel draft when I was sixteen in the course of my summer vacation AND do other summer stuff like go to the beach and bike outside and hang out with friends. (I had a word processor that had a character memory limit that was 10 1/2 single-spaced pages. I would get up, read and tweak what I had written the day before, print out the 10 complete pages, delete everything but the partial page remaining, and then plunge on, and literally type until I ran out of characters. I would edit just enough to free up enough characters to finish the sentence I was working on, save, then go to bed.)

    What I am skeptical about is being able to get the objectivity to realistically edit the book you just wrote without a cool down in between. That cool down usually being a different draft of a different story, something to clear some headspace.

    If the story is at all ambitious stylistically, or does any sort of outré weirdness, it may take longer. I have had novel drafts I was happy with over months, I have at least one I have been working on, so to speak, since I was 16 (see above. The teenage draft was what you’d expect from a teenager, but the story idea underneath was solid enough to rework from scratch.)

    Then there’s life. I write slower with two kids than I did with one, and arguably slower with one than before (arguably because I won NaNoWriMo twice since J. was born. But before he was born I had never done NaNoWriMo I didn’t need to, to carve out serious writing draft time.)

    Now, as I griped on facebook the other day, I need to actually get more of them out the door…

  21. There are plenty of extremely prolific writers around – some people just work that way. The examples I immediately thought of were Fanthorpe, Edgar Wallace, and Rex Stout. I haven’t read enough of Fanthorpe to form an opinion, but both Wallace and Stout managed to write a lot and still maintain a level of quality (though you could argue that they managed it by sticking closely to a limited range of standard formulae.)

    However… Sturgeon’s Law applies to self-published work as well as trad-pubbed stuff, and there are disadvantages to being your own editor. Sometimes, a second pair of eyes on a text can improve it quite a lot.

    NaNoWriMo is a case in point – some people thrive on the pressure it creates. I guess I might be one of them, having “won” it thirteen times in a row. My personal best, one year, was about 160,000 words output*, and that put me somewhere in the top 100 for word count that year… certainly not in the top 20, though! Some people will “win” it ten times over in the course of the month – I’ve even read one of the drafts produced this way, and it was, well, adequately readable, though it would have needed a lot of tightening up in a second draft (IMHO). Just because something’s written at speed, that’s no guarantee it’s bad. But there are independent authors who put stuff out before it’s ready to meet the general public, and the more deadline pressure you’re under, the greater the temptation to publish things that aren’t quite “there” yet.

    *I finished one 100,000 word novel and started a sequel, that year. My personal best for a single complete novel, inside the month, is 125,000 or thereabouts.

  22. Hello everybody and most particularly Mike,

    Just want to say how much I have been enjoying File770, Pixel Scrolls and otherwise, but as I am always behind I never get a chance to comment. Well, almost never. I was nearly caught up (only 2 weeks behind!) 2 weeks ago and then wwerk intervened any now I’m only 4 weeks behind.

    Well done everybody,

    (Maybe I’ll manage to post a real comment soon…)

  23. A real comment!

    Of course, famously(?), Mike Moorcock wrote the Eternal Champion novel in 18 hours (I hope I remember corrrectly). And (in my opinion) it shows (i.e. it’s much shallower than his other novels).

    Allegedly, he wrote a lot of his other novels of that time in approximately 3 days. Or double the EC time. Double the EC time is sort-of believable, but actually they seem somewhat better than that… but then one would not expect quality to be a linear function of effort.

    But continuing to write 72-hours books might pay the rent but one would think it unlikely to lead to massive future success. Maybe that’s unless one is as talented as MM? Not to mention that nowadays there is a lot more competition in the downmarket department.

  24. (14) Can I just object here to

    For more than a century and a half, the resting place of the two vessels remained a mystery — until a team of archaeologists finally found and identified the HMS Erebus in 2014.

    Inuits have history stating there was a ship where the HMS Erebus was found. They had even boarded her and found a dead man in a cabin. Sure enough, when the archeologists and Coast Guard go to the area the Inuits indicated, they found the Erebus largely intact. Which matches what the Inuit had been saying for over a century—that the ship sank rapidly. But, no. Historians said she must have been broken up by ice.

    Two years later, Inuit hunter and Arctic Ranger Sammy Kogvik from Nunavut lead a team of archaeologists to the HMS Terror in Terror Bay, right where Inuit history said she would be. It wasn’t a mystery to anyone who was listening and it wasn’t the ‘team of archaeologists’ who found her.

  25. @Lenora Rose, @Steve Wright: just so. There’s a very thin scattering of people who can write tolerable work quickly, even with Green’s so-called “gatekeepers”; cf Stout. And there have been a few who could crank out wordwooze to order or template; from what I read, Andrew J. Offutt may have been in Fanthorpe’s league. I was taught to do ~sprints in 11th-grade English class as a way of getting something down on paper for an exam; that may even have helped when an exam served up a question that could have been customized for me. But doing publishable work that quickly strikes me as an extremely rare skill; for most writers, the improvements from time-to-settle and/or another pair of eyes seem substantial.

    And now, a question for people with deep memories. SF of various ages has talked about enveloping environments of many sorts; has it ever told of a portable attraction that interferes (possibly fatally) with daily life? Today’s news includes a story about Honolulu’s ordinance against reading devices in a crosswalk — a development that struck the BBC as newsworthy. Basic cellphone etiquette is referenced in Tunnel in the Sky, but a law against stupidity is another order.

  26. @Chip: There’s a difference, especially in casual conversation, between something like “Which Zelazny novel was that?” or “Did Zelazny say how long he’d been thinking about that book before he started writing?”–questions that assume honest reporting and ask for more information–and “I’d like to see the citation,” which reads as “prove it” even if what you meant is “that’s interesting, where can I find out more?”

  27. There are a bunch of songs that I like that their creators have said were “written in 15 minutes.” I don’t know if I like that or not. Maybe it’s genius breaking free. Maybe my tastes are simple. I tell myself that it just seemed like 15 minutes and they’d probably been noodling around with the ideas for a longer period of time.

    A Clockwork Orange was written in three weeks. I thought I read it was just done for the money, too. Certainly not Anthony Burgess’s favorite work, but it’s what he’ll be remembered for.

    Scrolling the pixel and reading File 770
    That’s entertainment, that’s entertainment

  28. I think a large part of the difference lies in this equation:

    writing really fast, then handing it off to an editor


    writing really fast, and then going to print

    Sorry if this is old school or not modern or support of the old guard or whatever, but I’ve yet to see a creative endeavor that hasn’t been improved in some fashion by getting a second set of (professional) eyes on it.

    Or even by just putting it down and then taking a fresh look.

    What’s also largely missing in the “indie” dynamic is the lack of shared professional discourse. (If you are writing that fast, if your work isn’t being looked at by others with experience, how are you “keeping up with the field”?)

    I’m waiting for the day when a trad book appears that has “professionally edited by…” following the author’s name…

  29. @@steve davidson – Sorry if this is old school or not modern or support of the old guard or whatever, but I’ve yet to see a creative endeavor that hasn’t been improved in some fashion by getting a second set of (professional) eyes on it.

    I read a fair number of indie authors and while I’ll try pretty much anything once, I only keep track of and buy more from authors who send their work out for editing and beta readers. No author can catch all the errors, particularly in areas like continuity and whether what’s typed makes sense (just because it makes sense in your head, it doesn’t necessarily follow that you’ve included enough information for it to make sense to the reader).

    In terms of speed writing with at least a measure of agreed upon quality, I offer Georges Simenon. Rex Stout banged out a novel every two weeks and I’m pretty sure I read that Simenon did so significantly faster.

  30. (1) I really like that invitation. Makes me want to attempt to get hold of US stamps.

    (3) I like how Green basically goes looking for someone who’s wrong on the internet so she can blog about, and then is outraged that she found someone being wrong on the internet. I also like how she says it would’ve been useless to write something directed at those people, because they won’t change their mind anyway. And then preaches to her choir instead – because that’s time much better spent.

    (11) Am I reading the second paragraph wrong, or is the journalist saying Lim got blacklisted by a right wing publisher because of his VD connection?

  31. In re: Zelazny — Any chance that was Jack of Shadows? I thought that read like a plot outline rather than a completed book, and it would be funny if that was why!

  32. @steve davidson

    Sorry if this is old school or not modern or support of the old guard or whatever, but I’ve yet to see a creative endeavor that hasn’t been improved in some fashion by getting a second set of (professional) eyes on it.

    I don’t see where your correct perspective on the utility of editing is in conflict with Ms. Green’s. If a book can be written in a few weeks, why should it take another 12-18 months to get into the hands of readers? MGC (and elsewhere) routinely recommend hiring a good editor to put that fresh set of eyes on a book before it is published.

    Given the number of times that I run across books from big-5 imprints with crappy copy editing, I’m not sure that trad-pub is really a golden ticket for readers.


  33. Copy editing is not editing. Crappy copy editing is minor by comparison.

    It’s also the lack of cool down/ write something else period I see as the chief issue. Though even there, A cool down period should (in theory)* not need to be a year. But there’s a reason NaNoEd{iting}Mo is March, not December.

    I can totally see the right person getting out, say, 4 books a year of decent quality. Plausibly more once they get the swing of it right. Not me, I couldn’t do that pace.

    *Some bitterness there on my part as I am waiting on some responses from betas and the like that are going on that long. Some are freebies where I know I’m getting what I paid for so to speak, one is not…

  34. IME, crappy copy editing is frequently an indicator of the quality of the entire editing process. It isn’t a 100% predictor, but it’s good enough to be worth mentioning.

    As it should be the easiest form of editing, I tend to question the commitment of a publisher to a given book if they can’t be bothered to get the copy editing done properly.

    I generally agree with most of the other thoughts about letting a book rest before an author goes back to edit it. (at least that works for me in my professional/technical writing)


  35. Isaac Asimov wrote at least one book in a single day. (It was non-fiction/humor, rather than SF, but still.) He ended up publishing over 500 books during his lifetime–which includes anthologies and his extensive range of non-fiction, but still works out to be over eight books a year for the over-fifty years of his active career. And he still managed to become known as one of the “big three” of SF in his day. (Which was a reference to his popularity, not his prolificacy.)

    On the other hand, he also once mentioned that he found switching viewpoint characters in a story to be an extremely difficult trick, and didn’t understand how other authors could do it so frequently.

    So writing at an insane pace is clearly not a barrier to popularity or acceptance. But it does seem to limit the things you might do–the literary techniques you can reasonably be expected to manage or pull off. (I note that Asimov also never published a story written entirely in iambic pentameter, as a random example.)

    What I don’t understand is why “indie” is being conflated with “prolific”. The two seem entirely unrelated to me. The thing I associate with “indie” is “poorly edited”. (And I don’t just mean in the copyediting sense.) Sturgeon’s Law applies after the editing process has eliminated the overwhelming majority of extreme crap. Which is why I only read indie authors after they’ve gone through the informal editing process of being vetted by people I at least vaguely know and trust. Or, at the very least, by people who aren’t the author or their close friends.

    Mean of me, I know, but life is short. 🙂

  36. Dann: As it should be the easiest form of editing, I tend to question the commitment of a publisher to a given book if they can’t be bothered to get the copy editing done properly.

    Yep, and this is why any editor from the “editing team” at Baen goes below No Award on my Hugo ballot, as long as their business model is based on not doing it.

    But no, big publishers are not immune to lack of care in book publishing. Spaceman from Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar, published by Little, Brown, is one of the most egregious examples I’ve ever seen. The author clearly didn’t bother to do the slightest bit of research, and the editor clearly didn’t bother to employ a fact-checker. OMG, is that book bad. It is so bad that the editor should be fired.

  37. Look at that “Valkyrie Saviors” in the PJ Media link and ask yourself: how do her shoulders, hips, and chest work? (besides ‘eldritchly’)

  38. @Vicki: there is also a difference between anecdote as such, and something proferred as fact (e.g., w/o “I heard” or “so-and-so said to me” in front) placed so it looks like it buttresses an absurd claim.

  39. Aside from the fact that it’s tedious, fiddly, and time-consuming, I don’t think I’d agree that copy-editing is the hardest part of editing. In fact, I think it’s a somewhat separate skillset. Just as someone can be an excellent writer, but a terrible copy-editor, so too can someone be an excellent editor but a terrible copy-editor. (And vice versa. In both cases.)

    I think perhaps the hardest part of editing may be identifying the parts of a decent story which could be improved to take it to the next level. (Or which parts of a mediocre story could be improved enough to make it decent.) And gently persuading the (frequently temperamental) writer that making changes might be a good thing.

    But I admit that I do tend to judge editors poorly when the copy-editing is poor. Even if it’s slightly unfair, it seems to me that a company which can afford a good editor should also be able to afford some decent copy-editors.

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