Pixel Scroll 10/29/17 Please Remember To Scroll Your Pixels In The Form Of A Question

(1) THE ORIGINAL KTF REVIEWER. Humanities revisits “Edgar Allan Poe’s Hatchet Jobs”.

Poe churned out reams of puff-free reviews—the Library of America’s collection of his reviews and essays fills nearly 1,500 dense pages. Few outside of Poe scholarship circles bother reading them now, though; in a discipline that’s had its share of so-called takedown artists, Poe was an especially unlovable literary critic. He occasionally celebrated authors he admired, such as Charles Dickens and Nathaniel Hawthorne. But, from 1835 until his death in 1849, the typical Poe book review sloshed with invective.

Tackling a collection of poems by William W. Lord in 1845, Poe opined that “the only remarkable things about Mr. Lord’s compositions are their remarkable conceit, ignorance, impudence, platitude, stupidity, and bombast.” He opened his review of Susan Rigby Morgan’s 1836 novel, The Swiss Heiress, by proclaiming that it “should be read by all who have nothing better to do.” The prose of Theodore S. Fay’s 1835 novel, Norman Leslie, was “unworthy of a school-boy.” A year later, Poe doomed Morris Mattson’s novel Paul Ulric by pushing Fay under the bus yet again, writing, “When we called Norman Leslie the silliest book in the world we had certainly never seen Paul Ulric.”

Attacking better-known writers – a tactic still in use today by several minor sff authors — was also typical of Poe.

The twist, though, is that as a critic Poe often treated ethics as disposably as we do coffee filters. That self-dealing rave review is just one example. Poe plagiarized multiple times early in his career (most notably in The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym and “Usher”), but still spent much of 1845 leveling plagiarism accusations against Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Poe delivered his attacks under his own name, but also anonymously, and through an imaginary interlocutor named “Outis.” But for all of Poe’s bluster, evidence of Longfellow’s thievery was thin, and the poet, wisely, didn’t respond. “Poe’s Longfellow war,” said publisher Charles Briggs, who’d hired Poe at the Broadway Journal, “is all on one side.”

(2) WHAT A REVIEWER IS FOR. New Yorker’s Nathan Heller revisits the American Heart controversy in “Kirkus Reviews and the Plight of the “Problematic” Book Review”.

People make sense of art as individuals, and their experiences of the work differ individually, too. A reviewer speaks for somebody, even if he or she doesn’t speak for you.

To assume otherwise risks the worst kind of generalization. I went to high school in San Francisco at the height of the multiculturalism movement. My freshman curriculum did not include “The Catcher in the Rye,” “The Great Gatsby,” or “Moby-Dick.” We read, instead, “Their Eyes Were Watching God” and “Bless Me, Ultima,” and other books showing the range of American fiction. I’m glad. (One can read “The Grapes of Wrath” anytime.) I remember finding Hurston’s novel brilliant and Anaya’s novel boring. I did not conclude, from these feelings, that African-American literature was interesting and Chicano literature was not. Why would I? The joy of books is the joy of people: they’re individuals, with a balance of virtues and flaws. We are free to find—and learn our way into—the ones that we enjoy the most, wherever they come from.

That specificity of response is what Vicky Smith seems to encourage by opening the full canon of new work to new readers. It’s also, though, the diversity that Kirkus has smothered by issuing a “correction”—the editor’s word—on the political emphasis of a published response. Although it’s easy these days to forget, a politics is a practice of problem-solving, case by case, not a unilateral set of color-coded rules. If certain inputs guarantee certain outputs, what’s in play isn’t politics but doctrine. Kirkus, admirably, is trying to be on the progressive side of a moment of transition in our reading. But its recent choices aren’t about progress, or about helping young people find their way through many voices. They’re about reducing books to concepts—and subjecting individuals who read them to the judgments of a crowd.

(3) AWARD REBOOT. Newly appointed award administrator Tehani Croft announced “Significant changes for the Norma K Hemming Award”.

The Norma K Hemming Award, under the auspices of the Australian Science Fiction Foundation (ASFF), announces significant changes to the Award structure.

Designed to recognise excellence in the exploration of themes of race, gender, sexuality, class or disability in a published speculative fiction work, the Norma K Hemming Award, which has been running since 2010, has had a major overhaul this year, with new categories and a two year cycle.

The award is now open to short fiction and edited anthologies, alongside the previous eligible work of novellas, novels, collections, graphic novels and stage plays. It will also make allowances for serialised work. In addition, entry submissions may be digital or print for all submissions.

Two prizes will now be given, one for short fiction (up to 17,500 words) and one award for long work (novellas, novels, collections, anthologies, graphic novels and play scripts), with a cash prize and citation awarded.

Nominations for the 2018 awards, covering all eligible work published in 2016 and 2017, will open in early November.

(4) THE HORROR. Chloe continues the Horror 101 series at Nerds of a Feather with “HORROR 101: The Uncanny”.

The uncanny to me is a crucial element of horror: not being able to pinpoint exactly what makes us scared. While the extreme can be terrifying (the xenomorph in Alien is a category crisis—its something we can’t classify/is not instantly knowable—but it’s not uncanny because we shouldn’t be able to know it/classify it as its something completely new to the human experience). However, even more terrifying is that which is just a little off: pod people who may look like your lover, but they smile in just a slightly different way. A man with fingers just a little too long. Women with hair in front of their faces so that their expressions are unknowable.

In technology, we refer to the “uncanny valley” (a term coined by Masohiro Mori in the 70’s) when dealing with robots and computer designed images of people. A robot who looks human-like but not realistically so (think Bender in Futurama) wouldn’t trigger the uncanny valley but a robot who looks extremely close to human, but has some tiny bit of offness, such as the more and more realistic robots we have currently, would fall into it and create a sense of slight fear, revulsion, or distrust. In the film Ex Machina (which on its surface is a film about a Turing test going very wrong, but in its heart is a take on the tropes of Gothic literature and the Bluebeard fairy tale), Alicia Vikander portrays Ava brilliantly by making the robotic elements include both Ava’s movements (more perfect than an average person’s) and speech (carefully clipped and enunciated)—this heightens the uncanny valley feeling while going against the entirely human looks of her face (which wouldn’t necessarily fall into the uncanny valley).

(5) WHEN WILL YOU MAKE AN END? Alastair Reynolds writes a whole post – “Gestation time” — around a term that also came up in a discussion of Zelazny here earlier this week.

In the previous post I mentioned that my new story “Night Passage” – just out in the Infinite Stars anthology – was one I was glad to see in print because it had taken about five years to finish. I thought that was approximately the case, but when I checked my hard drive I saw that I opened a file on that story at the end of November 2009, so the better part of eight years ago. That wasn’t an attempt at the story itself, but as per my usual working method, a set of notes toward a possible idea. I rarely start work on a story cold, but instead prefer to brainstorm a series of rambling, sometimes contradictory thoughts, out of which I hope something coherent may emerge. This process can take anything from a morning to several days or weeks, but I never start a story in the first fire of inspiration.

(6) INITIAL QUESTION. At Nerds of a Feather, The G interviews Shadow Clarke reviewer Megan AM – “FIRESIDE CHAT: Megan AM of Couch to Moon”.

MEGAN AM: …  My own personal goal was to demonstrate that good, interesting, literary SF does exist; that it can come from anyone, anywhere, and in any language; and that it can compete with the basic, Americanized, TV-style SF I keep encountering on shortlists. Unfortunately, the 2017 Clarke submissions list didn’t give me much to work with on that front–a lot of the choices were very formulaic, very bland, not to mention very British, white, and male– but I did manage to find some champions I’m grateful to have read: Joanna Kavenna, Martin MacInnes, Lavie Tidhar, Johanna Sinisalo. As for my experience as a contributor… I mean, eight people I have admired in this field–most of whom I had never interacted with before– read and talked books with me. It was the coolest thing ever. I’m curious what you thought of the whole thing. Watching you watch it from the outside was interesting: You seemed genuinely interested in bridging gaps between contentious parties, communicating good faith in all sides, and withholding judgment until it was all said and done. So, now that it is done, what do you think? …

THE G: …. I’d also extend these observations to criticism itself. So I try to have a thick skin anytime I press “publish.” Someone is bound to think my ideas are rubbish, and that’s fine. At the same time, authors and fans are often guilty of violating the text/person distinction–taking depersonalized comments on a text personally and lashing out at the person who made them. The effect is to police what critics, bloggers and other reviewers can say in public, and that’s bullshit. 

I could go on, but let’s get back to the Sharke project! Or rather, back to awards. One thing that’s come up a lot in discussions is the concept of “award worthiness,” i.e. that there is some objective-ish bar that works of fiction must live up to in order to be proper candidates. I’ve bandied this term about a few times, generally when talking about the Hugos. I have a very clear sense of what, for me, constitutes award worthiness in science fiction and fantasy–some combination of ideas, execution, emotional resonance and prose chops. Not always the same combination, but hitting all four to a significant degree, and hitting one or two out of the park….

MEGAN AM: ….This comes back to questioning the idea of an objective kind of “award worthiness.” You mention “comfort SF,” which is just as subjective, because I don’t find that kind of SF comforting at all. We’re living in a Trumpnado, where critical reading and thinking skills are devalued, fake news accusations are flying from all directions, nazism is being given a platform in centrist media, and yet progressive SF fans feel threatened by the idea that it might be necessary to sharpen up on difficult, rigorous, uncomfortable novels? I’m not sure it’s appropriate right now to award anything less than radical and complex. And even setting politics aside, the these ‘comfort food books’ are aesthetically old and crusty. Reading award-nominated novels from different decades really helps to put that into perspective: Not a lot has changed in the styling of SF and its “coding” of metaphors, so I’m confused by why we keep awarding the same styles and thoughts… seventy. years. later.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

Amazingly, Clemens photographed 117 of the 156 episodes of the series. His crisp black-and white photography is well featured in the Blu-ray format – so crisp that a freeze-frame sometimes reveals details that even the art directors didn’t want you to see. For instance, in the Donald Pleasence episode “Changing of the Guard” (the final episode of the third season), the diploma on the wall of Professor Ellis Fowler’s office should feature his name. It doesn’t. Thanks to George Clemens’ crystal-clear photography, we see that it belongs to another man.

  • October 29, 1998 – John Glenn returned to outer space.

(8) THINKING ABOUT MOOLAH.  Franklin Templeton Investments gives a rundown about AI “Science Fiction To Science Fact: The Rise Of The Machines”.

By Mat Gulley, CFA, Executive Vice President, Head of Alternatives and Co-Head IM Data Science, Fintech & Rapid Development; Ryan Biggs, CFA, Research Analyst

The rapid expansion of artificial intelligence (AI) has generated a lot of excitement, but also some (perhaps justified) paranoia. Will computers replace-or even overtake-human beings? Mat Gulley, executive vice president and head of alternatives at Franklin Templeton Investments, and Ryan Biggs, research analyst at Franklin Equity Group, explore the ramifications of “the rise of the machines” in the realm of asset management. They say the full implications of the new machine age will likely take decades to fully play out, but will likely be staggering.

We have been anticipating their arrival for decades. As far back as 1958 the New York Times wrote a story about a machine developed at Cornell University called the Perceptron. The device was said to be “the embryo of an electronic computer … expected to walk, talk, see, write, reproduce itself and be conscious of its own existence.” In 1958!? That would have been an astonishing achievement in a time even before the microwave oven graced our kitchen countertops.

For the past half century, humanity has been eagerly anticipating the age of artificial intelligence (AI); imagining it in Hollywood and reporting on its progress in the media. Perhaps at times our optimism has gotten ahead of itself. Not any longer. This time, the machines are not just coming-they are already here….

(9) SPEAKING UP. The Washington Post’s Todd C. Frankel looks at the career of the video game voice actor, who can spend four hours straight practicing ways of screaming death scenes and who went on an eight-month strike to get better working conditions and residuals: “In $25 billion video game industry, voice actors face broken vocal cords and low pay”.

Yet voice actors in this industry are not treated like actors in television and movies. This led voice actors to go on strike last year against 11 of the largest video game developers over bonus pay and safety issues such as vocal stress. The bitter labor dispute dragged on for 11 months, making it the longest strike in the history of Hollywood’s largest actors’ union, SAG-AFTRA. Burch was forced to give up a critically acclaimed role she loved. Gaming fans feared delays for their favorite titles before a tentative deal was reached late last month. A vote by the full union is going on now.

The lengthy strike highlighted how video games have emerged as the scene of a tense clash between Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Voice actors want to be treated more like TV and film actors, who are viewed as central to the creative process. Tech firms often see the developers and engineers as the true stars of the show.

“They keep saying, ‘Games are different,’?” said J.B. Blanc, a well-known voice actor and director who has worked with Burch several times. “But that’s no longer true. Because games want to be movies, and movies want to be games. These are basically 100-hour-long movies.”

(10) EASY PICKINGS. Abbie Emmons has now taken her Twitter account private after absorbing a thorough and professional internet beating. The punishment began after she tweeted the opinion belittled by Foz Meadows in “Dear Abbie: An Open Letter”. Foz begins with the admission “I don’t know where your hometown is” but doesn’t let that keep her from making assumptions about it, or from working in “white” and “Christian” four times in her opening paragraph, and not in a positive way.

You’re quite right to say that you, personally, will not encounter every type of person in your small corner of the world. But “small” is the operative word, here: wherever your hometown might be, the fact that it’s the basis of your personal experience doesn’t make it even vaguely representative of the world – or even America – at large.

You claim that you “love everyone” regardless of their background, and I’m sure you believe that about yourself. Here’s the thing, though: when you say you wish people would stop being “correct” and “just write books that actually… reflected the kind of thing we encounter in real life,” you’re making a big assumption about who that “we” is. There might be very few black people in your hometown, but if one of them were to write a novel based on their memories of growing up there, you likely wouldn’t recognise certain parts of their experience, not because it was “incorrect,” but because different people lead different lives. And when you claim that certain narratives are forced and unrealistic, not because the writing is badly executed, but because they don’t resemble the things you’ve encountered, that’s not an example of you loving everyone: that’s you assuming that experiences outside your own are uncomfortable, inapplicable and wrong.

(11) EXOTIC NATTER. NextBigFuture declares “Teleportation and traversible wormholes are all real”. You wouldn’t doubt Han Solo would you?

Einstein-Rosen or “ER” bridges, are equivalent to entangled quantum particles, also known as Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen or “EPR” pairs. The quantum connection between wormholes prevents their collapse without involving exotic matter.

The quantum-teleportation format precludes using these traversable wormholes as time machines. Anything that goes through the wormhole has to wait for Alice’s message to travel to Bob in the outside universe before it can exit Bob’s black hole, so the wormhole doesn’t offer any superluminal boost that could be exploited for time travel.

Researchers are working towards lab tests of quantum teleportation to verify their theories…

(12) POT. KETTLE. BLACK. Camestros Felapton, in “Reading Vox Day So You Don’t Have To: The last essay on Chapter 6”, thinks the way to refute Vox Day’s characterization of alleged SJW organizational tactics is to show how Republicans have done the same thing to each other. True as that may be, the trouble is tit-for-tat casemaking isn’t entertaining – and usually, Camestros is very entertaining.

Organizational Tactics

These are the terrible things SJWs are supposed to do to organizations. Vox lists seven and he manages to set up a deeply insightful analysis of how an organization can be destroyed by political extremists. The only problem is that as an analysis it fit bests how the right have wrecked the Republican party. Again, I’ve changed the order to show the sequence of events better.

“The Code of Conduct: Modifying the organization’s rules and rendering them more nebulous in order to allow the prosecution or defense of any member, according to their perceived support for social justice.”

Lobbying organizations on the right like the NRA or “Americans for Tax Reform”  have systematically created an extension of the GOP’s actual rules and accountabilities for their politicians. For example the ATR has been pressurizing Republican candidates (at state and federal level) to sign the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge”: …

(13) DEAR SIR OR MADAM. SyFy Wire tells about the exhibit where you can read J.K. Rowling’s original Harry Potter pitch to publishers.

Rowling’s original pitch opens with:

Harry Potter lives with his aunt, uncle and cousin because his parents died in a car-crash — or so he has been told. The Dursleys don’t like Harry asking questions; in fact, they don’t seem to like anything about him, especially the very odd things that keep happening around him (which Harry himself can’t explain).

The Dursleys’ greatest fear is that Harry will discover the truth about himself, so when letters start arriving for him near his eleventh birthday, he isn’t allowed to read them. However, the Dursleys aren’t dealing with an ordinary postman, and at midnight on Harry’s birthday the gigantic Rubeus Hagrid breaks down the door to make sure Harry gets to read his post at last. Ignoring the horrified Dursleys, Hagrid informs Harry that he is a wizard, and the letter he gives Harry explains that he is expected at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in a month’s time.

The synopsis goes on to discuss Hagrid’s arrival and his revelations about Harry’s forehead scar while also explaining that “Harry is famous among the witches and wizards who live in secret all over the country because Harry’s miraculous survival marked Voldemort’s downfall”.

(14) SPACE VAMPIRES AND THE FUTURE OF “I”. Peter Watts brings a whole new level to the term “self-effacing” – “The Bicentennial 21st-Century Symposium of All About Me”.

This feels a bit weird. Creepy, even.  If it makes any difference, I advised them not to go ahead with it.

A couple of weeks from now— Nov 10-11— the University of Toronto will be hosting an academic symposium about me. More precisely, about my writing.

You could even call it an international event. While U of T is providing the venue, the symposium itself is organized by Aussie Ben Eldridge, of the University of Sydney. At least two of the presenters are from the US (although one of them will be Skyping in, doubtless to avoid the mandatory cavity search that seems to be SOP at the border these days).

Friday is layperson-friendly: a round-table discussion of my oeuvre, or omelet, or however you say that; a reading (new stuff, yet to be published); an interview; a bit of Q&A.  The schedule only listed 15 minutes for drinks after that, but as Ben reminds me he is an Australian and would never make so rookie a mistake. That 15 minutes is only for warm-up drinking on campus, after which we retire to the Duke of York.

Saturday is the academic stuff….

(15) VISIBLE WOMAN. We probably have more cyborgs than Taylor Swift fans on this site — which still means some of you should be interested in this new recording: “Taylor Swift Turns Cyborg For New ‘Blade Runner’-Inspired Video to ‘…Ready For It?’ Watch”.

As fans of the Blade Runner universe mull over Denis Villeneuve’s cerebral cinematic study of what makes a human, Swift goes full replicant in the new futuristic music video, which dropped at midnight.

Taylor lit up the Internet earlier this week when she teased snippets from the sci-fi clip, in which she appears in a skin-tone thermoptic suit, giving the illusion of actually being her birthday suit. Who needs threads when you’re a machine, right?

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Carl Slaughter, and Elizabeth Fitzgerald for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

119 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 10/29/17 Please Remember To Scroll Your Pixels In The Form Of A Question

  1. I follow Foz Meadows and get her blogposts in my email, so I saw this several days ago, although I missed the original tumblr brewhaha. May I quote Foz’ entire first paragraph? Because I don’t think she is using “white and christian” in any way that could be characterized as derogatory, and makes excellent points about what diversity IS:

    Dear Abbie, (Yeah, I think Foz just couldn’t resist that opening…)

    I don’t know where your hometown is, but when you wrote this paragraph, I imagine you were thinking of somewhere in America that’s predominantly white and Christian. While you’re correct in thinking that some places are indeed demographically whiter than others, you’re mistaking the absence of a particular type of diversity for the absence of any diversity. In this hypothetical white, Christian hometown, there will still be plenty of women. They might not have made themselves known to you, and they might not always be out, but there will still be queer people – not necessarily many, but we’ll be there. There will still be kids with ADHD, adults with diabetes, veterans with missing limbs or PTSD or both; there will still be adults over the age of 50, people of all ages with various types of depression, anxiety and mental illness; there will be cancer survivors, individuals who are are sight-impaired or need therapy animals, and all manner of other conditions. And, yes, even in this predominantly white-and-Christian setting, there will be people of colour, some of whom might have a different faith to you and some of whom might not, just as there will also be white folks who, whatever their performance of Christian cultural norms, will be agnostics or atheists in the privacy of their thoughts, or who believe fervently in God while still getting their palms or tarot or horoscopes read every fortnight. Diversity is always present, is the point; it’s just not always as clearly visible as a difference in clothes or skin colour.

    Foz has it right. I think she was trying to spell out exactly why the whole “but sticking in a gay/black/trans/whatevs characters is so unrealistic!” trope is nonsense.

    Which leads to the “write what you know” trope. Also nonsense, because as a friend of mine said, “Yeah, that kinda limits me from writing Disney Princess fanfiction set in the 19th century.” Not to mention pretty much every SFF story ever.

    There has been ridicule of the existence of beta readers to help vet realistic portrayals of ‘diverse’ characters. But really, isn’t that what’s needed to help with the ‘I’m not gay or black so how do I write good gay or black characters?’ problem?

    As someone else has already pointed out, Foz didn’t unleash the twitter hounds on Abbie; that had already happened by the time Foz wrote her blogpost. Let’s not overlook the excellent points made about diversity Foz is making by focusing on the twittersphere.

  2. I was a little taken aback myself by the use of “Christian” four times in that paragraph, along with “white”, as a sort of anti-diversity default.

  3. The problem with what Ms. Emmons said is that her view of “realistic” doesn’t remotely match mine. While I expect most fiction to make a kind of internal sense, I don’t necessarily want it to be “realistic”, even on my terms-let alone hers. Even if her intent was to demean others, which isn’t readily apparent in her comments, she doesn’t deserve the scourging she’s received for this

    Every couple days or so on the G+ NASA page, we get gentlemen who are wanting to share their perspective that the Earth is flat, complete with videos and charts and diagrams. And well, if one lives in say, Kansas, I guess it’s pretty obvious looking at the horizon that the Earth can’t possibly be round. Different views on what’s realistic, and all that.

    Now, I’m guessing the gentle people of File770 would consider the reaction of the people on the NASA group to be particularly egregious and worthy of condemnation. Surely we can agree it’s one thing to disagree civilly with a different perspective, and another to call the Flat Earthers trolls, idiots, delusional and other cruel words.

    So How about it John, Greg, Robert, everyone? Ready to come over to the NASA group to help defend the Little Guys from the bullying of the Big Guys, with their physics degrees and math and logic ? If you’re not, how is the situation different?

  4. FWIW: I found Foz Meadows reply quite nuanced and respectful. She didnt attack, she explained.
    The twitter post was naive and , frankly, quite dumb, but I dont think it was evil or malicious (a word I hope means, I think it means). So I think the explanation Foz delivered was justified. If “Abby” would have listen to it, if she wouldnt have been attacked more harshly already is anybodys guess.

    “They dont call him Mr. Pixel for nothing!”
    “If you can scroll this pixel, you are standing too close”

  5. I was a little taken aback myself by the use of “Christian” four times in that paragraph, along with “white”, as a sort of anti-diversity default.

    Well… yeah? I mean, “white” and “Christian” (along with “straight”, “male”, “middle class”, and now “cis”) are literally the assumed “default positions” that the various diversity movements are trying to dislodge so that there are no longer any “assumed defaults”. I’ll give you three guesses who has been riding herd on the resistance to those efforts. (And yeah, yeah, not all whatever.)

  6. It was “Christian” that surprised me a bit, not “white”, just to be clear. Foolish of me to share that thought I suppose.

  7. Robert Reynolds on October 30, 2017 at 9:03 am said:

    10) The lesson to be drawn from this is, sadly, “Don’t say anything which could be even vaguely unsettling, offensive or controversial anywhere on a public forum. It will attract much more heat than it will light and the tall children with flensing knives will carve you up like a goose”.

    Unfortunately all I have to do to be “unsettling, offensive or controversial” is stand up and say ‘Hey, I exist.’

    My reality is diverse because I’m diverse. I live in a small mostly white, mostly christian village. But it is still diverse and I still want to see my own life as it is in reality, rather than brushed under the carpet in the name of a false “realistic” presentation. I believe Foz has the right of it.

  8. Somehow I am almost never tempted to be active on Twitter (I have an account but have never tweeted). I hope Abbie thinks about Foz’s “open letter” and considers the thoughts behind it. I know it’s difficult to take that kind of criticism (“but I’m a _good_ person!”), and it seems equally difficult to give it in a completely polite voice (I know this from personal experience being admonished for my own gaffes going back at least three decades).

    On a more SFFian* note, and a Meredith Moment, a book we’ve discussed in the past month has gone on sale. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden is on sale at the US Amazon site for $1.99. It comes recommended by a couple Filers (I’m terrible at remembering who recs what, but I recall trusting their taste, whoever they are). I very happily snatched it up. I’m still in the midst of both Eichmann in Jerusalem and Paladin of Souls, so it’ll be a minute before I get to it.

    * Fan noob question: does SFnal apply to Fantasy, or just Science Fiction? Seems it’d be SFFnal?

  9. * Fan noob question: does SFnal apply to Fantasy, or just Science Fiction? Seems it’d be SFFnal?

    I think SFnal can apply to either Fantasy or SF but I do see SFFnal in the Genresphere, so for maximum clarity, that is the way to go, I think.

  10. It was “Christian” that surprised me a bit, not “white”, just to be clear. Foolish of me to share that thought I suppose.

    There’s a particular strain of American Christians that assume that they are the default. Any fans of Slacktivist’s Left Behind analysis knows what I’m talking about – convinced that they’re not just the default but the only correct way of being, and everyone else is just refusing to accept the obvious truth like a bratty rebellious teenager.

    Yes, if you haven’t encountered them in real life it’s kind of hard to believe they’re really that bad.

  11. Sarah: It takes a broken sort of empathy to stop caring when the victim is not from a demographic you care about. Even if they’re wrong they don’t deserve to be abused off twitter.

    I didn’t say either of those things. I made it clear that I did have some compassion for her, and that I didn’t think the Twitter abuse was appropriate or proportionate to the offense.

  12. John A Arkansawyer: Clearly, you don’t know many atheists.

    I know a great many atheists, but thank you so much for taking the time to explain my own life experience to me.

     
    John A Arkansawyer: But I’m curious how you know something else: That the unfortunate author of that tweet has “people she wants to erase”. That there are “people [she’s] trying to erase”. You are imputing active, willful acts of bigotry. How do you know that person “wants” to hurt people? Is “trying” to hurt people?

    I don’t think she’s “trying” to hurt people, and I never said that she was. I think she believes that she’s just being “realistic”. (Although any time someone uses the words “political correctness”, it’s code for “I want things to be the way I want, without having to care about other peoples’ feelings”.)

    The problem is that the “realism” she wants does erase people, whether that’s what she intends or not. Her lack of malicious intent does not magic away the damage of what she wants.

  13. I first read Abbie’s tweet and critical commentary thereof two days before I read Foz Meadows’ article. And I am not on twitter at all.

    I’m seeing several things here:
    – Criticism of twitter attacks (likely valid).
    – Conflation of Foz’s commentary with twitter attacks
    – declaration that Foz’s commentary, which assails a common mainstream position from a position more often held by minorities, and which is NOT in itself attacking, is in some way bullying or out of line because they focus on an example that comes from a relatively minor individual.
    – defensiveness about white Christian being used as a declared North American default, especially with the assumption that Foz could not identify those two things from Abbie’s tweet (which includes a picture of Abbie AND a line which really does scream of a particular stripe of loud North American Christianity, however much non-Christians might feel the *sentiment* — Christianity is far from the only religion I have heard profess an all encompassing love, and there is no reason atheists and agnostics cannot, the concept of agape is pre-Christian.)
    – a failure to talk about the actual points being made about diversity in the eagerness to jump on the discussion of twitter attacks. (JJ has tried to draw attention to this more than once. Thankfully some people did run with that discussion. And at least one person answered with a question that indicated they hadn’t bothered to read the article, or even some of the quotes included here.)

    – some weird stress that because a thing is hard to do right, and doing it wrong will garner criticism, it is not worth doing. Enough said on that.

  14. Lenora Rose: – a failure to talk about the actual points being made about diversity in the eagerness to jump on the discussion of twitter attacks.

    JJ in all innocence pointed out to me what she considered a fine discussion of diversity, and when I traced it to the source my reaction was “Not another #%@^@*! internet mobbing!”

    But I think JJ’s original impulse had to do with the fact that diversity in sff is frequently covered here.

  15. Declaring a sort of generic universal love is pretty common among at least US Christians as a kind of “I’m not racist, but…” preface. “I love everyone, but my faith says that (gays shouldn’t marry|contraception is abortion is murder|etc.).” I’m not saying that’s a general Christian thing (the bigotry), but it is very common, in my experience, among the types who ignore Matthew 6:5.

  16. Well, as far as I can tell no-one responded to the paragraphs I wrote about diversity itself (this is not intended as a criticism), and I haven’t seen much response to anyone else’s comments on that, either. I just sort of assumed that most of us basically agreed with the diversity points (it exists! everywhere! in varying forms!) and so there wasn’t much to discuss on that front. Disagreement always attracts more words than agreement.

  17. @ Rose Embolism:

    I don’t care if someone wants to be a “flat earther” or wants to say we never landed on the moon. That’s their prerogative. I can either refute them or ignore them without resorting to calling them anything. Nor do I need to defend them from anyone. I control my own behavior and what I do and say reflects on me.

    @Ky:

    I grok-I’m disabled and the fact that I exist is enough to disturb far too many people. I’m unfortunately much too busy trying to work around tangible, physical obstacles (like trying to use the typical “accessible” bathroom without getting trapped in it or falling) to worry about things like whether the disabled are appropriately and sufficiently represented in fiction in order to promote diversity.

    When I’m treated like a human being in the real world, I’ll climb the barricades (again) to try that fight on, but worrying about how disabled people are represented in fiction strikes me a sort of a first world problem compared to not finding the world a friendly place for someone on crutches or on wheels. Coping with a world designed for the comfort and convenience of the majority takes precedence, at least if I want to stick around.

    Here in 8111, everything is “perfect”.

  18. kathodus: When I ask “WWJD?” I doubt He would be writing this blog, so I’m kind of stuck there….

  19. Mike Glyer: kathodus: When I ask “WWJD?” I doubt He would be writing this blog, so I’m kind of stuck there…

    *snort*

  20. @Mike Glyer

    When I ask “WWJD?” I doubt He would be writing this blog, so I’m kind of stuck there….

    Cast Your Scrolls upon the Pixels, and They Will Return Tenfold.

  21. @ Robert Reynolds

    I get that – pick your battles according to your need. I just also think that one of the routes towards being seen and treated as a human in this world is to have that treatment modelled in books. (Books saved my life, I’m probably biased)

    I believe that the more people see us diverse folk treated as human in books, the more it will rub off on their treatment of us in the real world, so that’s where I put some of my energy.

    Mike Glyer on October 30, 2017 at 2:37 pm said:

    kathodus: When I ask “WWJD?” I doubt He would be writing this blog, so I’m kind of stuck there….

    “Let the Little Pixels come to me….”

  22. @ Ky:

    I hope you’re right. I guess I’m too old and I’ve fought too long and too often for basics I shouldn’t need to fight for to be that optimistic.

    In 5812, The Simpsons are still running on TV.

  23. I wrote:

    Hmm. The tickbox doesn’t seem to be working today, but (like the cat in the song) I know it will come back sooner or later.

    Regarding 10), a few months back I discovered “The Autistic Book Party” (http://www.ada-hoffmann.com/2017/05/11/vintage-autistic-book-party-episode-2-a-deepness-in-the-sky/)which looked at how autistic people were represented in SF, and enjoyed the blogger’s insights (as I recall, she liked the representation of Enrique in “A Civil Campaign”); even in an apparently uniform setting, there is very likely to be diversity in the way people think.

    The tickbox did start working. I was mistaken however, when I checked back – the author of “The Autistic Book Party” did have some objections to how Enrique was portrayed.

    P.S. “The Pixel that can be Scrolled is not the true Pixel”

  24. Reading: I finished my Lovecraft revisit (well, at least until they release Variorum v.4 (the revisions) on Kindle) and started Elizabeth Bear’s Stone in the Skull, which is frankly fabulous.

  25. @Robert Reynolds

    There are enough examples of popular culture changing the way people think about things to make me hopeful that good representation can lead to change in the real world. I quite understand why you would want to mainly focus on the practical access stuff rather than the less immediate and concrete stuff, though. Only so many spoons to play with.

  26. All these pixels are yours, except Europa. Attempt no scrolling there.

    (Surely this has been done already?)

  27. Abbie Emmons’ original post pushed, if not all, most of the buttons for a certain flavor of white, Christian, small town American. They are often nice people, or at least mean to be nice people.

    And their worldview excludes even quite a lot of Christians. Even quite a lot of white Christians.

    Not that they hate us, necessarily. Often they are quite sincere about the love. They just want to save us. Save us from the hellfire we will surely face, for our heretical Catholic, Episcopalian, or pretty much most of mainstream Christian beliefs.

    Reading what Foz Meadows actually said, she was bending over backwards to be polite and respectful, and to try to help Ms. Emmons see her errors, rather than beating on her for not having already gotten it right.

    “I love everyone, but…” is an opening that immediately puts me on my guard, and makes me less, not more, receptive to what comes after, because it is so often a direct attack on some aspect or other of who I am.

    And I’m not even terribly visible as an example of the diversity that Ms. Emmons feels is unrealistic in fiction.

  28. I think a huge part of the problem is people who theoretically love everyone, but don’t actually know anyone outside of a very narrow range of people. They personally feel very nice and sweet and loving about people they don’t identify with, but because they don’t know anyone who is actually affected by the policies that come out of eg. Mike Pence’s virulent homophobia, they end up feeling generally happy with themselves, and happily vote for candidates like Pence, who are actively working to commit genocide. Because they don’t see it, because they lack imagination (empathy) and don’t know enough people directly affected by their evil policies to understand what’s going on. I don’t know that it’s a terrible thing to be snarky toward them. It’s impossible to be infinitely patient.

  29. They personally feel very nice and sweet and loving about people they don’t identify with, but because they don’t know anyone who is actually affected by the policies that come out of eg. Mike Pence’s virulent homophobia, they end up feeling generally happy with themselves, and happily vote for candidates like Pence, who are actively working to commit genocide.

    Heck, Pence would say he loves everyone, too, as the Bible teaches him to.

    His idea of love, though, looks like hate to many of the recipients.

  30. I believe that the more people see us diverse folk treated as human in books, the more it will rub off on their treatment of us in the real world, so that’s where I put some of my energy.

    My first thought was that a big problem with that belief is that “no one reads anymore”. (In quotations to show that, yes, I’m exaggerating.)
    But, really, it seems that reading for pleasure is just not a major factor in today’s world. If I see someone reading on the bus, I get light-headed with glee. When I saw “The Hours” and Toni Collette’s character had the line “Oh! You’re reading a book!” –it summed up what happens to those of us who read all the time.

    I get that ‘representation in media’ is a thing; but I don’t really ‘get’ it. I don’t actually remember ever feeling that I wanted to see myself in books–I read to escape into other worlds.

  31. Harold Osler: I don’t actually remember ever feeling that I wanted to see myself in books–I read to escape into other worlds.

    Two stories in Joe Hill’s Strange Weather have protagonists I resembled at earlier ages in my life. I enjoyed the stories in spite of that. What I’m looking for instead is characters I aspire to be. But looking into that more deeply, what I want to identify with has been molded by a body-shaming society. Characters who looked/look like me are only accepted, possibly, on a football field.

  32. Harold Osler: I get that ‘representation in media’ is a thing; but I don’t really ‘get’ it. I don’t actually remember ever feeling that I wanted to see myself in books–I read to escape into other worlds.

    I have always read to escape. That doesn’t change the fact that, as a child, I could pretty much never see myself in the main character, something that would have been hugely helpful to me at that time. I was always just an onlooker to some other person’s adventure.

    And I don’t think I realized just what a lack it was, until I got older and books finally started getting published which featured protagonists with whom I could actually identify… and then it was like encountering a fabulous, crystal-clear and icy-cold stream of running water — and I hadn’t even realized how incredibly dehydrated I was.

    When people talk about how important it is to them to be able to see themselves in the books they read, they aren’t exaggerating.

  33. @Lakedog

    Why on earth would you look at a de-escalating argument and decide that now was the time to add some petrol?

  34. @Harold Osler – I get that ‘representation in media’ is a thing; but I don’t really ‘get’ it. I don’t actually remember ever feeling that I wanted to see myself in books–I read to escape into other worlds.

    It may be that there is a difference if you don’t find yourself well represented in surrounding culture. If you do, if you’re a boy or young man and your reading material is full of boys and young men, largely of your race and socio-economic background, you might be more able to take it for granted and go looking instead for other things.

    The first time I ran into characters who weren’t straight was revelatory for me. I had a lesser but still noticeable response to books and stories where the protagonist was strong, capable and female. I read a lot of other things with a great deal of pleasure, and escape was certainly part of it, but characters with whom I could identify were like a warm, soothing bath even if the material was challenging.

  35. @Acoustic Rob

    All these pixels are yours, except Europa. Attempt no scrolling there.
    (Surely this has been done already?)

    Yes; back in August we did “All These Scrolls Are Yours, Except Europa; Attempt No Pixelings There” https://file770.com/?p=37054

  36. I read for both. I want to sometimes see protagonists who could be me, yes. I also want to read about protagonists who are quite different from me in background and life experience.

    BOTH of these goals are served by having more diversity.

    And it’s easy to wave this off as “I want to read to escape into other worlds” when everyone in those other worlds matches you in certain key characteristics (Even if fitter and more idealized). It’s harder when, in every fantastical other world you have ever seen, nobody EVER looks like you.

  37. Having to always, every single time, fit myself into the head of a character who was nothing like me was probably usefully educational, but it couldn’t match the rare thrill of a major character who was like me.

    Not everyone cares about the same things. Even when several people agree that X, Y, and Z would all be good, no one can take on every challenge. It makes perfect sense that Harold would not see representation in literature as being an immediate, critical issue, especially compared to things that affect him more directly, while I and others see it as either more immediately important to us, or being an issue that we can perhaps at least address meaningfully.

    But Ms. Emmons was saying not that representation of people not like her was less important, or that they shouldn’t be represented as tokens, but that representing them at all is unrealistic, and shouldn’t be done for that reason.

    That’s erasure, even though, yes, I’m sure she means no harm and intends no harm to anyone. It’s too bad she probably never saw Foz Meadows’ polite and respectful attempt to explain the problem.

  38. Lis Carey: It’s too bad she probably never saw Foz Meadows’ polite and respectful attempt to explain the problem.

    Perhaps Ms. Emmons’ tendrils are twisted the same way mine are, and what seemed polite and respectful to you struck her as a grinding stereotype of its own.

  39. Lis Carey on October 31, 2017 at 9:56 am said:

    But Ms. Emmons was saying not that representation of people not like her was less important, or that they shouldn’t be represented as tokens, but that representing them at all is unrealistic, and shouldn’t be done for that reason.

    That’s erasure…

    It doesn’t really help matters when you misrepresent what was actually said… she said that in her opinion it depends on the setting.

  40. @ kathodus. Love and respect are different things. I have one colleague specifically who is genuinely nice and caring towards everyone in the office, while simultaneously holding bigoted views about their race and sexuality. You can love someone and still think they are less intelligent or doing something wrong.

  41. @bookworm1398 – I can’t believe that people who claim to love everyone but think that same-sex relationships should be denied the sometimes-essential benefits of marriage actually love everyone. Love requires empathy and isn’t selfish.

  42. @rob_matic–

    It doesn’t really help matters when you misrepresent what was actually said… she said that in her opinion it depends on the setting.

    She’s referencing her home town–where, as has been previously pointed out, 5% of the population is black, there are other minorities as well, and not showing up in the statistics will be some handicapped people, as well as small numbers of gay and trans individuals. Not to mention single parents.

    Not all of us agree with Dann that it’s a bad idea to mention the presence of these people if they’re not plot points. And those individuals would not likely find their lives in these communities, or the lives of characters similar to them living in fictional settings that share the trait of being mostly white, “unrealistic” in the way Ms. Emmons does. That’s the problem. With probably zero hostile or unkind intent, she really is erasing even people she’s probably passed on the street, in her own home town.

  43. @Mike Glyer

    Funny thing is the longer the conversation goes on the more I’ve been thinking that this stereotype (“I love everyone BUT…”) is so specific to a particular type of mostly-USA Christianity that calling it a Christian trait is just getting irritating. Even in the USA it is a minority of Christians (I think?) and I’ve noticed that almost everyone who has expressed surprise about the connection has been from outside the USA. I don’t know. It didn’t bother me at first – I just mentally inserted the caveats – but the more I’ve had to mentally insert caveats the more I’ve been making faces at the screen…

    @rob_matic

    Mm, that’s true, but I think the point Foz Meadows was making is that even in the most homogeneous setting there’s still diversity of some kind. Remembering that and writing stories where that shows up, in however small a way, would still be realistic.

  44. @Meredith–

    Funny thing is the longer the conversation goes on the more I’ve been thinking that this stereotype (“I love everyone BUT…”) is so specific to a particular type of mostly-USA Christianity that calling it a Christian trait is just getting irritating. Even in the USA it is a minority of Christians (I think?) and I’ve noticed that almost everyone who has expressed surprise about the connection has been from outside the USA. I don’t know. It didn’t bother me at first – I just mentally inserted the caveats – but the more I’ve had to mentally insert caveats the more I’ve been making faces at the screen…

    Yes. Yes. A specific, small subset of American Christian, who in fact think most people who identify as Christian are not Christians and need to be “converted” to Christianity. I think they are often even more annoying to other Christians than they are to non-Christians. “I love everyone, but…” they think most of us are going to burn in hell.

  45. Lis Carey on October 31, 2017 at 3:12 pm said:
    I’ve seen people describing their religion as “I was raised in [mainline church], but then I became a Christian”. (Sometimes they don’t say what they used to be before they “became a Christian”, and I always wonder if they were followers of Olympian Zeus or Zoroastrians or what.)

    The other bit is, what they say after the “but” is what they really think or believe.

  46. @Lis Carey

    I would expect it to feel a lot more personal for American Christians than it does for me. There isn’t really a UK equivalent that gets up to that sort of nonsense that has a significant platform.

Comments are closed.