Pixel Scroll 10/3/16 Con-Ticky

(1) HOOKED. When the Book Smugglers Quarterly Almanac leads with a title like this, it’s hard to resist ordering a copy whatever you may think about Harry Potter —

Excerpt: Characters Are Not A Coloring Book Or, Why the Black Hermione is a Poor Apology for the Ingrained Racism of Harry Potter

…I have felt as possessive about the Harry Potter canon as anyone I’ve ever met, so once again, when people are talking about Noma Dumezweni being cast as the adult Hermione, and the possibility that Hermione may not have been white in the first place, I can feel my (non-existent) entitlement begin to tickle. I have always been Hermione among my friends; it’s the rare character in which I saw myself reflected, validated in fiction; the character whose triumphs and losses were my own—surely no one else can have the last word on whether a black Hermione “feels right”? If it doesn’t feel right to me, there’s no way that can be retconned into the canon. That’s violating my childhood. I won’t have it.

Except that I was never a white girl myself. Through all my childhood years of hardcore Pottermania, I was a brown girl growing up in Calcutta, India.

(2) BIG-FOOTIN’ THE BIG-FOOTERS. The Washington Post’s Anna Fifield looks at the success of Godzilla Resurgence, which is the highest-grossing live-action film in Japan this year in part because Godzilla is now a symbol of a resurgent Japan that won’t take orders from America or anyone else anymore.

Now, in the wake of the 2011 triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, the theme takes on a different meaning. It is impossible to watch the flummoxed bureaucrats, the scenes of the boats being washed ashore and the fears of radiation without thinking of the tsunami that devastated the northeast coast of Japan five years ago.

When the United States suggests a nuclear strike on the monster, people object, saying that ­Tokyo will become a “zone that is difficult to return to” — using the same phrase applied to the area around Fukushima.

Kenji Tamaki, a journalist for the Mainichi newspaper, wrote that the film portrayed “the deep anxieties” of modern Japan and parodied a political elite in crisis.

“Interminable meetings, bureaucrats’ reports read in somnolent monotones, an emergency that just seems to go on and on and on,” he wrote in the left-leaning paper. “Echoes of real-life Japan circa spring 2011, when the government descended into chaos in the face of the Fukushima nuclear crisis.”

But the film also portrays a militarily stronger, more confident Japan. The prime minister, putting down the phone after speaking to the American president, mutters about how the United States is always giving orders.

(3) GLEICK BOOK REVIEWED. Thomas Levensen tells Boston Globe readers how “James Gleick looks at history, physics of time travel”. (Beware, this may disappear behind a paywall at some point).

In “Time Travel,’’ James Gleick has done a wonderful thing. The book delivers on the promise of its title: It dives deep into the science, the philosophy, and the imaginative writings that have explored whether human beings could journey into the future or the past — and what complications would follow if we could.

But this book shouldn’t be mistaken for a work of popular science; this is no “The Physics of Doctor Who.’’ Time-travel enthusiasts will certainly get the history, the basic physics, and a useful tour of the classic paradoxes of time travel and its implications. But the book pursues much greater ambitions as well.

Gleick — a preeminent science author and journalist for over four decades — has long explored some of this territory. Beginning with “Chaos,’’ published in 1987, and through six subsequent books, he’s played with heady ideas about determinism and free will, the pace of time, the physics of time, and more. Now in “Time Travel’’ those themes come to center stage as Gleick asks why, over the long century just past, we have so passionately pursued the idea of an escape from the relentless grip of time.

(4) FROM THE VAULT. Echo Ishii brings to light another ancient sf television series: “SF Obscure: Moonbase 3”.

I haven’t abandoned SF Obscure. In fact, good things may be on the horizon.

But a short note about two shows set on space stations Moonbase 3 and Space Island One.

Normally, when I consider shows set on space stations I immediately think of my two favorites Babylon 5 and Deep Space Nine. Drama. Humans. Aliens. Interstellar Wars. It’s space opera and the closest I am likely to come to a soap opera. And the relationships: Worf /Jadzia; Sisko/Yates;Kira/Odo. And the epic Babylon 5 romance of Sheridan and Delen.

Moonbase 3  has no alien romance, I’m afraid, but lots of interesting science. This series was produced in 1973 by the BBC. The main reason I heard about it was because of the theme song by Dudley Simpson who also wrote the theme for Blake’s 7. It only lasted for six episodes-there wasn’t much  interest-but it’s good in the sense of looking back at how 1973 saw the future of space exploration….


  • October 3, 1955  — The children’s TV show Captain Kangaroo with Bob Keeshan in the title role was broadcast for the first time.

(6) WAR AND PEACE. Thanks to Kevin Standlee for pointing out that the WSFS Rules page (Constitution, Standing Rules, Ruling & Resolutions of Continuing Effect, Business Passed On to next year’s Worldcon, and the 145 page Minutes of the 2016 WSFS Business Meeting) are now online at the WSFS web site.

(7) NPR ON UPCOMING YA FANTASY. Caitlyn Paxson makes three recommendations, all with strong female leads:

The three books that caught my fancy this month look wildly different on the surface. Traci Chee’s The Reader follows multiple characters through a fantasy world where pirates sail the waves and a secret society seeks to hoard the written word. Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova draws inspiration from Latin American cultures to offer up modern teen witches on a journey through the spirit realm, and Sarah Glenn Marsh’s novel Fear the Drowning Deep paints a portrait of a little fishing village in 1913, where people are disappearing and creatures out of Manx folklore may be to blame. They have different cultural influences and different types of narrative – so imagine my surprise when I began to feel like these three books were circling in the same orbit.

(8) DON’T MISS ‘EM. Lady Business recommends “60 Essential Science Fiction & Fantasy Reads”.

Science fiction and fantasy are booming across multiple types of media these days: television, superhero films with strong SFF elements, and gaming are all enjoying a solid boost from science fiction and fantasy concepts. But what types of stories led us to this excellent time to be a SFF fan? What books inspired and entertained us until we reached this moment? Here are 60 of some important and thought-providing texts from science fiction and fantasy’s long history.

These are books which many people loved, that created new fans, entertained old ones, or renewed someone’s love of genre. Perhaps they even led some of the authors we love today to write in the very genre that we all enjoy so we can keep moving forward. Check them out below; how many have you read? 😀

Note: all blurbs come from Goodreads!

(9) LESS THAN 1984 STEPS. What does it take to make an Orwellian cup of tea? Read on: “George Orwell’s 11 Tips for Proper Tea Making” at Mental Floss.


First of all, one should use Indian or Ceylonese tea. China tea has virtues which are not to be despised nowadays—it is economical, and one can drink it without milk—but there is not much stimulation in it. One does not feel wiser, braver or more optimistic after drinking it. Anyone who has used that comforting phrase ‘a nice cup of tea’ invariably means Indian tea….


Lastly, tea—unless one is drinking it in the Russian style—should be drunk without sugar. I know very well that I am in a minority here. But still, how can you call yourself a true tea lover if you destroy the flavour of your tea by putting sugar in it? It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper or salt. Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter. If you sweeten it, you are no longer tasting the tea, you are merely tasting the sugar; you could make a very similar drink by dissolving sugar in plain hot water.

Some people would answer that they don’t like tea in itself, that they only drink it in order to be warmed and stimulated, and they need sugar to take the taste away. To those misguided people I would say: Try drinking tea without sugar for, say, a fortnight and it is very unlikely that you will ever want to ruin your tea by sweetening it again.

(10) PARTS UNKNOWN. Wil Wheaton knows the best tourist places.


[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Kevin Standlee, Rose Embolism, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

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137 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 10/3/16 Con-Ticky

  1. I don’t get this “heat water in a microwave” thing at all. Why would I use a microwave to heat water? That’s just weird. When I just want a quick cup of tea (or hot water for any other purpose), I use the water cooker. The microwave is for reheating leftovers.

  2. brightglance: City of Pearl: This was good. I haven’t reread it for some reason. Must look it out and see if I want to get the sequel.

    There are 5 sequels, which probably could have had one comfortably compressed out IMHO.

  3. @Cora

    I don’t get this “heat water in a microwave” thing at all

    For me, it was something from my Starving Uni Student days – a secondhand mini-microwave was a much more economical choice than a kettle given the amount of things it could be used for.

    Bought my first kettle when I was 32.

  4. I didn’t even have a microwave until I was 30 or so, because I don’t particularly like them. I eventually gave in and bought one, because reheating leftovers in the oven/on the stove is not exactly energy-efficient.

  5. “Water cooker” isn’t even a phrase that makes sense to me! :Do

    “Electric kettle” at least connects with something familiar. And thus,do we confuse each other while speaking “the same language.”

  6. @Kyra: Sir Patrick. A knight is always Sir FirstName, not Sir LastName. It goes all the way back to the development of surnames in early mediaeval times – if there were three people in your village called John, and you needed to tell them apart, well, John who was a blacksmith got called John Smith, and John who had brown hair got called John Brown, and John who rode around on a big horse and carried a big sword and told everyone else what to do… got called Sir. (OK, I’m oversimplifying, but not by as much as you might think.)

  7. The one book on the list I was really puzzled to see was VALOR’S CHOICE by Tanya Huff. If you’re at all knowledgeable about the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, or with the movie ZULU*, the central battle in VC will feel very familiar, both in action and in the characters. It wasn’t quite Bat-Durston-ization, but close enough it kept kicking me out of the narrative. One of Huff’s Blood books, or her fantasies, might have been a better choice to represent her work.

    *(Go watch ZULU! It’s a great movie. Michael Caine’s first major film role.)

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  9. @Bruce Arthurs

    *(Go watch ZULU! It’s a great movie. Michael Caine’s first major film role.)

    Second. I’m not even that fond of war movies, but Zulu is unmitigated awesome.

  10. Why would I use a microwave to heat water?

    I use it when I want not-quite-boiling, and I also used the one at work when the hot-water-machine wasn’t working (and to get the water to boiling when I wanted better tea).
    Even Lipton’s (and instant) tastes better with boiling water.

  11. Kyra: ah. Totally misparsed — sorry. Much of the new stuff also leads to the argument about whether immersive fantasy (e.g., vampires run major law firms) is really Urban Fantasy, or transplanted Grisham/… with new labels, or some other beast entirely.

  12. Did microwave ovens lose their ability to boil water recently? A watched cup boils in about three minutes, at least it used to. (What I used to enjoy was when it didn’t boil until I dropped a pinch of powder in, and then it suddenly went gonzo.)

  13. I’ve read 30 of the List, bounced off a few more, and have had a few others on Mt. TBR for ages.

  14. In my experience, electric kettles are one of the most unexpectedly significant cultural divides between Brits and the US – at university in the UK an electric kettle is generally the one essential item in any student room, and indeed was the only thing officially allowed in my halls of residence when I was living in college (didn’t stop us sneaking in George Foreman grills and the occasional microwave of course). USians somehow don’t all need the constant stream of badly brewed Yorkshire teas to maintain wakefulness and social ties so for exchange students this must have been a bizarre exception and was also a nasty shock when I did an exchange summer in the US and had to get used to the idea of leaving my room any time I wanted any hot drink.

    Exhibit B: while in high school I had a friend who went to visit family friends in the US over summer. His initial report back was a terrifying jetlagged first morning where he’d woken up before anyone else, gone to make himself a cup of tea and realised to his horror that none of the appropriate ingredients or appliances were there – in their place was some sort of fancy coffee machine which was completely unintelligible to a sleep deprived teenager. (Later in the trip he got asked if Europeans have pizza, so there was a lot of anecdote mileage from that visit)

    On boiling water: most teas are supposed to taste best when brewed in water that’s boiled and left to stand for a minute or two, so the tea doesn’t stew. I absolutely don’t see the problem if one prefers it that way though.

  15. @John Cowan

    Well, you can boil water in the microwave too, you know. It doesn’t really matter how it gets to 212 Fahrenheit.


    What on earth is a “water cooker”?

  16. @Chip Hitchcock: If memory serves me right, the de Camp à clef in Too Many Magicians was Sir Lyon Gandolphus Grey – the L. in “L. Sprague de Camp” stood for Lyon. This is of course crossed with another reference too obvious for me to bother unpacking here.

  17. My Lady Business score is 15/60, and I’ve added titles to Mt TBR thanks to Filer comments.

    Re: tea preparation.
    It’s a bit like constructing tribal lays, innit?

    Bonnie McDaniel on October 4, 2016 at 8:20 pm said:
    @John Cowan

    Well, you can boil water in the microwave too, you know. It doesn’t really matter how it gets to 212 Fahrenheit.

    Except that sometimes it only gets to 100 Celsius…*

    *But only on Earth at sea level. Off planet or at altitude, it’s a different story.**

    **Can someone please write a cosy SF story featuring the different variants of tea-making depending on where in the universe you are?

  18. When I boil teawater, I always boil 30 litres at a time. The I freeze the leftovers. I can always microwave it if I need it again.

  19. Hampus Eckerman on October 4, 2016 at 10:09 pm said:
    When I boil teawater, I always boil 30 litres at a time. The I freeze the leftovers. I can always microwave it if I need it again.

    Fresh water is always better than frozen.

  20. LadyBusiness: Of their list, I’ve read 8, seen 1 as a movie but haven’t read it, own 14 others that I haven’t read (many on my TBR list, but a few are just incidental freebies), and want to buy a couple more.

    @John M. Cowan & @Kip W: I have boiling water in the microwave down to a quick science at work. The hot water from our cold/hot filtered water thingie takes 40-41 seconds in the nuker to boil. Of course, by insisting on boiling water, Sir Patrick’s narrowly focused on only certain types of tea.

    @Kyra: But yeah, what you said. 🙂

    @Cora: We don’t have a “water cooker” at work, so I use a microwave. At home, I use the lovely electric kettle my other half got, which has buttons for various temperatures/types of tea. 😀 I love it. Our old one had one setting – boil. I was so happy when we even had our first one, though; definitely not common in the USA compared to Europe, methinks.

  21. @Hampus Eckerman: Just remember, some types of water can’t be thawed and re-frozen again; you have to use it after the first freeze-thaw cycle. Also, watch out for freezer burn! 😉

  22. and I also used the one at work when the hot-water-machine wasn’t working

    NZ workplaces of any size have instant-on boiling water available. Traditionally a tank bolted to a wall (made by ‘Zip’) in the smoko room with a tap at the bottom, more elegant approaches are now available of course. I don’t think we have a generic name for them, but hot-water-machine would probably be understood!

  23. It honestly never even occurred to me that places wouldn’t have a kettle. I can’t think of any time when travelling within the UK that I had a hotel that didn’t supply a kettle and some cheap teabags.

    My second day (because on my first day I just borrowed my brother’s) in Chiang Mai, I went out and bought a cheap kettle, some loose leaf teas and a tea strainer.

    Not having a kettle readily available is just weird.

    @Hampus: I think the whole of the UK reflexively twitched when you posted that.

  24. @Errol
    Same here. Most offices either have firmly installed hot water boilers with a tap or they have coffeemakers, which can also be used to boil water. Though I once worked at a university, which only had a very old immersion heater, if you needed hot water. That was something of a bother, especially since I hadn’t used an immersion heater in years.

    Kettles in hotel rooms are a UK thing only. It always bothers me when I’m in a German hotel and there is no kettle – if I want a coffee or a tea, I have to call room service.

  25. NZ workplaces of any size have instant-on boiling water available.

    Hopefully something less intimidating that a suicide shower.

    (As for tea, I’ve never once tried it, in any form–hot, cold, bitter, or sweet. And I grew up in a house where iced tea was commonly available. Don’t know why I never bothered, it just never seemed to me like something I would like. I also don’t drink coffee, but at least I’ve tried it a few times.)

  26. @Errol/Cora: Last time I had a proper job, we had hot water boilers too. Great for making a quick tea/coffee; less great for office chat and general slacking off. Now I work remotely, currently from cafes in the UK, soon cafes in Taiwan, and my business pays for the coffee and tea I drink.

    And yes, I was shocked when I went to Barcelona after a month of travelling around the UK and discovering the lack of a kettle in my hotel room. Fortunately I was right near a bunch of cafes; less fortunately they really hated making iced drinks even though it was 30C+ most days. I got through the week mostly drinking Aquarius and terrible Spanish “beer” anyway.

  27. Tea folklore I have heard suggests that one of the reasons for electric kettles being less popular in the USA is differences in the electrical systems which mean that a British electric kettle will produce nearly-instantaneous hot water, while one on a US circuit takes enough longer to make it less competitive against other methods. My girlfriend swears by her electric kettle, but she’s a dedicated tea drinker with a NYC apartment kitchen that used to be a coat closet (literally), so her logistics aren’t typical.

    In my experience, the worst crime against tea-drinking travelers in the US is hotel rooms in which you can produce hot water…but only by dint of running it through the coffee maker, and thus picking up the inevitable coffee residue.

    Random scroll title inspiration: That’s Appertainment!

  28. I retired my electric kettle when I got induction hobs. It’s nearly as fast and just as energy efficient to use a stovetop, and I love to hear the whistle. Adds a little enjoyment to the ritual…

    Plus with the softness of Scotish water the thing will probably outlive me. Lime scale, what’s that?

  29. @Oneiros: U.S. hotels usually have a coffeemaker, but using it to boil water for tea leads to the issue @Heather Rose Jones mentioned (notes of coffee in your tea). I’ve never stayed in a U.S. hotel that provided a device just to boil water but not brew anything, but maybe I stay in the wrong hotels. I’m not sure I know anyone else who has an electric kettle, either, BTW.

    Honestly at first I thought it was a silly device (it only boils water? I have a stove and a microwave, both of which do that and everything else!), but I love my electric kettle and wouldn’t give it up for love or money now! 😀

    @Cora: In addition to the hot/cold water thing at work (which doesn’t provide boiling water), we have a hot beverage machine that uses pouches to make coffee, tea, hot chocolate, etc. It can provide VERY hot water, but I don’t believe it’s boiling (not 100% sure).

    @Heather Rose Jones: I love your Pixel Scroll title suggestion!

  30. I suspect that my parents’ microwave makes water bubble without actually bringing it to 212 F / 100 C. I couldn’t give you a scientific why; I can only say that when I make my usual morning cup of Taylors of Harrogate Pure Assam, the method of microwaving water in a mug for three minutes or until bubbling then dropping in a tea bag makes a substantially weaker cup than the method of pouring boiling water from the electric kettle or stovetop kettle over the tea bag in the mug. This is the case despite that the microwave method happened at sea level while the habitual kettle boiling happens at a mile up and thus probably not actually at 212 F.

    Maybe the microwaved water just cools off too fast?

    Also, dropping in the tea bag into the microwaved mug of water can, if I’m not careful, cause the water to suddenly begin bubbling again so fervently that half of the proto-tea winds up on the floor of the nuker.

    My parents used to have a beautiful glass kettle I’d boil water in over their gas stove. Every time I come visit, I just know it’s up there in the cabinet above the stove, all I have to do is dig around a bit, surely I’ll find it – but no, Dad got rid of it years ago, and it’s just the force of habit talking. Same habit that has me expecting to see dark wood paneling in the living room despite that they painted it all white about fifteen years back. Crying shame, that. The kettle, I mean. It was lovely, and made a better cup of tea than the microwave ever could.

    Why I never think to just boil water in a regular pot over the stove, I don’t know. It’s always, “Where’s that kettle–oh, right. Crap. Guess it’s the microwave for me.”

  31. At work, I do something probably quite illegal in some countries. I put the bag in the cup before putting the very-hot-but-not-boiling water in it, then the 40-seconds-to-a-boil nuker thing. Triply illegal, I suppose. 😉 I still brew it for the usual time, or close to it. (I like strong tea.)

    Gah, I want some tea, now, thanks Filers!

  32. @Kendall: I did once use some chicken stock, then thaw it, then re-freeze it, then thaw it and use it. To make a long story short: I’m never doing that again. Ever. Ever.

  33. @David Goldfarb

    Hmmm. Just out of (possibly morbid) curiosity, what did the multiple thawings and refreezings do to it?

  34. Tea is good when made with hot water and tea leaves or other tea type things. I like tea made by putting tea leaves in a jar and putting it out in the sun to steep.

    Some are good straight others with lemon, milk, sugar as is appropriate for the tea and your preferences.

    Some taste great chilled.

    Some go well with a dash or too of liqueur added. 😉

    Sometimes I’m a tea snob. Other times Liptons tea bags do the job.

  35. @ Bonnie McDaniel

    I’m not David and can’t speak to his particular issue, but multiple freeze-thaw cycles can denature proteins, so I can imagine that it might affect the texture and clarity of a protein-rich meat stock. (Oddly enough, this is an issue pertinent to my day job, though not specifically in the realm of chicken soup.)

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