Pixel Scroll 11/18/19 Timeo Filers Et Dona Pixeles

(1) OUT OF THE BAG. Spies in Disguise just had a “super-secret” drop.

Super spy Lance Sterling (Will Smith) and scientist Walter Beckett (Tom Holland) are almost exact opposites. Lance is smooth, suave and debonair. Walter is … not. But when events take an unexpected turn, this unlikely duo are forced to team up for the ultimate mission that will require an almost impossible disguise – transforming Lance into the brave, fierce, majestic… pigeon. Walter and Lance suddenly have to work as a team, or the whole world is in peril. “Spies in Disguise” flies into theaters this Christmas.

(2) BOOMER DOOM. John Scalzi speaks sooth in “Reader Request Week 2019 #2: The War Between the Generations”.

…The special sauce of this particular moment of generational conflict is that it involves the Baby Boomers for the first time being the antagonists of the generational story, rather than either the protagonists or the somewhat neutral mainstream. The Boomers are now the older generation and are having a moment being seen as the ossified and inflexible group whose opinion is not worth considering, and they don’t appear to like it at all. There is the (some would say delicious) irony of the generation that famously professed it would never trust anyone over 30 having become the generation that those under 30 allegedly doesn’t trust. I’m pretty sure the Boomers don’t appreciate that irony at all.

(3) ON THE BLOCK. Time Out discusses auctions of collectibles from the Happiest Place on Earth in “A History of Disneyland & Walt Disney World”.

Since first being approached by one man and his collection of Disneyland materials about five years ago, gallery co-founder Mike Van Eaton has become a go-to figure for these auctions. He estimates that he sells about 98% of the stock each auction, so it’s no surprise that prolific collectors and former parks employees keep approaching him to offer relics on consignment. Those relationships are part of how he verifies the pieces’ provenance; he’ll consult with Disney Imagineers to separate the fan-made items from the park-used ones, and he’ll use the plausibility of their backstories to suss out how one It’s a Small World doll is from the Florida version of the ride, while another is clearly from a promotional storefront activation in New York (the use of electric parts instead of pneumatic was the tip-off). Others are more directly verifiable, like when a former county assessor dropped off official plans he’d overseen for the railroad that Walt Disney built in his Holmby Hills backyard.

(4) I’M BAAACK! Hollywood Collectibles will let you have this sweetheart for only $1,599. Easy payment plan available!

This stunning life-size wall display pays homage to the terrifying Alien Queen’s iconic battle with Ripley, in the climatic scenes of Aliens.

(5) ETCHISON MEMORIAL. Dennis Etchison’s memorial marker, “paid for by a long-term friend of his who wishes to remain anonymous,” is now in place at Pierce Brothers, Westwood Village. It’s marker #127 on the ‘Cenotaph’ wall, (quite near the graves of Ray and Maggie Bradbury).

(6) LE GUIN ON UK SCREENS. Another chance to see the BBC4 TV documentary “The Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin” which also has contributions from Margret Atwood and Neil Gaiman. The link only works in the UK – which will be fine for some of you.

(7) TIMING IS EVERYTHING. ScienceAlert says “NASA Has Detected Weird Orbital Movement From Two of Neptune’s Moons”.

The two moons in question are Naiad and Thalassa, both around 100 kilometres or 62 miles wide, which race around their planet in what NASA researchers are calling a “dance of avoidance”.

Compared with Thalassa, Naiad’s orbit is tilted by about five degrees – it spends half of its time above Thalassa and half of it below, in a linked orbit that’s unlike anything else on record.

“We refer to this repeating pattern as a resonance,” says physicist Marina Brozovic, from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “There are many different types of dances that planets, moons and asteroids can follow, but this one has never been seen before.”

The two small moons’ orbits are only around 1,850 kilometres (1,150 miles) apart, but they are perfectly timed and choreographed to keep avoiding each other. Naiad takes seven hours to circle Neptune, while Thalassa takes seven and a half on the outside track.

(8) INFLUENCER RULES. Pirated Thoughts provides a reader update: “Explaining the FTC’s New Social Media Influencer Sponsorship Disclosure Rules”.

When to Disclose

Influencers must disclose when they have any financial, employment, personal, or family relationship with a brand.  If given free or discounted products, an Influencer is required to disclose this information even if they were not asked to mention that product.  The FTC reminds Influencers that even wearing tags or pins that show favorability towards a company can be considered endorsements of said company.  However, if you simply enjoy a product and want to talk about the product, you are not required to declare that you don’t have a relationship with that brand.  Lastly, even if these posts are made from abroad, U.S. law will still apply if it is reasonably foreseeable that the post will affect U.S. consumers.

(9) BIG TROUBLE. Galactic Journey’s Jessica Holmes is tuned in for the latest (55 years ago) doctoral thesis: [November 17, 1964] A Continuing Adventure In Space And Time (Doctor Who: Planet Of Giants).


AWOOOGA, AWOOOGA. We’re barely a minute in and already things are going wrong aboard the good ship TARDIS. As the Doctor brings her in to land, the doors start opening by themselves. Fortunately, the companions manage to get them closed and they land safely. Or do they? The Doctor is very agitated about the doors opening, but doesn’t do a good job of explaining what it is that’s bothering him. Something strange is afoot, that’s for sure.

(10) WHO CLUES. Mirror UK is in tune with the series’ more current events: “Doctor Who series 12 release date, cast, episodes, plot for Jodie Whittaker return”. Lots of hints, like this one:

Doctor Who series 12 release date

Doctor Who series 12 is due to air in very early 2020.

However, fans should keep an eye out for something on November 23 2019 , according to a recent BBC teaser.

There have been rumours of a surprise Christmas Special for December 25, 2019, but this will likely air in 2020 instead.

(11) DEEP THOUGHTS ABOUT STAR WARS. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Film blogger Darren Mooney has offered some pretty awesome analysis of Star Wars on Twitter. Thread starts here. Some highlights:



  • November 18, 1928 Steamboat Willie, was released featuring Mickey Mouse.
  • November 18, 1959  — The Incredible Petrified World enjoyed its very first theatrical screening for residents of Burlington, North Carolina.
  • November 18, 1992 Killer Tomatoes Eat France! premiered  in the U.S. home video marketplace.  Written and directed by John De Bello, it starredJohn Astin,  Marc Price and Angela Visser. It rates a surprisingly high 41% over at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • November 18, 1994 Star Trek Generations premiered. Starring Patrick Stewart and William Shatner, the film did very well but had a decidedly mixed critical reception and the film holds a 47% rating on Rotten Tomatoes currently. 


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 18, 1939 Margaret Atwood, 80. Well there’s that work called The Handmaid’s Tale that garnering a lot of discussion now. There’s the excellent MaddAddam Trilogy which I recommend, and I’ve good things about The Penelopiad.
  • Born November 18, 1946 Alan Dean Foster, 73. There’s fifteen Pip and Flinx novels?!? Well the first five or so were superb. Spellsinger series is tasty too. Can’t say anything about his SW work as I ever got into reading what amounted to authorized fanfic. 
  • Born November 18, 1950 Michael Swanwick, 69. I will single out The Iron Dragon’s Daughter and Jack Faust as the novels I remember liking the best. His short fiction superb and I see both Apple Books and Kindle have the most excellent Tales of Old Earth collection with this lovely cover.
  • Born November 18, 1950 Eric Pierpoint, 69. I’d say that he’s best-known for his role as George Francisco on the Alien Nation franchise. He has also appeared on each of the first four Trek spin-offs. And he’s got a very impressive number of genre one-offs which I’m sure y’all will tell me about. 
  • Born November 18, 1952 Doug Fratz. Long-time fan and prolific reviewer for the  New York Review of Science Fiction and Science Fiction Age who also published a number of zines including the superbly titled Alienated Critic. He was nominated for Best Fanzine Hugo four times. Mike has a remembrance of him here. (Died 2016.)
  • Born November 18, 1953 Alan Moore, 66. His best book is Voice of the Fire. Though the first volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen very close. Pity about the film. His worse work? The Lost Girls. Shudder. 
  • Born November 18, 1961 Steven Moffat, 58. Showrunner, writer and executive producer of Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes. His first Doctor Who script was for Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death, a charity production that you can find on YouTube and I suggest you go watch now.   He also co-wrote The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, a most excellent animated film. He has deservedly won four Hugo Awards. 


  • Garfield depends on a rare astronomy lesson for a joke.
  • Even one of the character’s is surprised by Garfield’s Asimov reference. 

(15) EFFECTED OR AFFECTED? [Item by Olav Rokne.] On his personal blog, former Guardian SF book reviewer Damien Walter (@damiengwalter) admits that he didn’t read a single novel in 2019 — “I stopped reading novels last year. I think you did too.”

In an essay that gets a bit finger-pointy, he decries the state of novel writing, casts aspersions at NaNoRiMo books, and asks for something new that will “inspire” him. Warning: if you’re anything like me, you might find the piece a bit aggravating. 

If anything killed the magic of the novel, it’s seeing the novel utterly degraded and disrespected by the fevered egos who crank out junk and self publish it on the Kindle. I really wish this didn’t effect how I see the novel, but inevitably, it does.

And mainstream publishing isn’t all that much better. They don’t seem to invest anywhere near enough into developing talented new writers. New writers are published too early, then disappear before they have a chance to develop, which rarely happens before half a dozen lesser novels have been published.

Curious about what the Filers have to say about Walter’s opinion.  

(16) NO CAMERA TRICKS. BBC outlines “How Mary Poppins has changed for the stage”. The scene with the carpetbag is cited as an example of bad camera fakery; now they’re doing it live.

The stage adaptation of Mary Poppins is not the kind of show where the actors can afford to let their concentration lapse.

There are several precise and tricky cues for the cast to hit across the three-hour West End production.

Props have to appear from (or disappear into) thin air. There are magic tricks. Characters dance upside down on the ceiling. There are scenes that involve complex choreography, kite flying and statues coming to life.

It’s a testament to how tightly rehearsed the show is that nothing went wrong at the show’s opening night on Wednesday.

“It does sometimes!” laughs Zizi Strallen, who plays the legendary leading role. “But there are contingency plans, that’s the beauty of live theatre, and it’s my job to cover it up as well if it does go wrong.”

The most complicated part of the show, she says, is a scene which will be familiar to fans of the original 1964 film starring Julie Andrews, where Poppins is seen somehow pulling huge items out of a relatively small handbag.

“Not only am I singing and being Mary Poppins, I’m then essentially doing magic tricks,” Strallen explains, crediting the magic specialist who was hired to teach her. “There’s a magic teapot, bringing a plant out of the bag, a hat stand, a mirror, putting them all on the wall so they don’t fall off.

“There’s a lot of pressure in that number, a lot of things to think about. So my brain is going 100 miles per hour. And then when that number’s done I think ‘right, now I can just have fun’.”

(17) LAWFUL NEUTRAL. FastCompany says local governments are finding ways to keep this from being a purely rhetorical question, despite the FCC: “Should the internet be a public utility? Hundreds of cities are saying yes”.

Internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon are free to slow down, block, or prioritize internet traffic as they wish, without interference by the federal government. That’s the effect of an October ruling by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, upholding a 2017 ruling by the Federal Communications Commission that reversed rules requiring what is called “net neutrality“—treating all internet traffic equally, regardless of where it’s from or what kind of data it is.

Giving corporate telecom giants this power is wildly unpopular among the American people, who know that these companies have overcharged customers and interfered with users’ internet access in the past.

However, people who advocate for an open internet, free of corporate roadblocks, might find solace in another aspect of the court’s ruling: States and local governments may be able to mandate their own net neutrality rules.

The effort is underway

Governors in six states—Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont—have already signed executive orders enforcing net neutrality by prohibiting state agencies from doing business with internet service providers that limit customers’ online access. Four states have passed their own laws requiring internet companies to treat all online content equally: California, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont. A New Hampshire bill is in the works.

More than 100 mayors representing both large urban centers such as San Francisco and small cities such as Edmond, Oklahoma, have pledged not to sign contracts with internet service providers that violate net neutrality.

(18) AVENUE 5. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Three words: Hugh Laurie. HBO. Space cruise. Comedy.

OK, that’s six words.

Gizmodo believes “The Space Cruise Comedy From the Creator of Veep May Become Our New Obsession”.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Sunspring, a Sci-Fi Short Film Starring Thomas Middleditch” on YouTube is a fim from Ars Technica based on a screenplay written by an AI who had digested hundreds of script for sf films and tv shows.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Lise Andreasen, Olav Rokne, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

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66 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 11/18/19 Timeo Filers Et Dona Pixeles

  1. (13) “Bones of the Earth” is my favorite Swanwick.

    Foster wrote the novelizations of ST:TAS episodes (like Blish did for ST:TOS).

  2. 15) So he’s joining the 25% of American adults who haven’t read a book in the past year?

  3. 13) I read LOTS of Alan Dean Foster back in the day — primarily novelizations (including, but not limited to, Alien and The Black Hole), but also a fair number of his original SF novels, like Cachalot. Midworld (about the planet where everything wants to eat you) is the one that has always stuck with me.

  4. @bookworm1398: is the number of non-readers really that low? I might have guessed that 25% is the number who actually \did/ finish a book last year, but I’m a pessimist
    wrt @15, I do not see why the existence of oodles of crap on a recognizable platform means the death of the best work over all platforms, any more than the contents of sewers mean the death of good eating. And yes, I know that can be seen as an overstatement; in fact, I wonder whether he realizes how many writers who now sell dead-tree books got the half-dozen (that he thinks are necessary — I’m not convinced) less-desirable works out of the way on electronic platforms and went on to do good work there before being picked up? I haven’t the patience to dig through the morass myself, but I’ve been pointed to some work I consider worthwhile — most recently a rewrite of Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance from Byerly’s viewpoint. And I wonder whether he actually believes that endless radically new work would make him any happier — does he think he wouldn’t get bored consuming filet mignon and champagne every night? I know it’s possible to get tired of old material; as a choral singer I find a lot of Haydn boring and would be happy never to do Beethoven’s Ninth again. But ISTM that there’s a lot of brilliant new writing; a lot of it isn’t to my taste, but I doubt we’re having a bad year.

  5. (16) ” “Not only am I singing and being Mary Poppins, I’m then essentially doing magic tricks,” Strallen explains, crediting the magic specialist who was hired to teach her.”

    Too bad the BBC forgot to include that credit. It took a little while to find that the real-life conjurers behind Mary Poppins are Paul Kieve and Jim Steinmeyer, both of whom have extensive experience consulting for theater.

  6. 15) I’m perfectly happy with Walters not reading novels. I’m sure there’s plenty of mobile games and youtube-videos that can occupy his time instead.

  7. I’m still reading novels. But right now I’m working my way through the Longlist Anthology vol 5 (dropped last week for backers). Seems good.

  8. 15) I must get round to self-publishing some of my junk on Kindle. Current NaNo project is a bit ahead of schedule (about 36000 words) and might actually get finished this year.

    And I haven”t stopped reading novels, either.

    My views can be summarised as: the magic of the novel will certainly vanish if people stop writing them; NaNoWriMo at least Betts people trying to write novels; on the whole, it is better to try writing novels than to sit on the guidelines delivering jeremiads. But I think all book reviewers get disillusioned after a while. Goes with the territory.

  9. 13) Jack Faust and The Iron Dragon’s Daughter are some of Swanwick’s best work, but I think I’d rather read Stations of the Tide or Vacuum Flowers. Same biting irony but a little less weary of the world and its foibles. (Or there’s Griffin’s Egg, which I haven’t re-read in a long time but I remember as a kind of super-compressed dose of enjoyable scepticism aimed at transhumanists.)

    As for Alan Moore… I rather like Lost Girls, even though it has the same tendency to male gaze that gets into all his writing about sex. He stays in control of his material – always difficult with erotica – and tells a complex story without breaking out of the genre or giving a feeling that he’s superior to it. I’d say his worst work, discounting Maxwell the Magic Cat and his early stuff for 2000AD, is probably The Killing Joke. (I can remember a TV interview where Moore singled out DR & Quinch as the thing he’d like burned on his death, but that was a long time ago and I think he was wrong.)

  10. I liked The Killing Joke very much when it was written. I thought it made an incredlbly unexpected origin story for Joker without removing his terribleness, just making it worse. I don’t think I would like it anymore as much as I’m not very fond how other authors have handled the added cruelness of the Joker, changing the character to something I don’t feel is as interesting. As an example, I was terribly disappointed by The Dark Knight where the flamboyance of the Joker had been removed and he had turned into a standard movie villain that I had seen a few dozen times before (even if Ledger played him remarkably well).

    DR & Quinch is a comic that I thought was mostly forgettable, ordinary filler material, Skizz was another filler, but with a bit higher quality. There’s kind of a lot of Moore stuff that is only so-so. I think my least favourite comic by Moore is Promethea which felt incredibly bland like he was only going through the movements. Or perhaps the ridiculously boring rape-comic Neonomicon. But o be honest, I mostly stopped reading him 15 years ago when it didn’t feel he had anything new to give. Like his comics was only a way to display his real interest in research.

    Best? He has done so much and I guess Swamp Thing will always be the one that is closest to me, especially with his introduction of John Constantine. But the one I would like to push for is Top Ten, a superhero version of Hill Street Blues that is just wonderful with fantastic artwork by Gene Ha and Zander Cannon. So many small details, so much fun and inspiration. The cats and the rats having a dimensional war in a small apartment is my absolute favourite.

  11. @Hampus

    Absolutely agree about Top Ten – all the more so because I have fond memories of Hill Street Blues – and Swamp Thing is excellent, of course. And I basically agree about Promethea, though I make allowances for the excellent art and my utter lack of interest in Moore’s everything-means-everything-else approach to occultism.

    I do think The Killing Joke is weak but I’ve not read Neonomicon and don’t intend to, so I’ll accept your judgement on that.

  12. (15) As someone who’s slightly older than Walter I think I can say this: there comes a time (usually between 40 and 50, but sometimes earlier or later) that a person gets – perhaps ‘detached’ is the word – from popular culture. Everything starts getting unfamiliar, the stories aren’t told the way we expect, or they don’t lead to the same destinations. It gets harder to keep up with all the new artists and new ways. It gets easier to just re-enjoy the old favorites. But if a person doesn’t try to re-engage with society (and engaging with new artists is a great way to do that), calcification sets in and you become one of the ‘olds’ shaking your cane at the sky, demanding a return to ‘the good old days’ long before you’re actually all that old.

    This detachment often comes hand in hand with realizing that maybe you’re not who you dreamed you’d be, or if you are, that the dream didn’t turn out the way you thought it would. Not worse, necessarily, but definitely different. And that scares people. But I think it’s actually the start of a new phase of life. Time to re-evaluate, find new dreams and goals. It’s a time of exploration, much like the 20s were, while the 30s are often about sending down roots. In fact, that seems to be how life goes, at least to me. We progress through one stage of learning/exploration to deepening roots and connections, then to learning/exploring again, then to deepening roots again, etc. etc. It can be too easy to just let ourselves settle into discontent for the rest of our lives. But we should accept that the vague discontent with everything is just a sign – not of failure, which is what our goal-oriented society leads us to believe – but that we’re ready to set out again for new worlds.

    (Wow – that got philosophical fast!)

    tldr – the problem isn’t with the novels, it’s with the reader

  13. @Lorien Gray: Well said. I’m of a certain age myself and trying to keep engaged, so I’m sensitive to this issue.

  14. @Lorien – quite. He keeps taking his personal experience and attempting to generalize from it. He says he was reading several books per month and (I think he mentioned once or twice) writing reviews of them for The Guardian. If you continually have to do that when you’re not in the mood to do it, it gets old really fast. No doubt he’s burnt out.

  15. Lorien Gray:

    “As someone who’s slightly older than Walter I think I can say this: there comes a time (usually between 40 and 50, but sometimes earlier or later) that a person gets – perhaps ‘detached’ is the word – from popular culture.”

    Gah, that hit a bit close. I kind of started to detach from mainstream culture 20 years ago when I threw out the TV and stopped subscribing to newspapers, but it is only the last 5 years ago that I’ve noticed how all actors I used to know have been replaced without me being able to keep up to date with the new names.

    But I’m also thinking of it from the opposite direction. I had a flatmate 15 years younger than me who was totally into Patrick Rothfuss The Name of The Wind, so I lent her The Wizard of Earthsea. It was kind of interesting to see her suddenly understand how old the concept of wizards schools were, even if she had read Harry Potter before.

    I think that when you grow older, you have seen the stuff before, read it before and so on. While for a young person it is totally new and also adapted to more recent culture of writing styles and enviroment. You will get totally different experiences from the same work. And the more you read in the same area and the same genre, the more repetitions you will find. It doesn’t mean that the stuff is bad. It is just that you can see the pattern. See the twists and punchlines coming.

    And of course you can wish for different patterns, for the unexpected, but the reason the same old patterns appear is because they sell. They work. They are popular. And if you are reading from the mainstream, the stuff that searches for the largest audience, you will find the same stuff again and again.

    And I guess that if you feel detachment from some parts of the work because you can’t understand the pop-culture references, together with irritated at the rest because it obviously copied that other book from 40 years ago, then you might have a bit harder time to find the joy.

    But mostly it seems to me that Walters is complaining that he can’t find new stuff that is exactly as the new stuff used to be 30 years ago.

  16. @Lorien Grey:

    I’m pretty detached from pop culture, and don’t read as many books (fiction or non) as I used to–but if I was finding myself unimpressed by or uninterested in new novels, I wouldn’t conclude “no point in reading novels.” I’d start looking at backlists, both from a few years ago and from previous centuries.

    Maybe Damien Walter has read everything of interest to him since the novel was invented centuries ago, but that post has a bit of “go ahead, impress me, I dare you!” about it.

    Looking at what I’ve read recently, some of it is novellas and short stories–maybe Walter would find more of interest in shorter materials–or seems to be pitched at younger readers. Though the stuff by Oor Wombat was as T. Kingfisher, so maybe YA but not children’s books.

  17. Here’s my take:

    There are only so many ways to approach pop culture and when you are young, everything seems new and fresh. Then your generation finds ways to re-interpret the tropes. Once that is done, the fans/hipsters look at the new generations and fail to see the innovations that they have accomplished–all they see (or hear) are repeats of the same patterns that they grew up on. Some people can see the whole picture even when they are old, but they are rare.

  18. (15) He is mistaken about me at the very least. Certainly I’m reading less than I was five years ago. I didn’t have a toddler then. But I’m reading, and reading new things and new writers.

  19. 15) While I’d been finding less and less I was interested in reading for a number of years, I knew that it was more a reflection of me and where I was in my life than it was the books themselves. I now find myself interested in more new or newer books the past two or three years than I was, say, ten years ago.

    There’s one common denominator involved in everything you take into your life-you. Your reactions to things reflect upon you, not the other way around.

  20. (8) constitutionally suspect on at least three bases: vagueness, compelled speech, over broad. And given that Chevron deference is on the ropes in SCOTUS, this might well not survive the inevitable court challenge.

  21. Must say that I’m the total opposite of Walters. I have started to read again this year and do it constantly. Have cut back on social media and skipped out on other responsibilities. It feels great!

  22. In my 50s, I am reading less simply because I need reading glasses and better light. Although I love a well-bound book, I find myself reading on my phone a good deal, where I can adjust font and brightness easily.

    Se non è scrollo, è ben pixello.

  23. 8) INFLUENCER RULES. WTF?!? I’ve had exactly one editor say we needed to do this and I said we’d cease reviewing their books if he insisted on such being in a review. The matter never came up again.

  24. 13) Like Joe H I consumed a lot of Alan Dean Foster in my youth, both the Humanax and Spellsinger series were frequent reads and re-reads from the library. Standalones and novelisations were happily consumed also, the Alien(s) ones being particularly good.

    Splinter of the Minds Eye was the effective first in the Star Wars expanded universe and bit and bobs from it (Kyber crystals and Mimban) have shown up in recent movies.

    Generally just good fun reads.

  25. I enjoyed Foster’s trilogy “The Damned” and standalones like “Glory Lane” and ” To the Vanishing Point.”

  26. 15) Gee, Damien Walters needs to revisit the history of the novel. Might remind him that the novel did not always hold the exalted place that he puts it in. Otherwise, he just sounds like he’s sliding into early curmudgeonhood. Perhaps it’s midlife ennui, or perhaps it’s just reviewer burnout.

    My money’s on midlife ennui. As others have commented, I remember going through a phase in life in my early 40s where novels just didn’t appeal. It didn’t last long, and these days in my 60s I read widely across several genres. What’s interesting is the wide range of elder readers that I know of these days–some electronic, some hard copy. Then again, we’re in a small rural area with long winters and TV requires either internet streaming or cable (and no local stations), so book reading is alive and well here. Wintertime cultural events attract a lot of attention, including literary stuff. Just have to develop the taste for speculative fiction (mwhahahah, I Have A Sekrit Plan).

    Anyway, back to the main subject. What I did lose an appreciation for during my 40s was much video-based entertainment. That hasn’t really come back, either, with rare exceptions such as Star Wars and some of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As a writer I end up slicing and dicing the stories. We recently started watching Longmire, but it wasn’t long before I realized that I much preferred the books to the TV series. While it’s an interesting case study in how a TV series where the author is involved can diverge from the books that inspired it (seriously, significant divergence from the beginning, and the devils that TV Longmire faces are quite different from book Longmire, but both deal with significant issues), I still decided to stop watching the TV series.

    There are just few things I’m willing to brave the costs and hassle of a theater for, and a lot that I don’t feel worth my while on the small screen. My husband watches a lot more TV than I do, but even at that often gets bored with the offerings of Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. Though we will probably watch Picard when it comes out, that is, if CBS All Access functions…sometimes it doesn’t work well here.

  27. 13) Alan Dean Foster and Michael Swanwick. Two authors I’ve enjoyed immensely. Foster for his Humanx Commonwealth (especially the Pip & Flinx stories), Into the Out Of, short stories (Montezuma Strip & Mocking Program). Swanwick for Vacuum Flowers, Stations of the Tide, Darger & Surplus and the Iron Dragon sequence.

    15) I’m appalled by the self published stuff out there. Even if it’s free, I’ve discovered its a waste of time. All too often, the authors jump out there convinced they’ve got the great new idea … only I’ve read the same idea (but better written and edited and more self aware than the self published works (the lack of self awareness is the worst)). It’s gotten to the point where I wish I had the ability to filter out the self published works on Amazon.

    It’s also resulted in me bookmarking and holding fast the recommendation threads here and the suggestions folks made a few years back to identify the new and upcoming books.

    Still reading and reading new authors (L.X. Beckett, Derek Kunksen to name two, thank goodness), but also a lot of old favorites (Bujold, Nagata, Martha Wells, Tchaikovsky, Watts, Hodgell, etc.) whose full catalog I haven’t finished exploring. And are still publishing new stuff.

  28. 15) I’ve read significantly less this year than last, but that comes with having been effectively blind for two months, and recovering from eye surgery for another month.

    Overall, I find a lot to disagree with in Damien Walter’s post, but think there may be a nugget of truth in his analysis of the larger publishing houses (though he expresses his criticism in condescending ways). The death of the mid-list has meant fewer writers are financially able — and incentivized to — spend a decade or two refining their craft.

    It seems to me (though I haven’t crunched the numbers to back this up) that the current author career cycle is shorter than it was in previous decades, and that writers are given less time to find an audience than they used to. I’d suggest this trend is due to market factors (rather than to incompetence as Walter implies).

    Likewise, the pay in short fiction has not kept up with inflation. In the 1940s, 1950s and even 1960s, a writer could support herself based on short fiction alone. The magazine system had its flaws (prejudices of editors for example), but it was a great development engine for writers.

    Do I think this has an effect on the genre overall? I can’t see how it wouldn’t.

    But there great writers currently publishing innovative, brilliant new novels? It would be wildly disingenuous to suggest so, and I think Walter’s a bit hollow-hearted to do so.

  29. BravoLimaPoppa on November 19, 2019 at 9:03 am said:
    L.X. Beckett, Derek Kunsken to name two, thank goodness

    Seconded on both recommendations. Künsken has a talent for imagining oppressions. On the strength of that alone, The Quantum Magician is well worth picking up.

  30. Olav Rokne:

    Seconded on both recommendations. Künsken has a talent for imagining oppressions. On the strength of that alone, The Quantum Magician is well worth picking up.

    The sequel The Quantum Garden is out now. Totally worth the read.

  31. Bill:

    (16) ” “Not only am I singing and being Mary Poppins, I’m then essentially doing magic tricks,” Strallen explains, crediting the magic specialist who was hired to teach her.”

    Too bad the BBC forgot to include that credit. It took a little while to find that the real-life conjurers behind Mary Poppins are Paul Kieve and Jim Steinmeyer, both of whom have extensive experience consulting for theater.

    I’ll be dipped. I didn’t know Steinmeyer was still active. His books are incredible getting into the technical aspects as well as the shows.
    Thanks Bill!

  32. @rochrist: The problem with the prequel wasn’t Lucas’ vision, it was his gawdawful casting. And his awful scenarizing/plotting/…, and his revolting characters, and …

    @Sophie Jane: an interesting reaction re Moore’s best and worst; I’d have said The Killing Joke was good in itself (I haven’t read a lot of Moore), but the ~fridging could be a sticking point.

    @Lorien Gray: I think you need a few more subjunctives there; ISTM that such disaffection is far from universal (especially for the age bracket you point at — cf recent discussion about Spinrad, and other people in his cohort spinning off). OTOH, it could explain this particular case.

    @Hampus Eckerman: good points on too-familiar work. I sometimes show up for a local SF book group that includes someone who might be 40 years younger than I am; he got fed up with some of my grumbling about unoriginality (particularly wrt writers coming into genre from elsewhere and giving us a blatant look-at-me-being-original (but actually not) experience) that he said he was glad he wasn’t my age and so over-experienced. The thing is, there’s still material coming out that expands on the old tropes, in ways novel enough (to me) to make a good read — and I’m reading more than this dyspeptic reviewer claims. (For the 3 years I’ve been keeping track, I’ve been finishing ~18 books a month. Abandoning less than 1/month may mean I’m not being picky enough, but I try to be picky before starting.) I might be more unhappy if I had to say something both coherent and substantial (as opposed to the curt notes I make) about several books per month. OTOH, I got forced off TV ~50 years ago (except for following Buffy sporadically until it jumped the shark) but hear enough about it that I can catch ephemeral cultural references here and there.

    @BravoLimaPoppa: self-published work has always been a crapshoot — but Walter talks as if it’s hiding everything else. It’s like any other slushpile; every now and then something worthwhile pops up. (And since Walter isn’t reading slush he doesn’t have much grounds for complaint.)

  33. And because it only occurred to me after posting, this bit of Sondheim:

    Be new, George
    They tell you ’til they’re blue, George:
    You’re new or else you’re through, George,
    And even if it’s true, George —
    You do what you can do…

    “Putting It Together”, from Sunday in the Park with George

  34. 2) Git off my lawn! I am just barely a boomer, but I’ll own it!

    4) You could not pay me enough to have that in my house.

    13) Born November 18, 1939 — Margaret Atwood, 80.

    I keep meaning to read more Atwood. I never liked the ending of The Handmaid’s Tale, but Oryx and Crake is one of my favorite books ever (the rest of the trilogy isn’t as good), and I loved The Blind Assassin as well.

    15) If he hasn’t been inspired by novels lately, he’s just been reading the wrong novels.

    18) I am SO there.

    @Chip —

    I haven’t the patience to dig through the morass myself, but I’ve been pointed to some work I consider worthwhile — most recently a rewrite of Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance from Byerly’s viewpoint.

    Say what, now? Where do I find this?

    @Joyce —

    What I did lose an appreciation for during my 40s was much video-based entertainment.

    Yeah, I’m with you. I find myself having less and less patience with TV and movies. I haven’t owned a working TV in years, and I am less and less willing to invest time in video of any sort.

    I did finish Solo last night, after watching the first half a couple of weeks ago. It was bad. Baaaad. But I did enjoy the character of L-3!

  35. Oh, I wanted to mention —

    In current reading, I just finished The Test by Sylvain Neuvel.

    Ho — leeee — SHIT.

    I highly recommend listening to this rather than reading it. It’s a very disturbing read — not gory or anything, but very emotionally taxing. But I STRONGLY recommend it. It’s only 2 hours — well worth the time investment.

    my review here

  36. 15) Do the self-publishers put out a lot of crap? Yes.

    Do mainstream publishers spend less time developing authors? Yes. This has been true ever since books in warehouses started being taxed, in the 70s I think, which meant that everything went out of print much sooner, and it was harder to find an author’s earlier work and so follow that author’s career.

    Are there good books coming out nonetheless? Yes. In fact, it’s amazing how much innovative stuff is out there, considering all the hurdles authors face these days. There are good books that have been self-published, and Publishing on Demand and e-books mean that publishers can keep books in stock much longer.

    Alan Moore — I liked From Hell, but I admit it might be a hard one to like. Not sf, or not really.

  37. Anybody interested in doing a review of the Liavek series? Courtesy of Will, I’ve epubs of the newly configured ones available for that purpose. Email me here if you’re interested.

  38. Alan Moore: Loved Top 10!
    Michael Swanwick: Love most of his stuff, but I was actually a bit underwhelmed with Jack Faust, though I’m not sure I can articulate why. I also have slightly mixed feelings about Stations of the Tide, but that may be partly because I was trying to get past some stuff of my own at the time I first read it.

    I still read insane amounts every year, and my general impression is (and has been for most of my life) that the field continues to improve year after year. Only Sturgeon’s Law remains constant. 😀

  39. @BravoLimaPoppa

    I’ll be dipped. I didn’t know Steinmeyer was still active. His books are incredible getting into the technical aspects as well as the shows.

    Yes, they are. Glad to be of service.

    I am an email correspondent of Jim’s, and have been able to meet him a couple of times. He’s also a super nice guy, and incredibly knowledgeable about his areas of interest. My own interest in conjuring is its history, and Jim used to co-produce and co-host the (late, lamented) Los Angeles Conference on Magic History. It was one of the hottest tickets in magic — attendance was limited by the size of the venue, and everyone who was anyone in magic was there. I finally got an invite by proposing and giving a talk, which he was complimentary of after I gave it. It ended up being the last edition of the conference — there have been no more — so I got in just under the wire. (and to tie this back to SF, the Mechanical Man from the 1918 Houdini film “The Master Mystery” — Q, the Automaton — is one of the first robots in narrative film, and John Gaughan brought out a stunning reproduction of it as part of the conference).

  40. (15) This is not the first time I have seen an article by a professional reviewer or academic in a literary field talking about how terrible books have become and that’s why no one reads anymore.

    It never seems to cross their minds that maybe reading for work is not the same thing as reading for pleasure and why the first one might end up souring you on reading for a while.

  41. Contrarius: In current reading, I just finished The Test by Sylvain Neuvel.

    This is what I wrote in my notes for the Novellapalooza:

    This is a disturbing but interesting thought experiment about a future UK where paranoia about immigrants has caused the creation of a system whereby foreign applicants are put through a rigorous psychological process to determine whether their character and ethical traits warrant them being let into the country. It raises some good questions about the roots of human bias and the way it manifests in peoples’ behavior, and about how we judge the relative value of the lives of others.

    While an interesting idea, ultimately the story falls down on the fact that no anti-immigration country would invest massive quantities of money and human and technological resources into administering such tests (never mind the futility of trying to keep them secret, as the story claims they have done) – especially when this has the ultimate self-defeating result of leaving those who “pass” the test emotionally-damaged and perhaps no longer able to be good citizens. Such countries would just disallow immigration entirely, or settle for a much less expensive triaging system.

    It’s worth reading, but not IMO award-worthy.

  42. @JJ —

    While an interesting idea, ultimately the story falls down on the fact that no anti-immigration country would invest massive quantities of money and human and technological resources into administering such tests

    I agree that the necessary nuts and bolts (expense and so on) make such a program unrealistic in the Real World — but so are things like the setup for The Hunger Games and a bazillion other sff stories. That isn’t the point.

    With this story, it’s the emotional impact — the wallop of being hit over the head with “THIS is what you’re doing to people” — that really got to me. It’s not just about literally testing immigrants — it’s about everything we carelessly do in our comfy first-world lives that impacts on people whom we can thoughtlessly label as The Other, and the real cost of that carelessness.

    And it’s for sure on my longlist. I’ll have to see how the impact holds up on reread, closer to nomination.

  43. @Kyra — I definitely agree on reading for work and reading for pleasure. I’ve been enjoying books much more since I stopped reviewing, and I’ve even been turning down opportunities for award juries. Just for fun, now, thank you.

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