Pixel Scroll 11/25/17 In The Scrolling, The Mighty Scrolling, The Pixel Scrolls Tonight

(1) A-WEEMA-WEH. Derek Kunsken, one of the guests of honor, tells Black Gate readers about “The 4th International Science Fiction Conference, Chengdu, China, November 2017”.

Among the international guests were authors Michael Swanwick and Ted Komsatska from the USA, Taiyo Fujii from Japan, Robert J Sawyer and I from Canada, and editors Neil Clarke from the USA, Francesco Verso from Italy, con organizer Crystal Huff from the USA, and a few others. A few of us got to visit the Panda breeding facility the day before the conference started.

…Incidentally, China is interested in hosting a WorldCon, and some of my expedia searching has shown me that flights from Ottawa to Chengdu were in the neighborhood of $900 Canadian, and the hotel they got us in downtown Chengdu was about $110 Canadian a night. I don’t know how much more or less expensive that is compared to Helsinki or Dublin, but I would vote for a Chinese bid on a WorldCon!

Black Gate adds this background about the author —

Derek Künsken writes science fiction and fantasy in Gatineau, Québec. His first novel, The Quantum Magician, is being serialized right now in China in the magazine SFWorld before its publication in book form in the spring.

(2) ALL BRADBURY, ALL THE TIME. Hillsdale College historian Bradley J. Birzer, in “Out of the Shire:  Life Beyond Tolkien” in The American Conservative, recommends several writers for Tolkien fans, but “of all 20th century fabulists, Ray Bradbury comes closest to equaling Tolkien’s literary and imaginative powers.”

If you look at what’s playing on your television, at what’s showing at the local cinema, at what video games your children are playing, or at what is selling in the young adult section of your neighborhood Barnes & Noble, you’ll see something that is at once deeply cultural and deeply countercultural at the exact same moment: Romanticism.

It’s difficult to know exactly where the movement started, though most historians and literary scholars would give the nod to Edmund Burke and his second great work, On the Sublime and the Beautiful. From Burke’s treatise, almost all modern Romantic thought arose. Burke’s presence is, at times, implicit, and, at times, blatant in the works of such critical figures as Wordsworth and Coleridge, but it can be found throughout most of the romantic poetry and art of the early 19th century. It’s not hard even to imagine Burke’s shadow lingering over Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, the Pastoral. In his own writings on Western civilization, Christopher Dawson argued that the rise of Romanticism, whatever its excesses and failings, was as important to Western civilization, as the re-discovery of Hellenic thought in the Renaissance. Whatever its original and essential intent, Romanticism successfully saved Christianity from the utilitarianism and rationalism of the 18th century, Dawson continued. In its recovery of medieval Christianity in the early 19th century, the Anglo-Welsh Roman Catholic scholar asserted, the Romantics actually discovered “a new kind of beauty.”

From its earliest origins, one can trace Romanticism’s history through the 19th century and into the early 20th century through figures as diverse as Friedrich Nietzsche, G.K. Chesterton, and Willa Cather. Perhaps most importantly for Western culture, however, was its manifestation in the vast mythology of J.R.R. Tolkien….

(3) TOP LGBT SFF. Rocket Stack Rank has consulted the ratings for excellent stories and come up with the “Best LGBT Science Fiction & Fantasy of 2015-2016”.

Greg Hullender sent the link with a note: “We’ve been talking about doing this for a while, but we finally got it put together. Note that this is just 2015-2016. Because we depend on scores from other reviewers (including the 4 annual anthologies plus Hugo and Nebula nominations), the earliest we could do anything like it for 2017 would be April 2018, so our current plan is to do 2017 in June for Gay Pride Month and try to make that a regular thing.”

In addition to regular monthly ratings we’re going to start publishing occasional lists of excellent stories from particular subsets of Science Fiction and Fantasy (SFF). We’ve previously done this for Hard Science Fiction, and this month we’re doing it for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) stories.

As always, our focus is on the stories, not the authors. These are stories with memorable LGBT characters—not necessarily stories by noted LGBT authors. These include excellent stories in which a key character merely happens to be an LGBT person as well as stories where the LGBT angle is crucial to the plot.

Also, these are stories that had at least one recommendation from a “prolific reviewer” (that is, any reviewer who reads at least 500 stories a year from major print and online sources); no single reviewer can really capture the tastes of all readers, so drawing from a pool of reviewers makes it more likely that we haven’t omitted anything.

(4) BLACK FRIDAY. New Zealand’s Weta Workshops is running a Black Friday sale through Monday. All kinds of figures and paraphernalia from Lord of the Rings and other films they’re associated with.

(5) UNICORN ANTIDOTE. This will cure your post-ceramic stress — JJ calls it “Brain bleach for the wine caddy.” If you need that explained, consider yourself lucky.

(6) TIMEY-WIMEY. Holiday shipping has run amok:

(7) XL5. Galactic Journey’s Ashley R. Pollard turned on the TV and found this new show on channel 1962 — “[November 25, 1962] Great Balls of Fire!  (Gerry Anderson’s new series, Fireball XL5)”

I’ve mentioned in a past article that Britain has Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future.  Now we also have Colonel Steve Zodiac of the World Space Patrol.  Not the hero of a comic strip, but rather of a children’s television show from Anderson Provis Films (APF), which you may all remember from when I talked about their production last year, Supercar.

Gerry and Sylvia Anderson are back with another Supermarionation series, Fireball XL5.  Supermarionation is their term to describe puppets that speak using electronic synchronization, and the Andersons have used it to great effect, creating a brand new medium for SF.

(8) KIT SHIRT. Francis Hamit, whose movie script has been winning prizes, offers the “Christopher Marlowe fan T-shirt” through Zazzle.

Check out the CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE fan t-shirt that I designed at Zazzle.co.uk. We did this because we have about 1,400 Facebook friends in London and we need to sell something to prove that we are actually in business. Zazzle seemed like the easiest way to do this and we already own the art. We also have a similar product. on CafePress.


(10) THE SLEUTH’S BOSS. The Financial Times’ Henry Mance profiled Mark Gatiss, a writer for Doctor Who and the showrunner for Sherlock, where he also plays Mycroft Holmes: “‘We will all be dust soon’: Sherlock’s Mark Gatiss on death, despair and drama”. (Usually these are behind a paywall, but I was able to see this one. Caveat non-emptor.)

When asked if Sherlock Holmes has Asperger’s, Gatiss says, “I don’t think it (Asperger’s) is a disorder.  You can read Conan Doyle and think he is–you can diagnose him. Clearly that is based on people who have manic mood swings.  We made Mycroft the Niles to Holmes’s Frasier, who apparently feels nothing–though of course he does, he just keeps it under control.”

When asked if there will be more episodes of “Sherlock,” Gattis says, “Dunno.  Honestly.  It’s the first time we haven’t had to make plans for 18 months down the line.  The last episode of Sherlock was both “a possible natural ending, and a possible place for them to do another one.”

Gattiss’s next project, with Mark Moffat, is a version of “Dracula” which will appear on the BBC in 2019.

(11) WORTHY OF THE VOGONS. History.com found a by-product of its cipher-cracking project: “This Supercomputer Was Programmed to Think Like the Zodiac Killer. No Wonder Its Poetry is So Creepy”.

Now Knight, CARMEL and a team of code-breaking researchers are working with the HISTORY Channel to try and crack the Z340, the Zodiac killer’s most impenetrable cipher. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the self-named murderer terrorized Northern California with a succession of random killings and taunting letters to the police and newspapers. Four of those communiqués contained ciphers filled with perplexing letters and abstract symbols. Cryptologists consider the Zodiac’s 340-character cipher, sent to The San Francisco Chronicle in November 1969, a holy grail of sorts.

As part of Knight’s research into what computers can do with language, CARMEL can churn out complex verse on any given topic within a matter of seconds.

(12) PARTS OF SPEECH. Fast Company explains why “John Waters Doesn’t Need To Make Movies To Make Trouble”.

Despite the fact that he has “never graduated from anything,” John Waters was invited by the Rhode Island School of Design to deliver its 2015 commencement address. In his speech, Waters urged the graduating class to cause trouble. “Go out in the world and fuck it up beautifully,” he advised. “Design clothes so hideous they can’t be worn ironically. Horrify us with new ideas. Outrage outdated critics. Use technology for transgression, not lazy social living. Make me nervous.”

Understandably, the speech went viral, or as Waters puts it, “it had a little trip.” In April of this year, the speech was turned into a book called, Make Trouble. Now, that book has been turned into a vinyl record of the same name, released by Jack White’s Third Man Records. Waters recorded the audio at his dining room table in his New York apartment in an afternoon. “But it took me three days to write it,” he says in mock defensiveness.

(13) SCORING THE COVERS. Camestros Felapton has started the ball rolling with “The Book Cover Thing 2017: Draft Long List”. Jump over and add your suggestions.

A reminder of how this works. There is no eligibility period.

  1. A draft long list is made from finalist from the Hugos, Nebulas and Clarke Awards, as well as the winners of book categories from the Dragons.
  2. To the long list we add book covers suggested in the comments by anybody (and yes that includes Phantom as per last year). Also I may add additional covers to keep it interesting.
  3. The covers are then scored on a set of criteria (see below).
  4. Points are totaled and the highest scoring cover(s) are the winners.
  5. Winning artist/designer gets a JPEG of Timothy.

(14) CULTURE WARRIORS. And while you’re visiting Camestros’ blog, check out the full-length edition of Doris V. Sutherland’s lyrical comment:

Jason Rennie was ill
When the Hugos stood still
But Superversive’s where he stands
And Chuck Tingle was there
While lacking underwear
Dec Finn was the most Pius man
But something’s not right
With Vox Day and John Wright
They got caught in a No Award jam
Then at a deadly pace
It was in cyberspace
And here’s how the message ran…

(15) IT’S WEIRD. Bookmunch recommends this compilation of 2016 weird fiction: “We are living in an apocalyptic moment and we have a duty to be witnesses” – Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volume Four ed. Helen Marshall

Helen Marshall is the guest editor for this year’s book. An award winning writer and creative writing lecturer, she comes at weird fiction from a very different angle to last year’s editor Simon Strantzas. This is no bad thing. The key to weird fiction is its malleability. Last year, Strantzas put together a very horror centric anthology, with weird fiction’s key players such as Robert Aickman, Rob Shearman (who will be guest editing volume five) and Ramsey Campbell at the forefront. Marshall instead has assembled a vastly different kind of anthology, which demonstrates the vastness of the genre. Yes, there are horror stories in here, most notably Usman T Malik’s ‘In the Ruins of Mohenjo-Daro’, but then there are also stories like Irenosen Okojie’s magnificent ‘Outtakes’, or Aki Schilz’s ‘Beating the Bounds’, both of which are highlights of a brilliant book.

(16) LOOKING AHEAD. Paul Kincaid, whose book about Iain M. Banks came out earlier this year, talks about his next book in “A Priest chronology”.

So, my next book will be about Christopher Priest and will be published by Gylphi, which is something that makes me inordinately pleased. I’ve started the reading and note taking that inevitably accompanies such a task. But I’ve also put together a chronology of his books and short stories, just as a way of keeping everything straight in my mind.

(17) CHOW TIME. Aaron Pound continues cooking his way through Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook — “Ad Astra Review – C3PO by Ef Deal”

Review: C3PO is a pretty simple recipe. It more or less consists of a can of crushed pineapple with chopped bell pepper, onion, and pecans all mixed into a pile of cream cheese. That is basically it. The only change I made from the text of the recipe was that I used a red bell pepper instead of a green bell pepper, mostly because I had a red bell pepper on hand. The end result is a spread than can be used on crackers or fresh vegetables. The end result is also delicious.

(18) AN ETHNIC FIRST. The Washington Post’s Noah Berlatsky, in “With ‘Justice League,’ now there’s a Jewish superhero played by a Jewish actor on the big screen”, notes that The Flash is the first movie superhero to be Jewish, and he looks at other Jewish superheroes in the comics, including The Thing, who was revealed to be Jewish in the early 2000s.

I’m sure this statement will provoke some disagreement among people who pay attention to firsts in films. Depending on how you look at it, you could argue that the first superhero was also the first Jewish superhero. Superman, after all, was created by two Jews, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, and fans have found some (often overstated) traces of Jewish cultural influence in his creation.

There’s also Thing of “The Fantastic Four,” who wasn’t officially declared Jewish in the comics until the 2000s, and hasn’t been identified as Jewish in the films. But he was often seen by fans as a working-class ethnic stand-in for his creator, working-class ethnic Jew, Jack Kirby. The X-Man Kitty Pryde was Jewish in the 1980s, and the X-Man villain Magneto was retconned into a Holocaust survivor at about the same time.

Flash, though, is the first character in our ongoing superhero film frenzy who is identified specifically as Jewish — he mentions he’s Jewish quickly, offhand, when he first meets Batman (Ben Affleck).

(19) SCORCHED PLASTIC. The Lego Millennium Falcon – if you haven’t already ordered, you’re screwed: “What’s $800 And Already Sold Out? This Lego Star Wars Ship”.

It made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. But a new buildable version of Han Solo’s famous Millennium Falcon is currently stalled.

Those hoping to snag one of Lego’s new Star Wars sets for the 2017 holidays will likely be disappointed. It’s currently sold out online. After a September release only to its VIP list, the company promises it’s working as fast as it can to “make more sets available and keep our LEGO builders happy.” At a cool $799.99 and more than 7,500 pieces, it’s the expensive, easy-to-lose gift that keeps on giving.

Dang, these went faster than Worldcon 76 hotel rooms.

(20) FOR YOUR TREE. Of course, these are still available — “Holiday Gift Idea: ‘Elvira Christmas Ornament’”. I don’t suppose that comes as a surprise.

Sculpted by artist MATTHEW BLACK and painted by DAVID FISHER, these specialty Mistress of the Dark ornaments come in two versions; Standard has Elvira in black dress, while the Limited Edition has her in red and is limited to 500 pieces.

(21) TURNED DOWN. The news behind Deadline.com’s report “Time Responds To Donald Trump’s “Incorrect” Claims Of Turning Down Person Of The Year — Update” is inspiring things like Will Brown’s tweet —

(22) DUDE. Two compilations of “Super Café” videos from How It Should Have Ended.

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

53 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 11/25/17 In The Scrolling, The Mighty Scrolling, The Pixel Scrolls Tonight

  1. “Strike up the Pixel, the Scroll has begun: the Dickson-vania Hoka!”

    (6): In 2715, packages arrive just before being ordered, and can be returned up to three days before delivery.

  2. @1: I get that China is not North Korea, but I’d still be nervous about going there.

    @5: so the cure for the wine caddy is blood-sugar issues?

  3. 6) *sobbing* The very nice gang at Argyll Books doing the print volumes was not informed by Amazon of how many pre-orders were ordered until the day of sale. They have spent some very angry on-phone-to-Amazon time. I am told some of the books are starting to be delivered!

    (I think something is UP with Amazon, though—I just got an email apologizing for missing me and saying they’ll deliver my new pillow tomorrow. I have been sleeping on said pillow since Wednesday.)

    Offer stands, if anybody here ordered a print copy and is crawling the walls, I will send you a free ebook to tide you over.

  4. (13) I broke through my shell of antisocialness to nominate my own cover only because it had a kick ass robo penguin on it.

    (5) From brain bleach to insulin shock.

    (19) No Falcon for me, alas, but I did score a Worldcon hotel room — plus it’s in one of the pet-friendly hotels, so I can bring my SJW credential.

  5. [8] …For long and weary hours, I bored myself
    Counting the old, tired webs of spiders
    In my narrow office. Just then I heard
    A ringing sound from the bell out front,
    And in my dismal garret I beheld
    A wench who made a good first impression
    To my eyes. Her face, I thought, could launch
    A thousand or so ships, her eyes burn down
    A hell of a lot of topless towers.
    I took in her form and her tear-streaked face
    She beseechingly asked, “Mister Marlowe?
    I’m in trouble. They told me you could help.”

    [from The Tragedie of the Big Slumbre, first quoted by me in rec.arts.sf.fandom, January 2003]

    Chip Hitchcock: I’ve only been to China in tours, though Cathy and I both went places on our own. It was pretty nice, and it was easier to make commercial transactions there than it was in Italy, where I choked and lost all language for a half minute. I encountered only good will toward funny-looking foreigners (a half dozen people wanted to take pictures with me), and if it happened nobody spoke English (which was comparatively rare), they didn’t mind gestures.

    Pretty darn polluted, though. Also, they love fireworks. And neon!

  6. Scroll and 1)
    naturally, I’ve always heard the lyrics wrongly as “A Weimer went, A Weimer went…”

  7. I have already finished Clockwork Boys and am anxiously waiting The Wonder Engine. I don’t suppose you can fold time to deliver that ebook before it is released? I would even promise to read it in the presence of a cat that is frequently here and not here. It’s a very effective strategy for getting me to trip over her and in direct contrast to our other cat who is so definitively here he warps time and space almost as badly as he has warped our couch.

  8. Just got my link for the ebook version of the Long List Anthology Vol. 3. Amanda Makepeace’s cover art is really nice.

  9. I’m not personally a fan of the cover, but it’s well-done, and I’m delighted that the opportunity was given to an artist who’s just starting their career.

  10. Unsolicited recommendation.

    In November and December I generally find myself without the mental capacity to read the kind of books that knock my socks off and instead go with standard adventure stories.

    Found Into the Dark by J A Sutherland to be currently free on kindle. Female Protagonist, Mr Midshipman Hornblower in SPAAAAAAAAAAAAACE, Cleaner prose and better pacing than David Webber’s version. My socks are still firmly on but for a pleasure read when I curl up in bed, it hits the spot.

  11. @Iphinome: duly noted, and appropriate action taken, thankyouverymuch.

    Over here in the UK, at least, the first “Valerian and Laureline” book, The City of Shifting Waters, is also currently free. I know the V&L movie didn’t exactly impress people, but the original medium’s probably better?

  12. @Red Wombat

    Does that mean that pre-orders were better than anticipated? At least that’s better than the other way around!

    Clockwork Boys was very good and I need to find time to write more than “very good” about it.

  13. Mr Pedantic writes:

    (10) Gattiss’s next project, with Mark Moffat, is a version of “Dracula” which will appear on the BBC in 2019.

    Both names are incorrect (one more than the other, though.) I assume this should have read:

    (10) Gatiss’s next project, with Steven Moffat, is …

    although it’s easy to understand how it happened.

    There’s a nice interview with Matt Smith in the UK Observer mostly talking about The Crown but with some insights into his time as The Doctor.

  14. @RedWombat
    I looked on pub day, or perhaps the day after, and Amazon said Clockwork Boys was sold out! So I ordered on Saturday, and it is supposed to be delivered on Wednesday. We shall see if time and space are warped for this delivery!

    Really looking forward to it! Thank you!

  15. @RedWombat Well I guess can’t ask for more than that. Mentally wishing you many creative and productive days. I went and ordered a hard copy last night too but don’t expect it to defy causality for me since I already read the ebook.

  16. (3) I’ve seen some pushback on Rocket Stack Rank on Twitter.

    I must say, a review that says

    …I have to remember [singular] “they” means (in this case) “it.”

    Has a problem. It’s never OK to call a person “it” unless that is their stated preferred pronoun. Non-binary people are not ‘it’.

  17. ULTRAGOTHA on November 26, 2017 at 8:44 am said:

    …I have to remember [singular] “they” means (in this case) “it.”

    Has a problem. It’s never OK to call a person “it”

    Sentient ship AIs are people my friend.


    …I have to remember [singular] “they” means (in this case) “it.”

    Has a problem. It’s never OK to call a person “it” unless that is their stated preferred pronoun. Non-binary people are not ‘it’.

    I agree completely, but in the story you’re talking about, World of the Three, by Shweta Narayan, the pronoun is being used for clockwork automata–not people.

  19. Iphinome on November 26, 2017 at 9:05 am said:
    “Sentient ship AIs are people my friend.”

    If the author decides that “it” is the preferred pronoun, fine. But a reviewer deciding to call a character “it” when the author chose to use a different pronoun isn’t fine.


    If the author decides that “it” is the preferred pronoun, fine. But a reviewer deciding to call a character “it” when the author chose to use a different pronoun isn’t fine.

    I agree with that too. Except where I make a mistake, I always use the same pronouns in the review as the author used in the story.

    I keep trying to find a way to cope with the fact that I seem to be unable to internalize “non-binary they” when I’m reading. I have no problem with using it. But in reading a story, I always have to stop to figure it out, and that pops me out of the story. When that happens a lot, it spoils the story for me. There’s really nothing more to it than that. The rest is about me trying various ways (over the past couple of years) to cope with it. What I’m not doing is just recommending against all such stories. But I’m also not lying about it.

    BTW I have to drive 100 miles to visit my brother’s family and spend the afternoon with my nieces and nephews, so I won’t be replying here for several hours. It sure would be nice to find some constructive suggestions, though. 🙂

  21. @RedWombat:

    (I think something is UP with Amazon, though—I just got an email apologizing for missing me and saying they’ll deliver my new pillow tomorrow. I have been sleeping on said pillow since Wednesday.)

    Maybe they’re just using out-of-date software? I’m a regular blood donor; the Red Cross only recently stopped sending me prodding notices shortly after a donation (on the grounds that it had been eligibility-plus-a-couple weeks since my “last” donation).

    @SciFiMike: I didn’t need the prompt; I saw maybe two shows during the brief US airing, but still remember the tune. Have you seen the clip of Gaiman singing it with one of Palmer’s bands?

  22. I can understand grappling with non-standard pronouns. It’s taken me a while to get into Provenance by Anne Leckie due to the different sorts of pronouns on offer. If I reviewed it, I’d probably mention they were there, in passing.

    [Though I’m fascinated that children on Hwae appear to use ‘They’ as their pronoun until they choose to become adult at which time maybe they pick their gender–male (he), female (she) or nemen (e)–or maybe they just start using what pronoun they are since one can apparently tell just by looking? Not sure yet.]

    It is requiring more mental effort on my part to work through all that. But that is not a flaw in the book. It’s on me. Leckie is clear who she is referring to in every instance.


    The neutral pronoun really messes this story up. It’s like trying to read something with someone tapping on your head every few seconds. It’s not at all clear what the point of it is, since Pascal behaves in all other ways like a male, and we never learn why Pascal uses a neutral pronoun.

    You don’t say here that using a neutral pronoun “really messes this story up” for you, you present it as if it’s problem anyone would have. Why, as a reviewer, do you think Pascal needs a reason to use a neutral pronoun? Why does Pascal behaving in a way you code as male mean a neutral pronoun is pointless?

    The author’s attempt to make the language sound futuristic simply results in something that’s painful to read. Consistently using “they” instead of “he” or “she” (especially when both characters come across as female), using odd spellings like “refuji,” and mixing in slang we don’t know all combine together to make the story needlessly hard to read.

    That’s not you just saying it makes it harder for you, that’s you saying it makes it harder for the reader.

    And again, why does a character behaving in a way you code as female make the author’s choice to use singular they painful to read?

    There are many non-binary real life people who would come across more as female or more as male. Sometimes the same person at different times! Sometimes the same person at the same time to different people! That doesn’t mean we should gripe at their preferred pronouns. If they choose to wear a dapper suit and hat today, that doesn’t mean I get to call them “he” when they prefer “they”. And that applies to fictional characters as well.

    What I’m not doing is just recommending against all such stories. But I’m also not lying about it.

    Both of the stories who’s reviews I cited above received two-star (not recommended) ratings at RSR based, from what I can see, primarily on the pronouns making you uncomfortable in your reading. In at least one other case, you removed a star from your rating citing the heavy use of singular they.

    My constructive suggestions would be to not dock a story based on heavy genderless pronoun use alone. And perhaps to consider just mentioning the genderless pronouns for reader information, and not assuming all readers will have a problem with them, or that the story is flawed because of them.

  23. Greg Hullender on November 26, 2017 at 9:26 am said:

    I keep trying to find a way to cope with the fact that I seem to be unable to internalize “non-binary they” when I’m reading.

    I still struggle with it myself, but I am starting to get used to it. I’m old enough to remember when “Ms.” first came in, and I struggled to get comfortable with that for quite a while too. Even though I fully approved. (At least, my conscious mind did.)

    My first piece of advice is to not worry about it too much. If you stumble, you stumble. If you stop and panic every time you stumble, though (“oh my god, why can’t I get used to this–it seems so reasonable!”), you’re likely to start associating it with panic. You can’t browbeat your subconscious, but you can lull it into a sense of complacency. If you have to, take a break from reading the work that’s causing stress, and come back to it once you feel calmer.

    My second is to go out of your way to use it yourself. You say you’re comfortable with that, and that’s good. Practice will help. Try mentally re-writing “he” or “she” when you see other people use them. This has definitely been helping me.

    But the main thing is not to expect an overnight fix. The human brain, unfortunately, doesn’t turn on a dime. Especially as you get older–and few of us are getting younger. 🙂

  24. Where have all the pixels gone?
    Young dogs trolled them everyone
    When will they ever learn ?
    When will they ever learn?

  25. Greg Hullender at 9:26 AM:

    I agree with that too. Except where I make a mistake, I always use the same pronouns in the review as the author used in the story.

    It seems that in your review for the Narayan story in question, you wrote:

    The extensive use of “singular they” makes the story particularly unpleasant for me. I never get comfortable with it, so it pops me out of the story every time I have to remember “they” means (in this case) “it.”

    That certainly reads to me as though you are putting forward “it” as a more accurate or objective pronoun for this character than the one that the author chose to use to refer to them.

  26. The entity referred to as Greg Hullender is an assemblage of trillions of microscopic chemical machines. I am supposed to believe that it considers itself to be “male” and prefers to be referred to as “he” or “him”. I am inclined to be courteous but this is just too far-fetched.

  27. @Tom: Reminds me of the RIST (Relatively Independent Sub-Totality) designations in Cryptonomicon.

  28. Just here to point out that Ms. originated in the 17th century. (It was revived in the 20th century.)

    Also that an Amazon e-mail recently suggested a book to me about three or four days after I had ordered it. (I don’t do the Prime thing so I hadn’t received it yet at that point.)

    Scroll scroll Rudolph
    Pixel’s gotta make it to town

  29. (7) Fireball XL5 was my favourite of the Anderson “supermarionation” series. It hit me at the right age, I guess. (About 7, I think.). Supercar was also neat.


    Both of the stories who’s reviews I cited above received two-star (not recommended) ratings at RSR based, from what I can see, primarily on the pronouns making you uncomfortable in your reading. In at least one other case, you removed a star from your rating citing the heavy use of singular they.

    I don’t think I’ve ever removed a star because a story used singular “they.” What I’ve done is given a story a higher rating but then added a comment that readers who have problems with it might give it a lower score.

    My thinking on the topic has evolved a lot over the past two years, so, depending on the date, you can find things that aren’t consistent with how I think now. However, I certainly don’t remember giving a story a lower score and suggesting that readers who’re okay with non-binary “they” would give it a higher one. Maybe I did, but, if so, that was a mistake.

    The reason is that the actual rating on a story determines how much attention it gets for making lists at nomination time. To give a lower score plus a note is (most likely) to drop the story off the list (unless some other reviewer really loved it, but that’s definitely not the way to bet). Giving a higher score plus a note is an attempt to reward stories that I think are excellent, even though I didn’t enjoy them due to the pronoun issue.

    I really am trying to do the right thing here; you should give me the benefit of the doubt. 🙂

  31. Get ready Greg, the misuse of your statements is already starting out there.
    On a twitter rant, they took a review where you (or whoever) said to “add one star if you can tolerate heavy usage of the singular they” and slanted it to mean “nonbinary pronouns in a story are an automatic -1 star.”
    And that you were mean to Mari Brighe here on file770.
    The hurt feelings crowd are gonna try and getcha.

  32. Harold Osler: Get ready Greg, the misuse of your statements is already starting out there… The hurt feelings crowd are gonna try and getcha.

    Oh, FFS. The criticisms he is copping right now on Twitter are fair and justified.

    “add one star if you can tolerate heavy usage of the singular they” does mean “I took one star off because I couldn’t tolerate heavy usage of the singular they”.

    Greg has repeatedly dismissed and derided the use of non-binary pronouns and genders in his RSR reviews, and in comments here on File 770, in his utter inability to cope with them in his reading — as well as repeatedly claiming that this is something with which all readers have problems, when he is only in a position to speak for himself. In addition, he’s also repeatedly denigrated those who’ve chosen to reclaim the word “queer”, because he finds it offensive.

    At this point, he would be well-advised to do some hard thinking and then some genuine apologizing. And you would be well-advised to stop trivializing his bad behavior.

  33. “add one star if you can tolerate heavy usage of the singular they” does mean “I took one star off because I couldn’t tolerate heavy usage of the singular they”.
    The tweet implied that it was a standard for the use of the singular they to result in the loss of a star.
    It may mean “I only gave it two stars because I didn’t like the heavy use of the singular they but maybe you’d look past that.” It doesn’t say ” I originally gave it three stars but decided to take one away.”
    As much as I loved “River of Teeth” and couldn’t wait for the sequel, the use of the singular they in “Taste of Marrow” threw me out of the book until I lost interest. Maybe I would have lost interest anyway, but I remember thinking that using they over and over just seemed to be a gimmick. Sue me. And if I was asked for my opinion about the book, I’d tell them.
    I don’t recall Greg denigrating anyone over ‘queer’ but he has called some out for their hypocrisy about using it.

    And you would be well-advised to stop trivializing his bad behavior.

    Or what, exactly?

  34. For what it’s worth, I take the same meaning from that sentence as do JJ, Ultragotha, and the various twitterfolk Harold Osler is disparaging. Note that the review doesn’t say to add a star if you really like singular they pronouns — that is, if they’re such a positive for you that they all on their own justify upping the rating. What it says is to add a star if you can tolerate them — in other words, if they are anything but a negative for you. A person who had no strong feelings about nonbinary pronouns would, per Greg’s instructions, add the star. It doesn’t take some sinister twisting of his words to understand from this that he gave it one fewer star than he would have if the text had been the same except that it restricted itself only to those pronouns which he finds tolerable.

    Greg claimed earlier in this thread that his policy is to advise readers who did not like nonbinary pronouns to mentally deduct a star. As Ultragotha pointed out, that isn’t what he did in this review. The negative view of these pronouns is not treated here as a special case requiring its own instructions; it’s treated as the default.

    I guess that Harold says that people are disingenuously translating this as “nonbinary pronouns in a story are an automatic -1 star.” I agree that ‘automatically’ is an overreach (though probably not a huge one; it does seem likely that someone who saw it as reasonable to deduct for this in the case of one story would feel the same way about others, and indeed other RSR reviews do have a documented tendency to bring up these pronouns in the ‘cons’ section). I don’t think I’ve personally seen anyone make that overreach; assuming we looked at the same twitter thread, this review was only one data point in a series of screenshots put forward to argue a persistent RSR prejudice against stories which use gender-neutral pronouns for their characters. It wasn’t taken as enough to establish site policy all on its own.

    Edit: I hadn’t seen Harold’s most recent comment yet. I don’t think the distinction between “had a star there, but took it away” and “decided not to add a star he would otherwise have added” is one that makes a big difference to anyone’s point here.

  35. Also, I haven’t read Taste of Marrow, but there is at least one character who consistently uses the singular they in River of Teeth, so I’m surprised that it was a dealbreaker for you in the one but not the other. I know a few people, including my partner, who use the singular they for themselves IRL; for me, reading stories with characters who use these pronouns has been one thing that has really helped to naturalize using them fluently in my own thought and speech. I know, too, that it matters to my nonbinary friends and family when they encounter people like themselves represented in stories. These are real sorts of people who exist, so it’s not so strange that sometimes they would be written about, and I think there’s something unsavoury about dismissing it as a “gimmick” when they are.

    Nonetheless, I don’t think that you as a private person saying this kicks you out of a story is on the same level, and ought to be held to the same standard, as Greg writing on his influential website that use of the singular they makes a story less deserving of a Hugo. He is a public critic of short SF, someone who expressly sets out to triage stories so that people who have less reading time can skip to the good ones, and a pattern of dismissing stories with certain kinds of minority representation is a reasonable thing to hold a critic to account about.

  36. Harold Osler: Or what, exactly?

    Or keep making yourself look even worse on this than you already do.

    I mean, it’s not as though you don’t have company. But I think that The First Law of Holes is your friend here. 🙄

  37. Can I ask for a general dialing back in the tone of some exchanges here? Greg has indicated he’s willing to listen to criticism, but that’s not carte blanche to go after either him or those criticising his reviews. I think there are some important points being made, but they can easily get lost.


    I’m glad that you’ve said you’re willing to listen here, and that you say you’re trying to do the right thing. I think we’d both agree that if the aim of RSR is to help the community, having a section of that community think you’re treating them unfairly is an issue.
    As someone who simply reads stories but only comments on a fraction of them, I’m aware that I have an advantage that you do not – if I’m uncertain on a story, if I don’t trust my initial judgment because I’m dealing with an element out of my personal experience, then I have the option to simply not talk about it yet. The nature of RSR is that you don’t – you have to put your reaction to everything out there in black and white on a schedule, and I think it’s inevitable that you’re not always going to get it right. I think that if I was doing what you were doing, I’d be making plenty of mistakes.
    Something I try to do when talking about a story is to try to be clear where a personal taste or preference, or lack of knowledge, has meant it worked less well for me. E.g. “this had a strong romance sideplot which wasn’t to my taste, but may work better for others” “I’m a fan of Lovecraftian elements but if you’re not then this might not work for you”. I think (hope) that that is of some use to people deciding whether their tastes match up with mine enough to trust my opinion. What I also try to do is not ding a story based on something I know is a personal preference. I have to say that how you worded your review of “World of the Three” referred to above isn’t how I would like to see the issue of something that’s personal to you handled, and some of the other examples cited seem the same.
    What’s important to look at is that sometimes these issues aren’t a matter of our personal preferences in early 20th Century horror authors, or whether writers should know their orbital mechanics, but issues that are part of people’s real lives as well, and that’s why you’re getting a strong reaction.

  38. @Chip Hitchcock:

    No, I hadn’t seen Gaiman ‘singing’, but I have now. My advice to Neil is, “don’t give up the day job”. I think he should definitely leave the music to Amanda.

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