Pixel Scroll 11/27/23 What’s In The Daily Scroll? I’ll Tell You What’s In The Daily Scroll — An Item About A Credential Who Didn’t Pay Their Air-And-Gravity Dues And Now Has Got Those Vacuum Blues

(1) REGRESS REPORT. Mari Ness says the 2025 World Fantasy Con is bringing the convention back to a venue it used a decade ago that still has substantial accessibility problems. Thread starts here.

On Bluesky Ness added:

The organization behind 2025 World Fantasy Con, HWS Events, replied on Bluesky:

(2) THE END IS NEAR. Brian Keene says he will end his revived Jobs In Hell newsletter in March 2024.

…One thing I’ve definitely noticed between JIH’s original incarnation back in the late-1990’s and early-2000’s versus now is the speed at which market listings and industry news happen. During the original Jobs In Hell’s run, we were the absolute fastest way for those kind of things to travel. Email was then a brand-new thing for most homes, and email newsletters were the fastest way of disseminating information, because social media did not exist yet.

These days, by the time I get the information to you once a month, you have probably already seen it elsewhere on Facebook or X (formerly known as Twitter) or a dozen other places. Thus, the question becomes — how do I overcome that?

And the answer is, I don’t….

… So, what I have decided is that Jobs In Hell will cease publication next March. Why wait until then? Because many of you paid for a full year’s subscription in advance, and I want to make sure you are served….

(3) PRESENT VALUE IS NO GIFT. “’Doctor Who’ Writer Residuals Shaken Up After Disney+ Boards BBC Show” reports Deadline.

Doctor Who, the long-running BBC sci-fi series, has shifted away from a residual model for its writers since Disney+ came on board as a partner, we understand.

The series, which is currently celebrating its 60th anniversary with a trio of specials from returning showrunner Russell T. Davies, has moved towards a buyout model for writers, Deadline has been told.

Sources said that episodic writers are now being paid a large fee upfront rather than a smaller fee plus residuals that has seen previous scribes earn additional compensation when Doctor Who is repeated.

Doctor Who, which has aired nearly 900 episodes over six decades, has been one of the most lucrative British sources of residuals for former writers down the years as it is so heavily repeated. The entire back catalog has just landed on BBC iPlayer, for example.

While Deadline understands that contracts were freely negotiated and agreed with writers and their agents, the move comes at a topical time for writers’ compensation, particularly given the recent labor action in the U.S. Doctor Who remains a British show and thereby doesn’t have to abide by WGA contracts but the optics are interesting given that the move comes after Disney+ boarded the series last year as a partner outside of the UK and Ireland….

(4) TIME TO TALK ABOUT A TROPE. Alyssa Shotwell tells readers of The Mary Sue “I Will Be Seated for ‘The American Society of Magical Negroes’”.

…Directed by writer/actor Kobi Libii (DoubtMadam Secretary), the satirical fantasy film looks to turn the storytelling trope of the Magical Negro on its head and into a fantastical adventure. As a refresher, the trope occurs when a fictional work uses its primary Black character to serve the interests of its white character. They have little to no importance to the plot and exist as a tool to help the white characters on their journey. Unfortunately, this is not a trope of a bygone era. In 2019, the Oscars awarded Green Book, a movie that turned an important Black American composer, Don Shirley, into a Magical Negro. Even into the 2020s, the trope has reappeared in popular media like The Queen’s Gambit and The Strand. You can learn more about the trope in former TMS writer Princess Weekes’s video on Magical Negros in Stephen King’s work.

The American Society of Magical Negroes stars Justice Smith (Detective PikachuDungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves) as Aren. After a secret society of magical Black people recruits Aren to help join their cause, his life changes forever. What’s their cause? Making white people’s lives easier….

(5) BALLARD’S NONFICTION. This week’s Open Book on BBC Radio 4 had its last third devoted to J. G. Ballard: “Open Book, Alexis Wright”.

Also on the programme, Roland Allen explores the history of writers and their notebooks; and Mark Blacklock and Toby Litt discuss J G Ballard’s non-fiction.

(6) LA WORLDCON BID. Craig Miller told Facebook readers that the LA in 2026 Worldcon bid was active at Loscon last weekend.

…One other thing that kept me occupied was the bid to host a World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) in the Los Angeles-area again in 2026. The bid had a table on the convention floor and we held a party on Saturday night in the hotel’s main party suite. Our theme is “intergalactic adventure” taking the form “of come to our Worldcon and be launched into adventure”. We decorated the room with large format posters of alien worlds and had special “intergalactic taste treats”.

The foods were named for various planets, some from fiction some real, and they each had appropriate descriptions. Quite a few people took photos of the food and their descriptions. I, of course, didn’t think to, even though I was noticing people doing so.

For Hoth, we had “Sweet snow caps topped with blue glacier shavings from ice caves”. Actually meringues topped with blue-colored white chocolate.

For KOI-5Ab (an actual exoplanet with three suns) we described this as giving different spectrums for growth resulting in blue, ruby, and brown outer coatings of crimson fruit. The food was really pomegranate seeds in either dark, ruby, or blue-colored white chocolate.

Perhaps my favorite was one we didn’t tie to a planet. We had fresh rambutan (which are sort of like lychee) served with the top half of their skin removed, leaving the round, white fruit exposed in a “hairy” base. I called them “alien eggs served in nest”.

And, yes, I’m that crazy, getting involved with running another Worldcon….

(7) SO WASN’T IT POPULAR ENOUGH? The magazine is gone, but the website remains. “After 151 years, Popular Science will no longer offer a magazine”The Verge has the story.

After 151 years, Popular Science will no longer be available to purchase as a magazine. In a statement to The Verge, Cathy Hebert, the communications director for PopSci owner Recurrent Ventures, says the outlet needs to “evolve” beyond its magazine product, which published its first all-digital issue in 2021.

PopSci, which covers a whole range of stories related to the fields of science, technology, and nature, published its first issue in 1872. Things have changed a lot over the years, with the magazine switching to a quarterly publication schedule in 2018 and doing away with the physical copies altogether after 2020….

…In addition to dropping its magazine format, PopSci laid off several employees earlier this month, leaving around five editorial staff members and “a few” workers on the publication’s commerce team, according to Axios. The digital media group Recurrent Ventures acquired PopSci in 2021 and named its third CEO in three years just one week before the layoffs hit.

PopSci will continue to offer articles on its website, along with its PopSci Plus subscription, which offers access to exclusive content and the magazine’s archive…. 

(8) BE FREE. The Guardian’s Alex Clark says take the labels off those bookstore shelves: “The big idea: should we abolish literary genres?”

…Genre is a confining madness; it says nothing about how writers write or readers read, and everything about how publishers, retailers and commentators would like them to. This is not to criticise the many talented personnel in those areas, who valiantly swim against the labels their industry has alighted on to shift units as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Consider the worst offender: not crime, horror, thriller, science fiction, espionage or romance, but “literary fiction”. It can and does contain many of the elements of the others, but is ultimately meaningless except as a confused shorthand: for what is thought clever or ambitious or beyond the comprehension of readers more suited to “mass market” or “commercial” fiction. What would happen if we dispensed with this non-category category altogether? Very little, except that we might meet a book on its own terms.

Is last year’s Booker prize winner, Shehan Karunatilaka’s The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, a ghost story because its central character is dead, or a thriller because he has to work out who has murdered him? A historical novel because it is set during the Sri Lankan civil war, or speculative fiction because it contains scenes of the afterlife? And where do we place previous winners such as Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders or A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James?…

… I’m returning now to a new novel, Orbital by Samantha Harvey, one of my favourite contemporary novelists. It is set in space, on board a craft circling the Earth, filled with astronauts from different countries and cultures, undergoing physical, mental and emotional changes. Her last novel, The Western Wind, was set in 1491, and she has also written about Alzheimer’s disease, Socrates, infidelity and insomnia. Categorise that….

(9) GROW MOUNT TBR. Becky Spratford introduces readers to “Largehearted Boy’s Essential and Interesting Best of 2023 Book Lists”.

I am talking about Largehearted Boy’s Best of 2023 Book Lists. For the past 15 years, David Gutowski has spent his end of each year trying to give you access to every single best books list in America. This year, for his 16th go-round, he has streamlined the process a bit. From this year’s page:

“For the past fifteen years, I have aggregated every online year-end book list I have discovered into one post.

“This year, I will collect essential and interesting year-end book lists in this post and update it daily.

“Please feel free to e-mail me with a magazine, newspaper, or other online list I have missed.”

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born November 27, 1907 L. Sprague de Camp. (Died 2000.)  So what’s not to like about L. Sprague de Camp?  

Let’s start with his excellent The Incorporated Knight series comprises some 1970s short stories by de Camp and two novels written in collaboration with his wife Catherine Crook de Camp, The Incorporated Knight and The Pixilated Peeress. The early short stories were reworked into first novel.

Next let me praise his Harold Shea and Gavagan’s Bar stories, both written with his friend Fletcher Pratt.  There are five stories by them, another ten stories are written forty years later but not by them and I’m not at all fond of those. The original stories were first collected in The Compleat Enchanter: The Magical Misadventures of Harold Shea. Treasure them. 

Robert Heinlein, L. Sprague de Camp, and Isaac Asimov, Philadelphia Navy Yard, 1944.

They say Gavagan’s Bar were patterned after Lord Dunsany’s Jorkens stories and that certainly makes sense. These are quite extraordinary tales. It appears the last printed edition is Tales from Gavagan’s Bar in 1980 on Bantam Books. Orion did a UK epub just several years ago but not for the U.S. 

They did a lot of Really Good Stuff, say The Incomplete Enchanter and The Land of Unreason. An amazing writing partnership it was. 

So what’s good by him alone. Surprisingly his Conan tales are damn good. Now stop throwing things at me, I’m serious. Some are stellar like “The Frost Giant’s Daughter” and “The Bloodstained God”. (Yes I’ve a weakness for this fiction.) The three Conan novels co-written with Lin Carter (Conan the Barbarian was also written with Catherine Crook de Camp) are remarkably resistant to the Suck Fairy. 

Shall I note how excellent his Viagens Interplanetarias series is? Well I will. Adventurous and lighthearted SF with great characters and fun stories, novels (much of which was written with his wife) and stories alike are great reads. I read a few stories a while back and even the Suck Fairy still liked them. All of his fiction holds up remarkably well despite being written upwards of six decades ago. 

Well, that’s my personal reading history with him. What’s yours? 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side: Lise Andreasen says, “Something similar actually happened to me, when I and my family visited Odense (birth place of H.C. Andersen) and hit another car.”

(12) THE TEARS ARE BIGGER ON THE OUTSIDE. In the Guardian: “’I blubbed inconsolably for 20 minutes’ – your favourite ever Doctor Who moments”.

‘A giant maggot creeping towards Jo Grant’

I remember the sheer terror as I watched a giant maggot slowly creeping towards Jo Grant at the end of an episode of The Green Death in the Pertwee era. There are always mentions of “hiding behind the sofa”, but I literally did. I was so terrified that my mum, another Who fan, tried to explain that the maggot would probably turn out to just want to have a talk with Jo. I have no idea why this made any sense to me, but it did help calm me down. My second favourite moment was when Christopher Eccleston regenerated into David Tennant. The first series of the new Who was a shared experience with my eldest daughter and turned her into a lifelong fan. At the end of this episode, she fled the room in tears crying out “but I don’t want him to go!” We still watch together, but reply via chat. Doctor Who brings three generations of my family together and keeps them connected over a silly show about a blue box. Andrew Stephens, Swindon

(13) DRESSING FESTIVELY. The New York Times looks to a Hallmark Christmas movie costume designer to understand “Clothes that Conjure the Holiday Spirit”.

How do locations like Biltmore House influence your process?

I walked through the mansion to get ideas from the space. I remember looking at the colors of the wood paneling and of the limestone. Window shades are kept at a certain level and rooms are kept dimly lit to protect the things inside from light. It’s very romantic and cozy, and I wanted wardrobes that communicated warmth and coziness using colors besides red and green.

To create a gown and a kilt worn by the stars of “A Merry Scottish Christmas,” I pulled together a bunch of tartans that went with the tapestries, candles and dark wood at the castle. We settled on MacDonald of Glencoe, a tartan with holiday-like jewel tones. The pattern was digitally printed on the fabric used to make the gown, and the kilt was made with a traditional wool tartan.

What are some challenges with costuming holiday films?

It’s the little things. All clothing sizes have changed: Vintage shoes are narrower than shoes are today, jackets fit differently, and girdles are gone. It’s hard to find people to do embroidery and beading.

But I like classic and timeless looks because Christmas movies are watched over and over.

 (14) WHEN NO ONE IS AT THE WHEEL. Two companies operated hundreds of driverless cars in San Francisco at the peak: “‘Lost Time for No Reason’: How Driverless Taxis Are Stressing Cities” reports the New York Times.

…After five years, there are still no systematic state safety and incident reporting standards for driverless cars in California, Ms. Friedlander said. “This is such a dramatic kind of change in transportation that it’s going to take many years for the regulatory structure to really be finalized,” she said.

Last year, the number of 911 calls from San Francisco residents about robotaxis began rising, city officials said. In one three-month period, 28 incidents were reported, according to a letter that city officials sent to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

By June, autonomous car incidents in San Francisco had risen to such a “concerning level” that the city’s Fire Department created a separate autonomous vehicle incident form, said Darius Luttropp, a deputy chief of the department. As of Oct. 15, 87 incidents had been recorded with the form.

“We move forward with expectations that this wonder technology will operate like a human driver,” Mr. Luttropp said. “That did not turn out to be the case.”

Mr. Wood, the firefighter, attended a weeklong training session held by Waymo in June at the Fire Department’s training center to learn more about the self-driving vehicles. But he said he was disappointed.

“None of us walked away from the training with any way to get a stalled car to move,” he said, adding that manually taking over the car takes 10 minutes, which is too long in an emergency.

His main takeaway was that he should bang on the car’s window or tap on its door so he could talk to the vehicle’s remote operator, he said. The operator would then try to remotely re-engage the vehicle or send someone to manually override it, he said.

Waymo said it had rolled out a software update to its cars in October that would let firefighters and other authorities take control of the vehicles within seconds….

(15) RAW FOOTAGE. “Disneyland Park Guest Arrested After Stripping Off Clothes On ‘It’s A Small World’ Ride”Deadline tells what happened.

Disneyland park guest in Anaheim, California was arrested and escorted off the property by local authorities after stripping off their clothes during the It’s A Small World attraction.

The incident happened on Sunday afternoon during the busy Thanksgiving holiday weekend. A Disneyland Resort representative told Deadline that the guest got off the ride while it was in motion and the attraction was stopped when park operators were made aware of the situation.

… “It’s a Small World” was shut down for about an hour as park operators inspected the attraction. No guests were harmed physically during the incident and the ride resumed operations at about 3 p.m. local time….

Here’s one of the videos taken of the incident: “This Family Survived the #Disneyland Its a small world #streaker#”.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, Lise Andreasen, Steven French, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

36 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 11/27/23 What’s In The Daily Scroll? I’ll Tell You What’s In The Daily Scroll — An Item About A Credential Who Didn’t Pay Their Air-And-Gravity Dues And Now Has Got Those Vacuum Blues

  1. 10) Viagens Interplanetarias is my favorite De Camp, easily. (with the Incompleat Enchanter in second place) . His Nonfiction ANCIENT ENGINEERS was illuminating to 12 year old me.

  2. (1) “Lest Darkness Fall” is at the top of my list for de Camp.

    (14) Cruize (sp?) has had its permits pulled in California because of so many incidents where their cars backed up traffic. The last straw for S.F. was the car that ran over someone who had been hit and injured, and continued going for some (small) distance. They had to jack the car up to get the victim out. And it blocked access for the ambulance and paramedics.

  3. (3) And if one episode becomes huge? Sorry, guy, that’s Disney. They clearly want to make it all work for hire.
    (4) Shameless self-promotion: my upcoming novel, Becoming Terrran, has two of the three major PoV characters as young women from Niger. And I give you my guarantee that nobody can replace them, and they need to be who they are.
    (7) What issues I’ve seen for the last few years, I am not impressed at what they publish these days. Given how few staff are left, I’m not surprised.
    (8) To a large degree, I disagree. If I walk into a bookstore, I don’t want to wade through mysteries (not following any authors at the moment) and romance, etc, all mixed in together. I have limited hours…. And lit-fic – I liked what I was reading in the seventies, but it, like the swerve classical music made, became “if it’s popular, it’s not Real Literature”, saying that no genre could possibly literary… and it’s been like AI, if it does it, than that’s not it.
    Birthdays: Sprague. How could you miss one of the foundations of the alternate history sub-genre… Lest Darkness Fall.
    And then there was the man himself: I learned, getting into fandom in my teens, that all authors were not seven feet tall with voices like thunder… well, except for Sprague.
    Oh, and let me just say this about the Enchanter: Yngvi is NOT a louse.
    (13) “It’s hard to find people to do embroidery and beading.” It is? They really need to get in touch with me, and I can put them in touch with a TON of craftspeople who would be ecstatic to be paid regular wages to do that work.
    (15) Huh? He had shorts on, in that video. Not like the streakers of old.

  4. So mark says: Sprague. How could you miss one of the foundations of the alternate history sub-genre… Lest Darkness Fall.

    We all have different reading histories. I just didn’t read that novel, that’s all.

    That you think it’s important to that sub-genre wouldn’t have mattered to me as a reader anyways as I don’t read fiction because it’s important, I read it because it’s entertaining.

  5. De Camp wrote a lot of good books. I’d like to put in a word for An Elephant for Aristotle, written in a historical setting.

    And his nonfiction book The Ancient Engineers (1963) was an eye-opener. I enjoyed the introduction’s expression of mild contempt for Eurocentric historians who acted as if the rest of the world was “standing around like waxen dummies”.

  6. (10) The original Harold Shea stories were not collected in The Compleat Enchanter, which included only three of the five. All five were included in The Intrepid Enchanter (UK) and The Complete Compleat Enchanter (US). The full series, including later solo stories by de Camp (but not authorized pastiches by other authors, or an unauthorized Hubbard crossover), was collected in a NESFA omnibus.

  7. 10) I suspect the only de Camp I’ve read is his biography of Lovecraft. I’ve read complaints about it, but as far as I could tell they boiled down to “it’s not completely fawning and it was not written by Saint Joshi”. (I still smile when I remember ‘the narrator flees inland, taking his adjectives with him’.)

  8. De Camp’s autobiography, Time and Chance, is quite illuminating, and it explained a remark I heard one of his colleagues make: that at a party you could see Sprague writing down jokes so he could use them later. It turns out that he did something like that in order to compensate for his inability to read and transmit conventional social cues–it took him a long time to figure out how to present as an ordinarily (if rather reserved and formal) social person. In reviewing Time, I called this approach “flying by wire.” When I eventually got to meet him briefly, the contrast between Sprague and his lively, outgoing wife Catherine was striking–an almost sit-com-ish marriage of opposites.

  9. The arguments about genre are interesting. Obviously, you need some principle on which to organize your stock, or people won’t be able to find anything, but every principle has limits. Do you put Jane Austen under Literature, Historical Fiction or Romance? On a much smaller scale, I have 4 books by Naomi Mitchison, two SFF and two historical fiction. But I just added the latter to the former in my SFF section, because why split up books by the same author?
    I have seen separate sections for African American Literature and LBGTQ+ Authors/Topics, but they prove that separate still isn’t equal, especially if the searcher doesn’t know the author’s melanin level/gender/orientation. You can argue whether Octavia Butler goes in SFF or Literature, but don’t classify her work by her skin color.

  10. 15) My first reaction to the beginning of the piece about the “Small World” streaker was “Oh my god, is she still doing that? Then I saw it was a guy doing the clothing removal, and was a bit surprised.

    Background: Way back when, came across the website of a woman whose hobby was of getting quick nude photos in public spaces. She’d wear a loose dress with nothing underneath, whip the dress off for a few seconds while a friend took a photo, shrug back into the dress, and continue on as if nothing had happened. Including, yes, on the “It’s A Small World” ride at Disneyland. (She took care that it was during a low-traffic ride with few other riders, and no kids.)

  11. Re: genre.

    I think it is useful as a simple pointer to books that share some qualities, but doesn’t/shouldn’t be an exclusive label, i.e. a book should not be defined by a single genre. For this reason, I like the concept of tags or metadata labels. You can in principle add as many tags/labels as is appropriate to increase the chance of a keyword search finding what you’re after.

  12. 8) If I’m going into a bookstore then yes, I want genre sections so that I can browse more efficiently, with the understanding that yes, some things I might miss because they’re shelved elsewhere. If we’re talking about some kind of index or catalog then I’m all in favor of assigning as many tags as appropriate.

    10) I’ve mostly read de Camp’s nonfiction, including Great Cities of the Ancient World (pretty much what it says on the tin), Lost Continents (a study of the origin of stories about Atlantis, Lemuria, etc.), and Literary Swordsmen & Sorcerers (biographical essays about fantasy authors). He also edited a few foundational sword & sorcery anthologies back in the 60s & 70s.

  13. (1) This sounds incredibly frustrating.

    (2) I will miss it. Along with market listings, it included articles.

    (3) Urgh.

    (7) This is what happens when venture capitalists get near journalism. They cut the staff, they publish articles written by AI — and then wonder why the money doesn’t keep coming in. I believe they even used the term “pivot to video” — but that hasn’t worked before. Why should I watch a 5-minute video showing me how to do something when I can read a short article that takes less time and doesn’t blast the entire room with sound?

    (8) Ugh. No. Yes, genres can be complicated. But not using genre labels will be like trying to make sense of a fractal. Those categories exist for reasons, one of which is to help readers find the books they want. If something is litfic but also uses genre elements, then the publishers should use something called promotion to let other readers know they might like it.

    I used to visit a library that shelved all the fiction together. So you had to browse all those shelves and look for a little spaceship sticker on the spine to find a science fiction book. And not all the SFF titles got the sticker. Bookshops aren’t going to be able to put genre stickers on spines.

    (10) I must confess that I found de Camp through the Ace Conan novels. 🙂

  14. (8) The only new (as opposed to remaindered) book vendor in my UK town, W. H. Smith, has in the last couple of years reduced its SF&F section of shelves from one full-height shelf unit, to half (the other half gradually giving way to manga), to – as of last month – nothing.

    In its half-section phase, I noticed a few months ago that the only SF title in it was Dune: all the rest were fantasy (not even an Expanse title). From a cursory glance, even fewer SF&F titles are now present within the general adult fiction shelves than the previous half-unit’s worth, and of course it’s impossible to see at a glance if any new ones have appeared.

    I haven’t used my local library for a while, but as it’s in the same mall one floor above, I went to check out that. It too has abolished its once quite sizeable SF&F section, though the proportion of genre authors now scattered through General Fiction is somewhat better. Has there been some recent anti-genre classification doctrine emerging within the professional book world that I hadn’t heard about?

    I agree with Alex Clark that some very good authors span genres even within a single work, but surely people often still look for genre-specific works as well? When I was a (2nd-millennium) bookshop stock buyer, my shelving solution to multi-genre works (where “genre” could include “popular”, “literary” and “classic” as well as the traditional genres) , was to put copies in both applicable sections.

    I’m beginning to wonder how long actual printed books will continue to be manufactured. I have never bought or read e-books, but I suspect for new works I may sooner or later have to.

  15. I don’t think they’re proposing removing all genre tags/labels, but “litfic” is not a genre…

    (I spent a lot of time at a public library where they used genre tags, but the entire adult fiction section was by author, so you didn’t have to look in multiple places for all of one author’s works. it wasn’t a problem for anyone. They used letters, not pictures.)

  16. 8.) As both reader and a writer, I’d happily see the genre separation disappear. It’s also confusing as hell because the MFA/academic crowd uses the term “genre” differently from commercial fiction–in MFA/academic world, “genre” refers to type of writing, i.e. essay, creative nonfiction, poetry, fiction rather than labels of categories within fiction. I–suspect this usage may actually be the older one.

    In any case, someone who reads widely often prefers to see the categories within fiction all lumped together. At least I do, for discovery purposes. When I was growing up, the libraries I frequented rarely sorted fiction into categories. I either depended on the spine sticker or else categories on the card catalog cards. Mixing the categories together led me to some intriguing discoveries, and reading things I might not have otherwise looked at if I had limited myself to one genre.

    One of my favorite things to do in a new library is wandering through and looking at the titles on the fiction shelves. It usually works best in small rural libraries, because often you can find gems. I think I’ve read almost all of the old Double D line of Westerns, which are not the standard style of Westerns and could almost be Western noir. I’ve also found other, older works that would be culled in larger libraries.

    I suppose my preference for seeing everything together comes from the years when I was very young, and avidly seeking well-written books about horses. What gets jammed into a children’s animal stories section can be downright awful. The better works end up in the general fiction mix, while the designated children’s animal books were unrealistic, saccharine, and frequently inaccurate as hell (though that also happens with adult books about horses, alas…).

    And yes, litfic is a genre these days, along with upmarket fiction.

  17. 4) Sounds like the kind of movie that does great at film festivals and sinks without a trace everywhere else.

    8) The problem (one of them, anyways) is that ‘literary fiction’ has become synonymous with ‘turgid, pretentious, and boring.’ The solution (one of them, anyways) is not remove genre labels but to make literary fiction not those things. It’s like if you have a pantry full of cans of peaches and wax beans. If people are eating the peaches and ignoring the wax beans, as it were (which I have a sneaky suspicion is the real heart of the complaint), the solution is not to remove the labels on all the cans in the possible hope that having opened the can, people will just eat whatever they find inside rather than chucking the can in the trash and trying again but to make the beans more appealing.

    10) If I’m honest I read de Camp’s Conan before I read the originals and they’re what got me interested enough to look for the originals (and the rest of Howard’s work, which led to Lovecraft, which led to Derleth, which led to etc. etc. etc.)

    15) So I guess the other people on the ride found it if it really is a small world after all. Or maybe it was just cold that day…

  18. Genre definitions are very much a help in shelving a book, not so much in reading or writing one. Personally, I just assume that all genres have fuzzy boundaries, and sometimes people will legitimately disagree over where in the fuzz a particular book or writer falls. As far as litfic as genre goes, I think there’s two kinds of litfic – there’s the kind that is simply not (easily) classifiable as any other genre – which means it’s a category that exists only by virtue of exclusion, and has no defining characteristics of its own. The other kind of litfic is where someone has deliberately set out to write the Great American Novel, or the next Booker Prize winner, and it probably does have definable positive qualities – like, for example, “makes a very satisfying thump when I hurl it at a wall.” (Because the qualities a lot of people choose when setting out to Write An Impressive Book… are not often qualities which particularly appeal to me.)

    L. Sprague de Camp… In the course of my massive Unknown-reading project, I got to read quite a lot of de Camp – he was, by number of items, the magazine’s most prolific contributor (though L. Ron Hubbard might beat him on word count, since Hubbard was very much aware that he was paid by the word.) This includes classics like the first three “Incompleat Enchanter” stories (with Fletcher Pratt), Lest Darkness Fall and The Wheels of If, and some less well known but still enjoyable stuff like his short SF novel Divide and Rule! and the shorter pieces “Nothing in the Rules” and “The Gnarly Man”. He also did book reviews (as himself and as “J. Wellington Wells”) and featured in the letter column. I described him in my final write-up as “an unfailingly positive presence” in the magazine, and I stand by that. I’ve read a few of his things outside Unknown, I think… at least one of the “Viagens Interplanetarias” stories, though they seem hard to find on this side of the herring pond. Anyway. Yes. Definitely one of the shinier parts of SF’s Golden Age, was L.Sprague de Camp.

  19. The sense of “genre” does shift according to context, but it still amounts to “category.” In older literary lexicons, it indicated mostly formal/structural traits–epic, lyric, dramatic; or comedy and tragedy–often with some social bias built in, say, the status of the protagonist.

    But categories are extremely elastic. Polonius’ description of the players’ range of offerings shows that “genres” were well-developed in England 500 years ago: “The best actors in the world, either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral; scene individable, or poem unlimited. ”

    And a literary category can be built on any number of qualities–setting, narrative pattern, or effect-on-audience (horror is an example of that). Modern commercial genres are partly the result of labeling books according to what an identifiable audience expects to find in them, and that can be just about anything. The crime/murder mystery/thriller family is a good example of how ingredients can be mixed and matched to offer satisfied expectations and surprises to an audience. Ditto the “romance,” which is about pair-bonding in all its variety. Writers and readers engage in a dance of the expected/demanded and the unexpected/cleverly-modified as they navigate the available conventions and figure out ways to expand them.

    As for “literary” as a genre–of course it is, and it is strongly socially marked, with a target audience pretty easily inferred by subject matter and manner of presentation–and often by what is excluded or avoided (melodrama, puzzle-plots, derring-do). Of course, there are all manner of exceptions in both directions–I always argue that Patrick O’Brian is as literary a writer as one could want, despite the sea battles and intelligence intrigue. I don’t care what Graham Greene thought he was doing with “novels” and “entertainments,” he was always writing Graham Greene.

    Well, that was quite the lecture–one of the signs that you can’t take the classroom out of the (old) boy.

  20. @Quatermain: “‘literary fiction’ has become synonymous with ‘turgid, pretentious, and boring.”

    As far as takes go, that one’s pretty long in the tooth and is sour grapes besides.

  21. I’ve had a long-standing grudge against the concept of “genre,” which I consider to be MBTI for art. Or maybe it’s more like selecting books based on jacket color. It’s an arbitrary classification for bean counters anyway, speaking as a professional bean counter, and rarely helps me select a book I actually want to read. Or music either for that matter, all my favorite bands seem to switch genres with every track.

  22. One thing someone told me recently that changed my view of genre a bit is that books are in dialogue with each other, and genre indicates what other books a book is in dialogue with. That in turn will tell you something about what kind of stylistic conventions, tropes, focus, and themes a book might be presenting… or deliberately arguing with.

    That made sense to me. However distant Gideon The Ninth might be from Foundation, there is a clear path from one to the other along the historical lineage of Space Opera. Whereas, say, Slaughterhouse-Five, even though it has spaceships and aliens in it, really doesn’t lie anywhere along that axis.

  23. A few years ago, the local public library mixed the mysteries in with the general fiction, while keeping separate sections for SF/F, westerns, and romances. They still had little “Mystery” stickers on their spines, but it still made them harder to find. They have since resumed shelving them in their own section. There are still some idiosyncrasies in the system; Nghi Vo and T. Kingfisher (oor Wombat) are shelved in general fiction.

  24. (10) I wish to suggest a small correction that few, if any, will care about.

    The caption to an oft-reproduced photograph reads:

    Robert Heinlein, L. Sprague de Camp, and Isaac Asimov, Philadelphia Navy Yard, 1944.

    These gents were employed not at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, but rather at the Naval Air Material Center–which was immediately adjacent to the Navy Yard.

    NAMC was (mostly) a research and development facility for naval aviation. It had previously been known as the Naval Aircraft Factory, reflecting its role building planes in the decades following World War I.

    The Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, a much larger place, was busy building ships (along, I presume, with other activities) during WWII.

    While any sensible person in Philadelphia would, if quizzed, say, “Oh yeah, those guys work down at the Navy Yard,” NAMC has its own role in history.

    I would expect history books to preserve the distinction, but sadly the place of employment of those three SF authors is often given as the Navy Yard, including in captions of that justly notable photograph.

    As I said, few will care. But you can now understand why, when I encounter a statement that Asimov, de Camp, and Heinlein worked at the Navy Yard, a small red light starts blinking within my brain.

    I know historical accuracy is something the editor and readers of File 770 cherish, so I was moved to contribute this fussy little comment.

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  26. Bill Higgins: It’s great if you want to add some information, but I don’t know why this needs to be presented as a correction. The caption doesn’t say where they were employed. The caption says where they were when the photo was taken.

    I got the photo and caption from the Wikipedia. If you drill down, the photo originally appeared in Air Scoop Magazine in August 1944. The cover of the magazine says the full title is Air Scoop Magazine, Naval Air Material Center. Which is the place you’re talking about.

    According to Building the Navy’s Bases in World War II: History of the Bureau of Yards and Docks and the Civil Engineer Corps 1940-1946, Chapter 10:

    At the end of the war construction program, the naval air material center occupied 500 acres adjacent to the Philadelphia Navy Yard, and 369 acres at the modification unit at Johnsville. Seven hangars, including two seaplane hangars, three bituminous runways, two seaplane ramps, a quarter of a million square yards of concrete and composite aircraft parking as well as nearly a hundred buildings had been constructed. Three landplane hangars and three runways had been added to the facilities at Johnsville.

    If you look at an aerial photograph of where those facilities were, which is where the little peninsula occupied by the Navy Yard begins, it’s easy to see why someone would find it more helpful to call the area the Philadelphia Navy Yard, especially since the Navy held all the property involved.

  27. Adding to this: My father was stationed for a while at the Naval Aircraft Modification Unit at Johnsville. He was trained as an aeronautical engineer before the war, and had worked as an engine tester for Wright in NJ.
    During and after the war, he also spent time at Norfolk and Patuxent (where he saw a German jet being tested; he said it was overloaded, barely cleared the fence at the end of the runway, went into the woods past the overrun, and sheared off both wings). I have his flight jacket…with a pencil stub still in one pocket.

  28. Mm two quick items here: —– (1) all the remaining 800 or so BBC TV Dr Who episodes (ie those they have not wiped) are available on the specifically UK only BBC TV I-Player system. Ahem, but they exclude the very very 1st one (broadcast the day after the JFK/Dallas etc assassination): “An Unearthly Child”! This is due to some outstanding legal rights issues. —– (2) re WFC 2025 (Brighton UK: Wed 29 Oct- Sun 2 Nov inclusive), whatever about the accessibility issues (and this may be of interest to overseas fen possibly attending), just prior to that and post that event, the following SF+F Cons in the UK are usually scheduled (but NOTA BENE : all such inclusive dates mentioned hereafter are subject to later confirmation): PRIOR- BristolCon/Bristol (Fri 17-Sun 19 Oct); ArmadaCon/Plymouth (Fri 24-Sun 26 Oct); POST- Novacon 54/Buxton (Fri 7-Sun 9 Nov). So one could (subject to time and budget) travel from one to the other!! This would give “added value” to WFC attendance itself. And in between these Cons, I will be arranging some mini-LocationCon events – eg visits to The London “One Tun” monthly SF-meeting (on Thu 6 Nov), to Elstree+Borehamwood, just north of London and the UK’s Hollywood (S/Wars, I-Jones, 2001, The Prisoner, Avengers (Steed etc). Early days here…but note down this data… BCNU!!

  29. @Dave
    The son of the writer of the episode (or one of the writers) objected to recent changes to “Dr. Who” and withheld the rights. He posted about it on Xitter and — let’s say he fit right in with Musk.

  30. Mike Glyer writes:

    Bill Higgins: It’s great if you want to add some information, but I don’t know why this needs to be presented as a correction.

    I will cheerfully withdraw the word “correction,” and say that I wanted to add some information.

    The caption doesn’t say where they were employed. The caption says where they were when the photo was taken.

    “Someplace very close to the Philadelphia Navy Yard.”

    I think I made clear in my previous comment that (1) practically everyone would refer to their location as the “Navy Yard” and (2) through phrases such as “few, if any, will care” and “fussy little comment,” I was not only nitpicking but quite aware I was nitpicking.

  31. Bill Higgins: So now I can add that my mother and a whole flock of relatives grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, which as you know is not far from Philly, so my reaction to calling that area generally “the Philadelphia Navy Yard” is “Of course.”

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