Pixel Scroll 11/10 The nine and sixty ways of constructing Pixel Scrolls

(1) Oscar handicappers have The Martian running second for Best Picture says Variety.

In the Oscar race for best picture, “The Martian” has taken off like a rocket among the predictions by media experts at Gold Derby. One month ago, it wasn’t even in the top 10, but now it’s tied for second place with “Joy,” both sharing 17 to 2 odds. “Spotlight” remains out front and has picked up support as it debuts in theaters.

(2) J. K. Rowling tweeted her favorite fan art of Sirius and James Potter:


(3) Auditioning to be the next Doctor?

(4) “Future’s Past: The astronauts of 2001: A Space Odyssey at The Space Review covers actors Keir Dullea’s and Gary Lockwood’s appearance at Dragon Con.

Lockwood also said that they got to meet the Apollo 11 crew, and then he paused and said, “I liked Neil… I don’t like Buzz.” He added that often when he and Dullea do joint appearances at film showings, somehow Buzz Aldrin always seems to appear and people want to introduce Aldrin to him. Lockwood drolly replies that he already knows the moonwalker. He implied that he had a similar low opinion of William Shatner, with whom he appeared in the second television pilot for Star Trek.

Lockwood also told a great story about working on the centrifuge set, which he thought was brilliantly designed. He joked that he realized that Kubrick hired him for the job because of his previous experience as a cowboy stuntman. One day Lockwood found himself strapped into his chair, eating goop from his food tray—upside down. Keir Dullea was supposed to climb down the ladder at the center of the set and then the whole set would rotate as he walked over to where Lockwood was sitting. Kubrick called “action” and told Lockwood to take a bite, and Lockwood then watched as the three squares of goop slowly peeled off his tray… and fell nearly 70 feet to the floor below, splattering everything on the pristine white set. They didn’t shoot for the rest of the day.

The actors took some questions from the audience and had some really interesting answers. For instance, somebody asked if they knew that the film would be a classic. Dullea said that he had his doubts because the early reviews were so poor. In particular, he mentioned New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael’s infamous devastating review, where she referred to 2001 as “trash masquerading as art” and “monumentally unimaginative.” Kael later recanted upon seeing the film a second time, but 2001 received numerous other lackluster and even harsh reviews. Considering that 2001 was released way behind schedule and over budget, expectations had been high, and presumably many critics were waiting to pounce.

(5) Entertainment Weekly has the good word — “Mystery Science Theater 3000 Is Returning”.

Next year, TV viewers will be able to relive all manner of classic ’90s shows, with new episodes of The X-FilesTwin Peaks, Gilmore Girls, and Full House on the horizon. Add one more returning series to that list, as Joel Hodgson is announcing Tuesday that his beloved cult creation Mystery Science Theater 3000 is coming back after 15 years of dormancy.

For those unaware, the premise of Mystery Science Theater 3000 is brilliantly simple: A mad scientist has launched a man into space, and he torments said subject with psychological experiments that involve him watching some of the worst movies ever made. In order to keep it together, the poor marooned host talks back at the screen, aided by a pair of pop culture-obsessed robots. The MST3K crew may not have invented talking back to the screen, but they certainly brought it to the masses.

(6) Gray Rinehart finds connections between running for local office and his experience as a Hugo nominee in “Political Lessons and… the Hugo Awards?”

I ran for elective office this year, and lost. (For the record, I spent about 0.41% of the total that all four candidates in my district spent up until the election, and I got 3.5% of the vote. Not close to winning, but a good return on my meager investment.)

I was also nominated for a Hugo Award this year, and lost. The story behind that has been chronicled on this blog and elsewhere, and I won’t go into it in this post. (For the record, and as nearly as I can tell from trying to figure out the preferential voting numbers, about 9% of the 5100 novelette voters selected my story as their first choice. I ended up in fourth place . . . two spots below “No Award.”)

I introduce the fact of my being on political and literary ballots this year because I observed two things in the recent Town Council election process that seem pertinent to this year’s Hugo Awards. Specifically, that the political parties inserted themselves deeply into what was supposed to be a nonpartisan race, and other players also wielded considerable influence; and that a lot of voter information was readily available for the candidates to use.

A lot of food for thought. Among Rinehart’s many points:

And as long as we divide ourselves, or in the case of fandom subdivide ourselves; as long as we separate ourselves into (virtual or actual) walled-off enclaves and echo chambers, and associate only with those who look like us, act like us, and believe the things we do; we will find it harder to understand, relate to, and get along with one another — in civil life as well as in the SF&F community.

I think we would be well-served as a fannish community if we talked more about what we love and why we love it, without implying that those who do not love it as we do are ignorant or contemptible. And I think we would be better off if we recalled another RAH observation, also from Friday (emphasis in original): “Sick cultures show a complex of symptoms . . . but a dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.”

(7) A fascinating installment of Robert W. Weinberg’s memoirs published by Tangent Online in 2011, “Collecting Fantasy Art #5: Lail, It Rhymes With Gail”

Six months later, Victor grew tired of the Freas and traded it to me.  The impossible had happened.  So much for my predictions. I now owned the original cover paintings for the first and second serial installments of Robert Heinlein’s novel, The Door Into Summer.  Immediately, I contacted Al, the guy I had met at the 1976 World SF Convention in Kansas City, to see if he still owned the third and final cover painting for the serial.  I had passed on that cover, though it had been priced cheap, because I had felt certain at the time I would never obtain the second cover painting for the novel.  Now that I had that piece, I really wanted the third cover so I would have all three paintings for the novel.

No such luck.  Al had sold the Freas painting at the convention.  He didn’t remember who bought it, and he didn’t even remember how much they had paid for it.  The painting was long gone.  I had had a chance to buy it back in Kansas City and had passed it by.

I learned my lesson that day.  Only too well.   Never pass up a painting of minor importance because someday that minor meaning might explode.  It was a difficult lesson to learn, but an important one.  It’s one I have never forgotten.

(8) No other writer handles one-star reviews this badly. “British Writer Tracks Down Teen Who Gave His Book a Bad Review, Smashes Her With Wine Bottle” at Gawker.

A 28-year-old British man, most notable for his 2006 victory on the quiz show Countdown, tracked down a Scottish teenager who’d written a negative review of his self-published novel and shattered a bottle of wine on the back of her head. The aspiring author pleaded guilty to the 2014 assault in a Scottish court Monday, the Mirror reported.

Brittain claimed the early reception for The World Rose was strong, blogging that “The praise I received was remarkable and made me feel great; I was compared to Dickens, Shakespeare, Rowling, Raymond E Feist and Nora Roberts.”

…But he also complained about bad reviews from “idiots” and “teenagers.”

One of those teenagers was Paige Rolland, the eventual victim of Brittain’s savage bottle attack. Her entire harsh (but fair) review has been preserved on Amazon, but this passage really sums up her criticism:

As a reader, I’m bored out of my skull and severely disappointed in what I might have paid for. As a writer (albeit an amateur one) I’m appalled that anyone would think this was worthy of money.

Not only does it begin with “once upon a time” which you could argue is perfect as this is a fairytale (and it doesn’t work, it’s incredibly pretentious), but it’s filled with many writing no-nos. Way too much telling, pretentious prose, and a main character that I already hate. Ella is the perfect princess (true to fairytales, so we can at least give him a little credit despite how painfully annoying this is coupled with a complete lack of real personality shining through).

Rolland also noted that Brittain “has gained a bit of infamy on Wattpad where he’s known for threatening users who don’t praise him (pray for me),” which turned out to be quite portentous.

(9) Here’s a word I’m betting you haven’t in your NaNoWriMo novel yet.

(10) Strange poll.

It’s a perennial question. I remember at the 1995 Lunacon that Mordechai Housman, an Orthodox Jew, was having fun circulating copies of his provocative arti­cle Hitler’s Crib, which tries to determine wheth­er religious law would permit time travel and, specifically, wheth­er it would permit travel­ing in time to kill Hitler.

(11) You know this guy: “Plane” at The Oatmeal.

(12) Today In History

  • November 10, 1969Sesame Street debuts.
  • November 10, 1969 — Gene Autry received a gold record for the single, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, 20 years after its release.

(13) Today’s Birthday Boy

  • November 10, 1960 – Neil Gaiman

(14) James Whitbrook presents “The 7 Least Subtle Political Allegories on Doctor Who. His pick at number one (most lacking in subtlety) is “The Happiness Patrol.”

But it’s the despot herself who is the most obvious pastiche. Sheila Hancock openly plays the leader Helen A as a satirical take on then-Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the “Iron Lady” who dominated British politics. At the time, this barely made ripples, but a 2010 story in the British newspaper The Sunday Times about the connection—featuring a quote from Sylvester McCoy describing Mrs. Thatcher as “more terrifying than any monster the Doctor had encountered”—saw Conservative politicians in uproar at the anti-Conservative bias this revealed on the part of the BBC. Ex-script editor Andrew Cartmel was brought onto the BBC news program Newsnight to answer claims that the 1980s Doctor Who creative team had been a source of left-wing propaganda in the wake of the “revelation”… despite the story having been no particular secret, 22 years earlier.

Always remember – science fiction is never about the future….

(15) A previously unpublished Leigh Brackett story is one of the lures to buy Haffner Press’ tribute book, Leigh Brackett Centennial.

SF and mystery author Leigh Brackett (1915-1978) – who also wrote screenplays for The Big Sleep, Rio Bravo and The Empire Strikes Back —?is represented by an array of nonfiction pieces by and about here, as well as the previously unpublished story “They,” which Haffner describes as “a mature science fiction tale of power and intrigue, of homegrown xenophobia versus stellar exploration, with an answer to the ultimate question: ‘Are we alone?’” The volume collects the majority of Brackett’s nonfiction writings, supplemented with vintage interviews and commentaries/remembrances from such luminaries as Ray Bradbury, Michael Moorcock, Richard A. Lupoff and more.

Brackett writes of bringing Philip Marlowe into the 1970s for Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye in “From The Big Sleep to The Long Goodbye and More or Less How We Got There.”

SF-author and NASA employee Joseph Green records the time he hosted Brackett at the launch of Apollo XII . . .
Midwest bookseller Ray Walsh documents the day he escorted Brackett to view a new groundbreaking space-fantasy film in the summer 1977…

Order the book at this link: http://www.haffnerpress.com/book/lb100/

(16) John Scalzi gives his take on balancing awards and mental health:

I’ve won and lost enough awards to know an award is not The Thing That Changes Everything. An award is fun, an award is nice, an award may even be, at times, significant. But at the end of the day, whether you win or lose, you still go home with yourself, and you don’t change — at least, not because of an award. It’s perfectly fine to want an award (I’ve wanted them from time to time, you can be assured) and it’s perfectly okay to be disappointed if you don’t get one. But ultimately, putting the responsibility for your happiness onto an award, which is, generally speaking, a thing over which you have absolutely no control, is a very fine way to become unhappy. Which will not be on the award, or any of the people who voted for it. It will be on you, whether you want to own that fact or not.

(17) Luna Lindsey reviews two competing online tools in “Panlexicon vs. Visual Thesaurus — Who Will Win?” at the SFWA Blog.

I kept Visual Thesaurus on retainer as my go-to onomasticon until I stumbled upon Panlexicon.com in all of its simple, elegant magic.

The power of Panlexicon lies in its ability to search on multiple terms, which will bring up a larger spectrum of metonyms than most thesauri (including Visual Thesaurus). So it’s perfect for finding that just-out-of-reach expression when all you can remember are remotely-related numinous approximations of what you’re going for. Simply type two or more related words or phrases, separated by a comma, and voilà. (And of course, you can always search a standalone word.)

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Will R., Mark-kitteh, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, and Jim Meadows for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

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220 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 11/10 The nine and sixty ways of constructing Pixel Scrolls

  1. People always put ‘kill Hitler’ or ‘would it be ok to blow nuke a city to stop an alien invasion’ or that sort of thing forward as ‘hard questions’. They’re not. They’re just stupid questions that happen to have high stakes built in.

    Which of two virtually identical cauliflowers should you pick? That’s a hard question.

    Which of twenty different majors that I might pick today will give me the best chance of getting a job in the economy of three years from now? Hard question.

    Given the weather and time of day should I take the freeway or will it be faster not to? Hard question.

    Big abstract questions that will never be tested in the real world? Easy as pie.

  2. @RedWombat —

    Last I heard, slash-and-burn has been firmly consigned to post-Columbian because (at least per current thinking; I have the impression someone tried with stone tools) you have to have iron or (better) steel tools to be able to do it at all. It’s thought it’s a post-collapse stunned-survivors-with-too-low-a-population-to-use-the-old-methods sort of thing. There’s some information from New Guinea about land-clearing that supports this; introduce steel axes and you totally alter the agricultural economy, the social structure (control of axe distribution becomes the most important thing), the mode of warfare, and marriage patterns. I’ve seen that cause speculation that the thing the Hittites did wasn’t so much figure out iron — iron had been around in jewelry quantities for a millennium at least — as figure out how to socially assimilate the agricultural changes in ways that didn’t lead to the established power structure having the ambitious blacksmith killed.

    (Totally agree about the importance of good dirt. Preach.)

  3. It gets into having to uplift the mammoth or comb them for wool

    Musk-oxen have nice down – it’s sold as qiviut – which is warmer than wool for the same mass. I don’t think domesticating them is on the cards, though, any more than it is for bison (which also have nice down).

  4. The concept of going back in time and messing with things always leaves me stuck as I can’t get past:
    1. How far back
    2. How much to mess with
    3. Do I really think I know what’s best for the human race

    I’m not fond of the idea of killing a few “really awful individuals” as real solutions. I want to change entire cultural think which requires going way, way back and who knows what teaching real respect, basic farming, and proper health/sanitation to very early generations of human beings would do to how we’d develop over time? I don’t think I should be allowed near a time machine if one is built during my lifetime. LOL

  5. @Vasha There’s a lot I didn’t put into the review.

    Rnpu bs gur 13 sybjref frrzf gb ercerfrag fbzrguvat be fbzrbar. Sbe rknzcyr gur Tubfg Ivar (sybjre #9) znxrf Irarevnaf frr guvatf naq znxrf Greenaf guvax gurl’er bzavcbgrag. Guvf cerggl zhpu fhzznevmrf Neguhe’f ebyr va gur eroryyvba.

    Gurer ner ahzrebhf pbzzragf gb gur rssrpg gung Ynql Vqn naq Cevaprff Ynghsv jrer ybiref.

    Gurer jnf n phgr ersrerapr gb “Cevqr naq Cerwhqvpr.” “Vg vf n gehgu havirefnyyl erpbtavmrq . . .”

    Neguhe jnagrq n wbo jbexvat sbe Gur Uhagre nf “gur sbby jub ehaf,” juvpu jnf phgr orpnhfr gung’f orra uvf ebyr va erny yvsr.

    Gur Ornh Trfg ersrerapr jnf jung zrffrq zr hc. V jnf fb fher V xarj jub gbbx gur fnccuver guna jura V ernpurq gur xrl cnffntr V fvzcyl ernq vg jebat. Gur fgbel fgvyy jbexrq, ohg 95% bs gur pbagrag unq ab checbfr bgure guna genirybthr. Ba gur frpbaq ernq, zl urneg whzcrq vagb zl guebng. Fhqqrayl nyy gur cvrprf svg, naq gur rzbgvbany vzcnpg jnf birejuryzvat.

    V jnf rzoneenffrq ng univat orra jebat, ohg vg npghnyyl srryf ernyyl, ernyyl tbbq gb or noyr gb cenvfr n fgbel, fb V qvqa’g zvaq gbb zhpu. V haqrefgnaq jul fbzr erivrjref arire jevgr nalguvat ohg cenvfr va gurve erivrjf.

    Thanks again for your feedback. Please feel free to tell me I’m wrong any time! 🙂

  6. Like, say, how to make terra preta, which is believed to have supported stable cities in Amazonia? You don’t have to go nearly as far as you think to help the Maya out.

    Well, given that the Maya pretty clearly didn’t know how to do it reliably, we’d have to go at least some distance. But hey, if we’ve got a time machine, perhaps we can crack that nut, too, and go back and see HOW they did it. The master class can include all kinds of mastery!

    Me, I like herbivore dung. But I’m willing to learn, if anybody figures out the trick.

    Tree crops are awesome, right up until the chestnut blight hits, or some European asshole starts cutting down your food supply. But it depends on where you live and what kind of dirt you’ve got. Places like my current home, which was worked as a fire-controlled oak savannah, were probably as productive as they’re likely to get–fire didn’t improve soil fertility all that much, but it kept the savannah parts open, which you need for your understory shrubs and your veggie crops. We even had woodland bison! (THAT WOULD BE SO COOL.) But the clearings were vital parts of that. Woodland edges are hella productive, but the interiors less so, inch for inch. But as soon as people stop setting the fires, WHAM, it’s a forest, and a fairly poor one. It was a lot more productive as a mosaic of woodland edges and open ground.

    And tree crops just don’t lend well to population explosions. You can’t just plant twice as many oaks for next fall. They’re a good thing to have, but they’re not as flexible as some other parts of the food web, and they take a really long time to get going. And they’re very susceptible to climate shifts. Look at the farmers in California who are simply watching their almond trees die right now, or maple syrup farmers who are moving to more intensive sap harvests that damage the tree, because they simply don’t expect the trees to survive that much longer as things heat up.

    Deforestation is a major concern (perhaps not my primary concern, but still a major one) but I think things like shade-grown coffee are probably a better compromise than trying to move to a primarily tree-based agricultural system, particularly in already depleted rainforest soils.

  7. @P J Evans —

    There are commercial sources of knitted bison wool gloves. I’m curious how they’re getting the fibre, because bison are generally not readily domesticable, no. (Though neither were aurochs, and someone managed. Probably at least three times.)

    As I understand it, musk ox are readily domesticable but are unhealthy pretty much anywhere south of the arctic circle, so attempts to set up wool farms failed. The attempts did produce photos of musk ox being combed out in the spring and making impressively appreciative faces.

  8. So funny story about muskox…

    You can keep ’em in Minnesota. A farmer friend of mine is DESPERATE to get her hands on some. (In fact, the Minnesota zoo has several.)

    She claims there is–no kidding–a cartel. Muskox wool is worth a lot of money to knitters, and it is currently in the hands of a very small group of breeders, who do not wish to lose their monopoly and so don’t sell muskox breed stock. So getting a muskox in the lower 48 is apparently insanely difficult because no one will sell them. There is a whole saga about someone who tried to start a breeding operation up and was literally harassed out of business.

    I have not independently verified this, but she is a generally trustworthy individual and if it were possible to get a muskox, she would have done so already. She keeps yaks as a consolation prize.

  9. I’m not sure why time travellers should automatically want to protect native american cultures. Were they better than European cultures? The individuals concerned will all be dead by now anyhow, and a whole slew of possible people will appear or disappear if the timeline is fluid (and nothing will have any effect if the timeline has momentum, unless you are prepared to use nukes, and then it’s spiders vs. snakes).

  10. Graydon on November 11, 2015 at 4:32 pm said:
    @P J Evans —

    There are commercial sources of knitted bison wool gloves. I’m curious how they’re getting the fibre, because bison are generally not readily domesticable, no.

    There’s a small group in Golden Gate Park.
    Every spring they shed their winter coat in dense felt-like patches.
    I wonder whether that material is useable?

  11. All a livestock germ reservoir does is wipe out the new world population ahead of 1492. Because the founding population was so small, the population of the Americas just plain lacked chunks of the immune system the rest of the species had. No copies of those genes. (Gene flow has mostly taken care of that by now, but not completely.)

    *grumble* Can I have increased long-distance sea traffic in the Pacific, so that we’ve got enough germs going back and forth to keep from a total wipe out?


    Tortoises were put alive in the holds of ships for food by European sailors, because they kept fresh for ages. So we’ll ferry them across the Americas, domesticate them, raise fast-breeding giant tortoises that grow twice as quick on corn, allowing longer journeys, allowing sea-faring people from South America to make more frequent voyages across the various oceans, causing genetic flow so that nobody dies of smallpox! WE WILL BUILD THIS WORLD ON THE BACK OF A TORTOISE TOO.

  12. I’m not sure why time travellers should automatically want to protect native american cultures. Were they better than European cultures?

    The general time travel question seems to be “how to prevent genocide” i.e. killing Hitler. There’s not too many genocides to equal Europeans hitting the Americas. So yeah, I’d try to stop that one.

  13. @lurkertype,

    While the other two Hugo nominees left me underwhelmed, I really liked Thomas Olde Huevelt’s “The Boy Who Cast No Shadow”.

  14. Well, by sheer chance, I have been reading the fourth book in the Hidden Acadamy series; the storyline in this one is about the God Mystra, together with his followers. I’ve enjoyed the previous stories, and I’m enjoying this one as well!

  15. A muskox cartel?

    So I’m told…and no, I haven’t figured out how to use it in a book yet.

  16. @Peace Is My Middle Name —

    Considering the ferocious prices are supported by nothing but rarity, I can believe it. And the stuff — qiviut — has many virtues. If it was practical to increase the supply, the supply would increase. I’ve seen pictures of a quite lovely looking cocktail-length dress and it had a note that the whole thing weighed 4 oz.

    Plus the person in Ottawa with a knitting commission for a qiviut toque; the commissioner reported that, in an Ottawa winter (that is, statistically worse than Moscow) the result was just too warm to wear.

  17. @RedWombat: Now, the Incas appear to have effectively wiped out hunger in their empire. Those people knew their way around a potato. Seriously impressive stuff. Carry on, Incas.

    I have to say that your treatise on Incan potato varieties (with a sidenote about McDonald frenchfries) was, for me, one of the highlights of Mile Hi Con. Not even kidding!

  18. @Shao Ping:

    *where “tough decisions” means you know they are morally wrong and are going to do them anyway, but since you feel the decisions were tough, you’re a good person nonetheless.

    I love the way you put that.

  19. NerdCon: Stories has been uploading portions of the con to YouTube. The most recent: The first part of Friday night’s Baron Munchausen game hosted by Patrick Rothfuss and featuring Mary Robinette Kowal, Joseph Fink, Hank Green, Paul Sabourin and Maureen Johnson.

  20. @Greg:

    it actually feels really, really good to be able to praise a story…. I understand why some reviewers never write anything but praise in their reviews.

    I used to write negative reviews, but I haven’t done so very much this year, just because I felt it wasn’t a good use of my time; I stuck to recommending the best things, noting the rest down and letting them pass. I’m glad you’re doing comprehensive reviews though.

  21. @Vasha–

    I used to write negative reviews, but I haven’t done so very much this year, just because I felt it wasn’t a good use of my time; I stuck to recommending the best things, noting the rest down and letting them pass. I’m glad you’re doing comprehensive reviews though.

    There’s a particular sweet spot a book has to hit for me to wind up writing a negative review. It has to be bad, but it has to keep my hopes up that it will somehow be revealed that the writer was working towards something that would change my opinion of it in the end. And then, of course, not deliver.

    That particular combination rarely happens.

  22. @Simon Bisson

    That webcomic is totally charming. 🙂

    @Soon Lee

    If that wasn’t on the very respectable V&A website I’d be convinced I was being trolled. Very impressive – us humans are weird but kind of awesome sometimes, aren’t we?

  23. RedWombat on November 11, 2015 at 5:27 pm said:
    A muskox cartel?

    So I’m told…and no, I haven’t figured out how to use it in a book yet.

    Obviously a cartel run by muskoxen.
    A sort of autonomous collective, an anarcho-syndicalist commune! Each muskox takes turns to act as a sort of executive-officer-for-the-week….

  24. Tasha:

    I want to change entire cultural think which requires going way, way back and who knows what teaching real respect, basic farming, and proper health/sanitation to very early generations of human beings would do to how we’d develop over time?

    Have I got a book rec for you: Lisa Goldstein’s latest (I got her first novel, fell in love with it, but somehow have missed her later ones).

    Weighing Shadows, link leads to a post on John Scalzi’s blog in the “Big Idea” series.

    Goldstein’s novel is a time travel novel that’s one, feminist, and two, completely different from all the traditional time travel novels (about dealing with Important Men), because she does exactly that–sort of–not so much a small change to a culture, but what would happen it a culture that was different from the patriarchal one that “won” was maintained.

    From the blog post:

    I’d been thinking about writing a time-travel novel and how much fun I could have with it, and suddenly these two ideas converged. Now there was a time-traveling corporation from the future that tried to subtly nudge the course of history by changing one or two small things at a time, a corporation that had started by being idealistic and high-minded but that now supported the status quo as a way to hold onto power. And there was another group, this one clandestine, much less powerful and without access to time travel, that was trying to stop them. And the first break between the two happened in ancient Crete, where the corporation supported the patriarchal Greeks against the goddess-worshipping Cretans.

    HIGHLY recommended and on my Hugo novels list which keeps growing…

  25. @Lis: I’m usually only moved to write a negative review when I have something a bit out of the ordinary to say about the book (like this one, which I’m kind of proud of, where I was able to express why the book’s entire premise was misogynist); if it’s only “the author can’t write, the prose is a slog, the plot is lazy” I’m more likely to let it disappear in silence.

  26. Graydon There are commercial sources of knitted bison wool gloves. I’m curious how they’re getting the fibre, because bison are generally not readily domesticable, no.

    There are people who farm bison for the meat nowadays (and one hopes for other parts.)

    Shao Ping:
    *where “tough decisions” means you know they are morally wrong and are going to do them anyway, but since you feel the decisions were tough, you’re a good person nonetheless.

    I found myself nodding to this. Then I thought.

    Because the question “save one or save millions?” has been used by any number of dramas in any number of scenarios of greater or lesser realism. Doctor Who has done it several times (Day of the Doctor and the Time War as a whole, plus the dreadful “Kill the Moon”), Charles Pellegrino’s Dust pushes it, several other books. It’s practically a supervillain staple to threaten the hero’s girlfriend and a runaway train or secret bomb (Superman the Movie, at least one Spiderman film). So someone, (And not just Moffatt) thinks it has some merit.

    Then I wondered. Which is even the “good” answer? Doctor Who and Superheroes alike are convinced the answer is ‘both’. Pellegrino allowed it to be ‘the one’ but the item they lost, while it would save many, might not be fully irreplaceable. And usually, if the story doesn’t go option three (by sometimes absurdly magical thinking), whichever way the result falls the answer isn’t to say, “I made that choice and I’m a good person anyhow” It’s “Let me now have horrible angst.”

    I’m not saying it’s a good story trope (it’s not), but I am saying it might not be quite as “you know they are morally wrong and are going to do them anyway” as I first nodded along with.

  27. @Lenora Rose —

    How’s your parsing-Canadian skill? You might want to take a look at the Canadian Bison Association about page. Or the same organization’s “fencing on public lands” publication. (Cattle grates — Texas Gates in some regions — for bison are recommended at 16 feet wide and 24 feet long. The regular cattle sizes aren’t effective.)

    Or I can mention the bison operation north of Kingston where the outer fences were three courses of metre-square-by-two-metre limestone blocks. The bison would climb this. (It was vertical. It was at the top of a slope.)

    That said, bison is very tasty and bison do well on straight up forage and there’s a lot to be said for the agricultural practice, but it’s not one where I expect anybody to be combing bison in the spring anytime soon. (I’d put that one notch down from genetically engineering the manners of dogs into quarter-scale polar bears, really.)

  28. @robinreid–

    Thanks for the mention of Weighing Shadows. Now on my list for the near future. 🙂


    If a book keeps my hopes up long enough, then I’m likely to believe I have something interesting or useful to say about it, even if no one else does. 😉

  29. On reviewing and negative reviews:

    My strategy for avoiding writing bad reviews is to try my best to avoid reading books that I would give them to. I’ve made an entirely arbitrary personal commitment to reviewing every novel I read (pretty much on the principle that if I want other people to review my books, I should review my own reading). But avoiding books that I’d review negatively is more on the principle of “not enough time to waste it on bad books.”

    And yet, I can’t always manage it. Checking out my Goodreads reviews, I’ve given four novels 1-star reviews, and they were pretty much all “did not finish”.

  30. Peace Is My Middle Name on November 11, 2015 at 4:59 am said:

    Is there evidence that Rinehart signed up with the Puppies? The impression I had was that he was one of the people they roped in without informing ahead of time.

    He willingly signed on.


    I say all that to say this: When I signed on to the SP3 list — and, yes, I was invited and agreed — I had no inkling that it would see such “success.” I anticipated a few finalists would hail from the list, but that other worthies would join them in every category. I remember well that old feeling of being shut out, the deep disappointment of feeling that my vote and my effort had been wasted, and I had no intention and certainly no wish to leave anyone else in the position. I didn’t, and don’t, think “Sad Puppies” was orchestrated to achieve that effect, and I regret that its “success” came at such a cost. I imagine that is a cold comfort to some of my friends.

    Another choice quote

    Why so many titles from Baen? Aren’t I more widely read than that? Not usually, no. Remember, as a contractor to Baen I’m charged with selecting novels for us to publish so I need to keep up with what our authors are producing.

  31. @Heather Rose Jones–

    I also try to avoid reading books I might negatively review, and I feel no obligation to finish a book just because I started it, under most circumstances. That’s why a book has to hit that particular sweet spot, to wind up getting a negative review.

  32. @Robin thanks for mentioning Weighing Shadows It’s on my Hugo’s TBR. I love Scalzi’s “Big Ideas”. I need to have my husband see if the local library has it.

  33. Graydon: I AM Canadian.

    I didn’t say they were exactly domesticated. However, it rather obviously, to me, follows that if bison can be raised in a manner where they can be slaughtered for meat, then there must be a way to retrieve the hair of the coat, even if it more resembles Psyche and the Golden fleece than it does sheep shearing.

  34. On reviewing, my position is simply this: I give books the review they deserve. Lots of books are good in some way, and my review reflects that. Some are mediocre and get lukewarm reviews. A handful are bad books and I say so.

  35. @Lenora Rose —

    <makes glyph of subtle motions implying discussion of weather in greeting>

    Well then, you’re not going to have any trouble getting the “one mistake and you’re dead” aspect of the “are bison dangerous?” part of that document.

    You’re quite right that you could shave the hide for the wool, but I’d still be surprised. Buffalo robes are still an (expensive) thing, so the whole wooly hide has commercial value possibly exceeding the fibre value; you want to slaughter for meat in the fall, when the bison’s in peak condition, and you’d want the wool in midwinter when the bison would be getting lean. I suspect someone’s spending a lot of time picking wool off the bushes in the winter pasture. (Which is what happens with traditional qiviut.) What’s easily googleable indicates there’s a natural shedding step involved.

    I suppose if the fiber’s light enough you could just coat the downwind fences with filter paper and wait…

  36. Coincidentally, my nanowrimo novel includes includes spinning of mammoth undercoat wool.
    While I was researching Native American Fiber Arts over the past year I encountered references to tribes that traditionally used buffalo fiber that got caught in the bushes at stream sides. (I suppose if you have enough buffalo and enough bushes it doesn’t matter that the percentage of fiber actually captured is small.)
    A couple of the tribes in the northwest made dance capes out of wild mountain goat wool. To get the wool for a cape, you kill some mountain goats, soak the hides, and roll them up for a while with the fur inside. When you unroll them, the hair falls off. You still need to separate the outer hairs from the wool, but as long as they are different lengths, there is a trick that is fairly efficient for that.
    I assume the same techniques would get the fur off a buffalo hide you wanted to use for a tipi cover, etc. and leave both the leather and the wool usable.

    nanowrimo 25015 net words (plus about 640: I yanked an infodumpy lump and replaced most of it with a different infodump that at least flows better)
    It looks like 50K words will be a good start on this thing: I haven’t even gotten to the big city yet at 25K

  37. @emgrasso looks like things are going well for you, yay.

    My NaNoWriMo story may turn into a chronicle of my complete mental breakdown. I had decided to _skip_ NaNoWriMo this year. First year was for the challenge, hit 50k closed the document never opened it again, I grew to hate the story Second NaNoWriMo I did it for the discipline, whatever wordcount I had, the next day would be 1667 words minimum. I liked that better, liked the story better, kept going every day after November till I hit a snag, stopped to work out a solution, fell on the ice, broke two bones and had a really awful painkiller-filled first half of the year, turns out metatarsals take forever to heal.

    So I thought, gee, why don’t I get back to that. knowing what I know now I can go back to the beginning, the right beginning this time and do a second draft. Then I complained to a friend about a book I’d read being derivative and formulaic. I belive my words were, more derivative than Hunger Games fanfic and more formulaic than an episode of Gilligan’s Island. She challenged me to do better. I refused. She challenged me to do the same, I said I probably could.

    This was the last week of September. Research and world-building; plotting and coming up with characters, five weeks for all of it. Now I’m running out of plot and could really use a few days to just sit and scribble notes and work out how to proceed. I could use a little time to back-fill a few past blank-spots to move forward with a better idea of where everything stands. I could like to have the cat not cry every hour over nothing and have a couple hours of peace to type.

    This is NaNoWriMo and I’m too stubborn to just give up or pad too overtly. Talk too much about scenery, okay, digress about the life of the cow that turned into a burger the protagonist is eating, not so much. So instead I’ve decided to just go mad. The talking scented candle tells me I’m doing the right thing…

    Then she screams that I’m burning her and the fire hurts, it hurts so much, please stop, you monster.

  38. @emgrasso: (Old Mars/Venus prices)

    Yeah, I’m in the same boat. I’m interested, but I’ve got plenty of anthologies that I’ve already paid for clamoring for my attention. (For example, the new Dark Regions anthology of women-authored Mythos horror just came in.) I can wait until those prices drop. It may be a long wait, but I remember what Leslie Nielsen said at the end of his segment in Creepshow

  39. I write the occasional book review. Sometimes they’re decidedly negative. I don’t generally like writing negative reviews; I’d rather the book had been better written. If I had a time machine, I’d send the negative review back before the book got published, when it could do more good.

    I do an occasional feature, “The Brave Free Books”, on my blog, reviewing books that I’ve read for free. A lot of these are contest winnings from Goodreads or other sources, or the occasional free-promo offer (usually the 1st book in a series). A lot tend to be self-published. Some are decently written; some… aren’t.

    One of my recent reads gives me some qualms about writing a negative review. The author is clearly -so- sincere and so pleased to have written and published her first book. And the book had… possibilities for being a better book. But it’s a prime example of some of the errors and missteps self-published writers make. It could probably have been trimmed and tightened by 100 pages. There are places where it’s clear the writer realized the plot went astray on earlier pages and, rather than go back and rewrite, kluges and crowbars a “fix” into the ongoing narrative. Chapters skip from viewpoint to viewpoint of nearly a dozen characters. The editing was done by someone who doesn’t know how to use commas or quotation marks. And so on, and so on….

    And from the credits and acknowledgements, it looks like the people who saw the manuscript for early feedback were mostly friends and family members; that’s a classic recipe for ineffective feedback, and a less-than-it-could-have-been book.

    (Maybe writers should seek feedback from people who hate their guts. I remember when Jack Chalker’s first novel came out, and Craig Miller — who’d been on the opposite side of Jack in a few fannish kerfuffles — wrote “Its… actually… pretty… good”, and you just hear the struggle in Craig’s authorial voice at having to write those words about Chalker. I bet Chalker just -treasured- that mini-review.)

    *sigh* But the author herself seems charming, and thrilled to finally be a *writer*. Should I tell her her baby is ugly? (What I’ll probably do is write a fairly brief review to post on the blog, and send her a more detailed “This is the advice you should have gotten -before- publishing” email.)

    (And, as usual, I find myself perplexed and annoyed at the preponderance of five-star reviews on Goodreads for what is clearly a flawed novel. Yes, I am grumpy and cranky about this widespread practice of “I didn’t throw up! FIVE STARS!!!” reviews. They’re not doing writers any favors. It’s about ethics in book-reviewing.)

  40. I give most of the books I review on Goodreads five stars because I hate star ratings and couldn’t be bothered to work out a personal metric, but I was also aware that all those stars meant something so I don’t leave them blank (not even sure you can). I just wanted to write about the books. Now I feel weird about it because of Peace’s Goodreads horror story. I don’t want to be contributing to that corrupt boosterism by default.

  41. You can leave the Goodreads stars blank. I left them blank on books written by family members or close friends, with an explanatory note as to why.

    It was part of trying to be an ethical reviewer, but it also left the information available for trolls, I’m sorry to say.

  42. Peace – huh. Why did I think otherwise, I wonder? It’s a wee dilemma. I’m not logrolling for anyone and I’m not dipping into the murky self-pubbed world (of Goodreads reviews, that is), and I like the idea of giving the books I like a ratings boost, since I know people do use them, but default five stars for most is starting to look, at best, lazy… which is what it is, really.

  43. I have a file dated June 15, 2014 and another dated June 17. Together they are about 4000 words of the beginning of the plot. (They were the first fiction I had written down in years.) But I realized I was writing in the wrong landscape and cosmology and set out to do some research.
    I did not reread those story files in the days leading up to Nov. 1. I did glance at some of my worldbuilding notes, and on Oct 31 I finished reading a book on the archeology of Cahokia from the Univ. of Nebraska Press…
    I think Nanowrimo fits my style of writing because it doesn’t give me time to go on research binges and chase some piece of trivia down a rabbit hole. I need to stream the story, more or less, to find out what the plot is.

    On the other hand, I think it is weird that people say nanowrimo doesn’t work if your process involves going back and tweaking as you go along. I added and modified stuff in 6 or 7 places in at least 4 different chapters this evening: it’s all wordcount. (And that doesn’t include the chunk I moved to the notes file, which was mostly after the actual story at this point.)

  44. On reviews, I like the idea of trying to find something positive to say (on the grounds that, if you’re not a pro reviewer, you picked it up for a reason and that probably means something appealed to you), but I also see the value in letting prospective readers know about significant flaws. And yes, I consider “this needs to be beaten into shape by a competent copyeditor” to be a significant flaw.

    I’m reminded of the time when an otherwise enjoyable superhero book was made much less so by the way a key character’s name got spelled three different ways over the course of the book – and none, as I recall, excusable as nicknames or dialect. That’s the sort of thing that’ll turn a four-star rating into a three-star for me; I can overlook a certain degree of grammar fail, but you should get your characters’ names right at a bare minimum. Tense shifting is another thing that irks me – it’s one thing to slip up between “did” and “had done” here and there, but you shouldn’t be switching from present to past and back over the course of describing the action in one sentence.

    Generally, I tend to give out three and four stars for freely-chosen professional work that does what I expect. A baseline Good Story that leaves me satisfied at the end should be three stars, four if I plan to look for more in the series or from the author, and five if it knocked me down and had its way with me. 🙂 Errors bad enough to jolt me out of the story are usually bad enough to cost it a star, but I don’t penalize the author for formatting problems unless they’re really bad and I know the author’s responsible. (Yeah, that affects self-pub more than trad-pub. Them’s the breaks.)

    In short, I try to write a review that I’d find valuable either as a potential reader or as the author. I know that, if I wrote a book and someone spotted technical problems with it, I’d like to know so I could fix them. Likewise, while empty praise feels good, it doesn’t help me grow as a writer and doesn’t tell a new reader why they should spend money on my work. The same goes for cheap slams, too; saying you hated it without saying why isn’t helpful for anyone.

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