Pixel Scroll 11/4 The Pixellence Engine

(1) Nothing says the holiday season like this Kurt Adler 28” Star Wars Stormtrooper Light-Up Tinsel Lawn Decor

Holding a small, neatly-wrapped present for a festive twist, this soldier of the Galactic Empire is wearing his all-white uniform and armor.

Stormtrooper lawn decor

(2) “Sir David Attenborough and giant hedgehog launch new TV show Natural Curiosities”.

If Sonic is the first name that pops into your head when hearing the word “hedgehog,” British naturalist Sir David Attenborough wants to change your perceptions about the prickly creature.

A life-like hedgehog statue, measuring 7 feet tall and 12 feet long, covered in coconut fiber and over 2,000 wood spikes, was unveiled on Clapham Common in London to launch Attenborough’s new nature series, “Natural Curiosities” on UKTV this week….

A recent survey of 2,000 British adults revealed that because the “average Briton takes only 16 walks in the countryside each year, dramatically limiting their exposure to wildlife, a quarter of Britons say they have never seen a wild hedgehog, rabbit or fox, while 26 per cent claim never to have spotted a grey squirrel or frog, and 36 per cent say wild deer have eluded them,” according to the Daily Mail.


(3) Richard Davies discusses “Fragile Treasures: The World’ Most Valuable Paperbacks” at AbeBooks.

In terms of sheer numbers, collectible softcovers are vastly outnumbered by collectible hardcovers. However, many paperbacks – books with soft, not rigid, paper-based covers – sell for high prices. The reasons vary – authors self-publish, publishers lack the necessary budget or the desire to invest in a particular author (think of poets particularly) or simply softcover is the format of choice for the genre….

Published in German, Kafka’s Metamorphosis is the king of the collectible softcovers. Its famous front cover, designed by Ottomar Starke, shows a man recoiling in horror. Probably no more than a thousand copies of this novella were printed. It wasn’t printed in English until 1937. Today, this story of a salesman transformed into an insect is studied around the world.


Metamorphosis 1916

(4) Ethan Mills is observing Stoic Week at Examined Worlds. The second post in his series considers the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.

Tuesday: What is in Our Control and the Reserve Clause Tuesday’s morning text is one of my favorite parts of the Meditations from Marcus Aurelius, one that has helped me get out of bed on more than one occasion!

Early in the morning, when you are finding it hard to wake up, hold this thought in your mind: ‘I am getting up to do the work of a human being. Do I still resent it, if I am going out to do what I was born for and for which I was brought into the world? Or was I framed for this, to lie under the bedclothes and keep myself warm?’ ‘But this is more pleasant’. So were you born for pleasure: in general were you born for feeling or for affection? Don’t you see the plants, the little sparrows, the ants, the spiders, the bees doing their own work, and playing their part in making up an ordered world. And then are you unwilling to do the work of a human being? Won’t you run to do what is in line with your nature?

— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5.1

Thinking about this through a science fiction lens invites questions about the work of a human being.  What are we like as a species?  Marcus compares humans with other terrestrial animals, but science fiction might extend the comparison to extraterrestrials as well.

Is it our nature, as Star Trek tells us, to “seek out new life and new civilizations”?  Is this what gets us out of bed in the morning?  Consider the theme of exploration in the recent book/movie, The Martian.  Is it inevitable that we long to leave our terrestrial bed?  Is our species at the beginning of a dawn of space exploration?  Or should we be wary of over-indulging this exploration drive, as Kim Stanley Robinson’s amazing novel, Aurora, seems to imply?

(5) This video has been reported in a comment on File 770, however, I may not have linked it in a Scroll.

Sasquan Guest of Honor Dr. Kjell Lindgren sends welcome from the International Space Station to members of the 2015 World Science Fiction Convention.


(6) Today In History

(7) This is billed as a Dalek relaxation tape by Devour.com.

(8) Lawrence Railey is skeptical about “The rise of the Self-Insertion fic” at According To Hoyt.

Diversity isn’t the goal. At best, it’s a side-effect. Good story-telling is the only purpose, and the Puppies believe that nothing should get in the way of that.

And, quite simply, this notion that one must share essential attributes with the main character in order to enjoy a story is patronizing, narcissistic, and stupid. A black man can enjoy a story about a white woman. And, in the case of the story I just finished reading a couple days ago, a conservative white man can enjoy a story about a transsexual robot named Merlin living on distant planet.

Books do not have to be self-insertion fics, and they do not need to push a socio-political agenda.

The fact that the Puppy Kickers don’t know any better is disappointing to say the least.

(9) Steven Harper Piziks advises writers show equine intestinal fortitude in “Writing Nowadays: The Anti-Waiting Game” at Book View Café.

How things have changed.  Now you’re as likely to get a giant email dump with a PDF in it and a frantic note from someone in the editorial food chain: “I know this is short notice, but we need you to go through these changes by Friday morning!”

Every author I know has gone through this. Demands that manuscripts be rewritten within two days, or over Christmas, or when the author is on vacation. There’s an idea out there that because email allows instant delivery, instant writing must follow.

Horse manure.

Just say no. Politely and firmly.

(10) An appreciation of the late French sf author Yan Ayerdhal by Jean-Daniel Breque at Europa SF.

French science fiction writer Yan Ayerdhal died Tuesday, October 27, 2015, after an intense bout with lung cancer.

Born Marc Soulier on January 26, 1959, in Lyons, he thrived on SF from an early age, since his father, Jacky Soulier, was a big-time fan and collector—he co-authored a few children and young adult SF books in the 1980s. Ayerdhal worked in several trades before becoming a full-time writer: he was a ski instructor, a professional soccer player, a teacher, he worked in marketing for L’Oréal, and so on….

Most notable among his novels are Demain, une oasis (“Tomorrow, an Oasis”, 1991), L’Histrion (“The Minstrel”, 1993), Parleur ou les Chroniques d’un rêve enclavé (“Speaker, or Chronicles of an Enclosed Dream”, 1997), Étoiles mourantes (“Dying Stars”, in collaboration with Jean-Claude Dunyach, 1999), and Transparences (“Transparencies”, 2004). Most of them were illustrated by Gilles Francescano. He was the recipient of several SF awards: the Tour Eiffel award, the Rosny aîné award (three times), the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire (twice) and many more. He had one story published in Interzone, “Flickerings” (May 2001 issue, original title: “Scintillements”, 1998, translated by Sheryl Curtis).

(11) Jesse at Speculiction rejects 100 Year Starship and its new award, in “Awards Like Stars In The Sky: The Canopus”.

What’s interesting to see on the Canopus award slate is Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora, a cautionary tale that seems to draw focus away from space and back to Earth, and not Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves, a masturbatory exercise in space gadgetry if ever there were. One would have almost expected Stephenson’s novel to be a shoo-in given the novel’s theme, but I’m not the award’s organizer.

Looking through the Science Fiction Awards Database, a person finds many a defunct award. The group were able to hold the ship together for a few years, sometimes even a decade or more, before the strings let loose (probably the purse strings) and the award slipped into the night of genre awareness (that vast space comprising the majority of material older than ten years).  I’m not pronouncing the Canopus’ doom, but with so many crises at hand on Earth, I think I’m in Aurora’s boat, not Seveneves. Shouldn’t we be solving Earth’s problems before tackling the riddle of space????

(12) A patent has been granted for a space elevator.

Patent granted to space elevator brings science fiction one step closer to reality

Canada-based Thoth Technology was recently granted U.S. and U.K. patents for a space elevator reaching 12.5 miles into the sky. The ThothX Tower is a proposed freestanding piece of futuristic, pneumatically pressurized architecture, designed to propel astronauts into the stratosphere. Then they can then be launched into space. The tower would also likely be used to generate wind energy, host communications technology and will be open to space tourists.

(13) And in the biological sciences the news is –

(14) Never bet against Einstein when general relativity is on the line!

Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity has been proven right again — and this time, physicists have pinned down just how precise it is: Any deviations from his theory of general relativity are so small that they would change calculations by just one part in 10,000 to one part in 100,000.

(15) Though not a genre film, Christmas Eve has Patrick Stewart in it.

[Thanks to rcade, Daniel Dern, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

235 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 11/4 The Pixellence Engine

  1. Just read this short story, Wooden Feathers by Ursula Vernon, that I think is worth a look for people’s short-story longlists.

    Wonderful story.

  2. There seems to be a very practical difficulty; if a man confines his socialising solely to women he knows then he will not get to know any women in the first place.

    In the case of these MRAs, that may be a boon to women.

    They should probably extend their caution to men, too, just to be safe.

  3. Kurt Busiek:

    They should probably extend their caution to men, too, just to be safe.

    LOL. Exactly.

  4. I liked “Wooden Feathers”. There were many feels. “So Much Cooking” is a deceptively cheerful, simple story with subtle yet good world-building and real human emotion.

    “House of Shattered Wings” is easily de Bodard’s worst work. The setting is nifty-keen, and there are cool turns of phrase, but the characters are meh and the plot is meh-er and the ending is meh-est. To the point that I read it last month and don’t remember the ending except that I was, to quote Nero Wolfe, “Pfui”. It is getting nowhere in the same county or state as my Hugo ballot. A big disappointment; I recommend Filers who are reading for the Hugos/Nebulas not bother. Pick it up next year, cheap.

    Hey, if the MRA’s are going to avoid being alone with women, that is a HUGE benefit for women. What a relief to not have those creeps collaring you and getting all assault-y.
    Us women get told from birth not to be alone with strange men, how’s it feel, boys? Now try staying in at night and STFU on the Internet. Or, maybe, stop projecting your own behavior onto your victims. But, please do quit being alone with women. It’ll be best for everyone.

    Stevie: once in the ER I was cared for by a male nurse, who in a romance would have been described as having “steel-gray hair and steel-blue eyes”, with a manly jaw, good muscles, and all that. My pain level went down about 50% when he walked in the room. Phwoar. And considering the visit was for, erm, lady problems, it was probably a good idea to give those bits something else to think about.

    Greg: Fur unqa’g rnearq vg? Nsgre gjb tb-ebhaqf jvgu gur fpnel znevbarggr “fba”, svavfuvat gur ubefr gnvy fb cresrpgyl, naq qbvat nyy gung juvyr orvat n ful crefba jub jnf fpnerq bhg bs ure jvgf? Fur qnza jryy rnearq vg!

    Guvf znl or n fgbel juvpu frrzf zber gehr gb jbzra, jub ner cerfhzrq gb or zrqvbper naq bsgra qbjacynl gurve gnyrag. Naq gb crbcyr jub’ir fhssrerq jevgre’f oybpx be gur rdhvinyrag va bgure neg sbezf.

    Bar srngure gung oevrsyl pbzrf gb yvsr vfa’g znfgrel. Vg’f gur svefg fgrc gb vg.

    But I’ve already got 8 stories in that category, so our dearest Crimson Marsupial may have to settle for a nomination from me in another one. I dunno, I’ll have to read all my long-list entries again just before ballots are due.

  5. @ Cassy B.
    re: Wooden Feathers

    You made me move a story off my longlist and add this one! Thank you, that’s a weirdly lovely story.

    And thank you, Ursula, for writing it.

  6. @lurkertype That’s what makes a horserace. 😉 Note, by the way, that we’re arguing over whether it was a 4-star or a 5-star story. EVERYONE enjoyed reading it, as far as I know. At least one of the people in the discussion admitted that she thinks it’s a 4-star story too–just for different reasons than I do. Regardless, it’s been a fun discussion. Hope to see more like that on File770!

  7. Greg

    Freely translated from the Bible, what profits a fan who has every book in the world if he has no-one to argue with about those books?

  8. FWIW, the progression of skill in the story makes sense to me; I’ve been stuck on plateaus for LONG stretches with only incremental rises, then the right circumstance and teacher came by and….

    I’m a ceramicist. I don’t carve wood, I carve clay. And throw pots. and carve them.

    I nearly failed my first term of ceramics – I took nearly a month of extra time in the studio after classes were done and exam time on just to get work enough worth saving. And I ended the year a solid C IIRC.

  9. Lenora Rose

    Yes; it’s remarkable how much your comments mirrors my experience. The day that another tutor was taking the class, was the day when I finally got up the courage, with her encouragement, to wack up the heat on my blowtorch, and there was that nice little clink in my mind that you get when you’ve done something right, and the even nicer clink of producing something better than all the things you have done so far…

  10. @ Lenora Rose and Stevie

    Another data point here from the world of ballet. A new image or a new teacher or (especially relevant for the moment in Ursula’s story– which I loved) actually having a teacher move arms/feet/fingers/whatever and *bam* a whole different level.

  11. @ Vasha @ Greg Hullender
    re: Cooking

    I agree with Vasha.

    I really liked this story and the character traits revealed by the plot and the way the story is structured, but…this is a well-written, interesting story that has the merest whiff of sfnal content, imo.

  12. Camestros Felapton : “1. ‘A Hedgehog in Brixton’ is a great title for something”

    I saw a hedgehog with a case of Carib in his hand
    Waddlin’ through Granville Arcade a bit after two
    He was lookin’ for the place called Fish, Wings & Tings
    Gonna fill himself up with worm curry stew

    Aaahoo! Hedgehogs of Brixton!
    Aaahoo! Hedgehogs of Brixton!

    Read more: Warren Zevon – Werewolves Of London Lyrics | MetroLyrics

  13. Since I appear to be insomniac once again, having been doing pretty well, over some weeks, I shall address the question of why a fictional female protagonist is enough to send some guys running and babbling hysterically.

    You can take the woman out of the sociology department pretty easily; but you can’t take the sociologist out of the woman; we notice things, because we are trained to notice things….

  14. @lurkertype: Re. de Bodard’s House, bummer – well, I own it and plan to read it, and it sounds like reviews are mixed, so hopefully I’ll enjoy it. 😉

    Would you recommend the “Obsidian and Blood” omnibus? I’ve had it bookmarked for a while, as it sounded very interesting. I’m focused on 2015 (and a little 2014) right now, but I’m curious if you’ve read/would you recommend it.

    It’s only … WTF, $403 used on Amazon.com? (shudder) $8ish 2012 ebook version available, whew.

  15. Feeling unable (due to anticipated spoilers) to de-ROT13 the comments about “Wooden Feathers” and “So Much Cooking” has pushed them to the top of my to-read queue(ueueue). Stories that have this many Filers this engaged are clearly worth prioritizing.

  16. Re: Honeypot nonsense

    In a way, this gives me a shred of hope for ESR. See, a slightly more paranoid twit would take the next step and realize that multiple people can lie. From that, surely he would realize that it’s not enough to avoid being alone with one woman. Indeed, it would be unsafe to be in a room with multiple non-MRAs, since they could all collaborate on a fictional account anyway. Clearly, logic dictates that MRAs should adopt a buddy system (bro system?) whenever they slither out into public spaces.

    Which, actually, I wouldn’t mind seeing. They’d be easier to spot and avoid that way. Gather the crazy into clumps, that’s what I say…

    ETA, @Lenora:

    I used to throw pots, but then the diner’s manager showed up and kicked me out. 😉

  17. I don’t think I should’ve read “Wooden Feathers.”

    Among other, more mainstream attractions, my hometown is known for its carousel. I know the man who organized the project, I know some of the students at his school who worked on the pieces, and I used to go to his house for Thanksgiving.

    That was before his wife died. I don’t see him much, not since then… and certain parts of the story hit a bit too close to the mark.

  18. RDF:

    “Aaahoo! Hedgehogs of Brixton!
    Aaahoo! Hedgehogs of Brixton!

    Horrible Howling Hedgehogs!

  19. Kendall: “Obsidian and Blood” was a swell bunch of stories. “House of…” was good and I don’t regret reading it, it was just not nearly as good as I was led to believe/expecting/should have been.

    Greg: I thought we were arguing over whether it was 4 star, 5 star, or Hugo?

    Rev. Bob: MRAs already seem to travel in bro packs. They’re much more comfortable that way. But to be absolutely safe, they shouldn’t be alone with men they don’t know either (they might be in on it too!), or mixed crowds. Just hang all the time with only trusted, pre-approved MRA bros.

    Of course, someone could infiltrate the bro pack to help set up the honeypot. The only way to be 100% safe is to stay in your house alone.

  20. Thanks, @lurkertype! Both for letting me know what you thought of O&B, and for the reassurances that House didn’t suck. 😉

  21. I’d feel a bit sorry for MGTOW MRA types, since the result they clearly want from their declarations of abandoning womankind forever is apologies and attempts to make them stay, and instead the response they get is “YES PLEASE. ANY TIME NOW. WHY HAVEN’T YOU GONE YET.” from women and “COULD YOU GO YOUR OWN WAY FROM US TOO PLEASE.” from men, but since they’re such nasty pieces of work trying to pull a toddler trick I can’t quite drum up more than an insincere “aww, poor you”.

  22. You are now about to witness the strength of hedge knowledge

    Straight outta Brixton
    Crazy motherfucker named Ice Quill
    From an array called Hedgehogs With Attitudes
    You don’t chill out, I get my quills out
    Squeeze my body, better get your pills out
    You too boy if you fuck with me
    Animal control gonna have to come and get me
    Off your ass, that’s how I’m going out
    For the punk motherfuckers that’s showing out

  23. Rev. Bob, ouch. I’m sorry, truly. I know how literature sometimes blindsides one, and not in the ways that one expects.

    Alas, there’s no such thing as “trigger warning for friends of widowed carousel builders”… <wry>

    (Reading that, that comes off as snarky. I don’t mean to be snarky, honestly. I really am sincere. I truly DO know what it’s like to have something jump out of a story and grab your guts and twist.)

  24. late to the ESR conversation, but anyway…

    I’ve been on a Child Protection course (I’m an athletics coach, it’s required), and one of the things they emphasise, absolutely, is that you should not be alone with a child, for your own protection, because sometimes false allegations are made and they are terribly destructive.
    But they also emphasise that coaches should not be alone with children, for the protection of the children – it’s drilled into you, not just so you don’t find yourself alone with a child, but so that you don’t allow situations to arise where someone else is left alone with a child. Don’t run a training session on your own, don’t let someone else run a training session on their own. Don’t leave the session until all kids have left, or there are at least two coaches left. Don’t have two male, or two female, coaches coaching a mixed group of kids. Lots of common sense rules, that you might overlook if you weren’t thinking.

    And that’s what is missing from the ESR thing. It would be fine to say, “don’t get into situations like this, because it can leave you open to false accusations”, if it were paired with “and don’t do things like this, or this, or this – because that is harassment“.

  25. Have been trying to avoid any discussion in rot13 because it is important to stay out of critical space, but jeez, Rev. Bob, I’m sorry. That’s an unfortunate coincidence.

  26. Just finished “Wooden Feathers.” By the time I got to the denouement, I was expecting [gur ehqql gb pbzr gb yvsr], but it still made me cry.

    Rev. Bob’s comment reminds me that there’s a lovely carousel up in Nederland CO* that I should take a closer look at.

    I was going to say that my typical reaction to the predictable MRA/PUA ultimatum of “Fine, then we’ll deprive you of our presence forever, ladies, and see how you like it” is “Yes, please,” but since it has been said so many times already, there’s no need.

  27. RedWombat on November 6, 2015 at 9:23 am said:
    Have been trying to avoid any discussion in rot13 because it is important to stay out of critical space, but jeez, Rev. Bob, I’m sorry. That’s an unfortunate coincidence.

    The world is so full of a number of things.
    I guess you won’t need to hear about my great aunt who was an antlered rabbit in her youth.

  28. The problem with encouraging the ESR/MRA nonsense, is that the actual message isn’t “don’t be alone with women”, it’s “Don’t let women into the sheltered male spaces of tech and STEM! If you do, they’ll destroy you!

    It’s basically starting that allowing women into these maker dominated fields is a threat, and in that way it’s purpose is very similar to the reports loudly trumpeting Home incursion by g minority of choice), or more recently, the “War on Cops editorials.

    Basically, when white men of a certain persuasion see their priviledges being eroded, that’s when the witch hunts and paranoid predictions start occurring.

  29. Rose Embolism on November 6, 2015 at 5:30 pm said:
    The problem with encouraging the ESR/MRA nonsense, is that the actual message isn’t “don’t be alone with women”, it’s “Don’t let women into the sheltered male spaces of tech and STEM! If you do, they’ll destroy you!

    It’s basically starting that allowing women into these maker dominated fields is a threat, and in that way it’s purpose is very similar to the reports loudly trumpeting Home incursion by g minority of choice), or more recently, the “War on Cops editorials.

    Basically, when white men of a certain persuasion see their priviledges being eroded, that’s when the witch hunts and paranoid predictions start occurring.

    Yeah, good point.
    This is basically like the British guy who was advocating for sex-segregated labs so the male researchers wouldn’t be distracted.

  30. Heartfelt thanks for the recs for Wooden Feathers which is imho! a breathstealingly PERFECT story that immediately went on my hugo noms list.

    Incredible, and heart-wrenching.

    When I was small and had a number of health problems that required us to drive 90 miles to Spokane for specialist treatments, there were two treats that helped through it all (treatments ranged from intrusive to painful). One was getting to go to a Real Bookstore and buy an Oz book. The other was a ride on the incredible carousel.

    I hadn’t thought of that carousel for years, but this story put me right back there, perched high on one of the glorious horses.

    I googled, and it’s still there, had a 100 year celebration, and here’s a picture of the artist’s family and one of the horses.

  31. Microtherion:

    Word to your mother, yo. And to the hedgie’s mother.

    I’ve always thought it wasn’t very far to go for the MGTOW, since most of them never got the ladies to begin with. Methinks they do protest too much, and are claiming the grapes are sour.

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