Pixel Scroll 11/8 Five If By Scroll

(1) Mari Ness tweeted from World Fantasy Con that when she was unable to get her wheelchair on the dais, her co-panelists moved their seats to the floor. Crystal Huff shared a photo of the scene —

(2) Galactic Journey, whose blogger is a time traveler living 55 years in the past, reports that Kennedy defeated Nixon in today’s U.S. presidential election.

And so the 1960 election ends with the country divided sharply, not just demographically, but physically.  Nixon swept the West and Appalachia.  Kennedy won the Northeast and South.  Yet, it is a testament to how far we’ve come since the election just a century ago that the losing half of the populace will not riot or secede.  In two months, they will give their respect and reverence (though perhaps with a modicum of grumbling) to the new President.

The burgeoning Space Race, decolonization, Communist expansionism, and desegregation are going to be the volatile issues of the 1960s.  Let’s all hope that President Kennedy, whether he’s in the White House for four or eight years, will be up to tackling them.

(3) Suggestions are pouring in about what image should replace Lovecraft on the World Fantasy Award. Kurt Busiek’s idea is one of the most peculiar expensive ambitious.

(4) “Warner Brothers Is Reportedly Negotiating With The BBC To Include ‘Doctor Who’ In ‘The LEGO Movie 2’” reports ScienceFiction.com.

Now comes word that ‘Doctor Who’ the ultra successful BBC sci fi series, may crossover into the cinematic sequel to ‘The LEGO Movie’!  Director Rob Schrab appeared on the Harmontown Podcast and teased that Warner Brothers was in negotiations with the BBC to work The Doctor into the highly anticipated sequel, which sadly won’t be out until 2018.  (‘The LEGO Batman Movie’ will arrive first, in 2017.

(5) I missed a golden opportunity to follow yesterday’s Marcus Aurelius reference with this tweet by Paul Weimer, who is touring Italy this week.

(6) Does Brad R. Torgersen need to “get” Marcus Aurelius references? I don’t know whether he does or not, and if he still gets paid, does it matter? I pondered this question while reading Torgersen’s take on the recent topic of science fiction classics in “Classics: A Third Way” at Mad Genius Club. And don’t assume I’m hostile to his points – while I’ve read lots of classic sf, I haven’t read most Burroughs or A. Merritt, etc. Their devotees are probably as disappointed as Le Guin readers will be about Torgersen’s lack of interest in her work.

I have occasionally seen good-hearted appeals to community. “Let’s patch this crazy field back together again!”

But a community requires common touchstones, and at least some degree of shared values. It ought to now be obvious (in the year 2015) that there are no more shared touchstones, nor any single set of shared values spanning the total spectrum of fans and professionals. There are simply disparate circles of interest, some overlapping with others, but none overlapping with all. They each have their own touchstones, and they each esteem different things.…

Thus, the third way acknowledges the men and women who built the field, without saddling new fans and authors with the unpleasant chore of having to push up-hill through thousands of books and thousands of stories, all the while never even catching up to what’s current.

Like any culture argument, this one won’t ever be settled. Nor am I trying to have a last word. I am merely thinking about my own experience — as someone who came in very “late” and who can’t mass-consume every single piece of the field, dating back to the 1920s or beyond, much less everything generated in 2015 alone. It’s too much.

But with some curiosity and a little research, I was able to make myself aware of the field’s major literary players. At least up through 1994. New players have since emerged. Some of them probably are (*ahem*) for lack of a better term, overhyped. But many are not. I think Andy Weir’s book is liable to go down as having been a very significant landmark in the SF/F of the new century — just like Hugh Howey’s Wool universe, and of course J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Past a certain point, audience penetration becomes self-sustaining and self-expanding. “Viral” is the term most people under thirty would use today.

Knowing the new landmarks, as well as the old, is (in my opinion) a happy chore that shouldn’t consume a lot of time. Just pay attention to what’s going on. Read the things that look genuinely interesting to you. And don’t feel bad if you can’t get to everything. Nobody can. Nobody has, for many decades. And nobody will. Let it not be your fault, as long as you’ve seen the forest for the trees.

(7) Jeff VanderMeer said on Facebook:

People on twitter seem upset/incensed/incredulous that I voluntarily smelled rotted whale mixed with the mud it rotted in. In a bottle. Like, if I’d had no choice, no problem. But that I actually said to the incredulous biodiversity museum volunteer, “Yeah, uncork that and give me a whiff,” somehow makes me dubious. Well, I’m a fiction writer. I’d smell a bear’s ass if it gave me a sensory advantage I needed in a story.

(8) I have never sniffed rotted whale and I’ve never played Fallout, however, I’m not so opposed to doing the latter after enjoying Adam Whitehead’s “Fallout Franchise Familiariser” at The Wertzone.

On Tuesday, Bethesda Softworks will release the computer roleplaying game Fallout 4. The previous games in the series have sold tens of millions of copies, and Fallout 4 will likely be battling with Star Wars: Battlefront and Call of Duty: Black Ops III for the title of biggest-selling game of the year. A lot of people are going to be talking about it, but what if you have no idea what the hell the thing is about? Time for a Franchise Familiariser course.

(9) Mari Ness also sent a wistfully humorous tweet from WFC:

(10) Let everyone on the road know where you stand with the Godzilla Attack Family Car Sticker Set

Godzilla Attack Family Car Sticker

No more boring stick figures! With these customizable stickers, show off your love for fun and imagination. All sets start with a large, Godzilla decal, over 6.5 inches in height. Being chased by Godzilla, is a family. The default family is a Dad, Mom, Girl and Boy. In total, the set comes with a Large Godzilla chasing a family of 4, made up of a dad, mom, girl and boy stick figure.

The same business will also sell you the Family of Silly Walks car sticker, a Doctor Who-themed family car sticker, the Cthulhu Family car sticker, and others…

(11) Today In History

  • November 8, 1895William Conrad Röntgen discovers x-rays; Superman was given one of this abilities beyond those of mortal men, and 50s sci-fi movies were never the same…. (How is it you know what I mean, when this sentence makes no grammatical sense?)

(12) Today’s Birthday Boys

  • November 8, 1836Milton Bradley began to amass his fortune by selling The Checkered Game of Life only after suffering a business setback —

When he printed and sold an image of the little-known Republican presidential nominee Abraham Lincoln, Bradley initially met with great success. But a customer demanded his money back because the picture was not an accurate representation—Lincoln had decided to grow his distinctive beard after Bradley’s print was published. Suddenly, the prints were worthless, and Bradley burned those remaining in his possession…

His drama reviews brought him to the attention of Sir Henry Irving (1838-1905), a tall, dark and well-regarded actor of the Victorian era who was said to have served as an influence for Stoker’s Count Dracula. Stoker eventually became Irving’s manager and also worked as a manager for the Lyceum Theater in London. He published several horror novels in the 1890s before the debut of his most famous work, “Dracula,” in 1897.

  • November 8, 1932 – Ben Bova

(13) Today’s Internet Winner

The advertisement that quoted John is here….

(14) A recent art exhibition in Turin was inspired by Theodore Sturgeon’s “The Dreaming Jewels” — “So Much More Than the Sum of Its Tropes” at Norma Mangione Gallery, Turin. The exhibition title even references a Jo Walton review of Sturgeon.

The exhibition in which the works act as “figurative places” of the scenes from Sturgeon’s book, asks the spectator to move around inside the space in the way in which you move in a narrative text, with the suspension of disbelief typical of fiction and the analytic and personal participation that characterizes the fruition of art: painting after painting, sculpture after sculpture, intervention after intervention. All the way to the point of imitating the act of immersive reading in the trans human movement inside the gallery.

Curated by Gianluigi Ricuperati with the collaboration of Elisa Troiano. Works by Antonia Carrara, Raphael Danke, Fabian Marti, Nucleo, Elisa Sighicelli, Michael E. Smith.

The exhibition closed October 28.

[Thanks to Matthew Davis, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

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276 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 11/8 Five If By Scroll

  1. lurkertype on November 10, 2015 at 11:04 am said:

    (They were grumbling about the graying of fandom even then, on that night when 19 year old Kevin and 22 year old Lurkertype were there, at the most-attended Worldcon to that date and maybe still.)

    Yep, which is why I now understand the eye-rolling when I complained about it from people who were my current age back when I was in my twenties. And that there’s no telling the younger fans that their arguments were old before I was young; the only way they’ll learn this one is to grow older themselves.

    L.A.con II is still the Worldcon with the biggest attendance, although not the largest total membership (which is now Sasquan, breaking the record Loncon 3 set the previous year).


  2. NickPheas on November 10, 2015 at 6:19 am said:
    I said he “presumably knows what he’s doing” as a writer, since he’s had considerable success.

    Chaplain’s War: Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,124 in Books
    A Wizard of Earthsea: Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,347 in Books

    Yes, I realise that’s not an entirely fair comparison, but still.

    Since the at least three copies of A Wizard of Earthsea that are kicking around the house – mine, his, the kid’s – were all of them bought before the advent of Amazon, there’s some reason to slant-eye the numbers a bit.
    (And that’s not counting copies bought as gifts.)
    A Wizard of Earthsea came out in 1968, versus Chaplain’s War in 2014.
    Here’s to wondering about Chaplain’s War’s ranking in, what, 47 years?

  3. My copies of “Wizard of Earthsea” were a boxed set from the 70’s, from one of those mall bookstores that went under years ago. It’s still selling.

    I checked LeGuin’s most recent novel, “Lavinia” (2009), which isn’t technically SF. It’s at #60,060 in Books, #198 in Alt Hist, #228 in Historical Biographical, and #258 in Biographical. I thought it was the best thing she’d written in years. I got it from the library and then bought my own hardback. She claims it will be her last novel 🙁 but if so, it’s a good one to end on.

  4. How is Lavinia not fantasy? It may not have magic spells, but it does have time travel, and after all Aeneas is no more historical than King Arthur, maybe less so.

  5. @Daniel Dern: Heh, my other half discovered the Miss Misher TV series first, then went on to the books. 🙂 BTW I love that IMDB summary. If I ever try mysteries, I’ll probably try the books based partially on descriptions like that. 😉

    I’ve only read a handful of real mysteries in my time (including the fantasy mystery “Lord Darcy” stories, by Randall Garrett). No doubt some of my other F/SF reading here and there are technically mysteries.

  6. Lurkertype: My copies of “Wizard of Earthsea” were a boxed set from the 70’s, from one of those mall bookstores that went under years ago. It’s still selling.

    Mine too!

  7. Considering Torgersen’s opinion of academics and critics I’m surprised he went for The Dispossessed as his first Le Guin. A Wizard of Earthsea would have been much more accessible. Perhaps he just really likes ansibles?

  8. Wizard of Earthsea was retranslated to swedish just a few years ago and got a major write up from the prominent newspapers. I bought a copy to lend to friends that hadn’t read it at that time and they thought it was fantastic.

    So it is as popular as ever. Throw yourself into a wall, Brad.

  9. @ Mark

    Ok, it’ll get 3 noms. 🙂

    I’d like to have a longer novella list, but am happy with the ones I do have. Will keep reading.

  10. Meredith: Or maybe because The Dispossessed won a Prometheus Hall of Fame award, so BT thought that he OUGHT to like it. Alas, it turned out to be just anarchist/libertarian message fiction!

    Teaching The Dispossessed in my Philosophy and Culture course (unit on utopian communities) starting next week.

  11. @ rob_matic
    “I was reading Le Guin when I was a teenager growing up on a hillfarm in the North of England, but perhaps I was enjoying my reading incorrectly.”

    And I read Le Guin as a teen in the house of my father, the welder, completely blue collar with grease under his nails who loved to read and learn and respected education. Blurg! I really hate these “I was born a poor…” credential wars to establish that you’re qualified to be an anti-intellectual snob. (Not you, rob, talking specifically about Brad, and in general about too many of my fellow Americans.)

  12. junego: I really hate these “I was born a poor…” credential wars to establish that you’re qualified to be an anti-intellectual snob.

    I would suspect that there are a fair number of blue-collar workers who are quite intelligent and educated and find Brad’s comments insulting — since the implication of his comments is clearly that blue-collar workers cannot possibly be intelligent and educated.

  13. Considering Torgersen’s opinion of academics and critics I’m surprised he went for The Dispossessed as his first Le Guin. A Wizard of Earthsea would have been much more accessible. Perhaps he just really likes ansibles?

    I suspect he chose it precisely because he was likely to bounce off it. It was one of her books whose theme was most likely to be offputting to him from the start, and so least likely to draw him in. IMO, what he was after was to be able to truthfully say (by his own lights) that he had given Le Guin a fair try by reading one of her best novels, and in his humble opinion She Ain’t All That.

    To me it seems that that end was far more desirable to him than the possibility that a writer whose well-known trends of thought he’d reflexively dislike and distrust might actually enthrall him and risk changing his mind about something.

  14. Jayn,

    I think your surmise is a little too sinister to be true.

    Given BTs use of his Big Book of SF, he probably looked at the Big 3 (Wizard, Darkness, Dispossessed) and chose the later, probably more mature work. It’s a bad choice because it is a dryer read that is harder to get into, especially for a genre newb like Brad would have been at the time.

  15. @Tintinaus

    I think your surmise is a little too sinister to be true.

    I have a sinister mind, how lovely…well, perhaps you’re right. I certainly am not privy to Brad’s thoughts, and I’m only making guesses based on his publicly expressed dislikes.

    I certainly didn’t mean that Brad did it consciously. I think it was an unconscious decision on his part. If you have a set of beliefs you see as universal axioms and you get really uncomfortable when someone rudely goes around sowing seeds of doubt among them, IMO you may tend to choose new information that would confirm your prejudices rather than contradict them. Given Le Guin’s longstanding reputation as a feminist doubter of almighty capitalism and the old stereotype of Manly Manhood, I’d say it’s likely Brad was primed to dislike her work
    before he actually read a word of it.

    But even if he was absolutely uninformed about Le Guin’s reputation before deciding which of her works to try, if we look at the The Mammoth Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (which I think was the one he used), we see that the entry for Le Guin are besprinkled with words like “literary” and “intellectual” right off the bat, guaranteed to get an automatic wince from Brad.


    The description of The Left Hand of Darkness’ message that love overrides GENDER (in all-caps, even) is also unlikely to meet with his approval. Feminism is also mentioned. I’d say a man with Brad’s views is all the more likely to consider Le Guin as a representative of everything that’s wrong with SF after reading that entry (even without reading her SF).

    So when he came to the choice of which of her works to read…Well, reading the page more closely, I see even the compiler(s) didn’t seem to think that much of The Dispossessed. They called TLHoD the most famous of her novels; they called The Lathe of Heaven her best. They gave a scrupulous brief description of The Dispossessed, noted that like TLHoD it had won the Hugo and Nebula awards, and left it at that. So the Encyclopedia did not especially recommend The Dispossessed over others. And when I see that Brad read that description:

    “Its hero finds he is not comfortable in his own anarchist society, so he journeys to a neighboring capitalist world in an attempt to find a supportive environment in which he can work on his new device….However, he finds that the culture of this new world is more alienating than that he left behind.”

    …and decided that THAT is the book he’s going to read, instead of the one the encyclopedia calls the most famous, or the best – I can’t help thinking that an archconservative like him didn’t choose that particular book because he thought he might like it. I think it’s more likely that he chose a book which for him labors under the handicap of a message he thoroughly disagrees with, the more easily to dislike and dismiss it (unconsciously, I think).

    I mean, if he actually chose the book that the Encyclopedia calls “the best” (Lathe of Heaven) which bears in its description no buzzwords likely to raise Brad’s hackles, he might actually LIKE the book…and then he’d have to admit the possibility that even a writer he thoroughly disagrees with on political grounds could write a damned good book despite her SJW sentiments. IMO, Brad’s id just can’t have that….

  16. @ jayn: So you know how pupskunks keep telling people why they read the things they read, and why they like them? I hate that, don’t you?

  17. Jayn,

    Ha! I hadn’t checked what Brad’s Tome of SF Wisdom said, so was just hypothesising based on my own reading and trying to keep my thoughts as nice as I could(I often contort my “what ifs” so as to see the best in people).

    Oh well, I don’t suppose we will ever know the truth seeing as Brad is notoriously bad at explaining himself, if he would even care to.

  18. @Susana

    Was I being offensive? I didn’t mean to be. Sorry.

    I don’t mean to say that Brad can’t possibly dislike The Dispossessed simply because he thought it was boring – that he MUST be saying he disliked it for political reasons. I totally believe he’s speaking the absolute truth when he says it put him to sleep. To be honest, I don’t particularly like that novel myself, and prefer many other novels of Le Guin to that one.

    I’m not at all bothered by Brad disliking that particular novel as boring. What really bugged me (as I’ve expounded at length earlier in this thread) is that he decided on the strength of having read that ONE novel that he is capable of reading Le Guin’s literary future, and that in his view her entire body of work is likely to be remembered only by “academics” (that stuffy group of literary snobs he and Larry and the rest revile). THAT is the judgement that seems to me to be based on politics, not on any knowledge of the actual sum of her work. And THAT is what makes me nutty (for which I apologize; as I said before, my love of Le Guin makes me somewhat irrational on the subject).

    So, yeah, I was pissed off at Brad for his summary dismissal of Le Guin’s entire body of work (almost completely unread), and so I probably paid more attention to it than I should have – including looking at the Encyclopedia Brad said he used to make his choices – which says that The Dispossessed’s protagonist finds capitalism alienating (and thus makes it seem like an odd choice for Brad to make to judge her entire work by, considering it’s a worldview he has already declared his hostility to).

    I realize I’m probably too annoyed with Brad to be urbane, so again, I apologize for rattling on too long about it.

  19. @ jayn:
    I’m right there with you in loving Le Guin and in being (possibly irrationally) bothered by BTs little “academics” dig. Except I like The Dispossessed more than you seem to (I love it to bits). It’s not just that he hasn’t read enough to make big pronouncements, it’s the sneering at academics, too. Rattle on, I say.

    I just get a little uncomfortable when we (I do it, too) start ascribing motivations without evidence )for all I know, it was the one book at the library or the Goodwill that week). It feels like they’ve gotten us to use their tactics. I may be overly stretching the resemblance, I dunno.

    Do you have a favorite Le Guin? Not that I can really choose just one, myself.

  20. @ JJ
    “I would suspect that there are a fair number of blue-collar workers who are quite intelligent and educated and find Brad’s comments insulting — since the implication of his comments is clearly that blue-collar workers cannot possibly be intelligent and educated.”

    Brad is playing on the well-known streak of American anti-intellectualism in an attempt to garner cheap support. Sadly, he does get some audience because of it. But it *is* insulting to propose that the work you do limits your ability to understand and appreciate certain stories. There are plenty of people with college education* and white-collar jobs who are complete intellectual noobs!

    * Not to say that blue-collar work means someone hasn’t gone to college or white-collar means someone has.

  21. Do you have a favorite Le Guin? Not that I can really choose just one, myself.

    Choice is indeed a problem. Among novels, I waver between The Left Hand of Darkness and Lathe of Heaven, which has the sentimental edge because the first time I became aware of Le Guin was through the 1980 PBS version when I was 14 or so. I was raised on Star Wars and Star Trek and loved them – and that no-budget TV movie made me say, “This. This,” and dash off to get the novel, which of course was even better. Even beyond sentimentality, an argument can be made for it, I think. It is slighter than LHoD, it is less ambitious – but it is a perfect thing of its kind.

    I adore the collections The Wind’s Twelve Quarters and The Compass Rose. I love that they can go from the tragic perfection of “Omelas” to the sharp comedy of “Intracom” (Star Trek fanfic! Of a sort!), and the dystopia of “The Winter Rose” and the philosophy of “The Field of Vision”, and the fairy tale of “Darkness Box.” I read the prose poem “The First Report of the Shipwrecked Foreigner to the Kadanh of Derb” aloud to my mother to prove why it was absolutely necessary to go to Venice…you get the picture.

  22. Jayn,

    No you weren’t being rude.

    I must admit when I read Brad’s piece there were three places I found myself having problems with and his dislike of Le Guin* was one. But I stopped and decided I was forcing my values on him which is wrong, so he got a pass there from me despite my mind boggling how anyone could write those words.

    *quite often it is the first book you read of an author that becomes you fav and the first three Earthsea books are mine

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