Pixel Scroll 1/19/17 She’s Got Electric Trolls, A Pixel Scroll

(1) READING ROPEMAKER IRONMONGER. At Young People Read Old SFF, James Davis Nicoll has turned the panel loose on Cordwainer Smith’s “The Ballad of Lost C’Mell”

Smith’s best known work is set several thousand years in the future, when humans have colonized the galaxy under the benevolent or at least firm hand of the Instrumentality. For humans, it’s a utopia. For the artificial Underpeople, created to serve humans and without any rights at all, it is not. “The Ballad of Lost C’Mell” was deemed worthy of inclusion in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two, which honored noteworthy stories denied a shot at the Nebula Award because they predated that award. How does it stand up in the eyes of my young readers?

Here’s your first clue – I say, “Fire the panelists!”

(2) WRITING BUSINESS. Kristine Kathryn Rusch analyzes the summary business reports for 2016 and extracts the nuggets for indie writers. This is just one of many —

Readers still go to bookstores, yes, and some readers will go to the brick-and-mortar store first. But most readers go online first, even if they choose not to order the book there.

There’s an interesting piece from The International Council of Shopping Centers (which I found through the Marketing Land article). On January 3, the International Council of Shopping Centers released the results of a survey conducted after the holiday season ended. The survey had a relatively small sample size (1030 adults) , but the findings seemed to be backed up by the other data that’s coming in.

The survey found that 70% of the shoppers surveyed preferred shopping at a place with an online and a physical presence. That number was even higher for Millennials—81%. Part of the reason was the ability to compare prices, but some of it was—again—convenience. Since most shoppers waited until the last minute in 2016 to shop, they ended up looking online to see if what they wanted was at a store, and then they went to the store to pick it up.

Sixty-one percent of the people who went to the store to pick up the item they purchased online bought something else at that store (75% of Millennials.) Why am I harping on Millennials? Because they are the future of the next decade or so of retailing.

(And, like it or not, writers, you’re in the retailing business when it comes to getting your books in the hands of consumers.)

This, my friends, is why Amazon is opening brick-and-mortar bookstores. Because they’re seeing similar statistics, and they understand, perhaps better than any of us, that the consumer wants a blended experience.

(3) GAINING FAME. Matthew Kressel of Fantastic Fiction at KGB reveals “How to Run a (Successful) Reading Series” at Tor.com.

Give the Authors Something for Their Time

Let’s face it, even though the author is getting lots of free promotion by reading at your series, they still have to make the effort to travel to your city, book a hotel, and get to the event on the day itself. The absolute least you can do is give them something for their time. (Simply “allowing” them to read for you is not enough). Give them a stipend/honorarium. Buy them drinks and/or dinner. Give your guests something to show them that you appreciate their time and effort.

Promote the S**t Out Of Your Events

It goes without saying that in today’s glut of media, you have to rise above the noise to be heard, especially if you’re just starting out. Establish a social media presence. Make a website. Tweet, Facebook, Tumblr, and G+ the s**t out of your readings. Create an email list. Make a Facebook event. Ask the bar/venue to put it up on their website. Leave no promotional stone unturned. It will be really hard for people to come to your reading if they don’t know about it.

(4) HEAD FOR THE BORDERLANDS. Two signings coming up at Borderlands Books in San Francisco:

  • Laura Anne Gilman, THE COLD EYE (Hardcover, Saga Press, $27.99) on Sunday, January 22nd at 3:00pm
  • Ellen Klages, PASSING STRANGE (Trade Paperback, Tor.com, $14.99) on Saturday, January 28th at 3:00pm

(5) LITERARY HISTORY. You can bid on eBay for a copy of the issue of Mademoiselle containing Ray Bradbury’s first mainstream publication. And the story gets even better —

I believe that this will be one of the rarest and coolest Ray Bradbury collectibles you will see on ebay this year. In 1946, a year before the publication of Bradbury’s first book, Ray was just starting to break out of publishing only in the pulps and weird fantasy magazines and gain some traction with more highly respected mainstream publications. He submitted his classic story Homecoming to Mademoiselle magazine but it sat in their offices for months without being read. Truman Capote, then working at the magazine as an editorial apprentice, came across the story, loved it, and passed it along to his editor. This was not a typical story for Mademoiselle. So, amazingly enough, Bradbury found himself working closely with the magazine’s staff as the story became the centerpiece for a supernatural Halloween themed issue. Even the fashion spreads reflect the ghoulish theme. It is slightly bizarre. The story is accompanied with a double page Charles Addams illustration, the same picture that is ultimately used as the Cover of From The Dust Returned. Although the image there was flipped to accommodate the book jacket, so the picture in the magazine is as the artist originally intended….

So why do you almost never see one of these come up for sale? Keep in mind that this came out the year before Ray’s first book was published. Even if you were an avid Bradbury fan (and at this time there were few of them) and were on the lookout for Ray stories you are not going to look at Mademoiselle magazine, especially since Ray’s name is not on the cover. And who is going to hold onto this for 70 years? At 325 pages it is a tome. Women do not generally collect things like this, so most of these were probably discarded early on. These magazines are almost the definition of disposable. Try to find this anywhere at any price.

(6) THOSE WEREN’T THE DAYS MY FRIEND. The Traveler at Galactic Journey warns against reading the February 1962 Analog – advice most of you should find easy to follow: “[January 19, 1962] Killing the Messenger (February 1962 Analog)”

The problem is Analog’s editor, Mr. John W. Campbell.  Once a luminary in the field, really hatching an entire genre back in the late 30’s, Campbell has degenerated into the crankiest of cranks.  And since he offers 3 cents a word for folks to stroke his ego, he necessarily gets a steady stream of bespoke stories guaranteed to be published.

Want to know the secret to getting printed in Analog?  Just include psi powers and a healthy dose of anti-establishment pseudo-scientific contrarianism, and you’re in like Flynn.

Case in point: this issue’s lead story, The Great Gray Plague, by Raymond F. Jones.  Never have I seen such a cast of straw men this side of a cornfield.  The setup is that the snooty head of a government agency that oversees science grants refuses to consider the bucolic Clearwater College as a candidate because they rank so low on the “Index.”  Said “Index” comprises a set of qualifications, some reasonable like the ratio of doctorates to students and published papers per year, to the ridiculous like ratio of tuxedoes to sport coats owned by the faculty and the genetic pedigree of the staff.  Thus, the “Index” serves as a sort of Poll Tax for institutions, making sure only the right kind remain moneyed.  The Dean of Clearwater makes an impassioned argument to the government employee that such a narrow protocol means thousands of worthy scientists and their inventions get snubbed every year in favor of established science.


  • January 19, 1990 — Natives of a small isolated town defend themselves against strange underground creatures in Tremors, seen for the first time on this date. The official scientific name of the Graboid worm is “Caederus mexicana“.
  • January 19, 1996  — Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez team up for From Dusk Till Dawn.


(9) GREAT NEWS ABOUT GOOD OMENS. Coming to Amazon Video, SciFiNow reports “Good Omens TV series confirmed, Neil Gaiman will write every episode”.

It was confirmed last year that Neil Gaiman was working on a TV adaptation of his and the late Sir Terry Pratchett’s classic novel Good Omens, and now there’s some big news to get excited about.

Variety reports that Amazon has greenlit a six-episode series, and that Gaiman himself has written every script and will serve as showrunner.

So, that’s pretty brilliant.

Because of the tragic logistics of how long things actually take to get made, we won’t see Good Omens until 2018, but this is truly wonderful news.

Good Omens will be a co-production with the BBC and Rhianna Pratchett’s production company Narrativia, and it will air on the BBC after launching on Amazon Video.

This adaptation will be “set in 2018 on the brink of an apocalypse as humanity prepares for a final judgment. But follies ensue — Aziraphale, a somewhat fussy angel, and Crowley, a demon aren’t enthusiastic about the end of the world, and can’t seem to find the Antichrist.”

(10) PATROLLING THE BEAT. Hey there, what’s that sound, everybody look what’s going down: “So Long, Mall Cop! Enter Silicon Valley Start-Up’s Robot Guards”.

The mall cop is going to have some company. Silicon Valley start-up Knightscope believes its security robots can help take a bite out of the crime that costs the American economy $1 trillion every year. Knightscope CEO William Santana Li says his robots are already on duty in several key California locations including the Sacramento Kings arena, the Microsoft campus and Westfield Valley Fair in San Jose. The robots are designed to detect and report anomalies, which help existing human security personnel perform better and stay safer.

Francis Hamit comments: “This will actually make human security officers more effective since it will increase their range. They have several accounts now in California and are raising additional funds through a Regulation A+ offering on their website. I bought some shares myself Yeah, it still looks like a Dalek. but they are not weaponized. They come in peace…”

(11) NO, I WON’T JUST SIT BACK AND ENJOY IT. Kate Paulk repeats a favorite talking point in “Making History is Messier than you Thought” at Mad Genius Club.

The forces that have dominated civil (or uncivil) discourse of late are in the process of losing what was once a near-absolute grip on public expression, and they don’t like it. This is showing up in the Big 5 versus Amazon rolling arguments, the repeated attempts to delegitimize and other all things Indie, the Sad Puppies campaigns (and yes, the Rabids as well. Had the reaction to Sad Puppies 2 been less vitriolic, the whole thing would have likely faded off and been forgotten by now. Instead, well… Take note, folks. If you don’t like something, the best way to deal with it is to politely ignore it and let it rise or fall on its own merits. If it really is as bad as you think, it will sink. Of course, if there’s manipulation behind the scenes that’s a whole nother argument).

(12) ANIMATED LOVECRAFT. “Mark Hamill, Christopher Plummer Lead Voice Cast of ‘Lovecraft’ Feature”Deadline has the story.

Mark Hamill, the beloved Star Wars actor, is taking a little time out to voice an animated Lovecraft feature. He, along with Jeffrey Combs (Transformers Prime), Christopher Plumme and Doug Bradley (Hellraiser) have been set for the voice cast in the upcoming animated feature Howard Lovecraft and the Undersea Kingdom from Shout! Factory and Arcana Studios. Written, directed and produced by Sean Patrick O’Reilly, the film is the adaption of Bruce Brown and Dwight L. MacPherson’s bestselling graphic novel of the same name, and marks the second installment of Howard Lovecraft animated film series.

(13) THE PLOTS HATCH. Tor.com’s Natalie Zutter, in “Disney All But Confirms Shared-Universe Fan Theories With Pixar Easter Eggs Video”, explains why you should watch it.

That is, by going super granular—freeze-framing and then panning over to a background character (or image) that you may not have noticed on first viewing, then jumping over to the movie it references. From Inside Out‘s Riley peering into the aquarium in Finding Dory to the shadow of Up‘s Dug chasing Remy in Ratatouille two years before the former came out… or even Skinner’s bright red moped showing up in the scrap pile in WALL-E… this is an Easter egg video to the nth degree.


[Thanks to JJ, Francis Hamit, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

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117 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 1/19/17 She’s Got Electric Trolls, A Pixel Scroll

  1. @ Mikayla
    Welcome! I can’t wait to hear your responses to Russ and Tiptree. Thanks for taking part in the group.

  2. @Kevin Harkness: Regarding the sexism, etc. of the stories (which exists as much as it does in Burroughs, Heinlein, and Wells, etc.) That covers a lot of ground — and is a matter of opinion. Burroughs and Wells were 1-2 generations before Smith; when they grew up, women in their native countries weren’t even allowed to vote. RAH at least had competent women, even if some of them dissolved into baby talk when dealing with men; Smith made a couple of women lords of the Instrumentality, but seems to me to have had trouble conceiving of an everyday woman being able to manage her own affairs — and the bit when C’Mell pities a woman who could be happy if only she learned how to do makeup and dress gets more and more repulsive each year. (cf the Woman pill in “The Fourth Profession”, although Niven tears that down in the ending).

  3. @Mikayla

    Thanks, all really good stories IMO. I wouldn’t count any of them as a personal favorite of my own but I’ve read and enjoyed them all, and I particularly like Rachel K Jones’ work.
    TBH it does suggest that none of the YPRSF stories you’ve been handed really suit your tastes anyway. Hopefully the 70s will serve up something more to your liking.

  4. @ Kevin: You’re missing the point. The argument is not that older writers should conform to modern standards, but that modern readers — especially younger readers who have been exposed to better examples — should not be expected not to be put off by period racism and sexism in the name of “they were of their time”.

    ETA: Also, it’s possible to enjoy something while still acknowledging its flaws — but IME my ability to do so has a shorter limit as time goes on and I become more accustomed to reading stories which acknowledge people like me as genuine people. (Not to mention living in a society which is also moving in that direction.) Eventually the flaws outweigh the virtues, even with the rose-colored glow of nostalgia to reinforce the latter.

    @ Mikayla: Welcome! I’ve enjoyed reading your responses to date, and look forward to seeing more of them.

  5. @ Doctor Science –

    I always thought that Stranger In A Strange Land was inspired by Scientology. In my mind, Heinlein said “what if Scientology actually worked?” and then embroidered it from there with his own elements (Martians, free love, religion, and so on).

  6. @ Lee: not missing the point so much as exploring it. I accept that time changes judgement on such things. I sometimes wonder what they will say a hundred years from now about Gaiman, Murakami, and Le Guin. I look at my own books and shudder, but then I remember I’ll be safely dead and relax. I was curious to see how prophetic SFF could be in the social realm.

  7. I’m not sure of a Krishna link but my recollection is Heinlein was aiming at a satire of sex and religion using the child raised outside society trope to provide an unbiased set of narrative eyes. Primary influences I remember him citing were The Jungle Book and James Branch Cabell.

  8. I remember getting a kind of Vonnegut vibe from Stranger in a Strange Land. Not coincidentally, I was into Vonnegut at the time, but still, things like the treatment of Heaven (if I’m recalling correctly) reminded me of “Happy Birthday, Wanda June.” It’s been long enough that I don’t recall what, if anything, else resonated that way.

  9. @Doctor Science

    I think I gave a mis-impression. That’s mostly third hand from a couple essays I’ve read regarding Stranger though I can’t recall the source. For a primary though I’m pretty sure Heinlein himself mentions both regarding Stranger in Grumbles From The Grave. I’ll check tonight.

  10. @eli

    It’s just arguably not too useful in the particular generational argument that people seem to want to have.

    I disagree, because in the absence of anybody else doing this experiment (which I heratily encourage people to do), James has supplied the only empirical evidence. w That’s definitive compared to the usual “In my experience” (digresses into 10 paragraphs of their seminal reading experience). Honestly, when making arguments about what later generations would like, given exposure, what we liked back in the era of dinosaur powered computers doesn’t carry much water.

    Which, @Mikayla, is my long – winded digression from saying that I really appreciate the work you and your fellow readers have done, and I’ve been enjoying reading the series.

    Now let’s talk about how Moffat is just the worst ever.

  11. Rob Thornton: I always thought that Stranger In A Strange Land was inspired by Scientology. In my mind, Heinlein said “what if Scientology actually worked?” and then embroidered it from there with his own elements (Martians, free love, religion, and so on).

    In fact, it’s the opposite, from what I was told. On Dead Dog afternoon at a Worldcon not too long ago, I and my book staked out a table at the con hotel bar. Eventually all the tables and barstools got pretty much full, and an elderly gentlemen came in, looked around, and asked if he could sit at my table. “Of course!” I said. He sat down and introduced himself: he was Art Widner, and I started asking him about himself. He was in his 90s and a member of First Fandom, and was quite interesting. Pretty soon a Big Name Author (still alive, so I’m not telling) popped into the bar and sat down with us. Then a couple more BNAs (also still living) showed up and sat down. They proceeded to reminisce and tell stories.

    These are men who knew Heinlein. One of them went on to tell how Heinlein had once told him that L. Ron Hubbard had admitted to Heinlein that Scientology was a total joke, and that Elron thought it was absolutely hilarious that he had suckered all these gullibles into worshipping him and a fake religion, and into giving him all their money — and also that he had gotten the idea for one of the religious precepts being the male leader getting to have conjugal relations with all the young women in the group from one of Heinlein’s stories.

    Scientology was started in 1954. Stranger in a Strange Land was published in 1961 — but Heinlein had started writing it in 1948. So I don’t know if Elron had gotten to read part of the manuscript, or whether he and Heinlein had discussions about it, but the story is that Elron got some of his inspiration from Heinlein.

  12. @ JJ

    That is very interesting. It sounds possible that Valentine Michael Smith was the model for Scientology’s Operating Thetan (able to control “Matter, Energy, Space, Time”).

  13. @Doctor Science

    From Grumbles:

    According to an editor’s note from Ginny Heinlein, while RAH was brainstorming the short story Gulf with her –

    “Eventually I suggested that it might be possible to do something like the Mowgli story – a human is raised by a foreign race, kept apart from humans until he reached majority”…

    “Then Robert disappeared into his study and wrote eighteen pages, single spaced, of notes on ideas which the Mowgli suggestion had started rolling in his brain. He worked on those pages the whole night, and came out with a batch of papers titled The Man from Mars.”

    The Cabell link is more tenuous. In a letter to his agent regarding editorial changes requested by Putnam, RAH stated –

    “This story is Cabellesque satire on religion and sex, it is not science fiction by any stretch of the imagination. If I cut out religion and sex, I am very much afraid that I will end with a nonalcohic martini.”

    I’d swear I’ve also read another Heinlein letter regarding early drafts of Stranger where he says something about having had an idea for awhile to write a story in the vein of what Cabell did in Jurgen. If so, a quick skim isn’t finding it in Grumbles (nor does the index but, then again, the index didn’t point out the Ginny Heinlein quote above though it does point out others by her). I’m thinking it was in a foreword or afterword to one edition of Stranger or another.

    Still wish I could find the essays I was recalling as well. No joy on a quick Google though.

  14. @Mark
    The stories haven’t particularly suited my tastes, no. And I’m generally happier with stories centring women and their friendships or relationships with other women, which has been in drastically short supply.

    Thank you! I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying them. 🙂

    @Rose Embolism
    Thank you! I’m happy to discuss Moffat’s shortcomings at length, although I’m out of date on Sherlock because I rage-quit it.

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