Pixel Scroll 12/21/20 I Saw Mommy Kzin Santa Claus

(1) BAKE AND SHAKE. Fan Dave Rowe, who lives on the Big Island, reassured his friends today:

Last night (Sunday 20th) Halema’uma’u magma chamber caused an eruption at Kilauea Volcano (it’s already stopped), that’s about twenty miles from here, and an hour later there was an earthquake which we experienced.  No damage to us or our home. The lava flow went south-west, well away from us.

(2) PAY THE WRITER, REDUX. Inside the Magic, which specializes in covering Disney properties, quotes a less intransigent response to the unpaid royalty issue raised by Alan Dean Foster, SFWA, and others than the company originally gave:  “More Writers Report Missing Royalty Payments From Disney”.

…Disney initially responded by saying that it purchased the rights of the novels when it acquired the parent properties Lucasfilm and 20th Century and no longer needed to pay royalties. But a Disney spokesman has since come forward, and said, “We are carefully reviewing whether any royalty payments may have been missed as a result of acquisition integration and will take appropriate remedial steps if that is the case.”

While the royalty payments are expected to be a small percentage of Disney’s profits — especially with Lucasfilm’s properties — the more daunting task appears to be calculating how much Disney owes its writers over the past six years. That requires tracking down the sales of every book under every author’s name in every market around the world.

Foster’s agent estimates that he “had made more than $50,000 in royalties on the original Star Wars novelization alone before the checks stopped in 2012.”…

(3) ISS MAS. The stockings were hung by the bulkhead with care. “Starry Night: A History of Celebrating Christmas in Space” at Mental Floss.

…No American had an overlapping space mission with Christmas again until 1996, when John Blaha was on board Russia’s Mir space station. Blaha and the crew received a delivery from the Progress spacecraft, which was full of presents, cards, and food. “It was a shining star, rising toward us at great speed from beneath the horizon,” Blaha later recalled of the Progress. “All of a sudden, the light from the Progress extinguished as we passed into the shade of the Earth. Five seconds later, four lights on the Progress were turned on. I watched the remainder of the rendezvous through a tiny window in the aft end of the Kvant module.”

Opening the packages from Progress, he added, was “like Christmas and your birthday, all rolled together, when you are 5 years old.” What might become routine to Earthbound observers took on a new and special meaning in the vastness of space.

(4) DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY. Cliff sent me the link to “Goodreads’ 200 Most Difficult Novels”. I’m no fan of difficult novels, which accounts for my score of 13 read. In contrast, Cliff scored 45/200. But should any Neil Gaiman novel be on a “most difficult” list, let alone half a dozen of them? It’s also not clear what Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time is doing on a list of novels although I shouldn’t complain, since I got a point for reading it.

(5) ET BLOWN HOME. [Item by James Davis Nicoll.] From a paper at arXiv.org: Model suggests absence of ET is one part we’re late to the party, one part we’re in the wrong neighborhood, and one part most technological species kill themselves off comparatively quickly. “A Statistical Estimation of the Occurrence of Extraterrestrial Intelligence in the Milky Way Galaxy”.

In the field of Astrobiology, the precise location, prevalence and age of potential extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) have not been explicitly explored. Here, we address these inquiries using an empirical galactic simulation model to analyze the spatial-temporal variations and the prevalence of potential ETI within the Galaxy. This model estimates the occurrence of ETI, providing guidance on where to look for intelligent life in the Search for ETI (SETI) with a set of criteria, including well-established astrophysical properties of the Milky Way. Further, typically overlooked factors such as the process of abiogenesis, different evolutionary timescales and potential self-annihilation are incorporated to explore the growth propensity of ETI. We examine three major parameters: 1) the likelihood rate of abiogenesis ({\lambda}A); 2) evolutionary timescales (Tevo); and 3) probability of self-annihilation of complex life (Pann). We found Pann to be the most influential parameter determining the quantity and age of galactic intelligent life. Our model simulation also identified a peak location for ETI at an annular region approximately 4 kpc from the Galactic center around 8 billion years (Gyrs), with complex life decreasing temporally and spatially from the peak point, asserting a high likelihood of intelligent life in the galactic inner disk. The simulated age distributions also suggest that most of the intelligent life in our galaxy are young, thus making observation or detection difficult.

(6) GILER OBIT. David Giler, who won a Hugo as the producer of Aliens, died on October 19 in Bangkok, from cancer. Deadline recaps his career. These are just a few of his genre credits —

…Giler’s screenwriting credits include The Parallax View (1974), Fun With Dick And Jane (1977) and The Money Pit (1986). He has writing or story credits for both Aliens (1986) and Aliens 3 (1992), and was a producer of the original Alien (1979) and its seven sequels, up to 2017’s Alien: Covenant (though his and Hill’s involvement lessened in the later sequels).

…In television, Giler wrote scripts for ’60s series Burke’s Law, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. In 1970, at 25 years old, Giler took on Gore Vidal’s Myra Breckinridge, his battles with director Michael Sarne becoming nearly as infamous as the legendary Raquel Welch-Rex Reed flop itself. One significant outlier: Vidal himself, who praised Giler’s original draft and became a lifelong friend….


  • December 21, 1937 –On this day 83 years ago, Walt Disney released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, one of the earliest full-length animated films. It premiered at the Carthay Circle Theatre in Los Angeles, California. It was the first full-length cel animated feature film and the earliest Disney animated feature film.  It was a critical and commercial success and, with international earnings of more than eight million dollars during its initial release, (compared to its 1.5 million dollar budget), it briefly held the record of highest-grossing sound film at the time.  He took out a mortgage on his house to help finance the film. 


1958 — At Solacon in South Gate, California, the first Hugo for Outstanding Movie would be awarded. It would go to Richard Matheson for The Incredible Shrinking Man, a Universal Film which had premiered the previous year for which he had written the screenplay based off his novel The Shrinking Man. It had been published by Gold Medal Books / Fawcett two years previously in paperback for thirty five cents. It would be his only Hugo. 



[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 21, 1892 – Dame Rebecca West.  Immortal for Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941; get an edition with her husband’s photos), she wrote us a novel and two shorter stories.  Feminist and idiosyncratic.  (Died 1983) [JH]
  • Born December 21, 1898 – Hubert Rogers.  One of our greatest artists, whom we naturally honored with not one Hugo or Chesley.  Five dozen covers, three hundred interiors.  Here is the Aug 40 Astounding.  Here is the Aug 49.  Here is the Jan 52.  Here is The Man Who Sold the Moon.  Here is an interior for “Children of the Lens”.  See Di Fate’s treatment in Infinite Worlds.  (Died 1982) [JH]
  • December 21, 1929 James Cawthorn. An illustrator, comics artist and writer who worked predominantly with Michael Moorcock. He had met him through their involvement in fandom. They would co-write The Land that Time Forgot film, and he drew “The Sonic Assassins” strip which was based on Hawkwind that ran in Frendz. He also did interior and cover art for a number of publications from the Fifties onwards including (but not limited to) Vector 3New Worlds SFScience Fantasy and Yandro. (Died 2008.) (CE) 
  • December 21, 1937 Jane Fonda, 83. I’m sure everyone here has seen her in Barbarella. Her only other genre appearances are apparently by voice work as Shuriki in the animated Elena of Avalor series, and in the Spirits of the Dead, a 1968 anthology film based on the work of Poe. She was the Contessa Frederique de Metzengerstein in the “Metzengerstein” segment of the film.  (CE) 
  • December 21, 1943 John Nance. Let’s just say he and David Lynch were rather connected. He’s Henry Spencer in Eraserhead, he had a small role as the Harkonnen Captain Iakin Nefud in Dune and he’s Pete Martell in Twin Peaks. He had a supporting role as Paul, a friend of Dennis Hopper’s villain character in Blue Velvet but even I couldn’t stretch that film to be genre adjacent. (Died 1996.) (CE)
  • Born December 21, 1944 – James Sallis, age 76.  For us a novel, a hundred twenty shorter stories, half a dozen poems, a hundred book reviews in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, a stint co-editing New Worlds, two anthologies, Ash of Stars on Samuel Delany; also crime fiction (Grand Prix de Littérature policière, Hammett Award, Bouchercon lifetime achievement award), music including as a teacher and musicologist, translator e.g. Queneau’s Saint Glinglin.  [JH]
  • Born December 21, 1946 – Lenny Bailes, age 74.  San Francisco Bay Area fan, ornament (that’s applause, Lenny) to FAPAOMPASFPA.  Fanzines Ink Gun BluesWhistlestar.  Guest of Honor at Minicon 35.  [JH]
  • December 21, 1948 Samuel L. Jackson,  72. Where to start? Did you know that with his permission, his likeness was used for the Ultimates version of the Nick Fury? It’s a great series btw. He has also played Fury in the Iron ManIron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First AvengerThe AvengersCaptain America: The Winter SoldierAvengers: Age of Ultron and Avengers: Infinity War and showed up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. too! He voiced Lucius Best (a.k.a. Frozone) in the Incredibles franchise, Mace Windu in The Phantom Menace and The Clone Wars, the Afro Samurai character in the anime series of the same name and more other genre work than can be listed here comfortably so go ahead and add your favorite role by him. (CE) 
  • Born December 21, 1963 – Mandy Slater, age 57.  A dozen short stories.  Interviewed Bob Eggleton for Secret City.  Worked on Program Ops (or “Oops”) at candidate-for-best-ever-Worldcon (the 47th) Noreascon 3.  [JH]
  • December 21, 1966 Michelle Hurd, 54. She currently portrays Raffi Musiker in Picard. (I weirdly thought she’d been on Trek before but she hadn’t.) She was in a twenty year old Justice League of America pilot as B.B. DaCosta / Fire, and one-offs in Beyond Belief: Fact or FictionLeap YearsCharmedFlashForward, and Witches of East End. She had recurring roles inAsh vs. Evil Dead as Linda Bates Emery and Daredevil asSamantha Reyes. (CE) 
  • December 21, 1966 Kiefer Sutherland, 54. My he’s been in a lot of genre undertakings! I think that The Lost Boys was his first such of many to come including FlatlinersTwin Peaks: Fire Walk with MeThe Three Musketeers, voice work in Armitage: Poly-MatrixDark City, more voice work in The Land Before Time X: The Great Longneck Migration, Marmaduke and Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn TwilightMirrors, and yes, he’s in the second Flatliners as a new character. (CE)
  • Born December 21, 1982 – Eliza Wheeler, age 38.  Author and illustrator.  Here is Doll Bones.  Here is The Left-Handed Fate.  Here is “Sky Sailing”.  Here is Cornelius the Grudge Keeper.  In this interview after winning the SCBWI (Soc. of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) portfolio-showcase grand prize she shows how she built a picture and includes a few others like this.  [JH]


  • Brewster Rockit’s idea for a 2020 holiday souvenir makes me think the strip should have ended with someone keeling over and saying, “Rosebud.”

(11) THE BURBANK LETTERS. At Black Gate, Bob Byrne reacquaints fans with Groucho Marx’s “The Casablanca Letters”. (And for a much fuller explanation, consult Snopes.)

I think that Groucho Marx was one of the funniest men who ever lived. And I laugh out loud a the movies he made with his brothers. Well, most of them, anyways. I strongly recommend his book. The Groucho Letters. When word was making the rounds around 1944 that the boys were going to make a movie called A Night in Casablanca, Warner Brothers threatened legal action.…

(12) ALIAS MOOSE AND SQUIRREL. The Smithsonian Magazine explores “How Bullwinkle Taught Kids Sophisticated Political Satire”.

Mr. Chairman, I am against all foreign aid, especially to places like Hawaii and Alaska,” says Senator Fussmussen from the floor of a cartoon Senate in 1962. In the visitors’ gallery, Russian agents Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale are deciding whether to use their secret “Goof Gas” gun to turn the Congress stupid, as they did to all the rocket scientists and professors in the last episode of “Bullwinkle.”

Another senator wants to raise taxes on everyone under the age of 67. He, of course, is 68. Yet a third stands up to demand, “We’ve got to get the government out of government!” The Pottsylvanian spies decide their weapon is unnecessary: Congress is already ignorant, corrupt and feckless.

(13) ONE TO BEAM DOWN. In the Washington Post, Dalvin Brown discusses “immersive technology start-up Blank XR,” which plans to use virtual reality to beam holograms of performers into people’s homes, thanks to a $3500 headset that “projects 3-D images that respond to your voice and gestures” so you can immerse yourself in a concert at home. “BLANK XR has plans for mixed-reality concert platform”.

…Live-streaming performances and music downloads brought in some revenue, but those experiences aren’t as captivating or money-generating as in-person concerts. That’s where innovative tech offerings like holograms and personalized digital concerts fit in, according to Denise White, CEO of BLANK XR and former director of direct-to-consumer technologies at the Walt Disney Company.

“From our point of view, the new normal is holographic,” White said. “What that will enable you to do is put on a headset and actually have a conversation with your favorite artists.”

Digitizing musicians and capturing their likeness involves a two-step process…

(14) SOME RARE GOOD NEWS. And are you ready to hear it? “Holiday Special with Dwayne Johnson: Some Good News with John Krasinski”.

John Krasinski highlights some good news around the world, including weather from George Clooney, a message from Justin Timberlake, and John’s friend Dwanta Claus, aka Dwayne Johnson, joins to spread some holiday cheer for the end of 2020.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George, in “TENET Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, says that TENET “is so confusing and hard to hear that people will have to see it several times” to figure out what the film is all about.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Trey Palmer, JJ, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Stephen H Silver, Rich Lynch, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

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47 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 12/21/20 I Saw Mommy Kzin Santa Claus


    WTF? Lots of the novels here aren’t that difficult, ie Atlas Shrugged is long, tedious and annoying but it ain’t difficult, Dune is hardly challenging, Clockwork Orange is horrifying but lacking in complexity and but what the fuck is difficult about The Fellowship of the Ring? Seriously this isn’t a list that makes any sense at all.

    First, maybe.

  2. 2) In which someone in PR shouted “This will cost us more in bad PR than it will save us in not having to pay royalties; walk it back!”

    4) I tried to read some Joyce once and got about two pages in and went “No; he does not make sense!” (But I love Virginia Woolf. Much to my amusement, one of my co-workers is exactly the opposite– loves Joyce and hates the way Virginia Woolf uses language and sentence structure.) Also I disagree with the characterization of “The Bell Jar” as difficult.

    Anyway, I score 12, the majority of those for school. There are more that I’ve tried and put down for reasons having less to do with difficulty than going “I hate all of these people”. (Okay, “The Deerslayer” I stopped reading because of the writing; I got just far enough to be like “Yup, Mark Twain was right about this book”.) And more that I have on my shelves with the intention of reading them.

  3. Re. Joyce: I read the first page of Finnegans Wake, and actually quite enjoyed it. But I didn’t feel up to reading a second page like that. 🙂

    Anyway, I got 35 (not counting Finnegans Wake), and I agree, a whole bunch of those aren’t difficult at all! I mean, they’ve even got a YA (Coraline). Catch 22 was a page-turner for me. And The Picture of Dorian Gray seemed pretty straightforward when I first read it as a pre-teen!

  4. 47/200, and I even played the part of Lord Henry Wotton in a full-cast audio recording of The Picture of Dorian Gray for LibriVox. It was great fun: he gets all the best lines. And add my voice to the chorus of “Difficult? WTFBBQ?” for Coraline and Animal Farm and even Jane Eyre. (When I read Jane Eyre I was actually quite surprised at how much I-want-to-read-itosity was there.)

  5. 4) 42 for me, plus about a half-dozen I might have read or half-read but so long ago I’m not sure and what details I think I remember may come from some other book by the same author.

    From perusing the list, I think it’s actually at least three different lists, for differing definitions of “difficult”:

    (1) Because some of the listed books are just so damn long. An unabridged Count of Monte Cristo is 464,000 words, over 1300 pages.

    (2) Because the plot or tone of the books are so grim or perverse or depressing, it’s difficult to force oneself to continue. 120 Days of Sodom, definitely. I’d also put Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy on this list; a terrible grim reading experience.

    (3) Because of a dense, ornate writing style or structure filled with uncommon words and obscure references.

    Why is Neil Gaiman on the list at all, much less with multiple books?

  6. Bruce Arthurs correctly asks Why is Neil Gaiman on the list at all, much less with multiple books?

    No idea. The entire list looks as if a group of bored felines knocked books at random off shelves in a Library into a pile on the floor. There’s literally no logic at work here. Why include the first book of The Lord of the Rings at all as it’d make more sense to just list the trilogy. Not that the trilogy is at all difficult.

  7. 49/200 for me, and I don’t get their definition of “difficult” at all – most of their choices, I’d just categorize as “long, and maybe a bit old-fashioned”. Maybe whoever chose them has weak wrists and has trouble lifting things like War and Peace or Clarissa? But surely Coraline can’t give them any trouble….

  8. 4) 35 actually finished. Won’t cop to number abandoned. (I did a lot of strategic dodging in college and grad school.) Quite a few I’d describe as “most difficult to put up with.” (Looking at you, Cormac McCarthy.) As for actual difficulty–yeah, the Wake is a bear, but some of these I read in high school.

    You want hard? Try Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in the original. Or all three versions of Piers Plowman.

  9. (2) You can’t buy something the seller does not own, for example the Brooklyn Bridge or in this case the right to sell books without paying royalties.

  10. 4) 5 (and a half, I read just enough of A Separate Peace to pass the test) and I skimmed several of the others that were required reading. I was busy reading everything in the Science Fiction section of the library.

    13) Hey Rocky, watch me pull a pixel out of my scroll

  11. (4) 70/200 for me. Firstly, I’m a fan of freewheeling postmodern doorstops as a genre; secondly, I’m one of those people to whom it has never occurred to not do the reading; thirdly, a lot of the books SIMPLY AREN’T REMOTELY DIFFICULT!!

    (I suspect the second point is the significant one: the vast majority of the entries look like assigned reading.)

  12. 4). 11/200 with several started and put aside. Dhalgren being one. Mrs. Dalloway sits on my shelf and I periodically pick it up to try again but still can’t get interested. I keep hoping that one day a sudden spark will light,like it has with others.
    There should be a list of “books you hate to admit you’ve never gotten around to reading.”
    .But I also have to wonder how “Dune” or “The Illuminatus” got in there.

    The bigger part were books I never read because they never caught my interest.

  13. (9) Jane Fonda

    Jane Fonda is in the 1976 symbolic fantasy film “The Blue Bird”. It is however unspeakably twee, and induced in child me a sense of embarrassment for everyone involved I would not feel again until “Santa Claus The Movie”.

    It looks as though she has a cameo in Bill Cosby’s “Leonard, Part 6” which I remember from the adverts looking like a spoof of sci-fi superhero flicks. But has anyone ever managed to watch the entirety of “Leonard, part 6” to confirm. In its day it was counted one of the great cinematic disasters.

    If you’re of a certain disposition: with its stigmata, possibly miraculous pregnancy and ambiguities about whether the father is god or an unknown man, there’s an argument that “Agnes of God” could just maybe stand on the borderline of fantasy. Though Catholics of a different disposition may take umbridge.

  14. 4) 43/200, mostly thanks to a degree in Russian studies (though there were an embarrassing number of Russian books on that list I have not yet read). Yeah, I don’t see what makes these books more “difficult” than others, apart from the length of some of them.

  15. (2) Gee, maybe accounting would have been easier if Disney had been doing the right thing from the beginning…

    4) 33/200 – lots of books I read for school. “Hawaii”? Hunh!

  16. 4) Definitely a few surprising ‘difficult’ books on there. A Stephen King!? And the Mists Of Avalon?

    I guess big books intimidate some people, and so could feasibly be called ‘difficult’? I personally found War And Peace a real page turner.

    But some are genuinely difficult. Joyce, Infinite Jest, Umberto Eco, In Search Of Lost Time, Underworld, Pynchon etc. I found Dhalgren difficult too – so much so that I gave up around 2/3rds of the way through. Perhaps it’s a question of balancing the effort against the reward.

  17. Cliff says But some are genuinely difficult. Joyce, Infinite Jest, Umberto Eco, In Search Of Lost Time, Underworld, Pynchon etc. I found Dhalgren difficult too – so much so that I gave up around 2/3rds of the way through. Perhaps it’s a question of balancing the effort against the reward.

    The problem is that difficulty is always something that’s a matter of individual judgement. What I might find difficult is something that you might indeed find not at all difficult and vice versa. It’s just not a very useful term to judge a book by.

    And in any case, the Gaiman novels don’t belong on this list being popcorn literature.

  18. 4) I count 33 (and a couple more I might have read). Animal Farm is another oddity, although not as odd as some. I wonder how the list was compiled?

  19. 4) I’ve read 94 of them. For one thing I find famous classic literary fiction is often interesting and rewarding. But a lot of the books aren’t difficult at all by most adult readers’ standards. I suspect the list must have been put together by polling a broad group of readers, and some of the votes were people remembering assigned reading they had a hard time getting through in school. In other cases the books are just long.

  20. (4) 33 – a bunch of them I read for school. Others we had at home, so I had a library of 19th-century books in nice editions to browse. And some I borrowed from the library.
    Most of these are long, old (or by non-English-speaking authors), which makes them “hard” for people raised on TV and movies.

  21. That stolen manuscript link is fascinating. The phishing emails are written by someone who knows a hell of a lot about book publishing.

  22. 4) 25 for me, some of which were assigned reading in school; others I read on my own. Like a lot of other commenters, I’m confused as to why some of them would be considered “difficult”, particularly the middle-grade/YA entries like Stardust and Coraline. (Both of which I enjoyed, but I wouldn’t call them difficult.)

    I’m a bit confused by the inclusion of Stephen King’s The Gunslinger as well. If they absolutely had to pick a King book for the list, I’d say Pet Sematary is the obvious choice, because of how unflinching its portrayal of n cnerag’f tevrs ng ybfvat n puvyq is. It’s one of his best, IMO, but if lbh unir xvqf it will force you to look your absolute worst fear right in the face.

  23. Funny you should mention Little Women.

    When I was a wee lad of 20, me and my girlfriend gave each other reading lists for the summer: LW was on her list for me.

    I was a pretentious college boy, all about the edgy difficult postmodernists. So yes, Little Women was a difficult read for me. But I always did the assigned reading so…

  24. 4) Only 27 1/2 for me. I am bitter that they didn’t include the only Eco that I’ve read (Baudolino), and also that Anathem wasn’t on the list.

    And along with several other posters, that 1/2 was Blood Meridian. I love the other McCarthy books that I’ve read, but that one whooshed right past my limits for gore and grimmitude.


    If only those lines by the senators were actually unrealistic.

    In today’s Washington Post, actual quotes from senator-elect Tommy Tuberville:

    “You know, our government wasn’t set up for one group to have all three of branches of government. It wasn’t set up that way, our three branches, the House, the Senate and executive. ”

    “My dad fought 76 years ago in Europe to free Europe of socialism.”

    “in 2000 Al Gore was president, United States, president-elect, for 30 days.” (Actual number of days Gore spent as president-elect: zero.)

    “There’s one person that changes the climate in this country and that’s God.”

    On the opioid epidemic: “It’s not just opioids now, it’s heroin …”

    On health care: “We don’t have the answer until we go back to open up being a capitalistic health-care system where we have more than one insurance company.” (There are 952 health insurers in the United States.)

    On education: “We’ve taken God out of the schools and we’ve replaced the schools with metal detectors.”

    Tubs has declared his desire to serve on the Senate “banking finance” committee, apparently unaware that banking and finance are separate committees — and that he is ineligible to serve on banking because Alabama’s senior Republican senator already does.

    Tuberville’s Senate campaign (in which he also defeated former attorney general Jeff Sessions) was a magical voyage of discovery, as he learned about such things as advice and consent. Senators “confirm judges all across the country, federal judges, and get them in place,” he marveled.

    He also seemed to have no clue what the landmark Voting Rights Act was, telling Rotarians: “It’s, you know ? there’s a lot of different things you can look at it as, you know, who’s it going to help? What direction do we need to go with it? I think it’s important that everything we do we keep secure. We keep an eye on it. It’s run by our government. And it’s run to the, to the point that we, it’s got structure to it. It’s like education.”

    As a candidate, Tubs offered exotic views on why rural hospitals closed (“because we don’t have Internet”), on impeachment (“I’ve been trying to keep up with it but it’s so hard”) and on constitutional democracy (“We’d probably get more done with just the president running this country. So let the Democrats go home”).


  25. 9) Rebecca West also had a connection with SF — quite literally.

    Her son Anthony West’s father was H. G. Wells.

  26. @4
    I suspect this list was compiled from reports by readers as “dnf,” so it’s mostly the books most likely to be attempted in the first place. Maybe younger readers are bouncing off Gaiman because it isn’t the usual YA fare. His pervasive presence is a puzzler, I admit. It’s a weird list, though many of these books are difficult to enjoy for sure.

  27. Brown Robin says I suspect this list was compiled from reports by readers as “dnf,” so it’s mostly the books most likely to be attempted in the first place. Maybe younger readers are bouncing off Gaiman because it isn’t the usual YA fare. His pervasive presence is a puzzler, I admit. It’s a weird list, though many of these books are difficult to enjoy for sure.

    Oh Queen of Air and Darkness, a list of books that people didn’t like. (Scurries to find his notes fir his personal list of those.) we all could put together a Really Long Long list of such books but that wouldn’t necessarily mean that they were difficult, would it? I bounced off The Silmarillion quite hard but I won’t call it a difficult, just one that didn’t appeal to me.

    On another matter, I know I owe someone here a chocolate bar, so if he’d email me here, I’ll have it posted to him as I just picked up a bonnie bunch of Really Good Bars. And the next two people besides him that email me get ones as well. I’m in a gift giving mood.

  28. 4) I know I’ve read 38 of the items on the list, with three more as “maybes”. The only one that I would have called “difficult’ is Dhalgren.

    Coraline? The Graveyard Book? What are these people thinking?

  29. I’m not sure any regular at File770 is qualified to tell what the general populace might find difficult to read..! Too dedicated to the hobby, and generally quite wordy sorts.

    (I do sort of find Gaiman difficult to read – when he’s not doing comics or YA. It seems to me with his adult prose work that he sometimes forgets to put the soul in. And then I get bored and annoyed and wander off. :p But it’s been awhile since I attempted one…)

  30. Meredith says do sort of find Gaiman difficult to read – when he’s not doing comics or YA. It seems to me with his adult prose work that he sometimes forgets to put the soul in. And then I get bored and annoyed and wander off. :p But it’s been awhile since I attempted one…)

    I’ve read a lot of Gaiman but the only one that I really like is Neverewhere and I just recently listened to the newish excellent BBC production of it. Stardust and American Gods are quite good too but that’s about it.

  31. Late to the scroll, but 40 for me. While there are a few genuinely difficult books on the list (I’m looking at you, Joyce), I think most of them are either a) doorstoppers (War And Peace, et al.), b) depressing as hell (Thomas Hardy, I’m looking at you) or c) uses difficult vocabulary for non-high-verbal readers (which might explain the Wolfe). None of which explains Gaiman’s ubiquity on the list. Or Little Women, for ghu’s sake.

    Some fifteen or twenty years ago, I decided that I really didn’t know much about the great Russian authors, so I walked into a Borders (remember when you could walk into a bookstore?) and picked out a half-dozen paperbacks by Tolstoy and Dostoevski. War and Peace, the Brothers Karamazov, Crime and Punishment… I plunked the stack of books down in front of the cashier, who looked to be about twelve (I’m sure she was at least eighteen, but…). She blinked at me, and I said, cheerfully, “Just a little light summer reading”. I think she was honestly confused that anyone would read any of those books for fun.

    But, honestly, War and Peace is a romantic potboiler set during the Napoleonic Wars. The only hard part about it is keeping track of who is who, since it seems like everyone has a name, a patronymic, a title, and at least a few nicknames…..

    (A month or so later, we were playing D&D at a friend’s house and one of the characters was killed off early in the adventure. She knew her character would be brought back later that day, but it would take a while for the rest of the party to manage it. “I should have brought a book to read,” the player sighed. I reached into my purse and handed her War And Peace, to general hilarity….)

  32. @ Cat Eldridge

    I’ve read a lot of Gaiman but the only one that I really like is Neverewhere and I just recently listened to the newish excellent BBC production of it. Stardust and American Gods are quite good too but that’s about it.

    I’m not fond of Neil Gaiman‘s novels myself. I prefer his comics and his short stories, especially the graphic novel The Books Of Magic.

  33. Some of the books I found difficult when I was young were much less so when I returned to them later, for various reasons. (Broadly, more knowledge of life and literature.)

  34. @Cassy B
    I found “Bleak House” to be not really difficult, despite its length, and in some places amusing (spontaneous combustion of a human isn’t something you expect). Joyce is harder, but it helps if you have an acquaintance with at least one European language other than English.

  35. My first job was as a quiz writer for an app which purports to help with tracking children’s educational reading goals. Every book had a calculated reading level, which I could look up even if it wasn’t a book I was actually working on. Most modern children’s lit and YA was somewhere around levels 3-4. Most classic children’s lit was levels 7-8 – or higher. I don’t recall ever checking Little Women specifically, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it would be a bit of a jump for a lot of modern readers, especially if they were reading it at an age-appropriate time.

  36. I read Joyce’s “Ulysses” when I was sixteen or seventeen and was totally captivated by the way Stephen Daedalus echoed mine own teen-aged walks and thought processes. The rest of the book was also a page turner for me, though I had no idea why it had once been banned. Later Jim Blish suggested I might like “Finnegan’s Wake,” but though I have tried a number of times over the years I just can’t get past the second or third page, though I love to put the words in my mouth and mush them around.

    That list of ‘difficult’ books seems to have been made up by the same under-fifteen folks who now run Tumblr, and who recently banned an Old Masters still life of three oranges for violating community standards. In you grew up on sound bites it is really hard reading long books made up of printed words.

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