Pixel Scroll 12/11/16 “Scrollitively, Mr. Pixel?” “Pixelutely, Mr. Scroll!”

(1) NOT TODAY’S TITLE. “ONCE UPON a time there was a Martian with a wooden leg named Valentine Michael Smith. What its other two legs were named, nobody knows.”

(2) EXFOLIATE! The Baltimore Science Fiction Society has seasonally decorated the club’s Dalek. Michael J. Walsh snapped a photo —

bsfs-dalek-foto_no_exif

(3) ICON RECOGNITION. The Guardian’s “Picture quiz: how well do you know your sci-fi and fantasy?” is really an elaborate ad for The Folio Society.

Calling all Tolkien heads and sci-fi savants: can you match the illustration to the book? Each one has a clue to help you out.

In theory you should be able to guess from the artwork. Although I scored 7/8, without the clues I don’t know if I’d gotten any of them right.

(4) THE ROOTS OF BABY GROOT. Skeptics have been put on notice that this was something done only for wholesome artistic reasons – I’m sorry, did my nose just grow? Guardians of the Galaxy 2 director says Baby Groot was a ‘creative change,’ not a marketing ploy”.

Despite what some may believe, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 director James Gunn insists Baby Groot is not a ploy to sell more Marvel merchandise.

Responding to a fan inquiry on Twitter, Gunn wrote, “I’m sure some people think that but for me keeping him Baby Groot throughout the film was the creative change that opened the film up for me. I was less confident the studio was going to buy in on Baby Groot than I was they were going to buy in on Ego the Living Planet” — the latter being Kurt Russell’s character and Star-Lord’s father.

(5) DYLAN’S NOBEL. The New Yorker’s Amanda Petrusich covered the ceremony — “A Transcendant Patti Smith Accepts Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize”.

That Dylan ultimately accepted the Nobel with a folk song (and this specific folk song, performed by a surrogate, a peer) seemed to communicate something significant about how and what he considers his own work (musical, chiefly), and the fluid, unsteady nature of balladry itself—both the ways in which old songs are fairly reclaimed by new performers, and how their meanings change with time. Before Smith took the stage, Horace Engdahl, a literary historian and critic, dismissed any controversy over Dylan’s win, saying the decision “seemed daring only beforehand, and already seems obvious.” He spoke of Dylan’s “sweet nothings and cruel jokes,” and his capacity for fusing “the languages of the streets and the Bible.” In the past, he reminded us, all poetry was song.

 

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 11, 1972 — Apollo 17 landed on the moon. It was the final Apollo lunar landing. Ron Evans was the command module pilot and Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt walked on the surface during the mission. Cernan was the last to re-enter their lunar module — the last man on the moon.
  • December 11, 1991 — Amblin’s Hook opens in wide release after its LA premiere days earlier.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born December 11, 1922  — Vampira, (aka Maila Nurmi).

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 11, 1781 — Scottish physicist and kaleidoscope inventor David Brewster

(9) WHAT’S A GOOD INTRODUCTION TO SF? Jason Sanford returns to controversy he wrote about last year in “Let Us Now Praise ‘Famous’ Authors”.

A few years ago I was on a SF/F convention panel about bringing new readers into our genre. I mentioned that science fiction needed more gateway novels, which are novels new genre readers find both approachable and understandable (a type of novel the fantasy genre is filled with but which are more rare in the science fiction genre).

As I stated this another author on the panel snorted and said we don’t need new gateway SF novels because the juvenile novels written by Heinlein in the 1950s are still perfect. This author believed the first exposure kids have to science fiction should be novels from the 1950s. And that this should never change.

That is the attitude people should fear because, in the long run, it will kill our genre.

This brings me back to my earlier point about the “famous” people our world holds up to acclaim. Yes, many famous authors helped build our genre, but so did the work and love of countless forgotten people.

(10) ROGUE SCIENCE. Neil deGrasse Tyson only needs a minute to explain why he is a Death Star skeptic in a video on Business Insider.

Owning a Death Star comes with some serious risk, especially when it was constructed with a serious design flaw. But astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has a more practical reason why the ‘Star Wars’ Death Star didn’t quite make sense.

(11) DIGITAL COMICS POLL. You have until December 23 to vote for Digital Comic of The Year 2016 at Pipedream Comics.

It’s been another bumper year for exciting and innovative digital comics in 2016. From boundary pushing webcomics to crowd-funded sensations to cutting edge apps, we have picked out 10 of the best for you to vote on and declare the best Digital Comic Of The Year 2016. So get involved and make sure your favourite joins the likes of Madefire’s Captain Stone and Mono:Pacific, David Lloyd’s Aces Weekly and last year’s champion Adventures in Pulp, as winner of our prestigious prize. Below is our rundown of the contenders for this year’s prize, and you can cast your vote here. (Polls close at midnight on December 23rd!)

Here are links to some of the contenders, where you can see full comics or samples:

(12) DOG SHOW. When Doris V. Sutherland dared to question the quality of Brian Niemeier’s Dragon Award-winning book, the author and another puppy blogger insisted the emperor was so wearing clothes — “Horror Puppies Redux: Is Souldancer Really Horror Fandom’s New Favourite Novel?”.

And while we’re at it, let’s look at the two books that I personally found to be the strongest contenders in the Dragons’ horror category. Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay is at #156,590 in ebooks, and at #561,851 (paperback) and #60,849 (hardback) in books; Alice by Christina Henry is at #156,678 in ebooks and #27,655 in books. I stand by my statement at WWAC: if the Dragon Awards truly honoured the works most popular amongst fans, then the award for Best Horror Novel would not have gone to Souldancer.

Niemeier concluded his post by asking his readers to prove me wrong by posting reviews of Souldancer; he confidently predicted that the book will soon have more than fifty ratings on Amazon. This call to action resulted in Souldancer‘s review count going from eight to twelve, prompting Niemeier’s glass-half-full statement that “Souldancer reviews are up 50%”. A few more reviews have been posted since then – although the more recent ones have been somewhat mixed, as is to be expected from the novel reaching a broader audience following its Dragon Award victory.

(13) LIGHTS, CAMERA, NO MONEY! If Sad Puppies made a sci-fi movie, I  bet their promo would sound a lot like the ads for This Giant Papier Mache Boulder is Actually Really Heavy, a New Zealand comedy film.

What happened to the good old days of sci-fi, when spaceships were real models, monsters made of latex and laser guns a curling iron painted silver? Now imagine a universe where everything was just like this for real.

For three ordinary guys Tom, Jeffrey and Gavin, this just became a reality. One minute they were watching an old b-grade movie, the next they’ve been thrust inside the movie itself and at the helm of a rickety old spaceship. Panic ridden they stumble into a space battle. and make a mortal enemy of the evil Lord Froth while unwittingly saving the space princess Lady Emmanor. Then suddenly Jeffrey starts to change into a sci-fi character called Kasimir. They must adapt quickly if they are to survive long enough to find a way home. For all they know they could be next. If that happens they will be lost in this world forever. They embark on a quest to find a cure for Jeffrey and a way back home. This is an action-packed comedy adventure of giant lizards, space battles, robots, aliens, warlords and amazons that has to be seen to be believed.

 

(14) MR. SCI-FI. Marc Scott Zicree shares his afterword for the new Magic Time audio play he and Elaine directed and wrote that will be released by Skyboat Media. It’s based on his bestselling series of novels from HarperCollins, and stars Armin Shimerman of Deep Space Nine and Buffy and Christina Moses of The Originals and Containment.

(15) EXTRATERRESTRIAL SEASON’S GREETINGS. Another sampling from the sci-fi Christmas catalog.

Barry Gordon – Zoomah the Santa Claus From Mars

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W. “Not Today’s Title” credit goes to File 770 contributing editor Daniel Dern.]

305 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 12/11/16 “Scrollitively, Mr. Pixel?” “Pixelutely, Mr. Scroll!”

  1. Heh. the solution to TCE is, of course, that Marilyn waits for an opportune moment, brains Barton, throws him out the airlock and brings the serum to her brother’s planet. She makes up a story that Barton was planning on extorting the colony if they wanted the serum, becomes the colony’s savior-hero and is shielded from prosecution by a grateful populace. (Alternatively, Barton sacrificed himself because he had more mass than Marilyn and her stowing away had already used up too much fuel.)

    There.

  2. @Chip Hitchcock:

    In case it’s not clear, I’m a year older than the story; I don’t claim to have a complete perspective, but I picked up some info along the way — including fringe-helping with a study on mistreatment of female civilian employees that the Pentagon attempted to suppress because it made them look so bad

    Good for you, sunshine.

    In case it’s not clear, I was born the year after the story, and had the experience of being a woman raised in small town Idaho with the full impact of sexism aimed at me from the day I was born rather than being on the fringe and the added benefit of experiencing that as a queer woman who wasn’t supposed to exist in happy heteronormative smalltown paradise.

    And in case it is also not clear, you’re still (along with some other men on this thread) mansplaining to women who have experienced sexism and who see the sexism in this story not as some unique speshul snowflake of sexism but as the same old fucking old same story we see all the time that it isn’t that sexist, or no more sexist than the other stories of the time. Sure, there were more sexist stories then. *And also less sexist and even proto-feminist stories which are always overlooked and never presented as ‘this is what young people ought to read.’*

    Non-specific dystopias (which I’d call masculinist dystopias since they’re by men and about men with a few recent shifts to incorporating “strong female protagonists” which a lot of people see as “feminist”), at least the ones I’ve read, do not in the least focus on the impact of Trump and the GOP’s decades-long efforts to deny women access to health care, criminalize abortion (and they define contraception as abortion), or on the swell of racist and homophobic assaults that have suddenly become acceptable again with the threats to criminalize those marginalized groups as well.

    Granted, feminist dystopias mostly suck at considering racism and homophobia/transphobia as well, but at least they focus on the impact on women who are already on the losing end of “the economy.” So dystopias focusing on the impact on straight cis white men and “the economy” are not even remotely close to what I was referencing, and I’m not going to waste my time reading them.

    But sure, men who are telling me to go see the manly stuff: show me a “mainstream” or “non-specific” (meaning created by a white man and mostly focusing on a white man) dystopia that deals with the real life issues white women, people of color, and GRSM (gender, romantic, and sexual minorities), as well as people living with disabilities have been living with all along, and I’ll read it/view it.

    And all the men telling me, and the other women here, that we’re wrong about TCE being sexist: there’s a name for that (beyond sexism), and it’s called “gaslighting.” Stop it.

    For one thing, I’ve been hearing men tell me X is not sexist (and some women too!) for about forty decades, and so far it hasn’t worked. And I bet if we added up the years of the women here who have been told that, we’d be at a century or more!

    @Cora: Pacific Rim states its ridiculous premise in the first few minutes. So it’s clear from the start that the premise is ridiculous, so we’re free to enjoy Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, the highly underrated Burn Gorman and Ron Perlman being awesome and kicking kaiju arse.

    Exactly: it sets up its premise, and it fulfills its promise. TCE does not.

    @JJ: Thank you for doing a nasty Augean stables type job. I blanked out Greg some time ago, but have been seeing his posts when I read File770 on the phone, and I’d nearly forgotten the level of shit involved.

    @Christopher Davis: Damn good point!

    @Darren: Thank you! This ongoing discussion of this particular story is fascinating. Might have to write up something or other sometime.

    @Rev. Bob: I was glad to see you posting again, and very sorry to hear about your job.

    In terms of the sexism: as I noted, the problem is not only in the story, but in the ongoing reception/discussion of it which seems to mostly boil down to men telling women that the sexism isn’t there, isn’t important, etc. And that’s fine as a personal expression of their reading . But as this thread shows, the apologetics by some male readers go beyond stating their personal enjoyment to trying to lecture women on we’re reading it wrong.

    I do enjoy seeing the flaws regarding the scientific/technological/physics equations laid out by readers though!

  3. I don’t know how many people have seen the movie based on TCE? The girl is saved by throwing out other excess mass from the space ship – spacesuit, spare oxygen tanks, pilot’s chair etc. I liked that ending. I especially liked that the reaction of the characters was to try to figure out how to live, not just give up.
    In real life, there are lots of people who will shrug and say, there’s nothing to be done. There will always be some fatalities when you have a large construction project. Polluted air is just the price you have to pay for having an industrial society. Etc, etc. These people are not sympathetic heroes, the people trying to solve the problem are the heroes.
    My problem with the story is not with the setup or the events, its the character portrayal. Its the idea that the pilot is a good person, that the girl accepts that and we readers should as well. Its the idea that killing an innocent is ever acceptable. That when something like this happens, we should be stoic, instead of raging and weeping and demanding change.

  4. @Rev Bob. The stowaway’s mass would throw off the EDS’s trajectory from the moment it launched.
    That had occurred to me, too, but I’ve never been interested enough to make myself go back and read that stupid story for the details of the launch.
    Welcome back, and sorry to hear about your difficulties.

  5. For the record, my complaint with TCE was never that it made me cry, because it didn’t. It made me annoyed. I waited for the clever pay-off where our hero stops wallowing in guilt and saves the day. Then I rolled my eyes. Then I spent five minutes thinking about ways to drop weight (and yes, I did spend a brief moment on “Do they really need ALL those limbs?”) and then I stopped worrying about it and would have never thought about it again if people didn’t wave it around as if it were a much better story than I personally think it is.

    Look, if you want to be deeply moved by it, go for it! We’re all different! But I think it’s a philosophy 101 question wrapped up in manpain and I have no idea why people get fixated on it.

    Mind you, I was very bad at philosophy questions even while taking the class–throw the switch, divert the train, kill three people instead of ten, but never question why there’s no freakin’ horn on the train and why I can’t lean out a window screaming “GET OFF THE TRACKS!” or why these people are blithely playing on the train tracks in the first place and can’t see a train coming.

    I think there’s a bad country song about that scenario where the engineer diverts and runs down his son instead and it’s supposed to be all noble about his heroic tragic sacrifice. Probably some people are deeply moved by that as well. Which, y’know, different strokes. But don’t then tell me that I can’t like any other tragic song because I think this one’s stupid.

  6. I think the reaction to TCE is often rooted in what point you encountered it. For me, it was one of the first stories in my transition from juvenile sci-fi to adult sci-fi. So, I was young enough that the emotional impact of the helplessness of the situation and the fatal punishment for what was a seemingly trivial offense was incredibly impactful. It was one of the first works that underlined the idea that nature didn’t care whether you were a good person or not if you got yourself into a bad situation. So, because of that, I still think that TCE can be considered an important story in sci-fi’s early pantheon.

    However, the criticisms are right that the story basically falls apart the second to start questioning the narrowly defined parameters it sets up. The second time I read it, my first thought partway in was ‘why can’t they strip the equivalent weight out of the ship. Surely unbolting and dumping the chairs out the airlock gets you at least halfway there’. It’s at that point the story really starts to falter, because every mental ‘okay, but why don’t they try-‘ gets cut off by the text saying ‘THERE’S NO OTHER SOLUTION!!’. I think Cory Doctorow’s response is reading more into the text that is deserved. TCE ties itself up in knots making sure that the central premise of the story – math can kill because science doesn’t make moral judgement – because it is relying on a very narrow construct and situation that requires a lot of unrealistic circumstances to deliver.

  7. I did some digging around for Weird Science 13 online, and was successful. Here is A Weighty Decision extracted from it.

    (Here is the original archive of issues 13 to 22. The link for the first 12 issues as found here no longer works.)

  8. Hmm. I’d say TCE is a sexist story, but that this wasn’t one of the parts that failed for me. If it got its own premise right, I’d give the sexism a shrug.

    Aaron: You think objections that, *whether correct or not* completely undermine the PREMISE of the cold uncaring universe are silly?

    To me it makes a big difference whether the story is about some careless screw-up on the part of a company killing off an innocent or the cold equations of physics doing it. Done right, either would be an interesting story, but they are different stories, and if the Cold Equations is believable to you because of instances of the former existing in real life (As they do… to the other examples, we can add the Bangladeshi building collapse and the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire) then the fact that its premise is the latter being at fault should make the story LESS believable, not more so. You should be grumping about how it got the cause of the tragedy horribly wrong along with the rest of us.

  9. @RedWombat: But I think it’s a philosophy 101 question wrapped up in manpain and I have no idea why people get fixated on it.

    Ooooooooooooooooooo, brilliant summation! I hate those specific type of philosophy questions too.

  10. JJ: I am DONE wasting my precious reading time on providing you proof of what so many people have pointed out to you time, after time, after time. If (when) you pull this shit yet again, I will be copying and pasting the entirety of this into the new File770 thread.

    Since that would bring the day’s discussion to an ass-grinding halt, please don’t repeat this in future threads.

  11. steve davidson on December 15, 2016 at 6:53 am said:

    Heh. the solution to TCE is, of course, that Marilyn waits for an opportune moment, brains Barton, throws him out the airlock and brings the serum to her brother’s planet.

    Even better…that’s what she was planning all along.

    Come to think of it…. The pilots are told that come-what-may they must chuck stowaways out of the airlock. Doesn’t matter what they look like or who they claim to be or where the ship is going or why.

    Truth is these Emergency Despatch Ships are nothing of the sort – they are the zygotes of the mind-altering transdimensional creatures that power the starships. Repurposed as additional transport by humans, the EDS can still sometimes exert enough willpower to manifest a ‘stowaway’ to try and take command of the ship. When successful (and having stored the body of the pilot for nutrition) the EDS can then fly to the ancestral hatching grounds and grow into fully fledged star-creatures intent on bloody revenge on the humans who have enslaved them.

  12. Following on from the last comment…I wonder if Lem had read The Cold Equations before writing Solaris. The stories don’t have much in common except…the crew of the station get their own special visitors and Kelvin (and apparently the others before him) attempts to eject his visitor off the station in a capsule. Of course, their reasons for doing so are psychological and utterly different to The Cold Equations.

  13. Creating space ships with almost no margin at all would be to trust all humans aboard to do nothing wrong in calculations or what they put aboard.

    Is Apollo 13 relevant to this?

  14. Darren:

    It mentions that some of this info originates from some jerk called “Kurt Busiek.”

    Just that I’m one of the people who’s said it. It didn’t originate with me; I learned about it from Lawrence Watt-Evans.

  15. Creating space ships with almost no margin at all would be to trust all humans aboard to do nothing wrong in calculations or what they put aboard.

    Is Apollo 13 relevant to this?

    Possibly, in that the people running Apollo 13 were extremely careful about what got put on board, had a very large staff of people doing calculations in communication with the crew and had enough of a margin to survive multiple system failures. No stowaways wandering aboard unnoticed, and nobody figuring that just in case, let’s add the weight of a firearm in a pressurized vehicle.

    And it was an experimental program, besides, not part of a commercial system that had been going on so long they had reliable stats on the expected number of stowaways per pilot lifetime.

  16. @Bill: Is Apollo 13 relevant to this?

    Only if NASA’s response had been to say “Them’s the breaks, fellas”, rather than working around the clock to figure out how to rescue them and then launching a comprehensive investigation to determine exactly what went wrong and what they could do to prevent it from ever happening again, or at least minimize the consequences.

  17. Just that I’m one of the people who’s said it. It didn’t originate with me; I learned about it from Lawrence Watt-Evans.

    Having read the comic story, it makes The Cold Equations look incredibly sophisticated and nuanced.

  18. @Kurt
    I bring it up only to show that the decision to operate at the margins can rationally be made under different circumstances than those posited by Hampus.

    And TCE is in a frontier environment, which would seem to be closer to “an experimental program” than it would be to a “commercial system that had been going on so long they had reliable stats on the expected number of stowaways per pilot lifetime.” More like taking a wagon train to California, than Delta Flight 826 out of La Guardia.

  19. Having read the comic story, it makes The Cold Equations look incredibly sophisticated and nuanced.

    I haven’t read “A Weighty Decision” is years, but I’ll note that Lawrence disagrees with you, for whatever it’s worth.

    I just ran across a Usenet thread from 2005 in which he says so. Well, not specifically about you, but there you go.

    Also in that thread, I postulated the future existence of a book collecting Alan Brennert’s comics stories for DC, and someone else commented that they’d pay hardcover prices for that. Took a long time, but that book came out earlier this year, in hardcover.

  20. I bring it up only to show that the decision to operate at the margins can rationally be made under different circumstances than those posited by Hampus.

    I guess if Hampus wants to put that sentence in his dissertation, then, he’ll be more specific.

    And TCE is in a frontier environment, which would seem to be closer to “an experimental program” than it would be to a “commercial system that had been going on so long they had reliable stats on the expected number of stowaways per pilot lifetime.”

    Except that it is a “commercial system that had been going on so long they had reliable stats on the expected number of stowaways per pilot lifetime.” And it’s not an experimental program.

    So it’s closer to the one that it is than to the one that it isn’t.

    More like taking a wagon train to California, than Delta Flight 826 out of La Guardia.

    Not that much like either, but if wagon trains to California had been going on steadily enough that there was data on how many stowaways a train leader could expect to encounter in a lifetime, and if the existence of a stowaway would blow up the whole train, they’d probably be pretty cautious about them.

  21. I haven’t read “A Weighty Decision” is years, but I’ll note that Lawrence disagrees with you, for whatever it’s worth.

    It was 8 pages of pure early Pulpy McPulpface. (See my earlier link.)

  22. Except that it is a “commercial system that had been going on so long they had reliable stats on the expected number of stowaways per pilot lifetime.”

    Correction: It may be a governmental system. Or it could be run by an order of space nuns.

    But it’s not an experimental system — it’s a system of colony supply that has been going on for a long time, long enough to have worked up those statistics. It may undergo improvements every now and then, but the dispatch shuttle system has apparently been stable for quite a while.

  23. It was 8 pages of pure early Pulpy McPulpface.

    I’ve read it. So has Lawrence.

    I didn’t download it anew because it’s still under copyright, and that’s not a licensed venue. But I think I have a copy of it somewhere in my bookshelves; I’m just too lazy to go look it up.

  24. Kendall: I hope you have something different and fun planned as a detox!

    I do! Friday 16 December is my last day of work for the year, I only have to work 1/2 day, and in anticipation of some serious reading time, I’ve gotten, or will be getting, from my library the following books:
    (published 2016 unless otherwise indicated)
    League of Dragons by Naomi Novik (currently reading)
    Dreaming Death by J. Kathleen Cheney (currently reading)
    The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman (re-read)
    The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman (re-read)
    The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman
    The Falls by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
    After The Crown by K.B. Wagers
    Babylon’s Ashes by James S.A. Corey
    The Liberation by Ian Tregillis
    Last Year by Robert Charles Wilson
    Savant by Nik Abnett
    Europe in Winter by Dave Hutchinson
    The Lost Child of Lychford by Paul Cornell
    The Burning Light by Bradley P. Beaulieu and Rob Ziegler
    Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan
    Kingfisher by Patricia A. McKillip
    Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff
    The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
    Outriders by Jay Posey
    The Immortals by Jordanna Max Brodsky
    Invasive by Chuck Wendig
    Icon by Genevieve Valentine
    Bad Blood by Gary Kemble
    Feedback by Mira Grant
    The Gate to Futures Past by Julie E. Czerneda
    The Terranauts by T. Coraghessan Boyle
    The Gradual by Christopher Priest
    Ninth City Burning by J. Patrick Black
    The God Wave by Patrick Hemstreet
    Smoke by Dan Vyleta
    Vigil by Angela Slatter
    Revenger by Alastair Reynolds
    The Iron Tactician by Alastair Reynolds
    The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley
    Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters
    Time Travel by James Gleick
    The Tourist by Robert Dickinson
    Faller by Will McIntosh
    Forsaken Skies by D. Nolan Clark
    [Killfile] by Christopher Farnsworth
    Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton
    Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
    The Cold Between by Elizabeth Bonesteel
    Remnants of Trust by Elizabeth Bonesteel
    Windswept by Adam Rakunas (2015)
    Like a Boss by Adam Rakunas
    The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu (2015)
    The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu
    City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (2014) (re-read)
    City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett
    The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson (2011) (re-read)
    Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson (2015)
    The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson
    After Atlas by Emma Newman
    Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman (2013)
    Any Other Name by Emma Newman (2013)
    All Is Fair by Emma Newman (2013)
    A Little Knowledge by Emma Newman
    Now We Are Ten: celebrating the First Ten Years of NewCon Press edited by Ian Whates
    The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales edited by Dominik Parisien & Navah Wolfe

    Miscellaneous other reading
    Up Against It by M.J. Locke (2011) (Laura J. Mixon’s response to The Cold Equations)
    American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett (2013)
    Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett
    The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
    Men Explain Things To Me by Rebecca Solnit (2014)

    It remains to be seen how far I will get through this list, but that’s the plan. 😉

  25. @Red Wombat

    Look, if you want to be deeply moved by it, go for it! We’re all different! But I think it’s a philosophy 101 question wrapped up in manpain and I have no idea why people get fixated on it.

    That’s a great description. From conversations with Americans, I have the impression that such “hard choices” philosophy questions are apparently quite common in US schools, colleges, etc… (and I suspect there is an ideological reason behind that).

    However, such “hard choices” questions aren’t really a thing in Germany, at least not in any education system I have ever encountered, which is probably why I have such huge problems when encountering stuff like “The Cold Equations” or the episode 33 of the new Battlestar Galactica or the Kobayashi Maru test or the “Save Maggie Gyllenhall or Two-Face” scenario in The Dark Knight, because the scenarios are usually implausible and badly rigged to achieve the desired outcome. And because I wasn’t familiar with the genre or even aware that it was one, I usually came up with all sorts of clever ways to save everybody (I also thought that Kirk was really clever to reprogram the Kobayashi Maru test) and was furious that the writers didn’t.

    Coincidentally, there is one fairly recent German example in the “hard choices must be made” genre, namely a stage play (filmed for TV a few months ago) called “Terror” by Ferdinand von Schirach. The scenario is just as badly rigged and manipulative as all examples of that genre, but the twist is that at the end the audience is asked to vote whether the fighter pilot who shot down a commercial airliner against orders, because the airliner had been hijacked and it was feared that the hijackers planned to crash the plane into a football stadium (and of course it was a football match, i.e. an event to appeal to the “common man”, whoever that may be), is guilty or not. Japanese audience usually pronounce the pilot guilty, Western ones don’t. And when the German TV adaptation aired, the window to vote was ten minutes, so anybody who found the whole scenario offensive in itself had no real chance to vote.

    So in short, these “hard choices” scenarios are usually propaganda, which is why I dislike them.

    @Steve Davidson

    Heh. the solution to TCE is, of course, that Marilyn waits for an opportune moment, brains Barton, throws him out the airlock and brings the serum to her brother’s planet. She makes up a story that Barton was planning on extorting the colony if they wanted the serum, becomes the colony’s savior-hero and is shielded from prosecution by a grateful populace. (Alternatively, Barton sacrificed himself because he had more mass than Marilyn and her stowing away had already used up too much fuel.)

    There.

    When the Muppets tackled “The Cold Equations” in a Pigs in Space skit, this is more or less what happens. Link and the Doctor try to trick Piggy out of the airlock, but Piggy turns the tables on them and spaces Link. Go, Miss Piggy!

    @JJ
    The mailman just brought by “After Atlas” by Emma Newman today.

  26. Cora: The popularity of classroom experiences based on “hard choices” arises (IMHO) because both the left and right agree on the format for their own reasons. The left wants to surface and reshape student values, while the right likes the idea of “hard choices” because the question can always be phrased to dictate the choices.

  27. Back in the 80s, or thereabouts, I happened upon a video by (I believe) a Christian artist named Steve Taylor, called “Lifeboat.” I thought at the time that it was fairly good (now it seems to have less edge, but the Suck Fairy didn’t get much else), and it seems pertinent to the present discussion, so here goes:

  28. @Kurt

    But whether Godwin swiped it from “A Weighty Decision” in WEIRD SCIENCE #13 (by Al Feldstein & Wally Wood) or “Precedent” by E.C. Tubb, it looks like he was trying to write a variant on the premise and Campbell forced him back into the story structure he was trying to veer away from.

    Wow. I am one of today’s lucky ten thousand! Thanks!

    @bookworm1398

    I don’t know how many people have seen the movie based on TCE? The girl is saved by throwing out other excess mass from the space ship – spacesuit, spare oxygen tanks, pilot’s chair etc.

    Wasn’t that in the new Twilight Zone version? As I recall, in that version, they did try to lighten the ship by jettisoning everything they could – and still couldn’t get within acceptable parameters, leading to the story’s original ending. I still liked that version better than the original story – because unlike the plot automatons in the story, at least they questioned and tried.

  29. @jayn Yeah, it was the 80’s Twilight Zone episode. They were far more active in trying to solve the problem than in the original story.

  30. @JJ: I’m jealous that you’re done working for the year tomorrow! And that’s an impressive list of books to read, heh. I’m especially interested in how you like these, if you get to them and feel like commenting here: After the Crown, Last Year, the Lost Child of Lychford, The Burning Light, Lovecraft Country, The Obelisk Gate*, Smoke, Underground Airlines, Faller, Dark Matter, Bonesteel’s novels, Liu’s novels, City of Blades*, After Atlas*, and Newman’s other books.

    * I’ve read these (well, almost done with “Blades”); the rest are on Mount TBR or on my “these look very interesting” list. Probably a few others on your list, too – these just leapt out at me. Well, you know, I always like hearing about books. 😉

  31. Yeah, if they’d even TRIED to fix things, I’d have been a little happier.

    The ultimate ethical “solution” for “do you throw the switch and kill three people instead of six?” as memory serves, is that apparently that you don’t, because if you throw the switch, you murder three people, but if you don’t touch the switch, the universe murders them (or God, if you like) and then you’re just a sad bystander.

    Obviously this makes utilitarian people like me scream and bite things, but then if it’s okay to kill a couple people to save a bunch more, apparently nothing is stopping us from total moral free fall and we all wind up as Kodos the Executioner.

    In practical terms, I end up going “The slope is NOT THAT SLIPPERY, people!” and sulking. Alas! My ethics are imperfect. But I’d still rather someone like me was driving the train. (Mind you, by this logic, TCE still fails–if she refused to leave the ship, spacing her would be murder, whereas failure to save colonists from plague is just the universe. Oops.)

  32. Kendall: I’m jealous that you’re done working for the year tomorrow! And that’s an impressive list of books to read, heh. I’m especially interested in how you like these, if you get to them and feel like commenting here

    Sadly, I am being forced to take next week off by my employer. I would prefer to save those vacation days for nice weather, to do something of my choice. But alas. I will just have to make the best of a less-than-ideal situation.

    As my family (thankfully!) no longer does gifts for the adults, and the nieces and nephews are all teens who are happy with Amazon gift cards, it means that I do not have to face shopping and crowds, both of which I hate-hate-hate with the hatred of a burning sun. 😉

    I appreciate so much reading other peoples’ thoughts on books and stories, so I’m happy to post my reactions to everything I read*, and I have a couple of big posts almost ready to go.

    *as always, everyone is welcome to have my own opinion

  33. @JJ: Whoops, sorry, my jealousy is replaced by a “that sounds sucky” reaction re. your week off. Well, still, I can be jealous of your plans for a lot of reading!

    I’m off next week, but one day will be travel, another will be with family (usual mix of good and bad), and the rest is supposed to be fore organizing/neatening/cleaning house, ugh. And close to 2 days of conference-call-knowledge-transfer/training that will be kinda tedious (4 hour stretches with a couple of breaks).

    But I’m hoping to squeeze in some quality reading time throughout all that! 😀

  34. @Steve Davidson: I like your second ending. That makes the pilot into a big hero, sacrificing his life for the girl and all, rather than a dude who thought “Whole planet is depending on me. I didn’t check the closet or my trajectory. Welp, gotta toss the girl into the void, my sheer incompetence and inability to think outside the box and ditto that of the entire system I live under means that’s it. Sad!”

    First one’s good too, and I suspect the “Pigs in Space” writers did it that way b/c they thought the same about the story. And at least the TZ adaptors tried the logical things.

    It isn’t the sexism that makes the story fail, frankly, that’s just extra badness. The 15/16 year old boys in the class never twigged to any sexism in it* and yet they thought it was ridiculous. And came up with the most extensive lists of things that could be jettisoned, including the exact mechanisms for doing it. (“You unbolt the seats and throw them out, and then you throw out the wrenches! But the pilot’s gotta keep one arm to work the controls, so no total amputation.”) I headcanon’ed the girl’s family or friends killing the pilot, too — I think the boys said they’d at least beat him up if it was their sister.

    @JJ: please have a spare mike to drop (It was in the closet of a spaceship).

    *predictably, several of them were all annoyed by “The Menace From Earth”, because girl protagonist and implied romance; I do not know if any grew up to be Puppies.

  35. Lurkertype*: please have a spare mike to drop (It was in the closet of a spaceship)

    DAMMIT! No wonder the ship’s trajectory was so far off course! 😉

    *Also, you have graduated to a capitalized nym! What’s the occasion?

  36. @Kendall

    My v short review on After the Crown is that it keeps up the standard and style from the first book – a very high pace with all the pros and cons that that brings. I’ll try and say a bit more in a later scroll.

  37. However, such “hard choices” questions aren’t really a thing in Germany, at least not in any education system I have ever encountered, which is probably why I have such huge problems when encountering stuff like “The Cold Equations” or the episode 33 of the new Battlestar Galactica or the Kobayashi Maru test or the “Save Maggie Gyllenhall or Two-Face” scenario in The Dark Knight, because the scenarios are usually implausible and badly rigged to achieve the desired outcome.

    And I’m betting Sophie’s Choice isn’t a smash hit in Germany, either.

  38. Lurkertype: (It was in the closet of a spaceship)

    JJ: DAMMIT! No wonder the ship’s trajectory was so far off course!

    Me: ROFL….

  39. @RedWombat:

    The ultimate ethical “solution” for “do you throw the switch and kill three people instead of six?” as memory serves, is that apparently that you don’t, because if you throw the switch, you murder three people, but if you don’t touch the switch, the universe murders them (or God, if you like) and then you’re just a sad bystander.

    In my college ethics course, there wasn’t a “correct” solution, although some solutions were presented that didn’t make sense to anyone. But then, that was one of those courses where I got top grades for disagreeing with the professor with better discussion than the people who agreed with him.

    In practical terms, I end up going “The slope is NOT THAT SLIPPERY, people!” and sulking. Alas! My ethics are imperfect. But I’d still rather someone like me was driving the train.

    In practical terms, there’s never enough information for the situation to be anything close to clear, which is a primary reason that ethics are really hard in the real world. This is becoming an issue with, e.g., self-driving cars, where similar trade-offs (between harming the occupants of the car vs. hitting other people) have been coming up for discussion despite the fact that no programmer will ever have a chance to address the subject head-on.

    Hmm. The preview is showing me the two block quotes in different-sized fonts. I hate “user interfaces”.

  40. Well, if Mike weighs about the same as me, jettisoning would get you 160… um, let’s see… 212 pounds, so it might help.

  41. @Darren Garrison: Heh, nice comic. I’m with the student. Blow up the concept of the problem!

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