Pixel Scroll 1/2/17 The Pixel Shines In The Darkness, And The Darkness Has Not Overcome It

(1) NATIONAL SCIENCE FICTION DAY. Today is National Science Fiction Day, the date chosen because it is Isaac Asimov’s birthday. Judging by the return on my Google search, it’s a day beloved by writers of calendar clickbait but it goes largely unnoticed by fans. Should we be doing something about it?

(2) YOU’LL GO BLIND. Self-publishing isn’t the problem – self-editing is. At least, the kind of self-editing that Diana Pharoah Francis discusses in “Writers Club: The Evils of Self Editing” at Book View Café.

I’m not saying that self-editing is bad. It’s not. It’s just we often do it while writing and that’s when it’s evil. Sometimes we do it when we aren’t aware and that’s when it’s really awful.

When I first started out writing, I wrote for me and me alone. I was trying to entertain myself and so I didn’t worry about whether this would be offensive or that would be sappy or if readers would hate my characters. None of that entered my mind because it was all about the fun of telling myself the story and getting lost in it.

Then I published. This was a dream come true. But that’s when the evil self-editor started sneaking in to my creative zone. I’d write something and then delete it because it was too something: too off-color, too disgusting, too violent, and so on. That limited me in ways that I stopped noticing. I internalized those limits and made them an unacknowledged part of my writing process. It’s like a house. You don’t pay attention to where walls are or light switches because they just exist and are necessary and you’re glad they’re there doing their job.

Only really, the self-editor at this point in the process is really a saboteur. It’s a swarm of termites eating away your writing in secret and you have no idea it’s even happening.

(3) BOUND FOR CHINA. Tomorrow Nancy Kress leaves for Beijing . “I will be teaching a week-long workshop with Sf writer Cixin Liu, SF WORLD editor Yao Haijun, and Professor Wu Yan.”

(4) CA$H CALL. Jim C. Hines is collecting data for his 2016 Writing Income Survey.

For nine years, I’ve been doing an annual blog post about my writing income. It’s not something we talk about very much, and I think the more data we put out there, the more helpful it is to other writers.

The trouble is, I’m just one data point. Better than none, of course. But this year, I decided to try something a little different, and created a 2016 Novelist Income Survey.

The process and goals are similar to the First Novel Survey I did seven years ago. (The results of that one are a little outdated at this point…) I’ll be sharing the basic data like the median, mean, and range of author incomes, as well as looking at patterns and other correlations. No personal or identifying information will be shared in any way.

(5) THEY BLINDED ME WITH (PSEUDO)SCIENCE. A site called Book Scrolling (say, are we cousins?) compiled “The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of 2016 (Year-End List Aggregation)”.

“What are the best Science Fiction & Fantasy books of 2016? We aggregated 32 year-end lists and ranked the 254 unique titles by how many times they appeared in an attempt to answer that very question!”

It comes as no surprise that the results are blindingly arbitrary.

Even though it ranked first among sf books in the 2016 Goodreads Choice Awards, Pierce Brown’s Morningstar comes in #26 on this list.

And this is a list of books not just novels – the VanderMeers’ Big Book of Science Fiction is #24.

Joe Hill’s The Fireman is #4.

Charlie Jane Anders’ All the Birds in the Sky is #1.

(6) EARLY SCRIPT DOCTORING. It’s a new month – which means I can read another five LA Times articles free, so I caught up on John Scalzi’s tribute to the late Carrie Fisher from December 27 —

Out on the Internet, along with the many heart-touching tributes to Carrie Fisher, photographs of her as Leia Organa, either as princess (the original trilogy) or general (from “The Force Awakens”) and with her beloved French bulldog Gary, there’s another picture, originally placed there by cinema documentarian Will McCrabb, showing a page of the script of “The Empire Strikes Back.” On the script are several edits, in red pen, condensing and improving the script. McCrabb said the hand that put the edits there was Carrie Fisher’s, noting on Twitter that Fisher herself confirmed it to him.

Is he correct? The edits might have been made by Irwin Kershner, “Empire’s” director, instead. At the time — 1979 — Fisher would have been 22 years old. Yet here she was, looking at a script written by Lawrence Kasdan, who would go on to several screenwriting Oscar nominations, and Leigh Brackett, Howard Hawks’ secret screenwriting weapon and one of the great science fiction writers of her time, and thinking “this needs some fixing.” And then getting out her pen and doing just that.

Whoever made the edits wasn’t wrong. At least some of the edits to the scene (in which Leia, Han and Chewbacca plot a course to visit Lando Calrissian) made it to the final cut of the film. Simpler, tighter, better — and with the rhythm of speech rather than exposition (science fiction, forever the genre of people explaining things to other people). Carrie Fisher played a galactic princess, but she had a working writer’s gift for understanding how people talk, and how language works. At 22.


  • January 2, 1902 – Leopold Bloom takes a walk around Dublin.
  • January 2, 1902 — The first dramatization of The Wizard of Oz opens, in Chicago. Book and lyrics by Baum, music by Paul Tietjens, plot reworked to provided plenty of gags and cues for irrelevant songs (and to eliminate the Wicked Witch of the West). Described in detail in Ethan Mordden’s Anything Goes: A History of American Musical Theatre, it sounds worse than the way US cinema reworked The Dark is Rising, but it was suited the audiences of the time well enough to run on various stages for seven years.
  • January 2, 1905 — Elara, a Moon of Jupiter, discovered.
  • January 2, 2000 — Patrick O’Brian died this date. Alan Baumler notes, “He was born on Dec 12. but I forgot to send it to you) and while his Aubrey-Maturin series of sea stories is not Fantasy/SF, given that Novik’s Temeraire series is pretty explicitly O’Brian WITH DRAGONS and Weber’s Honor Harrington series is O’Brian IN SPACE I would think it was worth mentioning.” Absolutely – and besides one of the Nielsen Haydens (I wish I could find the exact quote) said the technology in Napoleonic warships was so complex they were like the starships of their time.


  • Born January 2, 1920 – Isaac Asimov. (Hey, wouldn’t it look bad if we forgot to list him on National Science Fiction Day?)
  • Born January 2, 1929 – Charles Beaumont, known for scripting Twilight Zone episodes.

(9) WHEN IS IT TIME TO BAIL? Max Florschutz helps new writers avoid the death spiral of investing time in unproductive writing projects by a self-evaluation process, partially quoted here:

What really sets a death spiral apart, however, from a fresh project that is still in its growing stages is the amount of time that has been sunk into it. For example, when looking at your current writing project, ask yourself the following questions. If you can answer yes to even one of them, you may want to consider the possibility that you are stuck in a death spiral.

—Has forward progress stopped in lieu of going back and editing/rewriting what you’ve already written before you’ve made it very far into the story?

—Have you since spent more time editing/rewriting that first bit of the story than you did originally writing it?

—Do you get started on writing new material for said story only to realize that you need to go back and edit/add in something and gone and done that instead? Has that been your experience the last few times you sat down to work on this story? Has it kept you from adding any new material in significant amounts (say, chapters)?…

(10) OCCASIONAL ACCURACY. NASA presents “The Science of Star Trek”, but finds it difficult to marry those two concepts.

The writers of the show are not scientists, so they do sometimes get science details wrong. For instance, there was an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in which Dr. Crusher and Mr. LaForge were forced to let all of the air escape from the part of the ship they were in, so that a fire would be extinguished. The doctor recommended holding one’s breath to maintain consciousness as long as possible in the vacuum, until the air was restored. But as underwater scuba divers know, the lungs would rupture and very likely kill anyone who held his breath during such a large decompression. The lungs can’t take that much pressure, so people can only survive in a vacuum if they don’t try to hold their breath.

I could name other similar mistakes. I’m a physicist, and many of my colleagues watch Star Trek. A few of them imagine some hypothetical, perfectly accurate science fiction TV series, and discredit Star Trek because of some list of science errors or impossible events in particular episodes. This is unfair. They will watch Shakespeare without a complaint, and his plays wouldn’t pass the same rigorous test. Accurate science is seldom exciting and spectacular enough to base a weekly adventure TV show upon. Generally Star Trek is pretty intelligently written and more faithful to science than any other science fiction series ever shown on television. Star Trek also attracts and excites generations of viewers about advanced science and engineering, and it’s almost the only show that depicts scientists and engineers positively, as role models. So let’s forgive the show for an occasional misconception in the service of an epic adventure.

(11) SUAVE AND DEBONAIR. The Daily Beast tells everyone, “Blame Horror-Film Legend Vincent Price for the Rise of Celebrity Lifestyle Brands”.

But while Martha Stewart famously (and accurately!) said in 2013 that “I think I started this whole category of lifestyle,” the concept that Stewart began selling with her first book, 1982’s Entertaining, is a little different from what celeb lifestyle brands are peddling. Stewart—who worked as a model and in the financial industry before becoming Our Lady of the Hospital Corner—became famous due to her lifestyle of perfect taste, immaculate table settings, and painfully severe pie crust prep. In contrast, celebrity lifestyle brands—like Paltrow’s Goop, which launched in 2008 and is widely considered the OG celeb lifestyle site—hinge on the more loaded idea that celebrities have great taste because they’re rich, and if you master that taste and pick up a few celeb-approved luxury items, you might get closer to the lifestyle of an Academy Award winner (without having to do all that pesky acting training).

Despite attracting the attention of many petty haters like myself, Goop is, of course, a resounding success—according to Fast Company, in 2015 the site had one million subscribers and got more than 3.75 million page views each month. But while everyone from Real Housewives to Gossip Girls have followed in Paltrow’s (presumably Louboutin-clad) footsteps in recent years, the roots of the celebrity lifestyle brand don’t lie solely with Stewart—rather, they began in the mid-20th century, with a cookbook.

The first celebrity cookbook was penned by horror film legend and acclaimed mustache expert Vincent Price (or, at the very least, its publisher, Dover, proclaimed it as such in a 2015 press release). Called A Treasury of Great Recipes, the book—which Price wrote with his wife, Mary—drew from their world travels, collecting recipes from high-end restaurants like New York City’s Four Seasons as well as ones that the Prices whipped up while entertaining at home. And the book didn’t just feature cooking instructions; it also included shots of the Prices at play, sipping soup proffered by a waiter in black-tie dress, or simply relaxing in their gorgeously appointed, copper pot-filled kitchen.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Bartimaeus, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Alan Baumler, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Greg Hullender.]

69 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 1/2/17 The Pixel Shines In The Darkness, And The Darkness Has Not Overcome It

  1. Ooo, thanks for the “Death Spiral” article–I love it! Am grabbing to put on my list of resources for my creative writing students (though arguably it could help students stuck in a death spiral of an academic essay–goodness knows I’ve been stuck in both genres myself).

    Plus, maybe first!

  2. @8 (end): Since when are Patrick and Teresa related to Suzette Elgin? i.e., that should be Ha\y/den….

    @5: not to downgrade the unreliability of this aggregate, but what do we get from comparing it to Goodreads? IIRC G’s unreliability (especially at the top) was discussed here?

    Third is a good harmonic interval….

  3. re: 9) – I guess I’m not on the spiral yet, at least with my own writing. Not that I’ve put much out so far (three stand-alone stories and 2 chapters of a longer one).

    On the other hand, I do get paid to rewrite and otherwise address review comments about mine and other writers work, which is an awful lot of nailing jello to the tree, the kind of work that makes me WISH sometimes that there was a death spiral for my day job.

  4. Chip Hitchcock: @5: not to downgrade the unreliability of this aggregate, but what do we get from comparing it to Goodreads? IIRC G’s unreliability (especially at the top) was discussed here?

    Well, mainly you get your curator’s naked thoughts upon seeing a book some people just love to pieces finishing as low as #26.

  5. “(6) EARLY SCRIPT DOCTORING. It’s a new month – which means I can read another five LA Times articles free…”

    If you use Chrome, then you can start an Incognito Window which strips out old cookies. That is like starting from scratch for several papers with a limited number of views.

  6. Not fifth, but…

    So far, I’ve managed to keep to my four-book-a-day reading schedule, weeding out some duplicated material in my comiXology library so I can better separate the single issues from the collected volumes. It’s faintly possible that I may be able to keep up this pace all week, and if so, that’ll be a quarter of my 2017 challenge already met! 🙂

    The Dark Phoenix Saga turned out to be less… intense and prolonged than I was expecting. Yes, it’s eight issues long, and I see why those earlier issues are included, but most of the collection is prologue and build-up. The legendary cosmic rampage takes place in a single issue, and the entire trial/punishment is in a slightly longer issue immediately thereafter. But then, that was 1980; I may just be judging it by modern übercrossover standards.


    Oh, pshaw. Every day is National Science Fiction Day. 😉

  8. JJ: Oh, pshaw. Every day is National Science Fiction Day.

    That makes sense to me. It isn’t that we don’t pay any special mind to January 2, we just celebrate the same all the time!

  9. Hampus Eckerman on January 2, 2017 at 7:29 pm said:
    They want you to turn off ad blocking, too.

  10. I don’t think it has been mentioned, but Derek Parfit died yesterday. He was a moral philosopher concerned with personal identity. He’s of note for sci-fi fans because in his book Reasons and Persons he uses the idea of Star Trek-like teletransporter to explore what is a person.

    The New Yorker recently published an article on him.

  11. (10) I hate to side with Star Trek over NASA but “that much pressure” rupturing your lung? The difference in pressure would be 1 atmosphere about the same difference as 10 metre depth underwater [citation needed]. Also your lungs still have air in them when you breathe out.
    I’m going to throw myself out of the airlock now to check…

  12. 2) It sounds as if what the author is trying to say is, “let your nasty characters be nasty,” but if so I don’t think she said it very well. When I read the whole article, it came across more like “writing is where you let your id out to play, so don’t worry about being PC because it will kill your story”. Not quite the same sentiment.

    10) The two bad-science bits that really sent me thru the ceiling in Star Trek were:
    – The “baryon sweep” in “Starship Mine”. Baryons are a class of particle which includes, among other things, protons and neutrons. A bit hard to remove those and leave anything at all!
    – The tiny, super-dense “chunk of neutron star core matter” in “The Masterpiece Society”. Um, no. The only thing that keeps the core of a neutron star at that density is gravitational compression. A chunk of it ejected from the star’s core would immediately expand to the density of normal matter with explosive force.

  13. (1) NATIONAL SCIENCE FICTION DAY. I’ve never heard of this. Wikipedia footnotes “a date that was chosen” on the page with “when?” and “by whom?” – I’m curious as well.

    @JJ: “Oh, pshaw. Every day is National Science Fiction Day.” – LOL, agreed!

    (5) THEY BLINDED ME WITH (PSEUDO)SCIENCE. This is a weird concept for a web site (seriously, it looks like that’s all they do – distill “best of” lists), but it’s the kind of thing I like to skim, out of curiosity (not looking for more to read, heh). It’s weird that they used a few British covers (it seems) – e.g., City of Blades and Crosstalk – when they link to Amazon.com, which of course shows the U.S. covers. (BTW I hate that Crosstalk cover; the City of Blades one is a little generic, thus, mediocre.)

    Hmm, there’s a Best Microbe Books list – something for everyone! The top cookbook in terms of recs from lists they surveyed is a cookie cookbook, though – not right for my other half.

  14. @Camestros Felapton: Please report back soonest. … Camestros? CAMESTROS??? … someone transport Camestros Felapton to Sickbay, stat!

    @Lee: In fairness, Star Trek isn’t striving for scientific accuracy; it’s just lacing in pseudoscientific babble as part of a fun sci-fi story. Else why would the captain in “Voyager” (as I was reminded today, catching parts of a few episodes) and, IIRC, “The Next Generation,” always be supplying ideas and (frequently) solutions to the science officers and engineers? Ugh, I forgot how much that kind of thing annoyed me! Heh, I understand how the bad science can grate, as you can see.

    This is where I tell myself, “Let’s face it, self, they’re not striving for anything resembling a sensible crew structure or skill set; the captain is frequently the main character, which means they frequently solve everything.” 😉

    ETA: I’d forgotten just how babbly the pseudo-scientific babble was sometimes; it gets really silly at times. I saw most of a very good episode (better the first time around, not knowing who survived or how) and at one point it was just sci-fi babble non-stop for minutes at a time.

  15. Camestros, it doesn’t seem the same to me. It’s one thing to take extra pressure, like underwater, where the pressure of the air in the lungs is pushing back against a lot of pressure from outside. Take away that pressure outside, though, and the air in the lungs is pushing against nothing much at all, and would do a different sort of damage. Mind you, I’m not a scientist, and I’m not crawling outside the atmosphere to check my theory. I’m just saying, as one does.

  16. (7) Today in History — Pretty sure Leopold Bloom walked around Dublin on June 16th, 1904. That’s the date in the book, anyway, though the guy did a lot of walking.

  17. As already once observed, under the Patrick O’Brien entry, it should be Nielsen Hayden.

    I would not normally repeat save that our host has replied to other remarks already, which suggests the prior correction was missed.

  18. Kip W on January 2, 2017 at 9:28 pm said:
    Camestros, it doesn’t seem the same to me. It’s one thing to take extra pressure, like underwater, where the pressure of the air in the lungs is pushing back against a lot of pressure from outside.

    True but going up 10 metres underwater would be the same decompression difference on your lungs. Now I’m not a diver (I can barely swim – best way to avoid drowning imho) but as far as I’m aware the issue with decompression is with your blood rather than your lungs.
    Also your chest is a substantial container – full of lung stuff encased in bones, muscles, gooey stuff and skin.

    I don’t think being in scenario suggested would be very good for you but I suspect breathing in just before hand would be the least of your problems.

  19. Lenora Rose: Guess it took something bigger than a 2 x 4 to get this mule’s attention tonight. The Nielsen Hayden name is now correctly spelled. Appertain yourself your favorite beverage. I’ll be over here munching my hay.

  20. Camestros Felapton: So don’t hold your breath folks in the case of a breech in your spaceship.

    If I find any breeches in my spaceship, I’m going to assume someone has already sealed the leak. (“Gentlemen, Be Seated!”)

  21. Well, that’s it, we’ve clearly reached The Singularity: Camestros is arguing with himself.

    Next he’ll be producing a graph of how many times he’s been right versus how many times he’s been wrong. 😉

  22. Mike Glyer on January 2, 2017 at 11:24 pm said:

    . (“Gentlemen, Be Seated!”)

    Exactly! I was obviously making a witty Heinlein reference and not a typo. It’s only that fool Camestros who couldn’t spot how clever I was being…

  23. Speaking of Nielsen Haydens, shouldn’t we be including PNH under Birthday Boys?

  24. So I watched Rogue One yesterday. The first half was very entertaining and pretty much what Ive hoped for. The “real” mission was too long and too much of the plot depended on the heroes have to press a button/ Switch a switch/ Extract a file / copy a disk/you get the idea physicaly , which, under no circumstances, can be done remotly. If imperial bases had WiFi the movie would have ended an hour earlier.
    Of course I dont mind seeing this plot device once. But more or less simultaneously three times at once? In a mission to extract the equivalent of the secret Coca-Cola-reciepe out of the safe in Atlanta? My suspension of disbelieve does have its limits. But nice to see Riz Ahmed in Star wars. Big fan since I saw him in the hilarious black comedy “Four Lions”.

    Oh and Carmestos: Its “beaches” not “beeches”.

  25. Re: Decompression. This is something that the movie Event Horizon touches on. When one of the characters is ejected from the airlock, Laurence Fishburne’s character radios him to tell him to get the air out of his lungs by exhaling deeply.

    Of course Cam arguing with himself might suggest he HAS been contacted by the hell-touched ship in Event Horizon…

  26. Oh and Peer: Its “Once more unto the beach, dear friends, once more; Or close the picnic basket up with our English muffins.”

    (Serf’s Up, Dude!)

  27. 10) Yes, Shakespeare is frequently inaccurate as to facts… but, well, he was doing the best he could with the education he had, and it’s not like he was employing a science consultant and then still getting stuff wrong.

    I’m not saying the factual errors in Star Trek ruin the show for me, but they do grate a bit… as does the technobabble, which frequently bears no relationship to the way people (even, or especially, scientific and technical experts) actually speak. (Scotty, God bless him, in the original show, talked more or less like a real engineer, albeit one with a palpably phony accent. There’s a bit in Generations where he is required to spout some Next Gen techno-gibberish, and I swear you can see a small piece of James Doohan’s soul die as he reads this rubbish out.)

  28. Well, “Clues”, the episode of ST:TNG I wrote, contained a little bit of real science.

    The episode begins (after a short holodeck bit in the Dixon Hill scenario) with the Enterprise discovering a clear bubble in a large interstellar dust cloud, with a Class M planet in it. Kinda weird, so off they go to investigate.

    At the time I was writing the script, some local fans regularly got together for Sunday breakfasts. One of the attendees was astronomer Pete Manly. After I described my opening scene, Pete told me there was a real thing, T-Tauri stars, usually found in or near dust clouds, whose high stellar winds could blow a relatively clear area out in the surrounding dust.

    There are other things about T-Tauri systems (high radiation levels, etc.) that still make a habitable planet wildly improbable. But I had my bubble, so I used the T-Tauri term in my script, and it survived rewrites all the way to final production.

    So that’s how a little bit of real science got into that episode of ST:TNG. But it was an accident, I didn’t mean to!

  29. Better to light one pixel than to scroll the file

    Didn’t Sherlock Holmes investigate conductive trousers in The Adventure of the Copper Breeches?

    ETA: We have an international audience here so I’ve changed pants to trousers. Otherwise this comment is totally pants.

  30. Camestros Felapton on January 2, 2017 at 11:22 pm said:
    Camestros Felapton on January 2, 2017 at 10:41 pm said:

    Ok Wikipedia says I’m wrong and that NASA is right.

    So don’t hold your breath folks in the case of a breech in your spaceship.

    So you believe everything wikipedia tells you now do you? Also, you spelt “breach” wrong.

    Wikipedia? Shouldn’t you (possobly both of you) be using Infogalactic by now?

  31. @Steve Wright

    I’m not saying the factual errors in Star Trek ruin the show for me, but they do grate a bit… as does the technobabble, which frequently bears no relationship to the way people (even, or especially, scientific and technical experts) actually speak.

    I was always impressed at how much mileage they got out of “recalibrating” things. Especially on “Voyager,” it seemed like there wasn’t any problem they couldn’t fix by recalibrating one thing or another. Who knows what they could have accomplished if better people had been in charge of the original calibrations?!

  32. @Camestros…true, that. Which is why scuba divers are told to open their mouths and let the air our if/when they do a free ascent.

    On NASA vs ST more generally: 1. I believe the technobabble quotient increased with every new series. (if they need air, why don’t they have the replicator make it. For that same reason, why isn’t the replicator the solution to almost every problem faced in Star Trek? If the Gamesters of Triskelion really want a Kirk – just give ’em one and chalk it up to a plus for Federation Diplomacy; for that matter, Kirk didn’t need to be all so weepy at the end of City on the Edge – he could have just copied Keeler aboard the Enterprise. (Someone really, really, really needs to write something like this up, maybe as a sequel to Redshirts?)
    2. NASA as previously pegged surviving a vacuum at approx 90 seconds, remaining conscious for about 15 seconds. I suspect these numbers are NOT based on “explosive decompression”, from which survival chances are reduced even more (though if you are prepared for the event, your chances are probably the same as above).
    3. if you are making a free ascent and you open your mouth and let the air out, you’re surprised by how it just keeps coming out….

  33. I think with Voyager (and to a lesser extend Enterprise) the problem was, that there wasnt much manpower and not an awful lot of consistency between episodes – they were flying all the time after all, so there was not the usual band of allies around. So if they encounter a problem, they cant get help through people and the ship shouldnt be destroyed too much as well. Technobubble was the solution. Thats why there is so much of it – if you have less interesting characters (and I would argue that there werent many interesting characters on board the voyager) you have to concentrate on the tech (and they did invent the Trans-Warp-Drive in one episodes, so they have the greatest enginieers of the ´verse apprently).
    I was hoping for less technobubble on Enterprise, since they couldnt invent stuff, that was not invented yet in TNG or TOS, but that just caused them to make the bubbles more vague. Like “Recalibrating” stuff (although Greg, I guess they usually recalibrate machinery (not measuremnet systems), because the original calibration was set to “Earth like einviroments” and they recalibrated if there was an extreme outline case of enviroment. Not 100% logical, but not completly stupid).

    Oh there is stuff that cannot be replicated – especially not living things (I think they mention that somewhere). They do build replicaters for replicating mines in DS9, which was cool.

  34. he could have just copied Keeler aboard the Enterprise.
    No – they didn’t have the ship in that universe.

  35. “The difference in pressure would be 1 atmosphere about the same difference as 10 metre depth underwater. . . . True but going up 10 metres underwater would be the same decompression difference on your lungs.”

    The difference in one case is +1 atmosphere. In the other case, it is -1 atmosphere. The magnitude of the difference is the same, but the difference is not the same.

  36. I think with Voyager (and to a lesser extend Enterprise) the problem was, that there wasnt much manpower and not an awful lot of consistency between episodes – they were flying all the time after all, so there was not the usual band of allies around.

    But plenty of repeating enemies.

    Voyager was supposedly trying to back to their home quadrant as fast as they could–but it seemed everyone they encountered had a ship faster than the top-of-the-line Voyager, because they kept running into them again and again.

  37. (5) THEY BLINDED ME WITH (PSEUDO)SCIENCE: I wouldn’t say that these results were totally arbitrary. A thing that is widely recommended is perhaps not better in an objective sense than something that is very highly commended in one place, but it is in some way more significant. Goodreads does seem to be a bit of an outlier here – Brown won last year as well, of course, suggesting he has something of a fan club there.

    I’m thinking I should take some note of the things that come at the top. I’ve already read All The Birds…, Ninefox Gambit and The Obelisk Gate. Sleeping Giants is on my TBR list. With Death’s End I am waiting for the paperback. Can anyone tell me what The Fireman is like? (It seems to be a candidate for the Dragon award for Best Apocalypse.)

    I take it The Invisible Library qualifies for the list by US publication? In which case I guess that also makes it eligible for a Hugo. It seems to me that it would really make more sense to nominate the series for Best Series, but in what seems to be a rather thin year it might be worth considering.

  38. Yep, a breath at 10 metres underwater contains twice as much air at twice the density as a breath on the surface (20 metres is 3x, 30 is 4x and so on). Your body can breathe compressed air without difficulty at these pressures but if you hold that breath while ascending, the air expands and Bad Things Happen. PADI, the main recreational scuba organisation, currently teach beginners that “the biggest rule of scuba diving is don’t hold your breath” which, while not strictly true, shows how important this stuff is.

    (In reality, the sense of pressure would cause you to instinctively breathe out well before you do any damage to yourself unless you’re in a very weird/panicky place mentally. I expect a similar thing would happen in a depressurisation to vacuum no matter what Data is erroneously telling you to do.)

    My favourite underwater fact, though I’m no sure it’s ever come up in Star Trek, is that different concentrations o oxygen become toxic to humans at different pressures – so the 21% oxygen in regular air becomes toxic at just over 50m, blends in the 30% range can only take you safely to 30 – 35, and pure oxygen becomes toxic around 6m down. The toxicity causes convulsions and loss of consciousness which is a very key thing one does not want to happen while breathing through a mouthpiece underwater…

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