Pixel Scroll 12/30/16 Use File 770; It Softens Your Pixels While You Read The Books. You’re Scrolling In it!

(1) OUR NEIGHBOR. It’s official —

A team of astronomers composed of P. Kervella (CNRS / U. de Chile / Paris Observatory / LESIA), F. Thévenin (Lagrande Laboratory, Côte d’Azur Observatory, France) and Christophe Lovis (Observatory of the University of Geneva, Switzerland) has demonstrated that Proxima, the nearest star to the Sun, is gravitationally bound to its neighbors Alpha Centauri A and B. The nearest stellar system to the Earth is therefore a triple star. Proxima is known to host the nearest exoplanet, a telluric planet orbiting in its habitable zone. This discovery implies that the four objects (Alpha Cen A, B, Proxima and Proxima b) share the same age of ~6 billion years.


Paul Gilster discusses the discovery at Centauri Dreams.

Now as to that orbit — 550,000 years for a single revolution — things get interesting. One reason it has been important to firm up Proxima’s orbit is that while a bound star would have affected the development of the entire system, the question has until now been unresolved. Was Proxima Centauri actually bound to Centauri A and B, or could it simply be passing by, associated with A and B only by happenstance?

(2) THE REPRESSION INHERENT IN THE SYSTEM. YouTube’s Nostalgia Critic demands to know “Where’s the Fair Use”?

(3) PAYING TO VOLUNTEER. While it’s commonly expected at the conventions I’ve worked that volunteers will be members of the con, this is a new one on me – having to join a secondary group in order to volunteer. “Phoenix Comicon announces changes to volunteering; paid fan group membership required” reports An Engishman in San Diego.

Square Egg Entertainment, the organisation behind Phoenix Comicon, today announced a sizeable change to its practice of staffing – and pooling volunteers for – their three annual events:  Phoenix Comicon, Phoenix Comicon Fan Fest, and Keen Halloween. Square Egg will no longer be staffing these shows with hired hands, instead now filling those roles from the organising committee and paid membership of the Blue Ribbon Army (which originally started out as a fan group for PHXCC, and has subsequently become a social club with 501(c)(7) status).

Members of the Army have to be at least 18 years old and – here’s the kicker for a number of fiscally-minded volunteers – they also do have to become fully paid-up members of the fan group, with membership prices to join starting at $20 per year and going up to $100 per year. That’s right: you effectively have to now pay to become a Phoenix Comicon volunteer.

For what it’s worth, the Blue Ribbon Army leadership isn’t being compensated

Are your board members paid?

All Blue Ribbon Army board members are unpaid volunteers. All financial information, as required by law for a 501(c)7 organization, will be posted.

(4) BOTTOM OF THE GALACTIC BARREL. Love this article title — “15 Star Wars Characters Who Are Worthless At Their Jobs” from ScreenRant.

  1. Storm Troopers – Just Bad At Their Jobs

They just had to be here, as they’re cinematic legends when it comes to utterly failing at your job. Imperial Stormtroopers, as we’re told, are precise. The Empire has access to vast resources, so you’d think its military force would be well up to scratch. Stormtroopers even get a pretty good showing the first time we see them, managing to take over Princess Leia’s ship with only a few casualties. And then almost every time after that we see them, they’re getting destroyed like they put their helmets on backwards and their armor is made of tinfoil….

(5) BILLIONAIRE BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS. Three of the “10 Books Elon Musk – ‘Tesla Founder and Billionaire’ wants you to read” are SFF, beginning with –

1. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Back when Elon Musk was a moody teen growing up in Pretoria, South Africa, he went looking for the meaning of life in the work of grumpy philosophers. It didn’t help. Then he came upon The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which taught him that the hardest part was to properly phrase the question but that once this was done the answer was easy. It changed his whole perspective.

(6) A CRACKED THEORY. Cracked brings all its scholarly powers to bear in “Snow White is a LOTR Sequel: A Mind-Blowing Theory”.  

Mortal man Beren and elf maiden Luthien Tinuviel (of the New Jersey Tinuviels) are forebears of the kings of Numenor and Gondor. Seeing as how the love story of Beren and Luthien echoes through the millennia in their great-great-many-times-great-grandchildren, it comes as no surprise that a similar fate awaits Aragorn and Arwen’s descendant, Snow White.

The family resemblance would only be uncannier if Steven Tyler cast her in inappropriately weird videos during her early teens.

At this point you may be thinking that we’re smoking too much of that pipe with Gandalf, but have you noticed Snow White’s rapport with the birds and beasts of the wild? The way they listen and respond to her?

Doesn’t this suggest a deep connection with nature, as someone with Elvish blood would have?

(7) COMING ATTRACTIONS. Plenty of genre flicks on Film School Rejects’ “The 52 Most Anticipated Movies of 2017”.

…[Our] 52 Most Anticipated Movies list is always a big hit because it operates under a simple premise: if you’re going to see one movie for every week of the new year (and you should), these are the ones on which we’d stake a claim. Because we spend a great deal of time thinking about upcoming movies and an even sadder amount of time researching them, we’re exactly the kind of people who are qualified to give out said advice. Qualified enough to say, with confidence, that these 52 movies are likely to be worth your time. They may not all turn out to be great, but they will be worth seeing and discussing throughout the year….

Beauty and the Beast (March 17)

Neil Miller: If we’re being honest?—?and we are at all times?—?Disney’s live-action parade of remakes is actually turning out to be a better idea in practice than it was on paper. Both Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella and Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book gave us an interesting take on their respective stories. Neither was the disaster that many, perhaps out of a dedication to an anti-remake stance, had predicted. This is what gives us further hope for Beauty and the Beast, the success of which will rest mostly on the shoulders of Disney’s live-action effects teams and Emma Watson, both of which have proven track records. Six weeks ago, Disney released a trailer that showed off both of these things in action. The Beast effects that cover up Dan Stevens’ handsome mug look good and Emma Watson looks right at home as Belle. We’re still not sure of those CGI housewear items with anamorphic features, but we’ll see how that pans out in the final product.

(8) DUFF VOLUNTEER. Paul Weimer has announced his candidacy for the Down Under Fan Fund.

(9) REMEMBERING RICHARD ADAMS. In 1843 Magazine, Miranda Johnson, an environment correspondent for The Economist, discusses her grandfather Richard Adams, including how Adams’s experiences fighting in Operation Market Garden in World War II informed the battles in Watership Down, how her family all became characters in her grandfather’s novels, and what happened when Adams had lunch with Groucho Marx.

He also never forgot friends he made during his service. One in particular, Paddy Kavanagh, stuck with him for his fearless defence of the Oosterbeek perimeter as part of Operation Market Garden during September 1944. Paddy gave his life so that my grandpa’s platoon could escape. So my grandfather brought him back in the character of Bigwig in “Watership Down”, who stands alone to defend a tunnel in the rabbits’ new warren. Originally in the story, Bigwig also died. But my mother and aunt protested so much that my grandpa changed the tale. “We said nobody must die,” my aunt recalls, “except for Hazel, because it seemed an important part given his old age.”

(10) HOLLYWOOD MEMORIAL. ULTRAGOTHA found the story and JJ tracked down a photo —

Carrie Fisher doesn’t have a Star on the Walk of Fame, so fans appropriated a blank one and are leaving tributes. Including two cinnamon buns.

(11) WWCD 2017. Redbubble is selling merchandise with the WWCD art and giving the money to charity —

100% of the proceeds will be donated to bipolar disorder through the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation: https://bbrfoundation.org/



  • December 30, 1816 — Percy Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft were married.


  • Born December 30, 1980 — Eliza Dushku
  • Born December 30, 1982 — Kristin Kreuk.


  • Born December 30, 1865 – Rudyard Kipling

(15) PRINTS IN THE FORECOURT. Filmmaker Roger Corman, a former Worldcon GoH, has been immortalized in concrete at a slightly less well-known theater than you usually think of when it comes to this sort of thing —

Roger Corman may not be a household name, but among movie fans he’s a cult hero.

In October, a tribute was held at the Vista Theatre to celebrate his 62-year career.

The legendary filmmaker was immortalized October 12th in the cement of the Vista’s forecourt with a handprint ceremony, alongside those of Dark Shadows star Jonathan Frid; James Bond girl Honor Blackman; special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen and Cassandra Peterson—also known as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.

“I think it’s kind of fun that [my handprints] will be out there forever,” said Corman before burying his hands deep in a patch of cement on the edge of Sunset Drive.

(16) MARS. Charles E. Gannon was part of a Dragon Con panel reported in Space.com“Space Colonies Will Start Out Like the Wild West, Grow Family-Friendly”

Like in the Old West, the goal would be for the colony to become self-sustaining, the panel said. Once a colony could support itself, it would no longer need to rely on materials from Earth to survive. When asked if an organization on Earth could realistically hope to control what was happening on Mars, Davis said, “If they’re still getting their caloric intake from someplace else, yup, you can.” [Poll: Where Should Humanity Build Its First Space Colony?]

Gannon named the biggest challenge facing a colony that aimed to grow independent from the people back home: the supply of volatiles, particularly oxygen and water. The first explorers would need to find a way for colonists to harvest those on the new world, Gannon said.

“If you have to ship those to the colony, it will be both economically and physically dependent and probably never be profitable or really safe,” Gannon said.

Even if an underground colony relied on rocks to shield itself from deadly radiation, it would still need enough water for similar shielding during vehicular missions, he said, making ice harvesting crucial to the colony’s survival.

“There are plenty of other [challenges],” he said. “But this is the minimum ante for long-term self-supportability.”

(17) PLANET NINE FROM OUTER SPACE. NPR tells us “Astronomers Seeking Planet 9 Hope To Soon Catch A Glimpse”.

On the top of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea mountain Thursday, astronomers will point the large Subaru Telescope toward a patch of sky near the constellation of Orion, looking for an extremely faint object moving slowly through space.

If they find what they’re looking for, it will be one of the most important astronomical discoveries in more than a century: a new planet in our solar system.

Technically, a new planet hasn’t been discovered since Neptune was spotted in 1846. Pluto, discovered in 1930, was demoted to “dwarf planet” a decade ago. If a new planet is found, it will be the new Planet Nine.

(18) TRADING INSULTS. Huffington Post’s “Self-Publishing: An Insult To The Written Word”  by Laurie Gough, “Award-winning author of three memoirs…a journalist and travel writer”, begins —

As a published author, people often ask me why I don’t self-publish. “Surely you’d make more money if you got to keep most of the profits rather than the publisher,” they say.

I’d rather share a cabin on a Disney cruise with Donald Trump than self-publish.

The rest of the article carries on in the same condescending tone which so aggravated Larry Correia that he stormed back from a self-imposed internet vacation to write a reply, “Fisking the HuffPo’s Snooty Rant About Self-Publishing” for Monster Hunter Nation. (Gough’s article is quoted in italics. Correia’s replies are bold. Of course they are…)

The problem with self-publishing is that it requires zero gatekeepers.

Nope. The problem with self-publishing is that there are so many competitors that the challenge is to differentiate yourself from the herd. Sure, lots of them are crap (I can say the same thing for tradpub too), but if you find a way to market yourself and get your quality product in front of the right market, then you can make quite a bit of money.  

From what I’ve seen of it, self-publishing is an insult to the written word, the craft of writing, and the tradition of literature.

From what I’ve seen, I’d say the same thing about the Huffington Post.

As an editor, I’ve tackled trying to edit the very worst writing that people plan on self-publishing just because they can.

As an actual editor who gets paid for this stuff, that sentence reads like garbage.

I’m a horrible singer. But I like singing so let’s say I decide to take some singing lessons. A month later I go to my neighbor’s basement because he has recording equipment. I screech into his microphone and he cuts me a CD. I hire a designer to make a stylish CD cover. Voilà. I have a CD and am now just like all the other musicians with CDs.

Only you just described exactly how most real working bands got their start. Add a couple of kids with a guitar and drums, set up in your buddy’s garage, and start jamming. Eventually you will get good enough that you can book some local gigs, and if people like you, they will give you money for your stuff.

Except I’m not. Everyone knows I’m a tuneless clod but something about that CD validates me as a musician.

Nobody gives a crap about “validation”. Validation don’t pay the bills.

(19) MEDIA FAVES. It’s Aliette de Bodard’s turn to bestow Smugglivus year-end cheer at The Book Smugglers.

In media, the most striking thing I watched this year is actually from last year: it was the masterful Doctor Who episode “Heaven Sent”, a tour de force by Peter Capaldi that slowly starts making horrifying sense throughout its length (and that I actually paused and rewatched just to make sure it all hung together — it does and it’s even more impressive on a rewatch). I haven’t had time to consume things from this year: most of my watching has been old things, like Black  Orphan (I can’t believe it took me this long to find out about it, it’s so good, and Tatiana Maslany is just amazing playing all the clones), and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, period mysteries featuring the awesome Phryne Fisher (and her amazing wardrobe).

(20) CATCHING UP WITH CAMESTROS. Doctor Who was on Camestros Felapton’s telly on Christmas — “Review: The Return of Doctor Misterio – 2016 Dr Who Christmas Special”.

In the 2016 Christmas Special, Moffat lays out a gentle Richard Curtis-like romantic comedy but about superheroes and alien brain parasites. No puzzles and an evil invasion plot from the bad guys that echoed both Watchmen and the Aliens of London episode from series 1 of the reboot. A wise choice that made for a funny and light episode.

The episode was not a deconstruction of the superhero genre but played the tropes simply and straight but also at a relatively shallow level. Primarily a play on the Clark Kent/Lois Lane, secret identity, romance angle but with an added play on romantic comedy trope of the woman who somehow can’t see the man she actually is looking for is standing right next to her.

(21) CAMESTROS IS A MARATHON NOT A SPRINT. Then he dashed out to see the new Star Wars movie – “Review: Rogue One”.

Well, that was fun in a Blake’s 7 sort of way.

What I liked about the film was it had a certain freedom to it. The story has one simple job: by the end of the plot, the plans for the Death Star have to be on a Rebel spaceship pursued by Darth Vader. How to get to point B is undetermined and indeed where point A is to start with nobody knows. Indeed, the film initially is a bit confused about where A is, flitting from one plane to another. However, after some initial rushing around the galaxy, the story comes together.

Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, captures a nice sense of both bravado and cynicism as the daughter of the man who designed the Death Star. Her emotional journey isn’t complex but given the number of genre films in which people appear to act incomprehensibly it was nice to have a character whose motivations were personal and direct. Her shift from reluctant rebel to a leader of a commando force is shaped overtly and plausibly by plot events.

(23) CAN’T END TOO SOON. By then the year 2016 was just about done – and Camestros designed the most suitable container for its farewell journey.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mark-kitteh, Michael J. Walsh, David K.M. Klaus, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kendall.]  

124 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 12/30/16 Use File 770; It Softens Your Pixels While You Read The Books. You’re Scrolling In it!

  1. OK, per Goodreads, in 2016 I read 72 books (although some of those were actually novellas or short stories). It looks like I only read 7 items that were actually published in 2016, of which one (Lab Girl by Hope Jahren) was non-genre and two were Star Wars tie-ins (Bloodline and Catalyst). The other three (Alastair Reynolds’ Revenger, Kate Elliott’s Poisoned Blade, V.E. Schwab’s Gathering of Shadows and Kai Ashante Wilson’s Taste of Honey) were all excellent. Old favorites revisited included Gary Jennings’ Aztec, the entire extant Song of Ice & Fire (of which I’d previously only read the first three), Philip Jose Farmer’s Dark is the Sun and Zelazny’s Jack of Shadows.

    At a glance, the single best book I read in 2016 may have been Guy Gavriel Kay’s River of Stars. So I should probably read Children of Earth and Sky sooner rather than later. And I still need to get a new supporting membership, now that I think of it …

  2. Yeah. My ideal has a cool story delivered through great prose, where I love the things that happen and love the way it’s told.

    Also, I’m fine with prose that’s straightforward and to the point, bringing me a ripping yarn without much in the way of gorgeous description (plain description of gorgeous things can be good too!), or metaphor, or anything else. But I still want it free of typos, clearly mistaken word choices, bad grammar, and so on. Whatever it is the text is doing, it should do it well.

    The same is true of what the story’s about. Simple characters can be fine, just like straightforward prose, but they should be described clearly. Each scene should matter, and it should begin and end at appropriate points. The story should be long enough to settle the narrative questions it asks without me going “wait, what, whatever happened to…”, and it should be short enough that I’m not going “I thought all this was going somewhere…” As a matter of moral and aesthetic preference, I prefer that it not trade in derogatory stereotypes, gratuitous sexual abuse, and the like. None of that’s incompatible with being a ripping yarn.

    (And I don’t mean “ripping yarn” as a put-down. I love me some great adventure, striking action, epic confrontation with bad guys who need stopping in the worst ways, derring-do, the whole deal. I co-developed a pulp adventure RPG, after all. I just want it done so that it is its best self.)

  3. @Mark (and, by proxy, airboy): “How about enjoying something that is both interesting and well-crafted? Is that allowed? Because you seem to be excluding that particular middle.”

    Exactly! Why settle for one or the other, rather than insisting on both? I’ve taken to explicitly docking review stars for poorly-edited books, precisely to show the gap between what they were and what they could’ve been. And by “explicitly,” I mean that I review the books and say “this is an X-star story, minus Y for bad/awful editing, but plus Z because this part was really neat.” (Anyone who wants to, feel free to steal that format. I would love to see more people use it.)

    Write a five-star story that has a typo on every page, and you don’t deserve a five-star review. You deserve three, at best. Similarly, give me a perfectly-crafted manuscript with cardboard characters and plot holes I could drive a semi through, and that flawless editing won’t get your awful story out of my two-star dungeon.

    You don’t get points for good editing, because that’s what I expect from a professional author – and if you’re putting your work on Amazon and asking people to give you money for it, that’s what you’re claiming to be. A professional author. Professional standards are the baseline. Falling below them should be intolerable; you’re defrauding your readers by claiming to be something you’re not. If you can’t cope with that level of scrutiny, do something else.

    A writer has exactly one tool in his kit, and that’s language. Words, grammar, punctuation, spelling… those are the basics. I wouldn’t hire a carpenter who’s clumsy with a hammer; why should I pay a wordsmith who kant spel gud?

  4. To echo others: good writing adds to the interest, it doesn’t take anything away. Good writing makes characters more compelling, makes intense situations more exciting, makes imagined worlds more vivid and believable.

    A key moment in my development, as a reader, was when I realized that “Great Literature” was (mostly) actually fun to read. We’re talking about books that have, in some cases, been remembered and re-read and loved for decades or for centuries… and they’re remembered and loved because people enjoyed them.

    Having said which – there’s always room for disagreement. There are Great Works that I would not personally touch with a ten-foot pole… but that may very well just be because they don’t chime with my particular interests. Everyone’s different, after all, and what leaves me cold may well have a powerful emotional resonance for others.

    The example I always quote here is Henry James, whom I find unspeakably tiresome. Writers I respect have disagreed, though, and friends I’ve valued have tried to explain to me how good James is… the guy clearly has something going for him; it’s just that it’s something which leaves me cold. I don’t think that’s an indictment of either James’s writing or of my taste; it’s just, well, one of those things.

  5. Year-end reading: Join by Steve Toutonghi. In the Future, people can “Join” multiple minds into a single individual. Chance is a five who has just learned that one of his bodies has terminal cancer. Fun so far but I’m only 70 pages in.


    You seem to be conflating craft and copyediting. I would be just as frustrated with a book that had “beautiful language” that was rife with spelling and grammar errors. Possibly moreso.

  6. @Steve Davidson:
    “No, the real problem is the audience.
    IF the audience had some small bit of appreciation for what makes for good writing, it wouldn’t matter how many POS ebooks were listed on Amazon, they’d have no audience. They’d object to being unwitting first readers and volunteer slushies.”

    Fiction is entertainment. Like everything else, entertainment has both a time and a money cost. If there is an audience for things you do not like in fiction, and they are willing to pay for it – then there is a viable economic market. This may not be a market that you wish to join, but it is a viable market nonetheless. Some stuff of lesser quality survives at a very low price (free or $1 a pop).

    The “Twilight” series is something that I am unwilling to spend either time or money on. It has been wildly successful financially. People who purchase Twilight in its various forms seem to be happy with their purchase. Good for them! They are happy and it does not hurt me.

    Mr. Davidson – condemning the tastes of others achieves little. It is what it is. I don’t share your tastes in SF & you don’t share mine. I guess we would agree on Twilight. But so what?

    The issue really comes down to “who decides.” I believe in personal freedom. Free people & free markets. Sometimes free people choose entertainment I find appalling (reality TV that humiliates people). But wishing for everyone to share your tastes so entire markets would disappear is illogical.

    I agree with you. If audience tastes were different some markets would not exist. But that is true for every market. No reason to let that bother you.

    “I believe it really is true that SF requires a special kind of reader and that attempting to commercialize the genre (by which I mean trying to expand the market by appealing to a wider audience) is diluting it so much that the expression “oh, that Buck Rogers stuff!” (muttered in derision) will once again become an accurate characterization of the field.”

    Instead, I think that there is a viable market for what you like, for what I like (a lot of Baen), Twilight and Buck Rogers. Nobody is forcing you or anyone else to read something they don’t enjoy.

  7. 2017 looks good so far. Though I’m obliged to state that a) it’s only been around for about half an hour, and b) my judgement is possibly slightly impaired at this stage.

  8. @Steve Davidson

    Can you point to a time when SF wasn’t commercialised? I’m pretty sure that Campbell wanted to get paid….

  9. …as did Verne and Wells. So, as nearly as I can tell, did Shelley, with her husband encouraging her in it.

    Heck, Lovecraft wanted to be paid, too, it’s just that he couldn’t write anything that would get a good rate.

  10. @Steve Davidson

    Addendum: I think your condemnation of “the mass of the reading audience” is just plain wrong (lack of educational ability, really?) but more to the point you’re providing the very stereotype of the elitist exclusionary Fan that airboy now gets to gleefully condemn.

    There are very clearly people out there happy to read something with mediocre basics of prose for a low price, just as people may watch budget TV, run a budget car, or eat at cheap cafes. I do some of those things myself! I join you in wishing they would change their standards and so push what is produced up to the level I’d prefer, but I don’t think they’ve got an obligation to me to do so, and I’m not condemning them for having a price point they’re happy with.

  11. Some people have a high tolerance for bad writing. They can enjoy a story that I’d find painful to read. The same principle applies in many other areas. I’m sure I’d be happy drinking a wine that a wine expert would find intolerable. That doesn’t mean I’m a good reader and a bad drinker. It just means that tastes (and priorities) vary.

    I do think a good story has broad appeal. I’ve had a glass from a $1,000 bottle of wine, and it did taste better–just not enough better for me to consider buying it with my own money. Likewise, even an undiscriminating reader ought to find an excellent story enjoyable, even if he/she didn’t see that it was a huge improvement over lesser stuff.

    I’ve read Henry James and James Joyce, and I think they’re both overrated, largely because they’re not fun to read. It’s like drinking turpentine and pretending it’s wine. Awards should go to the good stuff.

  12. On publishing, conventional and self: One analogy that comes to mind is the open mike, of which I have sat through many and even participated in a few. The best of them include pros and accomplished amateurs as well as newbies just figuring out how to perform in front of a live audience, and the worst will be dominated by pretty awful musicianship and writing with the occasional pleasant surprise. The best are run by hosts that make sure that the PA works, the signup sequence is maintained, and the time/song-limit rule is observed. It’s a decent balance of openness and order, and the quality of the experience depends on the quality of the performers. And for some people, more than an occasional painful newbie/clueless ten-minute-confessional (sometimes called the “singer-songwhiner”) is a reason to stay away.

    Open mikes are the natural environment of the singer with good pipes but mediocre songwriting chops, or (less often) the promising writer with a sub-Dylan voice. You have to have a serious dedication to the whole singer-songwriter-instrumentalist world to sit through the flawed performances, the self-indulgence, and the endlessly-repeated cliches of beginners and bores and potzers. It’s because you find the whole enterprise interesting, often because you share its ambitions. (Note that for many open mikes, the audience consists largely of other musicians and their supportive and long-suffering spouses, lovers, and friends. It’s a tribe, a subculture, a community. There’s a whole discussion to had about the social nature of music-making and -enjoying.)

    And to stretch the music-side comparison even farther: The folk-society concert series is a rough equivalent to the small press. The society I’m part of brings in national-level touring artists (when we can afford them), regional players (who are often just as accomplished as their more famous and hard-to-snag colleagues), and local/semi-pro/beginning performers that our very experienced bookers think can hold the stage for two sets or (for showcases or Young Voices nights) three or four tunes. There’s a small but steady audience for this kind of mix, though it requires an arts-board grant to keep it financially viable across the years.

  13. Both wine and open-mics are better analogies than I came up with, thanks 🙂

    Reading a lot of short sf is a bit like that well-organised open-mic. The editors are generally exercising some quality control, but they’re also being deliberately experimental and letting new authors in. There’s a higher than average chance of encountering something that’s really really Not Your Taste, because unlike novels there’s not the same ecosystem of reviews (both pro and crowd shared) out there for you to use as a filter, but you accept that for the chance of expanding your horizons and maybe finding a beautiful nugget or two.

  14. Henry James’ novels, I agree, bury all his good bits under rockslides of preciousness, but he wrote some damn good movies 🙂 Seriously, Wings of the Dove is one of my favorite films ever; having a ruthless scriptwriter sweep the detritus away and arrange the gold nuggets leftover does James a world of good. Also his genre shorter work reads better – The Turn of the Screw was awesome.

  15. According to Goodreads I have read 80 books this year but it sure doesn’t feel that way. I have a wretched memory for details and that’s partially why I started Goodreading/blogging, but I remember enthusiastically liking Castle Hangnail, Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky, The Fireman by Joe Hill, Bride of the Rat God by Barbara Hambly, The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.

    I look at the self pub thing more like punk rock back in the late ‘70s. The big studios were releasing overproduced extravaganzas (some of which were pretty good, I’ll always be fond of the Bee Gees) but a lot of the audience wanted something more participatory and accessible, so they embraced thousands of little bands on small homegrown labels, and some of those were also pretty good, even though the musicianship and production wasn’t nearly as polished.

  16. Once you’ve gone past $65 for a bottle of wine, the differences are unimportant for the vast number of wine drinkers, something proven over and over in blind tastings. Besides, I have a lot more fun finding terrific wines under $20.

    I’ve read my fair share of new e-pub only authors and the reviews I write definitely reflect my sensitivity to poor word choice, typos and grammar missteps. I think it’s fine to forego professional editing, but that doesn’t mean you toss your stuff up without at least finding some beta readers to tell you when you’re writing crap. We all have at least one good story in us, but a good story isn’t enough for me. I also want craft and that almost always requires some other eyes on the work before it gets published.

  17. @Greg Hullender: James and Joyce both have their devotees… I’m not among them, but clearly they speak to some people! The best example of a James fan being, I think, James Thurber, whose spirited essays in James’s defence speak of a genuine devotion – as do his affectionate (and sharply observed) parodies of James. Thurber is a writer whom I enjoy, and who took the art and the craft of writing very seriously indeed; if he’s got good things to say about Henry James, I’ll take his word on it. That doesn’t make Henry James any more readable to me, though.

    As for James Joyce…. Many years ago, I tried a little project, buying a Joyce box-set from a book club and deciding to ease my way in gradually, starting with Dubliners to acclimatize myself to the Joycean style, then working up through Portrait of an Artist until I felt confident enough to tackle the heights of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake.

    Well, the idea was sound enough… in practice, though, by the time I’d finished Dubliners, I wasn’t in the mood to tackle any more Joyce, or indeed to do anything besides stare at the wall and long for death. Now, since the stories in Dubliners have explicit themes of despair, depression and moral paralysis… you could claim, from that, that Joyce is a pretty effective writer, yes? Not fun, maybe, but effective. (And there’s plenty of writers who are good but not fun. James Tiptree, anyone?)

    Personally, I think it’s a good thing to read outside one’s comfort zone, at least once in a while… you may find some good stuff that way, stuff you’d otherwise miss. But you do have to be prepared to take the rough with the smooth. (My attempts at Henry James and James Joyce being cases in point… on the other hand, I tried the same with Lawrence Durrell, and initially bounced hard enough off the Alexandria Quartet that I left a dent in the wall behind me; I persevered, thought, and I got to grips with Durrell’s highly-coloured style, and it paid off for me, so I’m glad I stuck with it.)

    (When I say “it paid off”, I mean it paid off in terms of hours of reading enjoyment. Not brownie points with some imaginary lit-crit cabal, who probably wouldn’t have the likes of me as a member even if they existed.)

  18. snowcrash: 2017 looks good so far. Though I’m obliged to state that a) it’s only been around for about half an hour, and b) my judgement is possibly slightly impaired at this stage.

    Thanks for the advanced report. After the treacheries of 2016, I appreciate your volunteering to be a canary in the coal mine of 2017.

  19. Jack Lint: I’m curious what the minimum age is to understand today’s title….

    I think you’re on the right track already, I just wanted to say that while I recognize these ancient references, I only use them if I think they’d sound like happy nonsense to someone who doesn’t recognize what they paraphrase. I hope that’s working, anyway….

  20. Goodreads now has me at 144, with a big chunk of that being graphic novels and a small fraction being shorts (by which I mean anything sub-novel length). If I really pushed it, I’m pretty sure I could pack in half a dozen more graphic novels or power through Indexing: Reflections in the nine-plus hours before midnight, but since I’m stopping for sleep now, that 144 figure is probably pretty safe.

    I’ve definitely read a lot less prose than usual this year; a quick report that excludes GNs comes out to 78 works averaging 283 pages each. That’s more than last year (73 avg 190), but less than 2014 (90 avg 277). Thing is, I don’t consider any of those “normal years” – as evidenced by 2013 (131 avg 299), which was my last full year before taking up editing. Looks like I’ve been doing a lot more quick-fix “popcorn reading” in the last couple of years, which is where I binge on graphic novels once in a while and see my total book count shoot up as a result. Not that GNs are unworthy, but when I can blaze through one in an hour, it hardly seems fair to count it the same as a prose book.

  21. 8&1/2 hours into the new year and, peers out the window… seems o.k.

    Personal preference is part of it. If you hate broccoli, even a perfectly cooked broccoli won’t be palatable. But also, sometimes you have to be ready too.

    For me it was Iain M. Banks. I bounced off him as a teenager, but gave him another try some years later and that time, it stuck, to the point he became one of my favourite writers.

    OTOH, despite several goes, I still haven’t finished “Little, Big”…

  22. I read 115 books (including separately published novellas) in 2016. 67 of these were sf or fantasy, including 2 nonfiction works. About 15 were 2016 publications in the USA. My favourite of these was Poseidon’s Wake by Alastair Reynolds ( which I think qualifies as 2016 in the US) which included a sort of philosophical plot point that I considered a weakness but which gave me a lot of pleasure nevertheless. I could list most of the others as well, as I enjoyed most of the new sf books I read. I suppose the unique Too Like the Lightning deserves special mention. Also Ninefox Gambit, which took a while to draw me in but eventually became quite gripping, despite the quite abstract character of some of the central ideas.

    I read quite a bit of Bujold and Brust in 2016 and am now up to date on their respective major series. (Haven’t tried Bujold’s “Sharing Knife”). Big amazing reads included Perdido Street Station and Moby Dick. On the nonfiction side, I found The German War by Nicholas Starsgardt very interesting. It is a big historical work on the German experience of WW2.

  23. Best of 2016

    Chris Roberson’s Firewalk. A Criminal Minds style story complete with a FBI BAU agent that’s set in a richly imagined Pacific coast city where something magical (maybe) is creating zombies (maybe). Well-written and keeps its secrets right up to the end.

    Peter Beagle’s Summerlong. I read an early draft of this some thirteen years and it was quite different from this final version. Like much of his fiction, it’s a novel with magics that are quite unexpected. None of the profits from this novel go to his former rat bastard of an agent.

    Stephen Baxter & Alastair Reynold’s The Medusa Chronicles. Well-done sf. Reads more the latter author than the former which is good as I’m not a Baxter fan.

    Ellen Kushners et al’s Tremontaine: The First Season. Set in her Riverside series: more mannerpunk, more swordfights, more hot chocolate.

    Elizabeth Hand’s Wylding Hall. As interesting for its depiction of a Sixties fBritish folk rock band as it is for the fantasy aspect. Just the right length for the story being told.

    Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station. Listening to the audiobook now. Jeff Harding, who also narrated Osama by him, is the most excellent narrator. Every bit as superb as hisBookman series was. Delves deeply into fiction by other sf writers by having such things as Louie Wu shops for wireheads and a robot priest referring to the nine billion names of God.

    James S. A. Corey’s Babylon’s Ashes is yet another strong book in quite the best hard sf series being written today.

  24. Among all this year’s-end-recommending stuff… no love for Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Blades? I thought it was at least an adequate sequel to City of Stairs….

  25. @ Jamoche: There’s a great deal of variation on this by fandom, and also by archive. I’m currently in the process of reading thru this year’s Yuletide fics on AO3, and finding quite a lot that I consider good enough to bookmark. Now mind you, there are a bunch of fandoms I’m skipping completely because they don’t interest me, and it could be that all the really awful dreck is hiding in those, but I think it’s unlikely.

    Fic-rec groups aren’t necessarily the solution either. I follow fancake on DreamWidth, but even there a lot of things get recced that are not my cup of tea for various reasons. On AO3 you can subscribe to authors you like and get notified when they post something new. My solution, such as it is, is just to accept that there’s going to be a lot of terrific fanfic that I’ll never find out about, just as there are more good books than I’ll ever have time to read.

    @ airboy: A valid point, but it’s really much better to read something interesting with well-crafted prose and no editing howlers. The best of both worlds.

    “Something interesting with a few mistakes” is in fact very close to the way I approach fanfic, though; my tolerance level for editing errors is much higher when I’m reading something that hasn’t been (supposedly) professionally edited. And even there, I’d rather read something interesting that doesn’t make me flinch.

    @ Steve D: “Vanity press” and “self-publishing” are not the same thing. Most vanity presses try to masquerade as actual publishers, but the author has to pay for the services that come included in a house contract, and the author has to commit to buying a substantial number of copies of the finished product. Self-publishing is what Steve W. said — the author has to do themselves, or arrange for, everything that goes into publishing a book.

  26. I’ve already done my year-end general round-up post, so I won’t do a separate “what I’ve read” list. The list is based on what I reviewed, so it probably under-reports somewhat, but it comes up to 28 novels (including graphic novels) and 27 non-fiction publication (which includes articles as well as whole books).

    I also did a separate post on My Favorite 20 Things Consumed in 2016 covering all types of media and emphatically based on entirely subjective and personal criteria.

  27. There are levels of “this needs an editor,” though.

    Some people will be annoyed by comma splices or a confusion between “their” and “there.”

    Many people will be confused if the characters change names at random—who’s this Fergus person? The readers not only shouldn’t have to figure out that oh, this is the guy who was named Ferdinand or Marcus the last time he was mentioned, they mostly aren’t going to bother to do the work. The confusion from an omitted “not” may last longer, because the reader thinks she knows what the sentence meant. (Imagine a bit of dialogue where someone emphatically affirms “She is my daughter!” and you learn some time later that they actually meant to deny it: “She is not my daughter!”
    A lot of people will bounce off the really ungrammatical stuff: split all the infinitives you like, but if you leave out the verbs, you’ve got a problem.

  28. @ Russell: You’ve just described filk circles. 🙂

    @ Soon Lee: And sometimes it goes in the other direction. I came to the Oz books too late, and at age 15 bounced really hard off things that I wouldn’t have noticed at age 6 — most notably, Baum’s “talking condescendingly down to the reader” style.

  29. I think this thing of being “ready for” a writer keeps going through life… I ‘ve found myself in middle age reading and loving works that I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed earlier.

  30. My top five of fiction books (I always read fiction and non-fiction alternating) that Ife read this year: The adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Chabon, The library at Mount Char by Hawkins, Three body problem by Cixin Liu, Euphoria by King and The zero by Walter. Pretty good reading year all things considered…

  31. It is worth noting that there have been times editors (or at least copyeditors) have made a work worse; for someone my age, the most notorious of these (partly because the author was loudly public about it) was Brunner’s The Shockwave Rider, in which Jake and Josh Treves were merged into a single name, thus requiring the character to be simultaneously in two places a thousand miles apart. But these are rare; from what I hear from editors, an error-filled professionally-published book is much more likely to reflect the failure of the copyeditor to catch all the author’s mistakes — aggravated by copyediting being a contract operation rather than an in-house position.

    contra airboy, I find that an obviously wrong word throws me out of the author’s universe. By starting to read a piece of SF I am agreeing to accept the author’s use of things-that-aren’t as a necessary part of the story, but I expect that use to work — an obvious error leads me to wonder what papered-over holes I’ve missed and whether any of them break the story. Some people can just blaze through a book for the ride; to me some of the interest is how plausibly the author assembles and uses the things-that-aren’t.

  32. I’m not against self-publishing – after all, I do it myself and strive to make everything as good as I can. Doesn’t mean that mistakes occasionally slip through, but I’d like to think that’s the exception.

    As some of you might know, I also co-run an indie SFF blog with another writer and therefore I see a lot of self-published and small press SFF. Via that blog, I have found a lot of good authors and novels I might otherwise not have encountered. I’ve also encountered a lot of authors whose work was without glaring issues, but simply not to my taste. And there have been a handful (and thankfully, it only was a handful) of work which did have notable technical issues regarding grammar, spelling, etc… There was one case, where my co-blogger and I were stunned by a typo and grammar mistake laden excerpt and even more stunned when we saw that book’s high rank on Amazon. Whoever the audience for that book was, they clearly didn’t mind the issues we noticed.

    I agree with Steve Davidson that particularly Amazon with the Kindle and Kindle Unlimited seems to have tapped into an audience that didn’t read much before, but does so now, at least partly due to the low costs of many self-published books or the “all you can eat” model of Kindle Unlimited. And at least part of this audience does not particularly care about derivative stories (probably because they didn’t read much before, so the stories are new to them) nor about glaring technical issues like grammar problems, typos, editing mistakes, etc… And if the audience enjoys what they’re reading, then more power to them. I may not care for those stories and if any of them were to show up on the Hugo ballot, I’d rank them accordingly, but I don’t have a problem with their existence and that someone out there is enjoying them.

    Though personally, I prefer both good writing (doesn’t have to be beautiful, but a minimum competence is necessary) and a good story. I have no problems finding works, both traditionally and self-published, that satisfy my requirements. BTW, I actually read the first Twilight novel and it was okay for what it was, though I’m not the target audience and have read paranormal romances I’ve enjoyed much more. Meanwhile, the Larry Correia novel in the Hugo voter packet two years ago didn’t do it for me at all. But then, I’m pretty sure I’m not his target audience either and he clearly has plenty of fans who like his stuff.

    Meanwhile, 2017 is still twenty minutes away here. I’m back from New Year’s Eve dinner and am now waiting for the clock to strike midnight, so the fireworks can begin. Though my new Russian neighbours have been making fireworks all evening long.

  33. BTW, I have to be a big fan of the author to forgive massive editing issues. One of the worst traditionally published examples I’ve ever seen were DAW’s editions of Simon R. Green’s Deathstalker series (which I otherwise loved), which had the whole gamut of characters randomly changing names – including one case where two characters with similar names got mixed up at a point when one of them was already supposed to be dead.

    And then there was the Harlequin romance where the heroine had a “look of raptor” on her face during the sex scene. And no, it was not a Chuck Tingle story.

    @Charon D.
    Bride of the Rat God by Barbara Hambly is excellent. I read it around the time it first came out.

    A somewhat early Happy New Year to all Filers.

  34. BTW, I have to be a big fan of the author to forgive massive editing issues.

    One of A.D. Foster’s novels had three or four pages where it seemed to me that the paragraphs had been randomly shuffled at some point and no one had caught them. (Or three or four versions of a scene had been left in the manuscript, overlapping each other, with no one noticing.) That was somethign that a good editor should have spotted.

  35. @ Bruce Baugh: Happy to have hit upon a useful comparison. (I knew all those coffee-house/bar/song-circle evenings would come in handy some day.)

    @Lee: Yup.

  36. Happy New Year from the leafy Chiltern Hills, currently under a bombardment of fireworks which sounds like the Martians are invading. There we are, 2017 is SFnal already.

  37. And a Happy New Year from Wales, where (surprise, surprise) it’s raining. Like Camestros, I can report a barking dog (probably seen the weather forecast and realises he might not get a walk tomorrow), also a small silent dog who has just gone to sleep on my leg. No sign of Steve’s Martians yet.

  38. Peter J on December 31, 2016 at 4:55 pm said:
    And a Happy New Year from Wales, where (surprise, surprise) it’s raining. Like Camestros, I can report a barking dog (probably seen the weather forecast and realises he might not get a walk tomorrow), also a small silent dog who has just gone to sleep on my leg. No sign of Steve’s Martians yet.

    They are seeing the sights of my delightful home town. They’ll be done in about ten more minutes, tops.

  39. Happy New Year from Bremen in North Germany. We had Steve’s Martian invasion as well, at least judging by the insane amount of fireworks.

  40. Kristine Kathryn Rusch has made a public posting on Patreon: “All Romance Ebooks and its sister website Omnilit did something incredibly awful on December 28, 2016. It sent out a handful of emails, letting writers, publishers, readers, and others know that it was shutting its doors four days later.”

    This is a really well-thought-out and helpful piece. The TL;DR is:
    1) if you’re an author who was using them as a distributor, get your rights reverted immediately;
    2) if you’re a reader who bought books through them, get them copied to your computer immediately.

    There’s a lot more helpful advice for affected authors in there. I really hope that no Filers are affected by this, and I feel bad for all authors who were involved with that business; they are almost certainly not going to get any money they are owed.

  41. The AllRomance/OmniLit thing is awful. Thankfully, I’m only losing a few dollars to this disaster, but I know authors who have lost hundreds and thousands of dollars. One author of m/m paranormal romance (a niche genre where AllRomance was strong) has lost most of her income overnight.

    For more background on the company and its problematic business practices, see this post by Celina Summers.

    If you’re an author affected by the AllRomance closure, fill out this survey.

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