Pixel Scroll 12/7 Mr. Mxyzpixelstalk

(1) ROCK’N ROLL. From the Guardian: “Stonehenge may have been first erected in Wales, evidence suggests”.

It has long been known that the bluestones that form Stonehenge’s inner horseshoe came from the Preseli hills in Pembrokeshire, around 140 miles from Salisbury Plain.

Now archaeologists have discovered a series of recesses in the rocky outcrops of Carn Goedog and Craig Rhos-y-felin, to the north of those hills, that match Stonehenge’s bluestones in size and shape. They have also found similar stones that the prehistoric builders extracted but left behind, and “a loading bay” from where the huge stones could be dragged away.

Carbonised hazelnut shells and charcoal from the quarry workers’ campfires have been radiocarbon-dated to reveal when the stones would have been extracted.

Prof Mike Parker Pearson, director of the project and professor of British later prehistory at University College London (UCL), said the finds were “amazing”.

“We have dates of around 3400 BC for Craig Rhos-y-felin and 3200 BC for Carn Goedog, which is intriguing because the bluestones didn’t get put up at Stonehenge until around 2900 BC,” he said. “It could have taken those Neolithic stone-draggers nearly 500 years to get them to Stonehenge, but that’s pretty improbable in my view. It’s more likely that the stones were first used in a local monument, somewhere near the quarries, that was then dismantled and dragged off to Wiltshire.”

Spoils of war? A demonstration of imperial hegemony, like the monuments that were moved to Constantinople?

(2) YEAR’S WORST SF? Vivenne Raper, in “[Review] The Hunger Tower by Pan Haitian”, concurs with Rocket Stack Rank that this might be the worst story published this year.

 #2 The Crack-Fic Trophy for Unintended Erotica

Some writers devote whole blogposts to describing characters. Other writers, however, don’t bother with all that… or correcting translation errors/missing words.

we must band together in this time calamity,*” the captain said. It comforted them all a little to look up at his ruggedly unyielding gray eyes, his muscular neck, his sturdy and well-defined chest.

I expected Fifty Shades of Cannibalism after the ‘ruggedly unyielding gray eyes’. Happily, that didn’t happen, but the author did attempt other descriptions, including this classic:

Vivienne warns that reading this story may lead you to think your own writing isn’t that bad…

(3) IS TREK DOOMED? M.J. Moore argues “Why Star Trek Won’t Make it to the 23rd Century” at SF Signal.

So what do viewers want if not honest to goodness space exploration?

Survival, plain and simple. For a long time now the market has been saturated with Will Smith battling aliens over the White House; the remnants of Earth being overrun by aliens; aliens posing as humans in order to infiltrate and destroy mankind; even young kids with super-minds seeking to destroy an alien race before it destroys us. The big fantasy-books-turned-movies share this focus with the likes of The Hunger Games and Divergent series’.

Consider the hot sci-fi TV shows right now: Killjoys, Extant, Dark Matter, Defiance, Falling Skies. These programs are not about finding peace or new discovery. These shows take an extremely close, dark look at the ‘what if everything went wrong?’ and the ‘how do we deal with life now?’ questions. Our collective fear of the unknown and drive to believe that we can survive against these odds leaves the sci-fi of the current era little room for innocent wonder. We’ve transitioned from an open, outreaching ideal into a people obsessed with self-preservation – and who can blame us? Look at what we’re dealing with today: global warming, terrorism, nation-wide hatred that spawns one blood bath after another.

(4) A PROFILE IN COURAGE. Kameron Hurley details “Why I Chose to Write Publicly About Anxiety”.

…We look at super star writers and we think it must all be easy for them (I certainly do), and that if it isn’t easy for us, that we’re doing something wrong (I always think I’m doing it wrong).

That’s why I wrote this column for Locus Magazine this month.

Note that – though I spoke about anxiety issues back in July – I waited quite a while to make a post about having to go on medication for it. I started meds in October, right before Empire Ascendant came out, but I still had one more book draft to complete before the end of the year, and I didn’t want to be open (beyond a few vague tweets) about this until I’d turned in that book (or a VERY rough draft of it). I’ve cautioned writers before in being too open about their physical or mental health when things are bad. I’ve heard from a lot of writers (including the late Jay Lake) about how people stopped offering them opportunities on the assumption that they were unable or would be unwilling to tackle them. I didn’t want people to count me out, but I had to wait until I knew I was already better before noting that, you know, back in July I was a fucking nut and yeah, no, it just kept getting worse. This summer was pretty bad. But I had so much work to do by year’s end that I didn’t want to share that with anyone. I’d also hazard a guess that I’d have missed out on some opportunities that came in later in the year if I’d have been too open about just how fucking crazy things were.

Your mileage may vary, but I’d heard of too many writers burned by this. I hedged my bets and wrote the Locus post back in October knowing it would go live in December after I was sane and functioning again….

(5) ACCESS PLEDGE. Ann Leckie’s new post “Access” announces:

I am signing on to Mary Robinette Kowal’s Convention Accessibility Pledge. I’m doing it in this blog post because I think it’s important as many people as possible are aware of this issue.

I’m not going to pull out of convention appearances that I’ve already committed to. (And as it happens, ConFusion and Vericon have both assured me they’re taking accessibility issues seriously, so kudos to them.) But going forward, I will only attend cons that meet the (let’s be honest, pretty minimal) criteria outlined in MRK’s post….

But having a con inside a dry, heated and/or cooled building with sufficient space for people to move around and stairs between floors is in fact an accommodation. We just don’t think of it as one, since we’re used to seeing that particular attention to our needs and comfort as normal and understandable and worth going to some effort to ensure. And yes, stairs are an accommodation. What, you can’t climb up that rope ladder to the next floor?

Claims that arranging in advance to have some ramps or lifts on standby is just too much trouble or expense are, frankly, claims that the needs and comfort of members who need them just don’t matter to you….

(6) Today In History

  • December 7, 1972 — Apollo 17 was launched on the last scheduled manned mission to the moon.

(7) Today’s Birthday Girl

  • Born December 7, 1915 – Leigh Brackett

Stephen Haffner and the Haffner Press celebrated Leigh Brackett’s 100th Birthday with a long autobiographical quote.

I sold my first story (in late 1939, to Astounding) largely because of two things. First, because this same grandfather had a sure and quiet faith in me, and showed it by financing me in my chance to write when I was quite old enough to make my own living. Second, because one Henry Kuttner, of whom you may have heard, chose to think my wobbling and misshapen efforts had some promise, and went out of his way to help me develop it.

 “I have been writing for a living ever since, mostly in science fiction, sometimes in detective stories, for three years and a bit in the Hollywood studios (Columbia, Republic and Warner’s), and a very brief excursion into radio. I like to write. There are times, I’ll admit, when I wish I had chosen the profession of ditch-digging instead. (In all honesty, I’ll have to qualify that last. Since moving to the country I have actually dug a ditch, and I believe that writing is easier.) But it’s a satisfying job and one that constantly expands and changes because you can never possibly learn everything about it. You ask what my philosophy of writing is—I don’t know that I have any. To tell a good story, to tell it as well and effectively as possible, and to try to grow a little wiser and a little deeper all the time—I suppose, put into words, that’s what I aim at. Whether or not I hit it is another matter entirely.

The Haffner Press will also be thrilled if you preorder its Leigh Brackett Centennial  collection.

Discovered by editor Stephen Haffner, Brackett’s unpublished story “They” leads off this tribute volume collecting the majority of Brackett’s nonfiction writings, supplemented with vintage interviews and commentaries/remembrances from such luminaries as Ray Bradbury, Michael Moorcock, Richard A. Lupoff, and more.


Leigh Brackett

Leigh Brackett

(8) EVEN MORE MST3K. The “Bring Back Mystery Science Theater 3000” Kickstarter has raised almost double the funds they set as the original goal, $2,000,000. They can already pay for six new episodes. Another three will be produced if they reach $4,400,000. With four days to go, 32,181 backers have pledged $3,89,247.

(9) James H. Burns has two spoiler questions about the new Hunger Games film (but they aren’t really spoilers, and he’s pretty sure the answer may be in the books):  How can seventy-five blocks possibly be so long?  (in most American cities, that would take, at most, 90 minutes to 2 hours to cross); and how can the Capitol’s government possibly not have heat imaging, or even more advanced technology, to spot the “intruders”?

(10) ZOMBIE STALKER. Fansided reports “Norman Reedus bitten by fan at Walker Stalker Con”.

Norman Reedus of The Walking Dead was reportedly bitten at Walker Stalker Convention in New York/New Jersey by a fan who is now banned from future WSC events.

Turns out that Norman Reedus has to watch out for biters even when he’s not on the set of AMC’s hit zombie survival drama The Walking Dead.

According to several reports, a female fan was standing in front of Spoil The Dead member Michael Bowman in the line for photo opportunities with Reedus and Michael Rooker at Walker Stalker Con NY/NJ around 2:50 pm when it was her turn to get a picture taken.

The woman approached the two actors and told Norman Reedus a story about how she likes to pretend that she’s married to him. After a moment, security ran in and restrained the woman, explaining that she was to be removed for biting the The Walking Dead star and saying “Um….ma’am. You just bit Norman Reedus.”

(11) IT AIN’T SF. LOL! ScienceFiction.com leads with a droll headline — “Defying All Expectations: ‘Star Wars’ Not Science-Fiction Claims ‘The Force Awakens’ Scribe”.

‘Star Wars’ writing veteran Lawrence Kasdan has made an interesting statement recently while speaking to Wired about ‘Star Wars.’ According to the long-time screenwriter, he believes that the epic space-opera is not actually part of the sci-fi genre, as for him, the franchise in many ways seems to stand outside of any genre. In his own words:

“Star Wars is its own genre. It’s not really science fiction. It’s really something on its own, fantasy and myth and science fiction and Flash Gordon and Akira Kurosawa all mixed up together. For that reason, like all genre it can hold a million different kinds of artists and stories… It can be anything you want it to be.”

(12) IMPROVING AS A WRITER. Max Florschutz’ advice for “Being a Better Writer: Always Keep Learning”.

See, there’s a mindset out there in the world today—one that’s certainly not limited to writers, mind—that stipulates that once we reach a certain “point,” usually vaguely defined by some milestone or outside individual, we can “stop learning.” There’s no need to go on. We’ve succeeded. We don’t need to learn anything anymore. We’ve conquered the need for education, and all we need to do now is continue in our craft….

But here’s the real truth behind it. You’re never going to hit that peak. Those people who think that there is a perfect moment where one can just “stop learning” because they know it all are of the same mindset as those individuals who think there is a limited amount of “good fiction” and that other authors need to stop writing so that someone else can have their attention (no, I’m not joking, there’s a whole movement of people with that mindset protesting against authors who are doing well and telling them to stop because they’re hogging the limited resource of readers) or that the publishers should be the only vetting source of books (and not, you know, the public).

(13) AMERICA’S WIZARD COLLEGE. “My crowdfunding campaign: College for wizards”, Abha Bhattari’s recent column “On Small Business” in the Washington Post, was devoted to how two people from Richmond raised nearly $300,000 to host “New World Magichola:  A College of Wizardry Larp” where people will spend four days and up to $920 in a workshop to create “an entire North American magical universe” in Richmond.

The Kickstarter page with lots of photos and videos is here.

Raised: $232,062 (as of Nov. 25) of a $35,000 goal. The campaign goes through Jan. 4.

What’s the pitch?

Get your wand ready. Wizardry school is just around the corner.

At New World Magischola, students will get the chance to take courses in a range of subjects including alchemy, magical theory and poisons.

They will receive a costume, robe and a magic textbook when they arrive and will be tasked with warding off  evil entities and saving civilization — all while in character.

Brown and her co-founder Benjamin Morrow, 38, came up with the idea for the live-action role play event after attending a similar workshop at a castle in Poland last year. They spent six months creating a fantasy world called Magimundi.

“We thought it was high time that North American had its own magical universe,” Brown said.

In order to become wizards in this magical universe, students must complete one of five majors (choices include Cursebreaking and Cryptozoology) that will be offered next summer. Students will live on campus at the University of Richmond for the duration of the four-day, three-night program.

“You’ll get access to an entire North American magical universe,” Brown and Morrow write on their Kickstarter page. “We’ve designed a world, history, economy, characters, plots, sets, costumes, and magical creatures for you to interact with as your character.”

(14) WHO CHRISTMAS. The BBC has released two trailers for the Doctor Who Christmas Special, “The Husbands of River Song.”

It’s Christmas Day on a remote human colony and the Doctor is hiding from Christmas Carols and Comedy Antlers. But when a crashed spaceship calls upon the Doctor for help, he finds himself recruited into River Song’s squad and hurled into a fast and frantic chase across the galaxy. King Hydroflax (Greg Davies) is furious, and his giant Robot bodyguard is out-of-control and coming for them all! Will Nardole (Matt Lucas) survive? And when will River Song work out who the Doctor is?


[Thanks to Gregory N. Hullender, Martin Morse Wooster, James H. Burns, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

148 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 12/7 Mr. Mxyzpixelstalk

  1. Re: 50 Shades of Cannibalism, maybe in the original language it’s more of a tone poem? Some fiction translates easier than other fiction. I’ll admit that the description does come close to my answer when the “what person would you like to be stranded on a desert island with?” A really large one.

  2. (7) Leigh Brackett
    That picture of Brackett…she looks more like my mother than any of Mom’s own sisters did! Seriously uncanny resemblance. [shiver]

  3. Just finished The Sculptor today and holy shit. First I thought it to slow. Didn’t like the drawings felt it naive and I usually have a problem with human interests stories.

    But when the calendat started to reach its end, thats when the emotional impact started coming. And the ending – yeah!!

    Still have a problem with the drawings, but most likely I will nominate it for Best Graphic Story anyhow. That’s impressive.

  4. I think that Alex Kingston and Peter Capaldi look to have much better chemistry than any previous Doctor and River. I’m looking forward to it

    The Matt Smith Doctor was always so super boyishly awkward around River. Being an anime fan I sorta half expected in some of their “closer” moments that he would get a nose bleed and faint.

  5. Thanks for the KSR short story link! Super-fast read that was a ton of fun. Amazing how he was able to, with just one side of a transcript, create an interesting dialog, backstory, characterization, as well as some interesting ethical points.

  6. Star Trek Voyager started out pretty good

    I tried to watch Voyager for the first couple of years but it got boring quickly. It was very much NG with additional complications. There were too many “Spacial Anomaly of the Week” episodes which took away from the theoretical urgency of their situation. Having watched what could be done with a good multi-sesaon story arc and genuine character growth(Bab5, DS9), Voyager was a major step backward and disappointment.

    Plus Neelix

  7. That’s a magnificent story by Kim on the Tor site; I don’t suppose anyone knows the word count?

  8. I really liked the KSR story too, thanks.

    Currently reading “Bombs Away” by Harry Turtledove, “alternate history” in which Truman takes MacArthur’s advice to use atomic bombs on Manchurian cities in 1951, and WW3 fought with atomic weapons ensues.

    To the best of my recollection Cold War era stories of atomic war were usually tense cautionary “Fail-Safe” – like narratives about the coming of disastrous war, or else post-holocaust tales about survival in the aftermath. So far this is neither. It’s about the war itself and the experience of those involved. There are multiple points of view, mainly military personnel but also civilians in various countries. I think the story is credible enough and reasonably well told. Not sure about the characterization of Truman, who of course has to make a major bad decision in order to set the story going. I think all Cold War US presidents should be given credit for refraining from use of these weapons.

    I haven’t read much if any Turtledove before. Looking at the list of books he has produced, he is quite prolific.

  9. People are still hacking on Nethack? I had no idea. That’s awesome! Never made the Tourist/Discworld connection before, but i stopped playing Nethack semi-regularly long before I read Discworld. The “Dungeon Hacks” book looks intriguing, too.

  10. I couldn’t appreciate the KSR story because throughout the whole thing I was saying “But human photosynthesis wouldn’t work!” (Someone in the story’s comments links to Randall Munroe explaining why not.) If that makes me Charlie-Stross-boring, fine. But seriously, as a critique of patent law and capitalist economic policy, it didn’t quite connect with me (in spite of nice parody of testimony). Should it have been more lighthearted or more savage? Based on an invention more obviously fanciful or more superficially plausible? I don’t know…

  11. Star Trek Voyager started out pretty good

    It struck me VERY rapidly that there was a really interesting concept that they shyed away from at great speed, probably in the minutes after the pitch meeting.

    You’re Star Fleet. You’ve got principles. Without your principles you’re nothing. And you’re lost. Stuck. In the middle of no-where. How many of those principles will you sacrifice to get home?

    That could have made for a really good, if dark, show. Sadly the answer turned out to be ‘none of them’.

    Plus Neelix.

  12. Kyra on December 8, 2015 at 2:41 am said:

    Saw Mockingjay Part II just the other day. It was … OK. I mean, it was fine; the acting was very good, I’ll pretty much watch anything Jennifer Lawrence is in at this point. But my reaction to it was the same as to Mockingjay Part I. Where Catching Fire was a truly brilliant adaptation, these were just all right.

    Mockingjay is a book I actually love deeply, and yes, I am aware of the plotting problems that have been brought up here. I think that’s why the movies of it don’t quite work. What makes Mockingjay work is the interior monologue of the main character, an astonishing portrait of a teenager with PTSD and no knowledge that there even is such a thing.

    I thought the books were OK (probably wouldn’t have read them except at the insistence of the resident YA) – but I think all of the movies work better primarily due to Jennifer Lawrence’s acting. i.e. rather than Katniss telling us how she feels we see somebody struggling with their substantial conflicts. I found it engaged my empathy more to feel that I have to imagine what is going on in her head than being told – mind you I had read the books so I suppose I knew already…

  13. Also the crew was a mix of Federation and Maquis! Janeway was a scientist! There was so much wasted potential in Voyager. Though any show with Neelix as an important, trusted character would have been well-nigh insufferable.

    My pet theory is that Living Witness tells what really happened and the other episodes are just what Janeway et. al. told Starfleet when they got back.

  14. @Kyra

    I haven’t seen Mockingjay Part II yet, but I agree with everything else you said about the series, so I’ll probably agree with you about MJII.

  15. @Stevie

    That’s a magnificent story by Kim on the Tor site; I don’t suppose anyone knows the word count?

    For Oral Argument, by Kim Stanley Robinson, I count 2,130 words. I have to agree with @Vasha, though. I remember reading an article by Poul Anderson back in the 1960s explaining why human photosynthesis couldn’t provide more than a few percent of human needs.

    But the big problem with the piece is that it’s not a story at all; it’s just a political rant.

  16. @Nickpheas

    I think that’s an accurate read of Voyager. Could have been great. Because those ethical questions did make for a good and dark show, called DS9. I think part of the reason they shied away to fast had something to do with the massive nerdrage that DS9 incurred asking exactly those questions.

  17. @TheYoungPretender:

    Was there nerdrage about DS9? I wasn’t in touch with fandom at the time, but I thought it was brilliant, far and away the best “Star Trek” series by a long, long way.

  18. Vasha

    I think that there was a deliberate choice between vaguely plausible and downright drastic, and the author came down heavily in favour of downright drastic because, in most places on the planet, the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court have been seen in recent years as downright drastic. The fact that it’s us rather than the aliens who are green is a delightful twist.

    In reality, of course, the U.S. is not going to invade India in an attempt to enforce the decisions of the U.S. courts, horrifying as that may seem to all those people who believe that the function of the U.S. military is to enforce the economic supremacy of the U.S. Nevertheless, there are certainly Justices of the Court who appear to be horrified that this is not going to happen, and certainly Justices who seem to have difficulties with the idea that people may do things for reasons other than wanting to make money.

    I have no problem in describing this as a work of fantasy rather than SF, even if there is no snow, but it’s a brilliant piece of writing whatever label we pin on it…

  19. @Peace

    It’s one of my favorites. It has aged best. Some of its episodes are even more powerful now then they were when it aired. It had women as more than helpers, racism episodes that were powerful and not just morality candy for nice white people, and some examination of Utopia’s price.

    At the time and still though, there is a very large faction of fans who view TNG as the great, unchanged model, and a lot of what DS9 did is viewed as a betrayal of Roddenberry’s vision. There are some parts of the fandom where there are the “Trekies” and then there are the “Niners,” though the coinage is not widespread. I thought I had seen somewhere that the lesson that Paramount took from DS9’s somewhat lower ratings than TNG and the nerdrage was to keep as close as possible to TNG.

  20. DS9 was a move to darker material for Star Trek, but was it really any darker than most of the current comic-book-based shows? I’d say that Agents of Shield is dark in a very similar way, and Arrow is darker than broadcast television nearly ever got at the time (or earlier).

    Voyager never really got me: right from the beginning, they ran into the same antagonists on a regular basis. That made it really hard for me to believe they were doing their best to make a beeline for home.

  21. Greg

    I’m not sure why you think this is political; the standoff between the U.S. and other countries with large pharmaceutical industries is well known, and hasn’t changed notwithstanding changes in the Presidency and Congress.

    It may upset people who believe that the purpose of the U.S. military is to invade anywhere which endangers U.S. economic supremacy, but I don’t think that is a political view, given the impossibility of actually doing so; it’s fantasy just as the story is fantasy. The story has the edge because it’s a lot funnier…

  22. Count me as one firmly in the Voyager fan-camp. Part of that could due to Kate Mulgrew and her voice. God, is that not one of the sexiest voices you’ve ever heard? …but maybe that’s just me. Also, Robert Picardo.

    And while Neelix was somewhat annoying, I kinda liked him. My big issue was Chakotay. I get it, you have Native ancestry! That’s awesome, now let’s move the frick on!

  23. Voyager never really got me: right from the beginning, they ran into the same antagonists on a regular basis. That made it really hard for me to believe they were doing their best to make a beeline for home.

    Or they were doing their best, but the Federation gave them the slowest ship in their fleet. (“That will show Janeway what we think of her!”)

    It’s like Smallville, where every former Kryptonian that Clark met could fly while he was still stuck on the ground. “Super”man, he was not.

  24. @Stevie

    I’m not sure why you think this is political

    Well, let’s look at a paragraph from the story:

    Possibly you’ve even heard people saying that the failure to regulate finance after 2008 was what led to the crash, and that the failure to regulate finance was a result of your decision in Citizens United and elsewhere. Possibly you’ve heard yourselves described as the cause of the crash, or even as the worst court in the history of the United States.

    There’s nothing in the story about pharmaceuticals, or India, or war, or other countries, or anything like that. Are you sure we’re talking about the same story here?

    I can agree with the politics of a story 100% and still give it 1 or 2 stars. Beating me over the head with what I already believe isn’t any better than doing it with things I don’t believe in. It’s actually worse if the arguments are foolish.

    There’s nothing wrong with a story having a message–even a message I disagree with. But the story comes first.

  25. @Greg Hullender: “It’s rather scary that something this bad is famous in China.”

    I find it depressing how famous the Fifty Shades books are in the U.S. A little perspective…


    Agreed on the “X Hours” AoS episode being a highlight.

  26. @Peace: “Was there nerdrage about DS9?”

    Oh, gods, yes! “To boldly sit” was one of their shibboleths in the beginning, as they hated the idea of a Star Trek series that was set in one place instead of on a spaceship that roamed the galaxy. (I see the introduction of the Defiant and the development of Voyager as responses to that criticism.)

  27. @Rev Bob: I wonder if Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter wouldn’t be the more accurate comparison? From this article he seems to like to mash high and low culture together if “Lu Xun: Demon Hunter” (from 2010, same year as Abraham Lincoln so possibly not a direct rip-off) is representative.

    But of course all this is just speculation.

  28. @Rev. Bob:

    To sit in one place. To investigate that place in detail. To have *consequences*. To have subtle long story-arcs and character development.

    I’m glad Paramount made DS9, however unhappy others may have been with it.

  29. k_choll:

    And while Neelix was somewhat annoying, I kinda liked him.

    When Voyager was first broadcast, I gave up watching it at some point. But last year my daughter was binge-watching the series on Hulu and I ended up seeing some episodes with her — and it surprises me how much I enjoy the Neelix character now.

  30. Of course, according to traditional accounts, Stonehenge was transported to its present position, but from Ireland. I’m sure I have heard the theory that it came from Wales (as a complete monument) before now, though.

  31. Deity on a dogbiscuit, how could a narrative built around a spacecraft traveling around, encountering alien cultures, and engaging in interstellar diplomacy/warfare be anything other than science fiction? I know that various audience segments harbor all kinds of notions about what makes a story/setting “really” SF, but those are decorum rules, not metaphysical/taxonomic boundary-markers. (And in any case, I believe the limits of literary taxonomy have been mentioned here before. The squirming texts evade the squamous critical machinery.)

    Attempts to set genre boundaries via degrees of adherence to any particular historical-moment scientific paradigm will always come up against the need to decertify a text as “real” SF as soon as some crucial element is eliminated from the current science-community consensus. Now, if a writer chooses to constrain world-design by, say, eliminating FTL travel or strong AI, that’s an artistic or craft decision–and what I call a decorum rule. (Stross’s decision to use some of those constraints has produced very engaging work.) And of course audiences are always free to devise categories that reflect their expectations, tastes, and other pigeonhole labels. It’s a pleasant parlor game that can reveal interesting features of the works or the audience. (Sociology of literature is a field worth cultivating.) But every time some eminent practitioner or show-runner starts making large claims about what is or isn’t real SF, I reach for my keyboard.

  32. @Greg Hullender

    re: KSR’s story

    Good heavens. If people want to complain about “message fiction,” well, there you go. I expect any day now we’ll see the Evil League of Evil renouncing it. /s

  33. Looking for some help from Filers! My brother has very different taste in SF than I do, and has yet to give me some sort of holiday wishlist. So! What books would you get for someone who likes David Weber and John Ringo? Something out recently would be preferred. He did read Seveneves and enjoyed it, but though he finished the first Ancillary book, he didn’t seem to like it enough for 2 and 3. He’s current reading ebooks of the Expanse series. Thoughts? Suggestions? Wild speculation? He’s definitely getting a gift card, but I do like to gift with Things To Open.

    I would appreciate any thoughts! Thank you all in advance!

  34. Beth in MA:

    What books would you get for someone who likes David Weber and John Ringo?

    Saturn Run by John Sandford and Ctein.

  35. @Beth

    Probably Marko Kloos, if he likes space opera without pronouns. Also Adam Christopher has a sort of military SF/horror blend.

  36. @mike how do you find the science stories ? I am guessing you have people who tell you about SF. What do you use to find the science? Alot of your science links are ones I don’t see elsewhere. The Stonehenge one is really interesting.

  37. guess: A lot of the stories involving archeology or paleontology come from the Guardian. Some science links are sent by readers. And mainstream news services usually have a science tab, so I look at some of those every day.

  38. @johan unnethack variant has far surpassed nethack in useability and features. I strongly recommend it over the core nethack version.

    If you like old school roguelike I strongly recommend poschengband. It’s the best of the angband variants.

    @mike latest version of dwarf fortress is out. Fans often use this to tell stories. It’s the kind of game Alot of people on here would like. It’s 100% free. I’d recommend a post about it. It’s at bay12games.com

  39. Greg

    Whilst I appreciate that requiring expert knowledge on the part of the reader is expecting too much from the reader, the fact that you don’t know that there has been a long standing war of attrition between the U.S. pharmaceutical industry and other countries with large pharmaceutical industries isn’t the fault of the author of the story. This is not specialist or expert knowledge; this is at the level where reading a serious newspaper will provide sufficient information to recognise these simple questions of fact.

    Of course, you could hurl caution to the winds and look up the legal decisions that the lawyer refers to, but it’s not essential; it just adds some fun.

    Equally, I appreciate that I know a great deal more about the financial markets than you do, and obviously it would be unreasonable to expect specialist knowledge from you, but it is generally agreed that 2008, when we came very close to economic Armageddon, was the result of the failure of central banks to exercise simple obligations to the decree of common sense.

    You do not need to have spent over 30 years in the City of London to realise that lending $200,000 to someone whose yearly income is $20,000 is not a good idea. The fact that the person extending the mortgage had no intention of retaining that mortgage should, at the very least, cause very loud warning bells to ring; stripped bonds are the most volatile financial instruments known to mankind, and yet the whole of the mortgage glut was devoted to creating stripped bonds.

    Anyone reading a sensible newspaper should recognise that too; this is not hidden and esoteric knowledge, since it’s boringly and blindingly obvious to anyone who reads above tabloid level; the fact that you apparently believe that the catastrophic failure of simple fiscal prudence is, in some strange way, a political question suggests that you have a very odd definition of the word political.

    The willingness of our species to believe the impossible is a longstanding trope in SF/F; a human being able to photosynthesise is as probable as someone with an income of $20,000 p.a. being able to service a $200,000 mortgage. Neither of them are going to happen; pointing out that fact has nothing to do with politics. The equations are, after all, not very difficult…

  40. Beth in MA on December 8, 2015 at 12:42 pm said:
    Looking for some help from Filers! My brother has very different taste in SF than I do, and has yet to give me some sort of holiday wishlist. So! What books would you get for someone who likes David Weber and John Ringo? Something out recently would be preferred.

    Maybe look into The Red trilogy by Linda Nagata?

  41. @Beth in MA – Maybe your brother would like Jack Campbell’s The Lost Fleet series. It’s great MilSF but the author does not have a conservative chip on his shoulder. (I met Campbell at Balticon one year and he was quite nice–a great example of how authors can sell at cons without even saying a word about selling.)

  42. I enjoyed the story as a piece of whimsy, but am reminded that Nancy Kress did something similar already in one of the sequels to “Beggars in Spain”.

  43. re: KSR’s story

    Thanks for the link. It used an interesting device, but I think the message got in the way of the story in this instance.

    Non-writer that I am, even I can see some ways to have made similar points, better, without the sledgehammer. I think I’d have picked something biological that could produce food or energy from trash and/or waste products as my ‘magic’ technology to break the large corporate monopolies and have the lawyer play it much more like a naive nafe with “but, your honors, didn’t such and such decision mean…?” and leave the actual conclusions that the court has not acted impartially or objectively as a conclusion for the reader to reach.

  44. @ Beth in MA

    Try Linda Nagata’s The Red, The Trials and Going Dark trilogy for your brother.

  45. > “What books would you get for someone who likes David Weber and John Ringo?”

    The Seafort Saga by David Feintuch. It starts with Midshipman’s Hope.

    All of the Miles Vorkosigan books by Lois McMaster Bujold.

    The Cassandra Kresnov books by Joel Shepherd. They start with Crossover.

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