Pixel Scroll 2/5/20 Scroll, A Scroll, A Scroll I’ll Make, How Many Pixels Will It Take?

(1) EXTREME 18TH CENTURY HORROR. For publishing this book author Lewis would live the rest of his life under a cloud, even though he did get to spend “the summer of 1816 with Mary Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelly in Geneva, where the three of them recounted ghost stories to each other.” — “Brian Keene’s History of Horror Fiction, Chapter Eight: The Monk and 1796 Cancel Culture” at Cemetery Dance.

As I pointed out in our last column, Walpole’s novel is one of two that has inspired much that has come since, beginning with Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, and Edgar Allan Poe (all of whom we’ll be getting to soon).

The other novel that serves as the genre’s ancestral blueprint is The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis.

Up until the publication of The Monk in March of 1796, the Gothics mostly followed Walpole’s formula. The books usually featured a mystery or threat to the main character, an evil villain threatening the virtue of a virginal female, supernatural elements such as a ghost or an ancestral curse, and secret passages in crumbling mansions or castles. That template carried over into the next century, as evidenced by the bulk of the stories published in the pulps during the 1930s.

But with The Monk, Matthew Gregory Lewis took Walpole’s formula, as well as the influence of Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho, and ran them through a meat grinder. The result was the most shocking novel of the century. If The Castle of Otranto was the world’s first horror novel, then The Monk was the world’s first extreme horror novel. As author J.F. Gonzalez once said, “In some ways, The Monk can be seen as the entire hardcore oeuvre of Edward Lee and Wrath James White of 1796. It was certainly hardcore for its time, and as a result it was banned and suppressed in later editions.” 

(2) ON THE FRONT OF F&SF. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s Mar/Apr 2020 cover art is “Walkabout” by Mondolithic Studios.

(3) MO*CON. The day after Maurice Broaddus’ 50th birthday Mo*Con: Origins begins: “Imagine a convention that’s nothing but a barcon. writers, artists, publishing professionals, and fans having great conversations while enjoying great meals”.

The event takes place May 1-3, 2020 at Café Creative (546 E. 17th Street, Indianapolis, IN). Guests of Honor are Nisi Shawl, Chesya Burke, Linda Addison, Wrath James White, and Brian Keene, with Editor Guest Scott Andrews (Beneath Ceaseless Skies), Publisher Guest of Honor Jason Sizemore, Special Guests K. Tempest Bradford, Jeff Strand, Lynne Hanson, and Featured Local Artists Deonna Craig and Rae Parker.

(4) RIPPLES OF RESENTMENT. Miss Manners answered a letter of complaint about the Hugo Losers Party at Dublin 2019 in the San Francisco Chronicle on February 3: “Party was for ‘losers,’ and that’s how they felt”.

No apology or explanation has been given by the party organizers, and that’s really all I want. The radio silence feels like an implication that I’m being the unreasonable one for being upset I wasn’t allowed into a party I was explicitly invited to. Am I in the right or wrong here?

George R.R. Martin wrote several thousand words of explanation here, and specifically said there were things he was sorry for, including — “They had to wait, yes, and I am sorry for that, and it should not have happened, and a number of mistakes were made, most by me.” Alex Acks, who was one of the invited Hugo losers stuck outside, thought the piece fell far short of being an apology (“I didn’t feel personally belittled until this moment: George’s Hugo Losers Party explanation”). Although the Miss Manners letter has parallels to Acks’ post, since that’s been on the internet since September anybody could have cribbed from it. (Question: Does Miss Manners really just wait for letters to show up, or does she have helpers searching for real-life inspirations like this?)

(5) CLASH OF OPINIONS. Deadline says SYFY Wire’s The Great Debate will begin airing this summer, hosted by comedian and actor Baron Vaughn (Grace & Frankie, Mystery Science Theater 3K) and his robot sidekick DB-8.

The show will throw a group of nerds in a room as they answer questions like “Who’d be a worse boss, Darth Vader or the Joker?” or “Would you rather have a Green Lantern ring or a Wizard Wand?”

(6) WE CAN REMOVE YOU WHOLESALE. Tor.com’s James Davis Nicoll calls these “Five SF Precursors to Murderbot”. Number two is —

Jenkins, a robot who appears in Clifford Simak’s City fix-up, at first glance seems an Asimovian robot, dutifully serving the Webster family across generations. Each new cohort of humans make decisions that seem justifiable at the time; each choice assists humans on their way to irrelevance and extinction. It’s little wonder, therefore, that ultimately Jenkins transfers his loyalty away from foolish, suicidal, and sometimes vicious humans to their successors, the gentle Dogs. Humans may have built Jenkins but rather like Frankenstein, they never earned his loyalty.

(7) A DIFFERENT ‘TUDE. The Times Literary Supplement’s Science Fiction Issue came out this week.

John Updike was not much of a fan of science fiction, objecting to the flash and glare of its imagined scenery, complaining that it “rarely penetrates and involves us the way the quietest realistic fiction can”. To Updike, the genre was little more than an “escape into plenitude”. This week, we certainly provide plenitude, but also an examination of the breadth of science fiction, not least the way it often involves much more than Updike ever allowed.

We begin with two authors whose membership of the SF canon comes with qualification: they are “more” than simply genre novelists. Both H. G. Wells and John Wyndham share a certain approach to the extra-terrestrial, “examining the impact on real-life society of a perturbing incident or two”. Pippa Goldschmidt notes that, when it comes to Wyndham’s triffids, only “persistent and hard physical work will succeed in clearing the protagonist’s land of these all-pervasive plants”. There is more quiet realism here than Updike might have noticed.

One of the pieces is “When we fought a lot of dwarves”, a memoir about the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook.

… Robert Cohen, in The Sun Also Rises, liked to brag that if all else fails, a man can still make a living playing bridge. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I’ve always known that if I hit rock bottom, there’s a shelf in the TV room of my parents’ house in Austin where I’ve got several hundred dollars’ worth of role-playing games. Not just the standard stuff (bent-sided bright red box sets of the old Basic edition), but specialist limited editions like Privateers and Gentlemen. The pick of the bunch, the one that gave me the most pleasure as a kid, is also the most obvious: my 1978 Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook.

(8) BARNETT OBIT. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction crew mourns the death of one of their colleagues: “Paul Barnett (1949-2020)”.

Our old friend and fellow-encyclopedist Paul Barnett — who published mostly as by John Grant — died unexpectedly on 3 February 2020. Besides a prodigious output of solo-written sf, fantasy and nonfiction, he was Technical Editor of the second edition of the SF Encyclopedia (1993), and co-editor with John Clute of the 1997 Encyclopedia of Fantasy , for which they shared a Hugo; he also wrote many new artist entries and updated existing ones for the current online edition of this encyclopedia. See his SFE entry for some indication of his considerable achievement.

(9) KIRK DOUGLAS OBIT. Kirk Douglas, a throwback to Hollywood’s golden age, died February 5 at the age of 103. Although best known as the leading man in movies from Spartacus to Paths of Glory, his portfolio includes appearances in such genre productions as Ulysses (based on Homer), Disney’s production of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, TV movie Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (he played both leads, of course), Saturn 3, the WW2 time-travel movie The Final Countdown, and an episode of the Tales From the Crypt TV series.

He also was the recipient of the 25th Ray Bradbury Creativity Award in 2012.

Bo Derek and Kirk Douglas in 2012.

He wasn’t known as a singer, yet his rendition of “Whale of a Tale” is iconic.


  • February 5, 1944 — The original Captain America himself — Dick Purcell — premiered theatrically in the silver screen serial. This Republic black-and-white serial film was based on the Timely Comics (now known as Marvel Comics) Captain America character. It was the last Republic serial made about a superhero, and the next theatrical release featuring a Marvel hero would not occur for more than forty years. It was the most expensive serial the company ever produced. You can watch it here.
  • February 5, 1953 — Walt Disney’s Peter Pan premiered.
  • February 5, 1983 T. J. Hooker‘s “ Vengeance Is Mine” premiered. It’s being listed here as Shatner playing Sgt. T. J. Hooker encounters Nimoy in the role of a disturbed police officer whose daughter was raped. For this one episode, these two Trek stars were reunited. 
  • February 4, 1994 The Next Generation’s “Lower Decks” episode from their final season first aired. It’s being included here as the CBS All access service will be adding an animated series in 2020 to the Trek universe called Star Trek: Lower Decks which has already been given a two-season order. The episode itself is consistently ranked among the best episodes of that series making the Best of Lists, and ranking as high as Variety listing it as one of the fifteen best Next Gen episodes. 
  • February 5, 1998 Target Earth premiered. It starred Janell McLeod, Dabney Coleman and Christopher Meloni, and was directed by Peter Markle from a script from Michael Vivkerman. It seems to have been intended as a pilot for a series but it faired poorly at the box office, critics didn’t like (“sheer rubbish” said several) and it currently has a 29% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 5, 1906 John Carradine. I’m going to count Murders in the Rue Morgue as his first genre appearance. After that early Thirties films, he shows up (bad pun, I know) in The Invisible Man, The Black Cat, Bride of Frankenstein,  Ali Baba Goes to Town, The Three Musketeers and The Hound of the Baskervilles. Look that’s just the Thirties. Can I just state that he did a lot of genre work and leave it at that? He even had roles on The Twilight Zone, The Munsters, Lost in Space, Night Gallery and the Night Strangler. (Died 1988.)
  • Born February 5, 1915 Sam Gilman. He played Doc Holliday in the Trek episode,”Spectre of the Gun”. Surprisingly he’s done little additional in genre showing only up in a one-off in the Tucker’s Witch series, and a starring role in Black Sabbath. Now Westerns he was a pro at. (Died 1985.)
  • Born February 5, 1919 Red Buttons. He shows up on The New Original Wonder Woman as Ashley Norman. Yes, this is the Lynda Carter version. Somewhat later he’s Hoagy in Pete’s Dragon followed by being the voice of Milton in Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July.  He also played four different characters on the original Fantasy Island. (Died 2006.)
  • Born February 5, 1924 Basil Copper. Best remembered for Solar Pons stories continuing the character created as a tribute to Sherlock Holmes by August Derleth. I’m also fond of The Great White Space, his Lovecraftian novel that has a character called Clark Ashton Scarsdale has to be homage to Clark Ashton Smith. Though I’ve not seen them them, PS Publishing released Darkness, Mist and Shadow: The Collected Macabre Tales of Basil Copper, a two-volume set of his dark fantasy tales. (Died 2013.)
  • Born February 5, 1941 Stephen J. Cannell. Creator of The Greatest American Hero. That gets him Birthday Honors. The only other genre series he was involved with was The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage which I never heard of, but you can see the premiere episode here. (Died 2010.)
  • Born February 5, 1961 Bruce Timm, 59. He did layout at Filmation on the likes of of Flash Gordon and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Sought work at DC and Marvel without success before being hired at Warner Brothers where his first show was Tiny Toons before he and his partner on that series created Batman: The Animated Series. That in turn spawned more series by him —  Superman: The Animated SeriesBatman Beyond, Static ShockJustice League in several series and Green Lantern: The Animated Series. Certainly not all of them but that’s the one I remember seeing and enjoying. His first love is comics. He and writer Paul Dini won the Eisner Award for Best Single Story for Batman Adventures: Mad Love in the early Nineties and he’s kept his hand in the business ever since. Harley Quinn by the way is his creation. He’s a voice actor in the DC Universe voicing many characters ranging from the leader of a Jokerz gang in a Batman Beyond episode to playing The Riddler in Batman: Under the Red Hood.
  • Born February 5, 1964 Laura  Linney, 56. She first shows up in our corner of the Universe as Meryl Burbank/Hannah Gill on The Truman Show before playing Officer Connie Mills in The Mothman Prophecies (BARF!) and then Erin Bruner in The Exorcism of Emily Rose. She plays Mrs. Munro In Mr. Holmes, a film best described as stink, stank and stunk when it comes to all things Holmesian. Her last SF was as Rebecca Vincent in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.
  • Born February 5, 1974 Rod Roddenberry, 46. Son of those parents. Currently Executive Producer on Discovery, Picard and Lower Decks. His very first job in the Trek franchise was as production assistant on Next Gen. Interestingly his Wiki page says he was a Consulting Producer on the fanfic video Star Trek: New Voyages


  • Shoe makes a confession when asked to define a word.
  • Lio creates Dr. Jekyll & the Missing Link.
  • Bizarro creates what I might call a “meowshup.”

(13) IS GOOFY JEALOUS? SYFY Wire wonders if “Pluto’s frozen heart could be causing all those strange formations on its surface”.

Pluto might have been demoted from planet status, but it still has a heart.

Tombaugh Regio is literally the beating heart of Pluto. Half nitrogen ice and half glacier-studded highlands, this frozen heart is located in the Sputnik Planitia basin and is now thought to control the dwarf planet’s wind circulation — kind of like how the human heart is the epicenter of the human circulatory system. It could also possibly be the source of many strange features, like those weird ice dunes that could be a landscape from beyond the Wall in Game of Thrones.

(14) FOUR WALLS DO NOT A PRISON MAKE. At Galactic Journey, Cora Buhlert reviews two stories, a James White prison break, and Jack Vance’s Space Opera. “[February 4, 1965] Space Prison of Opera (February Galactoscope #1)”.

When I spotted The Escape Orbit by James White in the spinner rack at my local import store, what first attracted me was the cover, showing two humans fighting a tusked and tentacled monstrosity. But what made me pick up the book was the tagline “Marooned on a Prison Planet”. Because stories about space prisons are like catnip to me.

(15) BEWARE KRAPTONITE. Io9 warns: “Forget Superbabies, Superman & Lois Will Feature Superteens Instead”.

Sorry if you were looking forward to seeing superpowered baby-raising shenanigans on the CW’s upcoming Superman & Lois spin-off series. The network just announced who’ll be playing the sons of Superman and Lois Lane, and it looks like the show will be leaning into teen drama instead. Well, it is the CW. What did you expect, really?

(16) RECYCLED HEAT. “Can we heat buildings without burning fossil fuels?”

The world is on average getting warmer, but we still need to keep buildings at liveable temperatures year-round. Is it possible to cut emissions while keeping warm in winter?

To look at, the dark, dripping sewers of Brussels seem an unlikely place for anything particularly valuable to be hidden. But a wet day reveals all.

During a winter downpour, the brick tunnels become subterranean waterslides. Fresh rain tumbles from drains in the street above, joining waste water already in the sewers from sinks, baths, showers and toilets on their long journey downstream. The volume of these fluids and, crucially, their temperature are the reason that the city’s energy experts’ minds are in the gutter.

“The heat of the tunnels always astonished me,” says Olivier Broers, head of investment at the city’s water company, Vivaqua. He first noticed the Belgian city’s dormant heat source 20 years ago when he worked in tunnel restoration. He recalls days when there was ice and snow in the city, but on climbing down a manhole, he would find the sewers an ambient 12-15C. “Enough to fog my glasses,” he recalls.

…Tunnel Vision

In Belgium, residential heating accounts for around 14% of total greenhouse gas emissions. Of that heat, the largest source of loss is through what goes down the drain and into the sewer. To try and recoup that loss, Broers has developed a prototype heat converter that can be installed in the sewers themselves….

(17) BEST SUPPORTING ROLE. “Green light for UK commercial telecoms Moon mission” – BBC has the story.

UK satellite company SSTL has got the go-ahead to produce a telecommunications spacecraft for the Moon.

The platform, which should be ready for launch in late 2022, will be used by other lunar missions to relay their data and telemetry to Earth.

Satellites already do this at Mars, linking surface rovers with engineers and scientists back home.

The Lunar Pathfinder venture will do the same at the Moon.

SSTL is financing the build of the satellite itself but will sell its telecoms services under a commercial contract with the European Space Agency (Esa).

It’s hoped other governmental organisations and private actors will purchase capacity as well.

…Nasa’s Project Artemis has identified 2024 as the date when the “first woman and the next man” will touchdown, close to the lunar south pole.

The plan is to put the UK satellite into a highly elliptical orbit so that it can have long periods of visibility over this location.

Pathfinder is expected to be particularly useful for any sorties – human or robotic – to the Moon’s far side, which is beyond the reach of direct radio transmission with Earth.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Turtle Journey: The Crisis In Our Oceans” on YouTube is a cartoon done by Aardman Animations for Greenpeace about the need to protect turtle habitat in the oceans.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Gordon Van Gelder, Darrah Chavey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xopher Halftongue.]

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42 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 2/5/20 Scroll, A Scroll, A Scroll I’ll Make, How Many Pixels Will It Take?

  1. (6) Nicoll is right about Jenkins – his coddling of Webster in “Huddling Place” is a subtler form of Williamsonesque Humanoiding. The Butler did It!

  2. (1) I seem to recall that “The Monk” got mentioned in at least one of Jane Austen’s novels. (“The Mysteries of Udolpho” certainly was.)

  3. Did anyone ask her about the Campbell Award speech?

    ETA: A generation ago she advised professional attire for panelists, to give the appearance of a “professional author or lecturer” – “Others who appear at a science fiction convention may wish to appear as something more, shall we say, unusual; Miss Manners is grateful they are not asking her for suggestions on how to do so.”


  4. @4: my guess is that the Manners team has no shortage of letters begging comment; Wikipedia says the column shows up in over 200 papers, which would draw much attention. (How many of the questions are usable is another matter; the page says she gets lots of variations on a couple of greed-based issues.) Boston’s local (weekly) manners columnist spoke in her day persona (psych/soc/…? college faculty, IIRC) at Readercon some years ago, but I didn’t think to ask her how much mail she got. (Weird note: her husband is Marc Abrahams, the editor of Annals of Implausible Research and organizer of the Ig Nobels.)

  5. 4) Five months later seems a bit late to be still upset about the Hugo Losers Party, but then maybe Miss Manners (silly name. I prefer Dr. Sommer) waited for several months before answering the letter. Either that or the letters are fake, which is something I’ve suspected for years.

    That said, the Dr. Sommer letters (German advice column for teens, lots of sex questions) are genuine. Sadly, there are a lot of teens who have no one else to turn to for sex questions.

    14) Thanks for the link, Mike. However, I only reviewed “The Escape Orbit” a.k.a. “Open Prison” by James White. “Space Opera” by Jack Vance was reviewed by Rosemary Benton.

    16) One thing that the article does not mention are co-generation units, which is basically a standard oil or gas-fired furnace, which not just heats the home but also generates power, which can be used, stored in a battery system or fed into the public grid. If you have more power than you need, you can also use it to power a heat pump or other electrical heater, so you need to use the furnace less.

    We’ve had a co-generation unit coupled with a battery system and solar cells for several years now and have to buy very little power, cause we generate most of our own. We also use the power we generate ourselves to charge our hybrid car. And while we still need fossile fuels, the fossile fuels we burn do double duty by providing us with heat and power.

    It’s a system that works well, but seems to be comparatively little known outside Germany.

  6. Is there some genuine reason to think the Miss Manners letters are fake?

    It seems far more likely to me that the reason for the long delay in answering the Hugo Losers letter is that she still, after these many years, gets enough letters that they can’t possibly all be answered, and she and her staff sift through them to see what looks interesting to them on a given work day.

    Judith Martin (Miss Manners) has been writing the column for decades, and has had a number of books that were extremely popular in their day. Her column being carried in over 200 newspapers hardly suggests she’s forgotten, even if she’s no better known in Germany than “Dr. Sommer” is in the US.

  7. @cora — Surely burning fossil fuels centrally for electricity and distributing power is far less wasteful than burning them locally and developing electricity on-site. The efficiency of the systems in turning oil/gas to electricity scale with size (it has to with capacity scaling with dimensions cubed, and losses scaling with dimensions squared).

  8. Meredith Moment: Velocity Weapon by Megan O’Keefe. 99p on UK Amazon. I think people have been keen on it on twitter, anyone here read it?
    Also, I am Legend, but I figure that’s less likely to be exciting.

  9. @bill

    Co-generation is sometimes called CHP (combined heat and power). Most people have some kind of system (usually gas but sometimes oil) to heat water (heating and hot water for washing). CHP uses that to generate electricity at the same time. It is often used on a larger scale for industrial sites, and even centralised for some city districts – where it is probably more efficient, but it is still worth doing on individual houses.

  10. @nickpheas

    Yep I have read Velocity Weapon (I bought it 3 or 4 weeks ago – grrr). I liked it a lot and will be reading the next novel in the series when it is written and released. I thought it was a big improvement over the previous book I had read by O’Keefe. It is a book which is hard to talk about, as it is too easy to accidentally introduce a spoiler.

    I Am Legend is good, a classic, and is worth reading too. But the impact is going to be less as everyone knows how the story plays out.

  11. @ nickpheas, Andy Leighton:

    Tick anpother vote for Velocity Weapon. I did find it a tad slow at the beginning and it does switch viewpoints pretty much every chapter. But, it didn’t take that long to pick up speed, and at the end of it, I was ewll happy having spent time with the book.

  12. @Lis Carey, I can’t speak for Miss Manners specifically, but I’ve read some articles about various online advice columnists getting “fake” letters (often because they’re over the top or are too good to be true; it’s a whole genre of fake-letters). Some of the columnists basically shrugged and said something to the effect of, “Even if the letter is fake, I can still provide useful advice for anyone who might be affected by a similar situation in question.”

    If you know Reddit at all, for example, you’ll know that people often write rather silly posts in the advice subreddits just to hone their storytelling skills or to get a rise out of people.

  13. @4 There’s a John Prine song called “Dear Abby”, written in 1973, which was basically silly questions for a popular American advice columnist of the time. In the mid 1990s, shortly before I stopped subscribing to a print newspaper, I saw a Dear Abby column where she answered one of the questions in the song (the one signed “Noisemaker” if anyone is familiar with it). The question was very nearly word-for-word the verse in the song; if memory serves there were a few very minor changes to disguise scansion and rhyme scheme. I have always wondered whether Dear Abby (“Abigail Van Buren” whose real name was Pauline Phillips) was familiar with the song and put that question in as a joke, or some college kid sent it in as a prank (she wrote once that she rarely used letters postmarked New Haven, Connecticut because apparently the Yale students were constantly trying to prank her…). Wikipedia tells me that her daughter was co-authoring the strip with her at that point and that she retired not long after because of Alzheimers, so it might have been an honest oversight. In which case, some college student somewhere rejoiced….

  14. @bill Which is more efficient depends, I think, partly on what that central electricity plant does with the waste heat. A significant part of Manhattan is heated by co-generation: fuel is burned for electricity, and after the steam drives the turbines and cools in the process, pipes carry it from the generating plant to buildings that need heat.

    If you’ve seen steam rising from the streets of NY in a movie or TV scene, it’s probably a leak from one of those steam pipes. The imagery has become iconic enough that film crews ask Con Ed to tell them about not-yet-fixed leaks.

  15. (4) I suspect the “long delay” in the letter coming up in the Miss Manners column has mostly to do with the inherent lead time in this sort of syndicated column where timeliness isn’t a feature of the content. I assume she probably has a buffer of several months worth of columns simply to allow for vacations, personal crises, etc.

    As for the question of invention, I personally know someone whose wedding was the subject of a Miss Manners question. (The details of the question were highly specific such that the identity of the event was unmistakable.) Which doesn’t speak to all of the columns, only to contradict the idea that none of her letters are genuine. I could easily imagine that on some topics she might receive enough highly-similar questions that it makes sense to combine them in a more generic form that can speak to a broader topic.

  16. FWIW, many/most natural gas generators end up as co-gen projects where the waste heat from burning the natural gas is collected and used to heat water in a steam turbine to generate even more electricity.

    Places that use central/community heating systems might be able to use the remainder of the energy for heating buildings as well.

    Give the American people a good cause, and there’s nothing they can’t lick. – John Wayne

  17. @Cora
    Co-gens in the US seem to mostly be industrial. (I tracked down a few dozen in southern California.)

  18. @David H–

    @Lis Carey, I can’t speak for Miss Manners specifically, but I’ve read some articles about various online advice columnists getting “fake” letters (often because they’re over the top or are too good to be true; it’s a whole genre of fake-letters). Some of the columnists basically shrugged and said something to the effect of, “Even if the letter is fake, I can still provide useful advice for anyone who might be affected by a similar situation in question.”

    I understood Cora to be suggesting that Miss Manners, or her staff, makes up the letters, rather than receiving them in the mail. Letters concocted by the columnist is a rather different thing than receiving letters in your mail/inbox, suspecting it’s a prank, and deciding you can use it to give good advice anyway.

    I think it’s quite a reach to suggest that Judith Martin or her staff decided to make up a letter about the Hugo Losers party, an event whose existence they’re unlikely to have noticed.

    If they got the letter in the mail–um, I’m not getting how this would be a really cool letter for a prankster to make up. I would think it would have to be from someone in the community who cares about what happened with the Hugo Losers party, whether or not they were personally there.

    Also, the Miss Manners column isn’t Reddit, and I’m pretty sure Judith Martin finds the behavior there appalling, even in cases where we could reasonably agree that it’s appropriate for the setting and the intentions of those involved.

  19. @Nick et al —

    Meredith Moment: Velocity Weapon by Megan O’Keefe. 99p on UK Amazon. I think people have been keen on it on twitter, anyone here read it?

    I have not read it, but if anyone is interested in the audio version — I just checked, and this is narrated by Joe Jameson. He’s an excellent narrator.

  20. (3) So it’s a relaxacon but they don’t want to use that word for some reason. Do they fear fannish cooties?

  21. @Cora Buhlert (following on other comments) cogeneration has sometimes been … oversold … in the US; locally, Harvard’s Medical Area Total Energy Plant (shut down after decades of failing to measure up) is an example. Note also that the story involves recovering heat after it has been generated and thrown away; ISTM that it’s a complement to any system.

    @Dennis Howard; I’m not sure how widespread the term “relaxacon” still is, or whether it’s known but seen as generational; locally, I haven’t seen the relatively-newer group (Arisia) use the term for its small, on-the-side conventions (although I wouldn’t swear I hadn’t missed something on the flyers).

    My notes on Velocity Weapon describe it as having way too much unbelievable stupidity (along with a couple of bits of all-too-believable stupidity) — but that it was recommended by someone who also liked Tim Pratt’s space opera series (which I also thought was implausible and badly put-together), so that may be useful metric. For 99p, the question may be how much readers think their time is worth (given the amount of fiction available) rather than the cash cost.

  22. @Chip Hitchcock; You may be right that it’s generational. It may also be regional. My thought was that Indianapolis is not far from Cincinnati, home of Midwestcon, the ur-relaxacon. And it’s also not far from the long-running Chambanacon in Champaign/Urbana. So it seemed to me that the conrunners (who are not identified at all on the Mo*Con website) were intentionally avoiding the term.

  23. @ Dennis Howard-Inasmuch As the MoCon schedule lists three panels and two workshops, I do not think that it meets the criteria to be classified as a relaxacon (and I have attended 52 straight Midwestcons, the original relaxacon).

  24. @Joel Zakem; Ah you make a good point. Although I think Chambanacon may have that much programming. It may come down to how early in the day the programming starts!

  25. (6) Murderbot
    The first stories that I recalled were not mentioned: Mark Elf by Cordwainer Smith (1957) with the ‘manshonyogger’ and the robot assassin in PK Dick’s oddball classic: Clans of the Alphane Moon (1964).

  26. @Chip, Arisia certainly refers to their summer gathering internally as the relaxacon. I haven’t seen the external literature.

  27. (7) (Sees the article from TLR about Dungeons & Dragons)

    Ah, a work from a prominent publication of literary criticism about how D&D is actually worthy of respect!

    (reads article)

    I’ve heard that novelists such as Junot Díaz and George R. R. Martin have described D&D as good practice for their writing, but I can’t say I learned anything about storytelling from it. It seems a better training ground for lawyers.

    Oh – it’s the usual stuff about nostalgia for childhood followed by talking about how they’ve outgrown it and view it as a kid’s thing… The rest of this issue’s SFF content is going to be a succession of backhanded “compliments” isn’t it?

    (closes tab)

  28. @Lis Carey
    I was talking about newspaper and magazine advice columns in general, not Miss Manners (whose column I neither know nor read) in particular. I suspect that a lot of the letters are not real, just as those True Confession type stories are usually not real either. It doesn’t even have to be the advice columnist who makes up the stories, but the people who mail them in, either as a prank or because – in the case of True Confessions – there’s money involved.

    You have to heat the house anyway. The power generated is basically a very nice waste product of heat generation. Our power bill is 17 Euros per month (which includes charging the car) and because we operate a power station, we get the fuel tax free as well.

    Also, smaller co-generation units are usually used in rural areas, where other methods like those described in the article are not available or feasible. It’s not just individual homes either. Co-generation units are used in public buildings like schools, townhalls, kindergartens, etc…, in hotels, apartment blocks, small businesses and a remarkable number of farms. Whenever I attend a meeting or presentation about renewable and sustainable energy, the majority of people in attendance are farmers.

    Furthermore, the reverse version (heat as waste product of power plants is used to heat homes) has been around for decades, as Andrew Leighton, Vicki, Rosenzweig, Chip Hitchcock and others explain. A lot of housing estates are heated that way and it works very well. However, using the waste heat of power stations to heat homes is usually only available in urban areas.

  29. @Cora:

    I suspect that a lot of the letters are not real, just as those True Confession type stories are usually not real either. It doesn’t even have to be the advice columnist who makes up the stories, but the people who mail them in, either as a prank or because – in the case of True Confessions – there’s money involved.

    As in the case of Jane, Heinlein’s “Unmarried Mother” who made a (not very good) living writing for the equivalent of True Confessions.

  30. @Mlex: thanks for mentioning PKDick — I’d forgotten “Second Variety”, which is earlier (1953!) — although typical of his paranoia. I suppose one could argue that the ones in this story aren’t equivalent because they’re more like walking landmines than multi-job assassins, but they ace the Turing test.

  31. @Andrew
    Didn’t Mickey Spillane pose as an unmarried mother as well? Maybe all of the unmarried mothers who sold their stories to True Confessions magazines were famous male writers in reality.

    I propose a quiz: Match the unmarried mother to the writer.

    That said, at the age of maybe ten or so, I was on holiday and so bored that I read anything I could get my hands on, including a woman’s magazine with a True Confessions section. I noticed that the magazine offered the princely sum of 10 Deutschmarks for a True Confessions story that was chosen for publication.

    “OMG”, I thought, “I’ll just make up some stupid stories, send them to the magazine and get 10 Marks. I’ll be rich.” I really thought I was a genius and that no one had ever had that particular idea before.

    So I made up stories about poor children with horribly abusive parents (pure fantasy) and stories about horrible cheating husbands (an acquaintance of my Mom had problems a cheating husband and she complained to my Mom a lot and no one realised that I was listening and taking notes).

    Akas, I never sold one, probably because it was very obvious that they were written by a ten-year-old. Maybe I should have pretended to be an unmarried mother.

  32. @Cora Buhlert–

    @Lis Carey
    I was talking about newspaper and magazine advice columns in general, not Miss Manners (whose column I neither know nor read) in particular. I suspect that a lot of the letters are not real, just as those True Confession type stories are usually not real either. It doesn’t even have to be the advice columnist who makes up the stories, but the people who mail them in, either as a prank or because – in the case of True Confessions – there’s money involved.

    Except that we are in fact talking specifically about a letter to Miss Manners, and you took the trouble to call her name “silly” compared to the equally fake name of “Dr. Sommer.”

    (Also, do I need to point out that she’s writing an etiquette column, not a sex advice column? Different audience.)

    Miss Manners a.k.a. Judith Martin isn’t writing for True Confessions, or on Reddit, or in a few relatively sleazy tabloids. She has a track record and a reputation, even if it doesn’t reach to Germany.

    And, honestly, who the heck do you think would pay for a fairly tame letter about an incident that’s “major” only within our subculture, and not remotely the kind Scandalous Story True Confessions and its ilk pay money for. You want to talk about silly? That’s silly.

    And no, five months isn’t a long lead time for an advice column. We’re not talking about breaking news, here.

    And no, no one is really substantively supporting the speculation that the letter might be fake, by comparing it to completely different things. A letter describing a real incident we all know about is not the same as a Reddit that is openly about writing fictional letters to practice writing skills, or college students trying to prank columnists with crazy stories, or professionals writing the scandalous or titillating stories the True Confessions and its ilk pay for.

    It seems bizarre to me that anyone at all, never mind several people, would be so committed to the idea that a letter describing a real event we all know about in not-crazy terms, is likely to be fake. Why? And remember, we’re talking about a fairly sedate etiquette column. Not even as much scope for “crazy and scandalous” as Dear Abby, who tried to keep it family-friendly in an era when that was rather more constrained than it is now.

    What’s the rational basis for repeated attempts by various Filers to explain this letter as probably fake?

  33. I sent a letter to Miss Manner in the 1980s, asking her advice on what clothing I should wear to my college’s waltz parties. She answered the letter in her column. It was one of the more memorable moments of my college career.

  34. @Lis Carey, In no way was I trying to suggest that the Miss Manners letter was fake with my Dear Abby anecdote; it was merely brought to mind for the first time in some twenty years by the story and I thought it was funny and would share it here. My apologies if I came off as a conspiracy theorist; that was not my intent.

  35. @Cassy B–Honestly, if yours was the only post saying something like that, I’d have read it the way you intended. And really–that’s an example of how hard it is to slide a fake letter past an advice columnist who is serious about their column. It happened when she was quite old, in early stage dementia, and her daughter was doing a lot of the work. When she was younger, healthier, and in full control, she had procedures in place to avoid it.

    At least, that’s how I see it. Maybe you too? Or maybe not.

    Anyway, your post wouldn’t have annoyed me. It’s the cumulative effect of “look at all these things that happened in completely dissimilar circumstances, and let’s ignore the fact that five months is an utterly normal lead time for a syndicated newspaper column like this.”

  36. My main experience with co-generation is in Universities, which are pretty much the best case for something like that: large clusters of buildings all owned by the same landlord. There’s a reason so many Universities have ‘steam tunnels’.

  37. nickpheas: Meredith Moment: Velocity Weapon by Megan O’Keefe. 99p on UK Amazon. I think people have been keen on it on twitter, anyone here read it?

    I enjoyed it a lot. It requires some willing suspension of disbelief (probably more so, if you really know your astrophysics), but if you’re willing to give it a little leeway on far-fetched technology, it’s a good space adventure with some interesting worldbuilding and a fairly suspenseful plot.

    Despite it being 500 pages long, I did not begrudge it those 500 pages, but… it does not even make a pretense of being a whole story with a real ending. It “ends” with a major cliffhanger. I mean, I don’t mind if a novel leaves enough unresolved setup for further adventures, but this story is just blatantly unresolved. If this pisses you off, as it does me, you may wish to hold off reading it until however many books are in the series have all been published.

  38. @JJ —

    Despite it being 500 pages long, I did not begrudge it those 500 pages, but… it does not even make a pretense of being a whole story with a real ending. It “ends” with a major cliffhanger.

    Oh, thanks for that warning. I can deal with cliffhangers, but I despise books that don’t even have a complete intra-book story arc. I even dinged The Fifth Season a star for doing that, and that one was a relatively mild case.

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