Pixel Scroll 3/11/18 Scroll Forward, Pixel Back (And Check The Batteries On Your Snoke Detectors!)

(1) SAY IT AIN’T SO. Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum exclaims “Science Fiction Writers No Longer Write What I Want to Read”.

I don’t keep up with sf as much as I used to, but last night I decided I was in the mood for some. So I browsed through new releases for the past three months. I immediately crossed off (a) fantasy novels and (b) anything that was book x of y. In other words, all I wanted was a single-volume sf novel that wasn’t part of an ongoing series.

After doing that, there were maybe four or five books left to choose from. Some just didn’t look like my cup of tea, as some books don’t. In the end, there were two books left on my list. I bought one of them. So far it’s not very good.

(2) INDIE ANGST. Ruth Anne Reid tells “Why I Left Smashwords”.

If you’ve been following me a while, you may recall when I made the choice to use Smashwords. At the time, it seemed wisest; most authors were telling me that wide distribution was the key to sales. So what if Smashwords took a cut of my already eaten-into book sales? (No bookstore gives 100% of the sale to the author, after all.) Surely it was worth it, saving me the time and effort of getting into those stores myself.

Well, the experiment has lasted for a little more than a year (since November 2014), and after all kinds of publicity, including a very successful Bookbub promotion (which made me a BEST-SELLER YAY), I can tell you this: for me, Smashwords is not worth it.

(I emphasize “for me” because for some folks, it works great. For me, however, it didn’t.)

Let me break down precisely why….

(3) STAN FLEECED. In “‘Picked Apart by Vultures’:  The Last Days of Stan Lee”  on The Daily Beast, Mark Ebner says that the aging comics tycoon is surrounded by people who want his money and there are fears that he won’t leave enough money to his only child, daughter JC, to let her live in comfort.

You might expect Stan Lee, at age 95, to be enjoying the fruits of his many labors: Marvel Comics, the company he served as the former president and chairman of, dominates popular culture. Characters he co-created — among them Spider-Man, Iron Man, X-Men, and the Avengers — are household names. He’s a comics legend, with his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. When Marvel sold to Disney in 2010 for $4 billion, he personally pocketed a cool $10 million, and tours the world as its ambassador emeritus. And midway through his tenth decade, Black Panther, based on a character he and Jack Kirby first envisioned in 1966, currently sits atop the global box office charts, and carries a Rotten Tomatoes score of 97%.

Instead, seven months after the death of Joan, his wife of almost 70 years, beset with pneumonia, the apparent victim of gross financial malfeasance and surrounded by a panoply of Hollywood charlatans and mountebanks, he may be facing his greatest challenge, every bit the equal of any of the psychologically flawed superheroes he helped shepherd into being

(4) REASONS TO VOTE. Abigail Nussbaum reveals “My Hugo Ballot, Media Categories”:

Best Related Work:

  • “Freshly Remember’d: Kirk Drift” by Erin Horáková (Strange Horizons) – It’s been nearly a year since Erin’s masterful essay–about James Kirk, how pop culture processes masculinity, and how the forces that have changed how we view our male heroes are also reflected in politics.  Aside from being a brilliant–and brilliantly written–bit of textual analysis, which repeatedly demonstrates that Kirk is a much more thoughtful, respectful, and even feminist character than the conventional wisdom about him would have it, “Kirk Drift” speaks to vital currents in our culture.  Why do we prioritize bluster and machoism over competence and cooperation, so much that we reinvent characters who embody the latter traits so that they instead espouse the former?  I doubt there’s another piece of criticism published last year that was as relevant or as necessary as this essay, and it deserves to be recognized by the Hugos.
  • Iain M. Banks by Paul Kincaid (University of Illinois Press) – The Modern Masters of Science Fiction series (edited by Gary K. Wolfe) has been publishing tantalizing volumes about mid- and late-twentieth century SF authors for several years, but none were as designed to appeal to my interests as one of my favorite critics writing about one of my favorite authors.  In this short but illuminating volume, Kincaid walks us through Banks’s career–with the aid of copious references to interviews, contemporary reviews, and reminiscences of Banks’s friends in the UK SF community.  Most gratifyingly, he ties together Banks’s SF and mainstream output, arguing that the gap between the two is nowhere near as wide as many critics have argued, and that there are common themes that recur throughout his work.  He also delivers a close, strongly political analysis of the Culture novels, and while I don’t entirely agree with his conclusions, his argument is cogent and engaging.  This is a major work of criticism on a major author, and any fan of Banks owes it to themselves to read it.


  • March 11, 1971 THX 1138 debuted.


  • Born March 11, 1952 – Douglas Adams

(7) BUSBY BIRTHDAY. Steven H Silver salutes a birthday boy at Black Gate: “Birthday Reviews: F.M. Busby’s ‘Tundra Moss’”.

Busby served as the Vice President of SFWA from 1974-6. His novels include the Demu trilogy, the Rebel Dynasty books, and the Rissa Kerguelen series.

“Tundra Moss appeared in the third volume of Gregory Benford’s What Might Have Been series of alternate history anthologies with the theme Alternate Wars.


  • John King Tarpinian learned the highly scientific reason behind daylight savings time from Wiley.

(9) WAITING FOR PLAYER ONE. While the “Ready Player One” movie hasn’t quite opened yet, the band “Gunship” have released a music video for a song, “Art3mis & Parzival”.

Stream & Download ‘Art3mis & Parzival’ here – http://smarturl.it/HITH004DL Find the hidden clues in this video to win GUNSHIP’s Holy Arcade Machine Of Antioch! You must use your cunning to pass the trials that GUNSHIP themselves have laid down. Head to http://www.gunshipmusic.com to play.

(10) TIME TRAVELING TWIN. No doubt about it!

(11) EXPECT ALIENS TO BE…ALIEN! Engadet explains: “NASA wants to change the way we think about the habitable zone”.

One of the most exciting discoveries in recent years was the TRAPPIST-1 system — a group of seven Earth-sized planets circling a red dwarf star 40 light years away. Hopes of finding life on these planets were dashed in July 2017 after two studies from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics concluded the red dwarf was likely too dim and cool to support Earth-like ecosystems. The habitable zone, in this case, was much closer to the star than Earth is to the Sun, increasing the amount of UV radiation on these planets to an unlivable level.

At least, unlivable by Earth standards. In December, a study published on arXiV.org proposed the idea that the “habitable zone” was too narrow a search criteria when looking for alien life. Researchers were as likely, if not more, to find life on frozen planets with subsurface oceans, according to the study’s authors. That life, of course, may not look much like the organisms on Earth.

(12) LOCKE. Locke’s tweets were quoted here among many examples of people who gave pushback to Chris Barkley’s proposal to rename the Worldcon’s new YA Award. Nothing critical was said against them. Besides, did anybody like Chris’s approach?

Since I gave Barkley a platform to make his announcement, some may mistake that as an endorsement. I’m against it myself. And publishing people’s negative statements about it is not an agenda against the critics.

(13) WALKING TALL. StarWars.com’s “Fully Operational Fandom” feature agrees “This 17-Foot-Tall AT-AT Would Even Impress the Emperor”. [Via io9.]

Like the Rebellion scrapping together equipment and people, Gilbert worked with what he had and assembled a team of volunteers. They moved fast due to a tight schedule and made the AT-AT in four weeks. Gilbert explains how they accomplished the feat: “We worked quite a few evenings, but we had an incredible team of volunteers working on the project. Overall, I’d say about 25 people helped at one point or another. Other than three to four of us, many had never used power tools before, so it wasn’t like we were dealing with a team of prop makers or anything. We’d show someone how to use the tool, watch them do it, and then I’d be their biggest fan when they did it right. The volunteers are what made this project special.”

Lacking Imperial materials, they made do with foam insulation boards, foamboard adhesive, and plywood (you can read details on Instructables). The project cost around $1,000. And like the Rebellion figuring things out as they went, they faced challenges.

(14) FANTASY OUT OF AFRICA. NPR’s Caitlin Paxson says Tomi Adeyemi’s Children Of Blood And Bone, a fantasy based on West African myths, is a feast for hungry readers.

Eventually, all the children of Orïsha are faced with a choice: will the restoration of magic heal their broken homeland, or will its quest only drive them further apart and cause more suffering?

Like the similarly eagerly anticipated Black Panther movie (to which this will undoubtedly draw comparisons, given the proximity of their releases), Children of Blood and Bone is a fast-paced, excellently crafted hero’s journey through a fantasy world that is informed by African mythology (specifically West African, in the case of the book) and populated with compelling and nuanced black characters. The world is hungry for this, and Tomi Adeyemi delivers a worthy feast.

(15) HOW IT SHOULD HAVE STARTED. The BBC’s Caryn James looks at A Wrinkle in Time.

Ava DuVernay’s charming, spirited, Oprah-fied version of A Wrinkle in Time arrives as the victim of its own hype. From its sublime casting to its big-hearted message, there is much that is appealing in this fantasy about Meg Murry, a girl who travels through space and time to rescue her missing father, and finds her own confidence along the way. Yet the stumbles in creating the alternate worlds Meg visits make the film less spectacular than viewers might have hoped, and at times a bit flat. Without the weight of high expectations, Wrinkle would look like a perfectly good Disney movie bound to appeal to its target audience of 10-year-old girls, and not so much to anyone hoping for dazzling film-making.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Christian Brunschen, Carl Eldridge, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew, with a typo assist from OGH.]

128 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 3/11/18 Scroll Forward, Pixel Back (And Check The Batteries On Your Snoke Detectors!)

  1. I use File770 (for rec’s) and Tor’s monthly round-ups (for basic release info), mostly. Sometimes I’ll branch out to places like io9 if I’ve got the energy (although mostly for other media – they’re usually pretty good at keeping up with indie cinema releases, for example). iBooks has a decent new and upcoming works section if you want to see what has buzz at a glance but it won’t give you anything like a comprehensive look at the state of the genre. Oh, and if something I come across sounds interesting, I’ll often download the sample to get a feel for the writing.

    @ambyr and Kendall

    (I think you both missed an “& Bruce” off your tags – he should get the credit for the idea, since it was, you know, his. And a good idea, too, imo, though I realise you disagree.)

    Off the top of my head, there were three last year which which were released as intentional duologies and also a few sequels, and the rest were, at least at time of release, stand-alone – although some later acquired sequel announcements. I might have missed some but certainly the majority I saw and read were definitely works that didn’t rely on reading another volume before or after. To me that makes it still one of the easiest sources for stand-alone works.

    If anyone’s got actual numbers on the proportion of stand-alone works to sequels to intentional duologies/trilogies/series to shared-universe-but-not-story (essentially a species of stand-alone, imo) I’d be curious to see them. I’m willing to accept my impressions may be wrong.


    Speaking of stand-alone books that have grown sequels, I thoroughly enjoyed Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw. Modern London, a cast heavily populated by characters from classic gothic literature, main character is a (human) doctor who specialises in monster healthcare, and also there are murders. Loved the world-building. Nice differentiation between POVs, which is not something I see as often as I’d like (glaring at you, Jade City). No complaints about the plot* although I’m not a heavily plot-motivated reader – so long as it ticks along okay and doesn’t have plot holes you could fly the Enterprise through I’m generally happy enough. I’m looking forward to the sequel because aside from a sad lack of dragons** it was right up my alley. It might even be a late addition to my Best Novel nomination ballot.

    *(Major spoiler for Strange Practice and Six Wakes) A touch of erfheerpgvat punenpgref-vgvf, ohg abg nf puebavp n pnfr nf Fvk Jnxrf. LZZI.

    **Also a problem with a lot of classic gothic literature, come to think of it.

  2. @rcade: It seems wildly unlikely he’s a Hugo voter. Anyway, “where to find new releases” comes up regularly here. Here’s my latest off-the-cuff list, in no particular order. This is stupid long, sorry; I’m way too obsessed with SFF books, clearly.

    Recs and reviews from File 770 get my attention, especially ones from @JJ and @Kyra, but I read ‘em all. 🙂 These aren’t always new books, of course.

    I read B&N’s SFF blog – all about SFF books! Upcoming/new book spotlights, highlights of what’s “best” (to them) that just came out, posts about topics that list a smattering of new and old books that fit the topic, author guest posts (usually highlighting books), and a once (?) a year post where they give space to all major and medium publishers to highlight their books.

    I read the Unbound Worlds blog (IIRC, Penguin Random House’s, but they don’t just cover their own books), which is mostly all about SFF books. They spotlight upcoming ones, have author guests posts, have a lot of lists like a post on “so you want to start on [insert sub-genre]” (usually includes a new book or two as well as foundational works), “weekend reading” posts, etc. I don’t find out about as many new books here, but their many “lists” posts include enough that’s new to me that I feel their blog deserves a look (and they do highlight upcoming books periodically, too).

    I subscribe to a few publishers’ e-mails – Orbit, Tor, Tor.com (maybe the blog summary one, but it also highlights their releases), and Angry Robot. These are publishers who’ve published a lot of stuff I’ve enjoyed in the past; I don’t subscribe to every publisher’s e-mail, though I’ve subscribed & unsubscribed from a few others over time.

    I read a few review blogs (a lot fewer than I used to), which expose me to new and not-so-new books.

    I’m a fan of T.M. Wagner’s SFF180 vlog; in addition to reviews (which may or may not be recent releases), he has “Mailbag Monday” videos where he goes over the latest books publishers have sent him. If I already know about a book or can tell it’s not for me, I’ll skip ahead in the video to the next book, so while watching a video sounds time-consuming, I try to make it efficient. 😉

    I occasionally (less often than before) look at Amazon’s Recommended For You pages (All, New Releases, & Coming Soon). This works best if you game the system, so I do. Within these 3 pages, based on what comes up, I mark what I own, rate books I’ve read, and mark non-book/movie items I’ve bought as “don’t use for recs.” So the recs are 80-90% books and some movies. Not all are new, but it does tend to slant heavily (more than it used to?) to recent & upcoming books, so it’s a decent venue. I also mark “don’t use…” for the odd book or movie that results in weird/atypical recs (e.g., buying Riordan books for my spouse results in a lot of similar YA books I don’t want to see here). NOTE: I don’t bother marking “not interested” because it was a time sink, and I can scroll past books that don’t interest me. NOTE: I don’t use any other part of the system – just those 3 pages (and the page for rating things I’ve bought).

    Sorry this is so long.

  3. I won’t really know if there is good SF that appeals to me being published in 2018 until probably 2023 or so. I’ve been playing catch-up with everything – music, books, history… – since I was old enough to find out there were things I didn’t know. I read some current books, but I don’t give my opinion much credit until a few years have gone by – I’m susceptible to novelty and hype (as, I suspect, are most people).

    I was surprised to see Drum’s shockingly bad piss-take on the current state of SF given what I’ve read of his work as a journalist, but then I read in some previous comments here that he’s been ill? If that’s the case, I can imagine a variety of reasons for that post – grumpiness induced by meds, by lack of sleep, by pain, by boredom… I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and just pretend he didn’t write that.

  4. @Bruce Baugh & @Meredith: Apologies, I saw Bruce’s comment, but forgot to tag him. ::blush::

    @Meredith: You had me pretty convinced, but after a lot of rambling I didn’t post, some quick searching found actual information on Tor.com publishing, so I nuked it and started over. I blame your comment about “actual numbers” for me getting all investigative. 😉 I blame myself for all the new rambling I do below.

    BTW in case I sounded critical of it, I like non-stand-alone stuff fine! My comments were/are meant as observations, not judgements.

    FYI I always feel like there’s hair-splitting here on whether X is a series or trilogy or connected stories or episodic or whatever. I see it in a simpler, more Drum-like way – stand-alone or not. But clearly, you’d call some books stand-alones that I wouldn’t. Still, since Drum’s post sparked the comment thread that lead here, I’m using a hybrid Kendall/straw-Drum take on “stand-alone or not.” But I acknowledge subjective wiggle room! I linked to the lists so folks can make up their own minds, but below is my take on how much Tor.com publishes stand-alones or not, and how much it’s changed.

    To be click-baity (scroll-baity?), I should say, “The conclusion will surprise you – it surprised us!”

    2017: Tor.com’s own list of all their 2017 releases surprised me. By my count, only three of the 12 Tor.com 2017 novels were true stand-alone and just under half the 2017 novellas were stand-alones. YMMV.

    2016: They had a 2016 round-up post, too. Only one of the four novels was a stand-alone by my reckoning. Of the novellas, it seems like around 40% stand-alones, maybe as high as 50%. (IMHO “a story in X universe” says to someone like Drum, looking for a stand-alone, “Hi, this is not a stand-alone.”) Again, YMMV, but also again, this surprised me.

    2015: Tor.com’s inautural list of titles post mixed 2015 and 2016 titles (it was a kind of “here’s what’s coming for the next many months” post). I found the cover reveal post, which seems to have mostly or all 2015 titles, though perhaps not all of them. Most had sequels! That obviously wasn’t a surprise to Tor.com or the author, and IMHO “we want sequels/series, but hold on till we make sure it sells” doesn’t magically make, e.g., “Envy of Angels” a stand-alone when it was obviously planned as a series of 7 from the start. So I hesitate to calling these few months “mostly stand-alones,” but I’m more flexible here, because shoot, the whole imprint was new and despite all the buzz they generated, the whole thing could’ve flopped. For later years (see above), I’m stricter about calling things non-stand-alone. So I dunno how to call this one. 🙂

    Unrelated: Originally the first “Wayward Children” novella had a longer title – “Every Heart a Doorway, Every Word a Prayer.” Huh, I didn’t remember that.

    So my impressions now are: #1 Yup, they publish a lot of non-stand-alone work – more than I thought. #2 It hasn’t changed much after all. #3 I keep thinking they were around longer than they were, probably because they “started” in mid-2014 but first published in late-2015. This confused me when Googling for lists of novellas (“where are the 2014 novellas? oh, there were none, d’oh”).

  5. Kevin Drum is a blogger. Sometimes that means journalism; other times, it means cat pictures. The entry you all are discussing is on the cat picture side of things. He’s writing as just a guy who likes science fiction, doesn’t spend a lot of time and effort keeping up with it, and had trouble finding a book that interested him.

    His perceived numbers turn out to be exaggerated but not wrong–standalone SF novels are definitely in the minority–which means he’s coming to a perception possibly shared by a lot of people, also likely to exaggerate their experiences which nonetheless resemble the truth.

    I’ve gathered since the CalPundit days that Kevin Drum was an SF reader. I recall discussions of mostly older SF in his blog back then. That hard-core SF fans have a wonderful range of tools with which to find books is beside the point if one is not one of those fans, though, and Kevin Drum is not.

  6. A final commentt on Themis Files: I didn’t have any issue with the ~broken structure — but I devoured Stand on Zanzibar when it came out, so I may be an outlier.

  7. @John A Arkansawyer

    Kevin Drum is a blogger. Sometimes that means journalism; other times, it means cat pictures. The entry you all are discussing is on the cat picture side of things. He’s writing as just a guy who likes science fiction, doesn’t spend a lot of time and effort keeping up with it, and had trouble finding a book that interested him.

    It still seems disingenuous to me. He took a three month sample and determined SF books no longer appeal to him. Seems to me he should have either left out that “research” and said eg “I’m no longer interested in reading SF” or at the very least tried the most appealing couple volumes from the past year. Not saying he needs to be held up to strict standards for a cat pictures-style blog post, but this is more like looking out your window, taking a picture of your empty lawn, and posting it saying “Apparently there are no longer cats to photograph.” Why bother?

  8. One good thing about Drum’s tempest in a tea cup: I now know about Unbound World’s and the genre novels by year resource. That helped scratch an itch.

  9. rcade: “But making any of this about his race/age/gender is a bit of a cheap shot. His post states that he recently read N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth, and Cixin Liu’s Three-Body Problem. Trying to fit him into the same box as the pulp revolution types doesn’t really work.”

    No, it’s not a cheap shot — it’s statistical fact. I have never run into a black SF fan who has made this complaint. They tend to view the field as opening up to possibility finally, not shutting down. And it’s rare that white women make the complaint, though it happens. And while it’s sometimes younger white men, the complaint that “SF used to be this way and now it’s this way which means it’s ruined and dying” requires some nostalgia so the complainers tend to be middle-aged to older people. And Drum is a white, middle-aged man, which is actually relevant in how he shapes his perceptions of culture and book publications.

    The reality is that it’s an awful lot of white, middle-aged male journalists who get to put out this crap in respected media and pretend it’s relevant cultural analysis and commentary. And part of the reason that they get to do it is because they are favored as journalists for being white guys by these publications, which is a whole other problem.

    Noting that someone has cultural blinders on because he’s a white male doesn’t make him a Puppy or alt righter, nor did I ever say that he was. (I won’t call them pulp revolution people because they are decidedly not making a pulp revolution.) You don’t have to be far right to cause some harm to the field, and like I said, these complaints from media figures can discourage newer possible fans from trying out SF. And most of these complaints again come from older white guys, despite the fact that the claim is always poorly thought out, illogical and trotted out on a regular basis every year without SF ever actually being ruined or collapsing. They even give it whole panels at conventions where mainly middle-aged white men get to complain that fantasy is killing SF or space opera is destroying hard SF or whatever part of the field does not strike their fancy. And we could do without it, since those arguments are based on defensive emotions and preferences, not facts of the market. (Just my suggestion to any convention programmers there.)

    “Of course, but sometimes you want the joy of finding something great while it’s new. ”

    Why? Does it expire if you don’t read it within the first five years of publication? The key words there are “finding something.” Someone came up with ten standalones that fit in a few minutes on this piece. If Drum had done a piece asking for recommendations along the parameters he set, then he probably would have gotten even more. He wouldn’t even have had to go looking himself. But you get more mileage out of complaining that something isn’t there, rather than asking if people can help you find it — and that’s a system that would be nice to change, so that actual books got talked about, rather than guys like Drum being cranky.

    I’ll give him one break — maybe he didn’t write the awful headline to the thing. But then I have beef with his editor at Mother Jones. 🙂

  10. @KatG “No, it’s not a cheap shot — it’s statistical fact.”

    Using the same sampling methods that Drum did?

  11. @John A. Arkansawyer: some bloggers speak when they have something to say; others apparently speak regardless. (I’m reminded of a high-school teacher whose exam instructions included “Be sure brain is engaged before putting pen or pencil into motion.”) As far as I’m concerned, Drum’s sloppiness about SF causes me to wonder whether anything he says about politics is backed up by facts.

  12. Chip Hitchcock: some bloggers speak when they have something to say; others apparently speak regardless.

    He’s mentioned that he’s quite ill. I suspect that post, and another content-free post pointed out by a Filer, were written to fulfill a contractual obligation in a way that was not exceptionally stressful or draining for him.

  13. JJ on March 14, 2018 at 7:28 pm said:
    I remember people complaining some years back about a column that had one of my uncles as the author’s name – but I knew that he hadn’t written it; it wasn’t his style, and some of the things in it he’d have known were lies. I couldn’t say anything then, as I didn’t have permission – but he had leukemia (AML) and, in fact, died the next month. I considered that column to be dishonest on the part of the publisher.

  14. !) You folks have definitely convinced me that someone who lives and breathes science fiction and has dozens of ways to look for books can find an interesting new release. Unfortunately, this does jack shit for the other 99% of the science-fiction reading population.

    Kevin Drum gave an honest report of his experience trying and failing–he got a book, remember? Which he didn’t like–to find a standalone science fiction novel. That’s all it is. It’s what happened to him. And the best you can do is quarrel with him–with his personal experience–and compare the lengths of your recommendation lists. Really?

    That post was unimportant, a guy with a small platform relating a personal experience. The headline is an overgeneralization and would be better aimed at publishers than authors, but the post itself is unobjectionable. I’m amazed how much it bothers so many.

  15. John A Arkansawyer: That post was unimportant, a guy with a small platform relating a personal experience. The headline is an overgeneralization and would be better aimed at publishers than authors, but the post itself is unobjectionable. I’m amazed how much it bothers so many.

    What it is for me — and, I suspect, for most of the other Filers who’ve commented — is an “oh, geez, dude, there’s so much good SF out there, please don’t give up!” thing, rather than a “what a jerk” thing.

    Most Filers, me included, love SFF, and love sharing what we love with others — and are disappointed when it seems like someone is missing out on that. I suspect that is what motivated most of the comments here.

  16. @JJ: “Most Filers, me included, love SFF, and love sharing what we love with others — and are disappointed when it seems like someone is missing out on that.”

    I hear that! A very fine public service would be this post: Seven simple ways for the casual SF fan to find a likely new book without investing too much time

    The mission statement would be something like, “It shouldn’t take longer to find a book than it takes to decide whether you want to finish a book.”

  17. @John A Arkansawyer

    A very fine public service would be this post: Seven simple ways for the casual SF fan to find a likely new book without investing too much time

    I am working on this. If anyone else wants to contribute, you can send email to my jobsearch email address – eptify777 [A T] Google-mail dot com

  18. Bill: “Using the same sampling methods that Drum did?”

    You are welcome to NotAllOlderWhiteMen me on this, but I’ve been dealing with it for decades of the same rhetoric and can, if I wanted to waste several hours, gather up countless archived media articles just like Drum’s, almost all of them by older white gentlemen like Drum. They’re all completely wrong on the field, even from a casual perspective often, frequently biased in annoying ways, present SF as an unappealing field that people shouldn’t bother to visit because it supposedly doesn’t fit the writer’s personal preferences and minor sampling, and these pieces get entirely too many airings from major media publications that should know better. That’s my opinion, with a much better sampling size than Drum’s (and the groans on here from folks help prove the point — we’ve heard all this before.) If Drum is allowed to have his opinion in a major publication that the field of SF has deserted standalones and what he likes to read — which factually it has not — then I certainly think my giving my opinion that I’m grumpily tired of the “SF is ruined and/or dying now” meme, that offers a false and discouraging view of the genre, in a comment thread on a genre news blog can stand. You may agree with Drum instead if you like.

    John A. Arkansawyer: “That post was unimportant, a guy with a small platform relating a personal experience. The headline is an overgeneralization and would be better aimed at publishers than authors, but the post itself is unobjectionable.”

    The problem is that the post isn’t unimportant, Mother Jones is not a small media platform and the piece did not just relate a personal experience but made declarations about what was available to readers in the SF market in a negative and inaccurate way. Which again discourages new readers from SF, so it is actually objectionable. (But again, I sincerely hope that he beats his illness.) It’s a cumulative problem in media and Drum contributed to it. Which, given Mother Jones as a publication, is disappointing. It’s not an intentionally malicious act, just a weak, poorly reasoned one that always seems to get picked over actually supporting works in SF in the media.

    “I hear that! A very fine public service would be this post: Seven simple ways for the casual SF fan to find a likely new book without investing too much time”

    That was exactly my point. We have entirely too many media articles spending time and space complaining that SF has changed (is ruined,) that it’s overrun by fantasy (dying), that they can’t find what they want — all of which discourages new readers — instead of media spending time on apparently the less hooky pieces on here’s some actual books to try out. So sail on Rob Thornton, sail on!

  19. @Kendall

    I think we must have slightly different standards for what counts as a stand-alone, because I still would’ve said that there are more of them in Novella than series works. Great sources, though, and now everyone can use their own idiosyncratic definitions and count them themselves! 🙂

    (Or just enjoy the works. If they’re not the sort to like counting things. There’s still a lot of stand-alones there whichever definition people are using, and series works too, so Tor’s novella line has something for everyone’s taste.)

  20. LOL! Indeed – I read and enjoyed. 🙂 I only counted because of the direction the conversational thread went. I normally don’t do any kind of counting like that (and since I didn’t report a lot of actual numbers, I did a poor job of it anyway, I suppose).

    BTW I saw something mentioned in Carolyn Cushman’s “2017 Year-in-Review” column in Locus that made me think of you: “The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis is a sweet middle-grade fantasy about a young dragon turned human, who discov­ers the joy of chocolate and decides to get work as a chocolatier’s apprentice.” !!! I don’t know whether you like chocolate, but I thought, “Wow, dragons AND CHOCOLATE?!” 😉

  21. Meredith: I think we must have slightly different standards for what counts as a stand-alone, because I still would’ve said that there are more of them in Novella than series works.

    I consider almost all first-in-a-series novels as “standalone” unless they are very obviously “ends-in-a-cliffhanger-with-no-satisfying-conclusion” territory. If it is a full story, then it is standalone — because it does not rely on any previous worldbuilding or character development. As Mark-kitteh pointed out, you can stop then if you want, without having to feel cheated.

    I have read ~26 novels and ~26 novellas from 2017 which are either standalone or first of a series, and I can honestly say that pretty much all of them make complete stories on their own (whether I loved all of them enough to be willing to read subsequent books set in the same universe is a separate question).

  22. @Kendall

    I have a complicated relationship with chocolate but that book does sound very much up my street! Thank you! (Also, nice to see something YA/children’s lit-ish that’s dropped in price a little. My YA category is barren because none of the books I was tracking ever hit the affordable/justifiable range, sigh.)


    Yeah, I think the only first-in-a-series books I read from 2017 that really felt like first-in-a-series were The Collapsing Empire and to a lesser extent The Bear and the Nightingale. Otherwise even the ones that had series set-up epilogues had stories that felt complete and satisfying to me.

    I could go either way with counting Down Among the Sticks and Bones as a series work or a stand-alone, too, and that’s the second one.

    I noticed in the comments to some of the Tor short fiction that some people really hate not seeing every detail of an ending, even in cases where it seemed to me we’d had the narrative climax and describing what happened next would just sort of totter along, dramatically. Clearly everyone has their own standards and that’s fine. Taste is taste.

  23. Down Among the Sticks and Bones definitely seemed to work as a standalone to me. It did make references to events of earlier books, but only in passing. Heck, the Amazon description says:

    […] a truly standalone story suitable for adult and young adult readers of urban fantasy […]

    Beneath the Sugar Sky relied more heavily on previous events than DAtSaB–the main plot was driven by the fallout of the events in Every Heart a Doorway–and even it I would still count as standalone. The plot-relevant parts of the earlier books were explained well enough that you didn’t have to reference them to avoid confusion.

  24. Xtifr: Down Among the Sticks and Bones definitely seemed to work as a standalone to me. It did make references to events of earlier books, but only in passing.

    In fact, the ending conflicted with a major plot point in the first book (which is actually a sequel), but I put that down to the difficulty of writing a prequel which has to deal with subsequent narrative which was already published as canon.

  25. Sequels, prequels, series – these are not in conflict with the ability to stand alone. The first two “Wayward Children” books can stand on their own, but they are still part of a series. 😉 Which is fine, of course.

    @Meredith: Oh, really? Awesome! I’m not very into YA/children’s, but I will take a peek. BTW when I search for it, I see “The Girl with the Dragon Heart” also comes up – the title and cover look suspiciously like a sequel. 😉

  26. @JJ: Oh, you’re right. I’m getting the books in the series mixed up. But all three that I’ve read seem to me to work fine as standalone.

    In fact, given contradictions of the type you mentioned, it could be argued that they work slightly better as standalones then they do as a series. It’s an implausible argument (and not one I’m supporting), but not an impossible one. 😀

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