Pixel Scroll 3/11/19 A Scroll Is A Guy That Thinks He’s Fly, And Is Also Known As A Pixel

(1) OBERST FROM COAST TO COAST. As reported the other day, Bill Oberst Jr.’s Ray Bradbury Live (forever) will launch with a performance at the South Pasadena Public Library on March 2. The show’s website says the next performances will be in Indianapolis, IN from May 3-5, then in Charleston, SC on dates to be announced.

(2) ART OF THE SERIES. Seanan McGuire will teach an online class — “Pacing Yourself: The Strange and Sprawling Art of Writing a Long Series” – on Saturday, June 29, 2019, 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific time.

Writing a series can be a long, strange journey. How do you best prepare for it, and where do you stop to refuel? And how do you do know when to keep going and when to bring things to an end? Join Seanan McGuire, Hugo-winning author of multiple series, as she shares secrets of not get lost along the way when undertaking such a trip.

(3) MURDERBOT MUST ADVERTISE. Tor.com has announced “Murderbot Will Return in…Network Effect. A Full Novel by Martha Wells”. But we’ll have to wait til May 2020 to read it. (Pass the time by watching your stored media.)

(4) SHRINK RAP. Larry Correia talks about “getting paid” all the time, and Harlan Ellison extolled the importance of a writer’s work being acknowledged by a “check of money.” How to explain everyone else who keeps pulling the handle on their typewriter? Camestros Felapton searches for parallels between writing and an addiction in “Writing and Gambling”.

One of the notable features of gambling (and a factor that can lead to it becoming a problem for some people) is that people still gain pleasure from it even when they are losing. The phenomenon called “loss chasing”…

(5) R.E.S.P.E.C.T.  YA reviewer Vicky Who Reads surveyed book bloggers and got over 280 respondents to share “their views on how authors + other people should interact to remain respectful.” — “Blogger + Author Interaction Etiquette Survey Responses: Answers from the Book Bloggers’ Perspectives (2019)”. The YA author/blogger dynamic is obviously different than the pro/fan interaction in social media, however, I found it very interesting reading. Here’s the range of reactions to the question –

Do you mind if authors read and/or comment on your review of their book?

  1. “I don’t want them to comment on negative reviews, but I’m fine if they comment on positive reviews!” +12 with the same sentiment +11 same sentiment, also specifying that they would not tag an author in a negative review
  2. “What I don’t like is when an author comments on my reviews to defend themselves or to try and guilt me into changing my opinions.” +6
  3. “I don’t mind if they read, and a quick thanks for reading my book comment is fine— but nothing else.” +3
  4. (paraphrased) Authors are not obligated to read reviews, but I’d like them to know that someone’s enjoyed it, and it would make me happy if they read my (positive tagged) review! +1
  5. “I don’t mind though I’d rather have them contact me in private if they want to discuss it.”
  6. “…would depend on the relationship you have with that specific author.”
  7. “…from anyone with more power than me, NO.”
  8. “…I wouldn’t mind them BOOSTING blog posts involving their books.”
  9. “I don’t mind them commenting on my review in a tweet…but no comments on my actual blog.”

(6) HANDICAPPING THE SHORTLIST. Ceridwen Christensen’s series at Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog continues with “Blogging the Nebulas: The Poppy War Is a Devastating Fantasy Debut”. Each post makes the case for why the nominee will or won’t win. Here, under Won’t, it says —

Though there seems to be a tendency to nominate debut novels for the Nebula in recent year—more than half of the nominees for the last three years have been first novels—there is a clear precedent for established novelists to actually take home the Nebula. The preference for books from established writers makes sense: not only have they had time to hone their craft, but, as and industry award, connections within the industry factor.

(7) A MARVEL(OUS) CAT. USA Today posts a spoiler warning before telling readers “5 things you need to know about furry ‘Captain Marvel’ breakout Goose the Cat”. Brie Larson’s superhero heads up the blockbuster new ‘Captain Marvel’ but scene-stealing Goose the Cat is one of the movie’s biggest breakouts.   

1. Like the movie’s human heroine, Goose comes straight from the comic books.

She’s named Chewie in the pages of the “Captain Marvel” series (named for the “Star Wars” Wookiee co-pilot), while the movie uses Anthony Edwards’ “Top Gun” sidekick as inspiration. But a lot of the hidden abilities Goose unleashes later in the film mirror the comic character’s cosmic connections as an alien Flerken.

Before they had a script, directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck had a room with a whiteboard where they wrote a wish list of everything from the comics that they wanted to see in the movie, including the cat. After figuring out Goose’s role, Boden remembers giving an initial script outline to executive producer Kevin Feige “and him being like, ‘Yep, we’re going to need about 200 percent more (Goose) in the story.’ And he was right. It was so fun to find all the ways that she could participate in the film.”

(8) TIME BANDITS. ScienceFiction.com has learned “Taika Waititi Will Co-Write And Direct The Pilot For Apple’s ‘Time Bandits’”.

‘Thor: Ragnarok’s Taika Waititi has signed on to co-write and direct the pilot for a series based on the 1981 Terry Gilliam film ‘Time Bandits’ for Apple‘s upcoming streaming service.  Waititi will also serve as executive producer along with Gilliam and Dan Halstead (‘People of Earth’).  This will be just one of many shows that Apple plans to offer for free to owners of its various devices, including Apple TV, iPhones, iPads and Macs.  ‘Time Bandits’ will be co-produced by Anonymous Content, Paramount Television and Media Rights Capital.

Time Bandits is a dark, irreverent adventure about imagination, bravery and the nature of our dreams. It follows the time-traveling adventures of an 11-year-old history buff named Kevin who, one night, stumbles on six dwarfs who emerge from his closet. They are former workers of the Supreme Being who have stolen a map that charts all the holes in the space-time fabric, using it to hop from one historical era to the next in order to steal riches. Throughout the movie, they meet various historical and fictional characters, including Napoleon Bonaparte and Robin Hood, while the Supreme Being simultaneously tries to catch up to them and retrieve the map.


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 11, 1921 F. M. Busby. Together with his wife and others he published a fan magazine named Cry of the Nameless which won the Hugo award in 1960. Heinlein was a great fan of him and his wife — The Cat Who Walks Through Walls in part dedicated to Busby and Friday in part to his wife Elinor. He was a very busy writer from the early Seventies to the late Nineties writing some nineteen published novels and myriad short stories before he blamed the Thor Power Tools decision for forcing his retirement. (Died 2005.)
  • Born March 11, 1952 Douglas Adams. I’ve read and listened to the full cast production the BBC did of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy but have absolutely no desire to see the film. Wait, wasn’t there a TV series as well? Yes, there was. Shudder! The Dirk Gently series is, errr, odd and its charms escape my understanding. He and Mark Carwardine also wrote the most excellent Last Chance to See, their travels to various locations in the hope of encountering species on the brink of extinction. It’s more silly than it sounds. (Died 2001.)
  • Born March 11, 1962 Elias Koteas, 57. Genre appearances include the very first (and I think best of the many that came out) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, One Magic Christmas, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (I did warn you, didn’t I?), Cyborg 2 (just don’t), Gattaca, Skinwalkers, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and The Haunting in Connecticut.
  • Born March 11, 1963 Alex Kingston, 56. River Song in Doctor Who. She’s in a number of different stories with a number of different Doctors and was the eventual wife of the Eleventh Doctor. (I don’t believe in spoilers.) I don’t see a lot of other genre work from her but she was in Ghost Phone: Phone Calls from the Dead, as Sheila and she was Lady Macbeth in the National Theatre Live of Macbeth. Oh, and she’s in the Arrowverse as Dinah Lance, in FlashForward as Fiona Banks and recently shows up as Sara Bishop on A Discovery of Witches, a series based off the Deborah Harkness novel of the same name. Great series, All Souls Trilogy, by the way. 
  • Born March 11, 1967 John Barrowman, 52. Best genre without doubt is as Captain Jack Harkness in Doctor Who and Torchwood.  He reprised the role for Big Finish audiobooks and there’s one that I highly recommend which is the full cast Golden Age production with all the original cast. You’ll find a link to my review here. I see he’s been busy in the Arrowverse playing three different characters (I think as I confess I’m not watching it currently)  in the form of Malcolm Merlyn / Dark Archer / Ra’s al Ghul. He’s also had a long history in theatre, so he’s been in Beauty and the Beast as The Beast / The Prince, Jack and The Bean Stalk as Jack, Aladdinas, well, Aladdinand Cinderella as, errrr, Buttons.
  • Born March 11, 1982 Thora Birch, 37. A very, very extensive genre history so I’ll just list her appearances: Purple People EaterItsy Bitsy Spider, Hocus PocusDungeons & Dragons, The HoleDark Corners, TrainDeadlineDark Avenger series, The Outer LimitsNight Visions series, My Life as a Teenage Robot and a recurring role on the Colony series.
  • Born March 11, 1989 Anton Yelchin. Best known for playing played Pavel Chekov in Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness and Star Trek Beyond. He also was in Terminator Salvation as Kyle Reese, in the Zombie comedy Burying the Ex as Max and voiced Clumsy Smurf in a series of Smurf films. Really, he did. (Died 2016.)


  • “All writers explained” in this Pearls Before Swine strip.
  • Dick Tracy does a shout-out to Gasoline Alley. Joe Staton is one of the creators in the credits – he did fanzine art back in the Seventies before moving up to the big leagues.

Daniel Dern sent the Dick Tracy link with a comment:

Gasoline Alley remains one of my favorite strips. One interest aspect is that characters age “in real time” — they get older, and the strip’s “current time” is the present (as of when it’s written).

Here’s one of my favorite sequences, guest-starring John Hartford [PDF file] (who, IMHO, would have made a great Tom Bombadil). And here’s a clearer view of a few of those.

(11) SO, DOES LOTUS TASTE GOOD? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Some science fiction has imagined a future where automation of one sort or another replaces most or all jobs. Thinking about that sort of future is slowly becoming mainstream but even if this leads to some version of utopia, there will be a difficult transition period. An installment of an AI series on The Verge (The Real-World AI Issue) looks at “How to protect humans in a fully automated society” and asks the question “What happens when every job is replaced by a machine?” It doesn’t get to an answer, but that doesn’t make the question any less important.

People have been worried about machines taking jobs for a very long time. As early as 1930, John Maynard Keynes was warning about the new scourge of technological unemployment, which he termed as “unemployment due to our discovery of means of economizing the use of labor outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses for labor.” In short, automating ourselves out of a paycheck.

(12) CROCK OF AGES. Armies march on their stomachs, archeologists crawl on theirs: “Archaeologists Find Trove Of Maya Artifacts Dating Back 1,000 Years”.

Mexican archaeologists announced last week that they discovered a trove of more than 200 Maya artifacts beneath the ancient city of Chichén Itzá in Mexico.

The discovery of the Yucatán Peninsula cave – and the artifacts, which appear to date back to 1,000 A.D. – was not the team’s original goal, National Geographic Explorer Guillermo de Anda, who helped lead the team, told NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro for Weekend Edition.

A local resident told the archeologists about the secret cave, known as Balamku or “Jaguar God.” It had been known to locals for decades and about 50 years ago some of them told archeologist Víctor Segovia Pinto about the cave, but he ordered it sealed for unknown reasons, causing it to be forgotten. This time, the explorers decided to search the cave chambers, which involved crawling on their stomachs for hours to reach the coveted artifacts.

(13) NOT MUCH OF A GAME YET. Brian at Nerds of a Feather, in “Microreview : Anthem by Bioware (developer)”, feels he has to speak bluntly:

Anthem is a mess. There’s no nicer way of putting it. I can’t recommend it in any form today. The good(?) news is that it’s essentially unfinished but it’s a part of EA’s games-as-a-service strategy. Like so many other games-as-a-service shlooters (that’s loot-shooters, games like Destiny and The Division), it’s being patched frequently with new features, quality of life improvements, and bug fixes. The outstanding questions are can they fix this game post-release and do they have the will to keep working on this game?

(14) JUST A LITTLE PINCH. Sew what? “Scientists Thread A Nano-Needle To Modify The Genes Of Plants”.

Is there an efficient way to tinker with the genes of plants? Being able to do that would make breeding new varieties of crop plants faster and easier, but figuring out exactly how to do it has stumped plant scientists for decades.

Now researchers may have cracked it.

Modifying the genetics of a plant requires getting DNA into its cells. That’s fairly easy to do with animal cells, but with plants it’s a different matter.

“Plants have not just a cell membrane, but also a cell wall,” says Markita Landry, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of California, Berkeley.

Scientists have tried different ways to get DNA and other important biological molecules through the cell wall – by shooting microscopic gold bullets coated with DNA into the cell using a gene gun or by hiding DNA inside bacteria that can infect plant cells.

Both methods have limitations. Gene guns aren’t very efficient, and some plants are hard, if not impossible, to infect with bacteria.

UC Berkeley researchers have found a way to do it using something called carbon nanotubes, long stiff tubes of carbon that are really small. Landry came up with the idea, and the curious thing is she’s neither a n­anotechnology engineer nor a plant biologist.

(15) LOOKING BACKWARD. Remember in Armageddon where Bruce Willis’ character says to the NASA manager, “You’re the guys that’re thinking shit up! I’m sure you got a team of men sitting around somewhere right now just thinking shit up and somebody backing them up!” Same answer here – they’re looking for help from the public: “It’s 2050 And This Is How We Stopped Climate Change”.

When NPR interviewed Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes in February about her Green New Deal, she said that her goal was bigger than just passing some new laws. “What I hope we’re able to do is rediscover the power of public imagination,” she said.

Well, we’re unleashing our imagination and exploring a dream, a possible future in which we’re bringing global warming to a halt. It’s a world in which greenhouse emissions have ended.

(Editor’s note: Each story has two sections, the first reflecting the present and the second imagining the world of 2050.)

(16) PASS FAIL. Tadiana Jones reviews Sylvain Neuvel’s novel “The Test: The cost of citizenship in a near-future world” at Fantasy Literature.

Published in February 2019. Britain, the not-too-distant future. Idir is sitting the British Citizenship Test. He wants his family to belong. Twenty-five questions to determine their fate. Twenty-five chances to impress. When the test takes an unexpected and tragic turn, Idir is handed the power of life and death. How do you value a life when all you have is multiple choice?

(17) ANOTHER JOYCE. Speculiction’s Jesse Hudson does a “Review of The Silent Land by Graham Joyce”. The situation doesn’t sound too bad in the beginning —  

Extensive cellars of the world’s best wines. Pristine slopes with no other skiers, the lifts at your disposal. A hotel kitchen with an endless supply of food that never spoils. The penthouse room available day in and day out for sleeping and leisure. Paradise calls, such is the tragedy of Graham Joyce’s touching 2010 The Silent Land.

(18) EYE WONDER. On CNN, “Rep. Dan Crenshaw shows off his Captain America-inspired glass eye”:

“Captain America” found out he had a big fan in Congress after his mission to the US Capitol this week.

Chris Evans, known for playing the superhero in the Marvel movies, met up with Rep. Dan Crenshaw on a visit to Washington, and the two seemed to hit it off.

Crenshaw, who represents Texas’ 2nd Congressional District, lifted his eye patch to show off a Captain America-inspired glass eye to Evans. In a picture posted to Twitter on Friday, the eye resembles Captain America’s shield, with a five-point, white star in the middle surrounded by circles.

(19) AI AND AIRCRAFT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Two very different aviation stories today referenced AI. At BGR they say, “Oh great, Russian fighter pilots are going to start flying with scary AI wingmen,” while at Popular Mechanics the wonder, “Can Big Data Save Old Warplanes?

The BGR story talks about the possibility of Russian fighters using drones (that fly with an AI assist) as a force multiplier.

Well, it seems Russian military officials don’t want to just stop with that fearsome new hypersonic intercontinental ballistic missile that was tested last month, which we told you about and which Russia claims there’s no defense against. It would appear the country’s military forces have also been testing the feasibility of having AI-powered wingmen fly alongside Russian fighter pilots, executing commands issued by the human pilot an inaugurating a scary new chapter in aerial military combat.

News accounts of Russia’s efforts here are the result of images spotted on social media of a drone called Hunter, an unmanned combat vehicle, along with images of a jet called the Sukhoi Su-57. Of particular interest is that fighter jet’s tail. As you can see below, on the tail you can see the shape of a jet as well as an image that seems to be the “Hunter” drone, along with the image of a lightning bolt.

Meanwhile, PopSci takes a look at using big data and machine learning to keep aging aircraft in the air instead of grounded.

Late in 2018, the Air Force (with help from Delta) retrofitted its aging C-5 and B-1 fleets to perform predictive maintenance. “It’s already doing amazing work, telling us things that we need to look at before they become critical,” Will Roper [(USAF assistant secretary for acquisition, technology, and logistics)] says. “The data is there but it’s not in a discoverable format that you can layer in machine learning on top of it. A lot of what we had to do was reverse engineering, so that that data can be exposed in an algorithm friendly way.”

He says there are more than 100 algorithms running on the C-5 systems, and more than 40 examining the B-1. Each algorithm parses the information generated by specific systems, like the landing gear, wheels, temperature sensors, and anything that is deemed mission-critical.

So far, the A.I. found three maintenance actions on the C-5 “that we wouldn’t have found through traditional processes, that affect 36 different aircraft,” Roper says. Maintainers also removed 17 parts that were showing subtle signs of wear well before those parts had issues.

(20) WHAT’S THAT SMELL? It’s D&D night at Ursula Vernon’s place. The thread starts here.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Rich Lynch, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Adam Rakunas.]

81 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 3/11/19 A Scroll Is A Guy That Thinks He’s Fly, And Is Also Known As A Pixel

  1. 20) D&D night at Ursula’s place make my FTF gaming seem positively banal by comparison!

    13) Painful that the game was released in such a state

    8) Oh yes, a Time Bandit series. Yes, please!

    3) Well, there are plenty of Sanctuary Moon episodes to watch until then, right? Oh crap…

  2. (9) Busby wrote a few stories for Asimov’s in the ’80s which were my introduction to him. I didn’t realize how far back he went.

  3. Anton Yelchin was also the voice actor for the lead role in Guillermo del Toro’s animated series Trollhunters. Delightful all around.

  4. (9) Busby’s career was a lot longer than I ever knew. I only stumbled across his work in the 1980s, with Rissa Kerguelen.

    Need to catch up on Modern Who; I’ve been watching the old series on BritBox.

  5. (10) Joe Staton also drew a great SF comic for Charlton, E-Man (which also featured the lovely Nova Kane). The book had a back-up strip also by Staton, Mike Mauser, who was a hard-boiled detective. Charlton never had the prestige of Marvel and DC, but they made some wonderful comics.
    (10) John Hartford is known primarily for his music (he wrote “Gentle on my Mind”, the royalties from which gave him financial independence), but he also was a licensed steam boat pilot. In 2017, my family took a dinner cruise on the General Jackson in Nashville (which appears incognito in the linked strips as the Pvt. Jaxon) and got to talking with the pilot. It turns out that he had been to pilot school with Hartford, and had known him well before his death. (My own father knew him a little; they would see each other regularly at the Nashville Flea Market over the years.)

  6. My only acquaintance with Busby is his story “Tell Me All About Yourself” (1973), which I came across in a Terry Carr-edited Ballantine anthology. Another “this would have suited Dangerous Visions well” story.

  7. (5) R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

    Hopefully, someone will pass this link on the 20BooksTo50K folks, who could use a few lessons in professionalism.

  8. @4: some decades ago I read of a pop psychologist analogizing between gambling and programming; Camestros’s link to writing at least seems like it was intended to be amusing (and doesn’t plumb the depths of the Pearls Before swine linked today) rather than serious/cruel.

    @9: I loved Last Chance to See. The first Dirk Gently book had me hooked long before it poked at the depth of my love for Bach, but the reports of the TV series have been a complete turnoff. The TV Hitchhiker’s was done very cheaply; the movie didn’t have a lot to do with the novels but had its own good points, including a complete story in the time allotted and Alan Rickman voicing Marvin.

  9. he blamed the Thor Power Tools decision for forcing his retirement

    Thor Power Tool Co. v. Commissioner: 1979

    F. M. Busby’s career: “A Gun for Grandfather” (1957) to The Triad Worlds (1996). Of the seventeen novels listed at isfdb, twelve post-date the Thor Power Tools decision.

  10. James Davis Nicoll: True, but that’s what he said! Or part of it, anyway. Busby’s full quote is in the Wikipedia —

    No, I haven’t been writing fiction for some time. Many if not most of us “midlist” writers have been frozen out like a third party on an Eskimo honeymoon. The IRS started it by getting the Thor Power Tools decision stretched to cover an inventory tax on books in publishers’ warehouses (so they don’t keep ’em in print no more), and the bookchains wrapped it up by setting one book’s GROSS order on that writer’s previous book’s NET sales. 4-5 books under those rules, and you’re road kill; a publisher can’t be expected to buy a book the chains won’t pay out on.

    And the Wikipedia follows the quote with a comment comparable to your own.

  11. 9) I did enjoy the Hitchhiker’s BBC TV series (recently rereleased on Blu-ray) — I believe it shared a lot of the cast with the original audio production. I expect your appreciation of it will in large part depend on your tolerance for cheap British SF TV of the 1970s.

    And until very recently I had no ideathat the instrumental theme was actually a song by the Eagles. (Or maybe a rerecording of same?)

  12. (17) Speculiction’s Jesse Hudson does a “Review of The Silent Land by Graham Joyce”.

    I read that novel a couple of years ago, based on something I read about it which made it sound really interesting, and I was decidedly underwhelmed. The main plot thread has been done to death in books, TV, and movies, and I didn’t really think that the author brought anything exceptional to its execution. It’s a (mostly) nice story about likeable people, though, if you’re in the mood for that.

  13. The only story by Busby that I’m aware of having read is his hilarious Where Are You, Guy de Maupassant, Now That We Need You? which appeared in Asimov’s in May 1990 (the first issue of the magazine I picked up).

  14. (10) Gasoline Alley’s current artist, Scancarelli (Al? I can’t think of his first name.), did a lovely tribute to Dick Tracy for DT’s 75th anniversary back in 2006, drawing the character very nicely (much better than the artist on the series at the time). I linked to one of the strips—October or November—at the GoComics comments for Tracy. It went on for a couple of weeks.

    (18) H. Allen Smith wrote (possibly in The Compleat Practical Joker) of a writer who had a glass eye—several, in fact, which were of increasingly bloodshot hue. He would wear them sequentially when he was drinking. The last one in the series was a USA flag.

    (99) Last night I dreamt I was somewhere—maybe a used book store, maybe a restaurant—with some people. My 93-year-old dad was there, and so was my dad. I realized more or less instantly that the second one was a Dad impersonator. Then Dad pointed to the imposter and said, “I like him. He don’t say nothin’.”

    That’s my dad!

  15. Adam Rakunas: At last. File 770 immortality is mine forever.

    Surely you can aspire to something higher… maybe you can have a couple of tacos for dinner? 😀

  16. 9) Loved the audio series, although I only started listening partway through the original broadcast and should probably get a hold of the entire thing. There were some great jokes and sequences in the audio that never so far as I know made it into any other medium – the whole bit about a sad people looking at their feet, deciding new shoes would cheer them up, a shoe sales kerfuffle ensures, and ultimately they evolved into birds = fantastic! Loved the books too. The TV series was okay if, as noted, you could tolerate the crappy vfx and I had a hard time with the faces versus what I’d previously imagines (strangely not something that normally bothers me). Didn’t particularly care for the movie. I believe the Eagles song is something like Journey Of The Sorcerer. Sounds quite unlike any other Eagles I know. But I remember what excitement it generated in my teenage self before the show started.

    5) I disagree with sub-point 5. I think if you’re prepared to publicly discuss/review a writer’s work, you should offer a public platform for the writer to respond. I suspect though that in 99% of cases the writer should refrain from doing so.

    13) A pretty much inevitable consequence of the decision to allow remote patching of games. Back in my day, a Nintendo game would have to undergo days (I forget how many) of testing without exhibiting any serious bugs. If it did, the developer would have to fix them and resubmit, and the whole process would repeat from the beginning, costing the developer time and money. Tell that to kids these days, and they just don’t believe you!

  17. Cliff: 5) I disagree with sub-point 5. I think if you’re prepared to publicly discuss/review a writer’s work, you should offer a public platform for the writer to respond. I suspect though that in 99% of cases the writer should refrain from doing so.

    Nope, nope, nope, nope.

    Reviews are for the benefit of the reviewer and other readers, not for the author’s benefit. I don’t owe an author anything when I post a review of their work — just as they don’t owe me anything.

    If I post a review of an author’s work and they show up to “correct” me or to “defend” a negative review, it’s creepy and intrusive and presumptuous and unprofessional of them to do so. It’s intimidating, and it makes me feel as though I’m being watched and that I can’t express my honest opinion.

    If they want to respond to a critical review, then they should do so on their own blog or other social space.

    Now this isn’t to say that I won’t try to be fair when posting a review — if there are positive elements of the work, I try to point those out, but I shouldn’t have to worry that they are going to show up and argue with me about the validity of my opinion.

  18. (5) I always love reading discussions of these. Personally, when I’m reviewing or discussing (and I do love reviewing! and discussing!), I would rather maintain the comfortable illusion that the author is in some alternate dimension and will never see or interact with this specific page. As JJ says — to me, a discussion about the experience of reading a story is one where, fundamentally, the author has no place. They can’t possibly experience their book as a reader. Any involvement from them changes what the discussion is about.

    But that’s a huge problem, since so often (overwhelmingly often, when it comes to short fiction…), the author’s interest and investment in the review is orders-of-magnitude more than anybody else’s. It’s very very hard to pretend the author probably isn’t reading over your shoulder, because it makes a lot more sense that they are.

    (I sometimes feel it can get even worse in the Israeli SF/F scene, which is just teeny-tiny, so you can hardly be an active fan without quickly becoming the personal friend of multiple authors. It’s weird.)

    But, the impression I get from this post is that a lot of bloggers are in the opposite camp from me. I’m seeing 48% who are cool with an author commenting on a review of their own book, and 60%+ for almost any other author interaction/involvement.

    Gotta say, I love authors and following them and hearing their thoughts on basically everything — but this would give me a hell of a lot of anxiety. When I review/discuss, I’m aiming at readers — people who have read the book, or who are considering doing that. Bringing in a bunch of interactions with authors would really make me feel like I was missing the mark pretty badly. I can say that when I ran Short Story Squee & Snark, I made a point of not tagging authors. Which, of course, meant I didn’t get Twitter-boosts from those authors — but on the other hand, I don’t think I wanted Twitter boosts coming from a “why don’t you read this review as a fan of my writing” perspective anyway…

  19. your tolerance for cheap British SF TV of the 1970s.

    1980s. As mentioned on another blog recently, one of my first jobs as a new VT Engineer at BBC TV Centre was the transfer of the Book animations from film to tape.

    And until very recently I had no idea that the instrumental theme was actually a song by the Eagles. (Or maybe a rerecording of same?)

    As someone just mentioned up ^ there, Journey of the Sorcerer from the album One of These Nights. I think an original recording was used, the budget wouldn’t have stretched to getting the Eagles in. The radio series had to cut or redo a scene between Arthur and Marvin on Magrathea after the first transmission due to a clip of Pink Floyd being used without rights clearance.

  20. I will say this: when I post the Novellapalooza, or the Best Series Discussion, or a book review here on File 770, I do enjoy seeing authors express pleasure on Twitter and Facebook about what I’ve had to say about their work. Mike and I send each other links when we see that happen.

    But I’ve also been delighted that they’ve all had the good sense and professionalism to leave it at that — and by doing so, it makes it as good for them as it is for me, in the sense that 1) I know that my opinion was honest, genuine, and unconstrained, and 2) they can rest assured of that, too, because they haven’t had any influence over me. Yes, it’s a bit of a bummer if I didn’t like your book — but if I did like it, then you know for sure that I really liked it, and I’m not just trying to make you feel good.

    When I realized that SFWA allowed Affiliate Members, I briefly considered joining — and then I came to my senses and realized that if I hung out with authors in the SFWA suite at Worldcon and got to know them, it would impair my ability to post genuine reviews without feeling internally as though I needed to soften them or make them even more positive just because I was acquainted with the author.

    I certainly have interacted with authors in conversation at Worldcon, but I’ve limited that to the sizable group of writers about whose work I could genuinely enthuse.

  21. Almost finished with Elizabeth Bear’s new SF novel Ancestral Night and I am really enjoying it. It blends a Heinlein first-person feel, hard SF physics (with FTL), and a space opera universe together for a fun and thoughtful read. Very recommended.

  22. (5) Surely the best response an author can make to a bad review is to take note of the bad points, correct them and produce a better novel next time.

    (9) Douglas Adams was also involved with Doctor Who. Some of the material he wrote for Who was reused for the Dirk Gently. Speaking of which, there have been two Dirk Gently TV series; are you referring to both or just one? I have only seen one episode from one and none from the other. It seemed pleasant enough, though not outstanding, and I thought Stephen Mangan was well cast as Dirk.

  23. The Hitchhiker’s TV series came out in 1981 but the vibe I got was definitely 1970s Tom Baker Doctor Who, perhaps with an even lower budget.

    (And the movie was … not good, with the possible exception of Alan Rickman doing the voice of Marvin.

    (I do, however, have very fond memories of the radio version — coming downstairs on Saturday mornings and sitting in Dad’s recliner with a big pair of headphones plugged into the console stereo. That’s also how I listened to the NPR Star Wars and the audio versions of Lord of the Rings and Horatio Hornblower.)

    I’ve seen the first season of the Elijah Wood Dirk Gently series and the first couple episodes of the earlier BBC series, despite never having read the books. The Elijah Wood version was … odd. It took a few episodes for me to kind of get into the flow of it. (And despite it being called Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, it felt more like a story about Todd (Elijah Wood’s character) with Dirk as a sort of intruding element of chaos.)

    I suspect (again, despite never having read the books) that the earlier BBC series (the one with Stephen Mangan) was a more faithful adaptation, but it was just kind of an OK BBC miniseries, as I recall.

  24. I am reminded of something I read, before social media was a thing or most of us had internet access:

    an author saying that it was bad for the author to read and respond to published reviews. First, they thought it was better psychologically, and in terms of continuing to write, not to pay attention to reviews. (Theatre people have given similar advice about reading published reviews of their performances.)

    Second, they thought the interaction was too likely to look bad, or end badly, if it got into “why didn’t you like my book?” or things like “Can’t you see that this character is meant to be XYZ?” IIRC, they said that if an author did read, or was shown reviews, it might be okay to correct factual errors–things like “no, I was born in 1963” or “My book wasn’t influenced by Three Mile Island, in fact it was written and published two years before that happened.”

  25. Vicki Rosenzweig: they thought the interaction was too likely to look bad, or end badly, if it got into “why didn’t you like my book?” or things like “Can’t you see that this character is meant to be XYZ?”

    One of the 20BooksTo50K authors came over and posted repeatedly on the review and comment thread of their story on Camestros’ blog. He kept insisting that no, even though this thing and that thing looked to the people there like one thing, that those things were really the opposite, and even though this other thing read a certain way, he deliberately did that because he was totally was trying to make the opposite point, and in the other stories in the series you could see this, etc. etc., and in the end it was just really sad because it was obvious that he was trying to retcon the story to counter the issues that people had pointed out with it, and to claim that those issues didn’t really exist after all. And he was being so polite about it, that of course what happened is that several people backed away from their opinions just so as to spare his feelings. I suspect that he went away thinking that he had convinced everyone that his story was actually really good, but of course he hadn’t.

    Then there was the other review post where the author showed up and aggressively insulted and abused Cam and all of the commenters, insisting that all of their opinions were invalid, and showing himself to not only be a complete tool but to have absolutely no self-awareness of how his lived experiences and the other books he had read had introduced themes into his story which he had never intended to be there. It was just cringingly awful to see him make such an abusive ass out of himself — and of course, it didn’t make his story look any better, either. (He also sent a buddy/sockpuppet to the review post for one of the competing stories in an attempt to diminish it, where he also made an abusive ass of himself).

    And this being the internet, of course, these examples of bad behavior will exist forever. I just really have to wonder how these authors can not recognize and understand the damage that they’re doing to themselves.

  26. @ JJ and Stanback – you both make valid points which I confess I hadn’t considered. I will point out that I said an author *should not* respond in 99% of cases. The behaviour you just described JJ being prime examples.

    Couple of examples to help illustrate where I was coming from with my original thought:

    a) I recently read an item on Abigail Nussbaum’s blog where she talked very well about a couple of M John Harrison’s stories. He turned up in the comments to offer some thoughts of his own and very interesting discussion ensued. Of course, he’s a pro. Here, if anyone cares to read it:


    b) Not the same thing at all, since this is about a professional factual publication, but just something that sticks in my mind: A long time ago when I was employed as a technical journalist, I wrote a comparative review of three competing products. Unfortunately, one of the tests I constructed to compare them was badly flawed, and the maker of the losing product wrote to use to tell us so. They came to our offices to discuss. I was given the job of wining and dining them (actually a pint and a chip butty at our local biker pub) and apologizing. I was mortified, of course, but things went okay until the end of the lunch when the owner of the losing product said he assumed we’d be printing a retraction. Unfortunately, my editor would have none of that and I was put in a really embarrassing position. In that particular case I definitely think we should have afforded them the space of a rebuttal, or at least we should have published an apology. Not that I think any of this has any bearing on bloggers and SF fiction reviews, but it’s tangentially related and I’m in a mood for rambling.

  27. Oh, and speaking of Tom Baker-era Doctor Who, tomorrow night (03/13) the final Baker serial, Logopolis, will be playing in a number of theaters, maybe one near you? I already have my ticket — it’s one of the ones I’ve never actually seen before, since the local PBS station when I was growing up seemed to only show Doctor Who episodes from the first half of Baker’s run).

  28. I think if you’re prepared to publicly discuss/review a writer’s work, you should offer a public platform for the writer to respond.

    I disagree. A reviewer should never feel obligated to publish a response to their criticism by the author. The author has many avenues available to publish such a response herself.

    Especially on the web, nobody is obligated to offer someone else a place to speak. We can all set up our own forum at little to no expense (except time and aggravation).

  29. @JJ: Then there was the other review post where the author showed up and aggressively insulted and abused Cam and all of the commenters

    Even funnier: he originally showed up with a polite comment thanking CF for the review, and mentioning an anthology where the story is going to be reprinted. A little less than 24 hours later, he returned and started heaping abuse on everyone else who had commented on the review (including CF for the crime of having actually removed someone else’s comment for being too rough on the author, because allegedly that was just an attempt to make the blog look good). It was really something.

  30. Isn’t responding in public to a negative review commonly known as the ABM, short for Author’s Big Mistake? It’s almost always a no-win proposition – even if the author is right about the review (and there are plenty of reviewers who aren’t much good), they’re still likely to come over as overly precious about their darling brain-child, contemptuous of other people’s opinions, and generally stuck-up, arrogant, elitist – telling other people what they’re supposed to think. As JJ says, it’s all about the reader’s experience, and the author can’t influence that after taking the initial step of, y’know, writing the story. That’s the only place where they get to guide the reader’s experience.

    I’ve had two authors respond to reviews I’ve written (which is two more than I ever thought would notice me, so that’s something). Both times it was a broadly positive review, with a few quibbles because that’s the sort of mean-spirited person I am; the authors were not mean-spirited people, and the interactions were pretty pleasant, on the whole. Was it inappropriate for them to comment? I’d say probably not, really – it’s a free country, they can have opinions about my opinions, just like I can have opinions about their writing. Getting into a slanging match with a critic, though, is almost never a good idea.

    (Having said that, though, literary spats can be a lot of fun to watch from the sidelines. See Mark Twain on Fenimore Cooper, or H.G. Wells responding to Hilaire Belloc, for examples….)

  31. Steve Wright: There have been a couple of cases in which I read a review and thought that the book sounded interesting enough that I might look it up – until the author turned up in the comments and wreaked such havoc (and created such a reek) that I wanted nothing to do with the book or the author. “Venice Under Glass” seemed cute, for example (a mystery in which a teddy bear is the detective) but the author comments — well just check them out https://tidbits.com/2014/05/02/funbits-bears-in-boats-fighting-crime/

    (I also consider this http://booksandpals.blogspot.com/2011/03/greek-seaman-jacqueline-howett.html to be a fairly positive review that might have led me to read the book if I had been more interested in its genre – but again, the author’s response resulted in major nope-ing).

  32. JJ: I would caracterise writer 1 and writer 2 a bit diferent. I don’t think that writer 1 hurt himself that much and I could kind of see where what he said afterwards could be hidden in the text. He didn’t convince anyone that his story was really good, but I think it was perhaps not such a bad move because writer 2 was runing amok in the other tread and so he perhaps managed the leave a better impresion as if he stayed sillent. He come of as a naive newbiewriter and I wish him luck.

    Wherass writer 2 probably killed any motivation for anyone who hasn’t read his story to read his story, and really confused me what his story was about.

    I am torn a bit. As writer I would respond to a review even on the blog of the reviewer, if there is somethink that is trasticly wrong exspecially if it gets in personal. But only very sporadic.

    Stuart: Only take note of the bad points the review adreses if they really help. Every work will get bad reviews, nothing is for everyone. Even if you respect the reviewer and the work that he/she does, what doesn’t work there can work for someone else. The reviews are not for the writer and some should be ignored.

  33. I admit that I (just random dude with a Goodreads account) was a bit taken aback the one time when I posted a review and the author commented on it. The review was generally positive, and the comment was nice, but still.

  34. Andrew wrote: “There have been a couple of cases in which I read a review and thought that the book sounded interesting enough that I might look it up – until the author turned up in the comments and wreaked such havoc (and created such a reek) that I wanted nothing to do with the book or the author. “Venice Under Glass” seemed cute, for example (a mystery in which a teddy bear is the detective) but the author comments —”

    Oh god, *that* guy. Joel Friedlander’s Book Designer blog has a monthly Cover Design Awards post where people can submit covers to their self-published books; Joel makes short comments, both positive and negative, on many of the covers submitted. Venice Under Glass was submitted one month, and Joel’s comment was… *not* positive. The author (who’d created the cover himself) responded with a request for detailed criticism. Joel generally doesn’t go into much depth in those monthly Cover Design posts, but I hadn’t been impressed with the cover either. So, trying to be helpful, I posted a comment listing about a half dozen reasons why the cover hadn’t worked for me.

    Apeshittiness ensued, to such an extent that I wrote Joel privately to apologize for inadvertently triggering such an outburst on his blog. (Though the author’s, umm, *epic* response to a review that Andrew links to is even more, umm, impressive, in an eyes-bugging-out kind of way.)

  35. I haven’t previously seen the label “ABM” for responding to a review; I’ll have to remember it (thanks @Steve Wright), because I’ve read the substance of it from a number of authors. It can’t be an absolute prohibition because there’s always the chance of a simple factual correction. (I remember a co-reader complaining about sex without birth control; I pointed to a place earlier in the book where it was made clear that birth control was simple enough not to require advance prep.) And there are often critics (a separate species from reviewers) who get so wrapped up in interpretation that they ignore what’s in front of them. (I remember Harlan being vitriolic about an academic who thought that the black ~face of the one female in “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” was metaphorical rather than descriptive.) But ISTM that responding is generally a bad idea for the author — it doesn’t lead to literal ulcers (now that we know where those come from), but it eats emotional energy (which most of us have a limited supply of). And demanding a space for response seems even more of a burner; works of fiction may not be literal anchovies, but they’ll almost always have something in common with them.

    @Steve Wright: Twain vs Cooper is a dissection, not a spat; Twain’s essay was published 44 years after Cooper’s death, per Wikipedia. A lot of that happens, and occasionally it’s reasonable; e.g., Cooper may still have been revered as part of the All-Amurrican Frontier Spirit.

  36. Chip Hitchcock: You roused my curiosity about why Twain would consider Cooper a target for a takedown. The Wikipedia article about Cooper shows his books were part of the conversation of other famous writers, including Balzac, and Thoreau took stylistic pointers from his work. Cooper was regarded as one of the paragons of American literature, and ripe for Twain’s attention.

  37. Hey all, is “girl scout cookies” a special brand of cookies or just any cookie sold by a girl scout?

  38. So far I’ve written back to two reviewers. Both reviewers had done the same thing — they’d given a summary of the book and had gotten the ending wrong. (These are two separate reviewers, and two separate books.) I thought that if they didn’t know how the book ended they probably hadn’t read all the way through, and I thought that was important enough to point out.

    So other than correcting some fact, I don’t think authors should even comment. If the review’s good I don’t know what to say, other than “Gosh, thanks,” and if it’s bad, well, much as I sometimes want to say something, I know this would never end well. Really, I shouldn’t read reviews at all, but I can’t help it.

  39. (5) I feel like I have sooooo many stories.

    Short story clubs where the author showed up, and everybody went “oh hai” and then discussion kind of fell silent.

    One of my earliest reviews got the nicest response from the author — to a mixed/negative review, but he said I’d interpreted it differently than he’d intended, and that I’d argued my interpretation convincingly. Now that’s true class.

    On the other end of the spectrum was Dave Truesdale saying a negative review of mine would better be ignored — with him owning both the review site, and the magazine I reviewed. Fun fun fun.

    Once I made an offhand comment on Facebook about an event at a convention I thought was very poor. Well, it was a local convention, and soon everybody involved had seen it and was very upset. And they were right: my comment had been callous, belittling, and there were a whole bunch of backstage factors I knew nothing about. At a larger scale, I’d expect offhand comments like that, even really awful ones, to just be shrugged off as some kook on the internet. But in a tiny community, it came across as a very personal and very public backstabbing.

    Also on the local scene, an author in a large book discussion group, realized that some people in the group weren’t criticizing their new book because… they knew the author was in the group. The author was really troubled by the idea that people should hold back criticism — and they tried to make their point with “but criticism is helpful to the author!” Which, well, may or may not be true, but reviews shouldn’t be about the author, that’s the whole point. It led to some really good discussion, though, and the author was very understanding once people started pointing that out.

    For what was probably my grumpiest short-story review ever, I got an email from the author. The author was extremely polite, but… also maybe not entirely clear about what they wanted to write to me about? Awkwardly, I wrote back, not managing to say anything more than “let me repeat what I didn’t like” and “sorry, but I really don’t like that story!” That still nags at me, because, well, the author shouldn’t have written to me, but obviously my review stung and I sincerely doubt my response helped any.


    So, it’s been a good long while since most of these. As an occasional reviewer, I’ve grown a lot. And a lot of that is growing self-awareness, of who else is reading, and learning that “man this story sucks” may be an honest opinion, but it’s rarely good criticism. Certainly, the times authors and creators stepped into the conversations have been memorable… but I’d still like to write my reviews in an alternate universe where the author themselves could never, ever read them. That’d be kind of nice.

  40. So this scroll brought news of both a Murderbot novel and a Time Bandits series. I feel better already!

    (5) Learning to accept negative reviews is one of the things a creator should learn.

  41. I’m not sure how much good is done by a public authorial complaint about a review unless the review is factually wrong about something in the text, in which case a note to the editor might result in a correction. But for a review that is merely (even if vociferously and wrongheadedly) unfavorable, I suspect that the positives might not match the negatives for the writer. I’d like to think that the readership can figure out which reviewer suits their views and tastes and need for accuracy of representation and follow accordingly.

    Which is not to say that readers’ preferences are authoritative. I’ve seen any number of reader reactions to reviews (not only of books*) that reflected unfavorably on the their understanding of the nature of journalism in general or reviewing in particular, of the items reviewed, or just of the English language. (I keep thinking of those Amazon reviews that feature complaints about products failing to perform tasks for which they are clearly, per their descriptions, not intended.)

    The on-line environment, of course, is seriously different from print, since almost everybody can present themselves as reviewers, and everybody else can respond in public, even if not necessarily in the original venue. The metaphor I find myself returning to is not the newspaper or magazine but the barroom–the saloon rather than the salon–where anybody can chime in and often does.

    * For a time I reviewed not only books and records but computer/business products–software, computer gear, even, for one memorable project, something like a half-dozen fax machines.

  42. I once browsed through some 1920s Girl Scout book at a library sale, and learned that local scout troops used to make the cookies themselves, from recipes provided by the organization. I suspect by the 1930s, this may have changed to something more akin to our present system. (I chose the 30s because I have a newspaper photo of my mom, age 13, posing with cookies and two other scouts, and she never said anything about the cookies coming from anyplace but factories. She was free with her reminiscences, and had a lot to say about the qualities of the cookies that her girls sold: For instance, she preferred Sunshine bakers to Burry’s, as did I.)

  43. Chip Hitchcock: *I* Have issues with Harlan being so smug about the woman in “I have no Mouth and I must Scream”, because, knowing about his comment, I looked for the references. He mentions her as black twice, both times towards the end of the story, not at the beginning when establishing events, or even in the middle as a revelation/deliberate attempt to make the reader notice. it’s in the middle of climactic action, generally a time when nobody is interested any longer in hearing a new description for someone we’ve been following already for the entire story until now. And he doesn’t do it by describing brown skin or the hue and texture of hair, or any features. Both times he is using the word black, and both in language that could indeed be metaphorical; one of them she’s even in silhouette, which could make *me* look black. Harlan likes to be smug about it as if the speaker somehow missed something, but he also went out of his way to obfuscate the description. And he has command enough of language that he knew he was doing so.

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