Pixel Scroll 3/16/23 Who Knows What Lurks In The Heart Of A Pixel? Only The Scroll Knows

(1) HELL(P) WANTED. Brian Keene is bringing back “Jobs In Hell”, the 2001 Bram Stoker Award for Non-Fiction-winning monthly industry newsletter for writers, artists, editors, and other professionals specializing in horror and other speculative and weird fiction genres.  Paid subscriptions are being taken at the link.

Jobs In Hell will cost $5 per month to subscribe to. You can sign up for it here. The first issue will go out later this month.

To begin, it will run on a monthly schedule, rather than the weekly schedule of the old Jobs In Hell. I will revisit that schedule regularly, however, and I’m almost certain that at some point we’ll increase frequency.

If you are looking for submissions for your magazine, website, publishing company, etc. please email the details to [email protected]. Your email should contain the following information: Name of publication, name of editor overseeing submissions, guidelines as to what you are looking for, details on how to submit, deadline (if any), and payment (if any).

(2) ONLINE SFF COURSE IN NOVEMBER. Aliette de Bodard and Alastair Reynolds will be teaching an online course in writing SF & Fantasy at the end of the year: ”Teaching SF and F with Aliette” at Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon.

This course, “Sci-Fi & Fantasy”, offered through the Canolfan Ysgrifennu Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre, will be held over four online sessions on the following dates: Tuesday 14 November, Tuesday 21 November, Tuesday 28 November & Tuesday 12 December 2023 from 7.00 – 8.30 pm. Register here.

Over four online sessions, Aliette and Alastair will address the peculiar challenges and opportunities open to anyone wishing to write science fiction, fantasy or their related sub-genres. Drawing on their own experiences across a range of literary styles and formats, from short stories to novels and extended series, they’ll cover the mechanics of crafting a story, from planning and plotting, to the use of voice and viewpoint, setting and mood. They’ll address the unique challenges of worldbuilding within the literatures of the fantastic, from the use of language to evoke a time and a place to the invention of social systems and far-future technologies, and how to make those creations seem real to the reader. They’ll talk about the different stages of writing; from initial drafts to polishing, how to prepare work for submission and how to make the most of the literary marketplace, from traditional venues to the online world and self-publishing. They’ll bring invaluable experience in problem-solving: how to come up with ideas, how to work around creative blocks, how to make a good story better – and, always, how to find fun and fulfilment in your craft, wherever it takes you. The future is wide open!

(3) ZELAZNY AND MORE. Today at Galactic Journey Cora Buhlert reviews the 1968 Hugo winner Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny and the 1968 heist novel Easy Go by John Lange a.k.a. Michael Crichton amongst other reviews. According to Cora, the largely forgotten heist novel got a better review than the Hugo winner: “[March 16, 1968] In Distant Lands (March Galactoscope)”.

Buddha is a Spaceman: Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny

Roger Zelazny, of Polish origin himself, is one of the most exciting young authors in our genre and has already won two Nebulas and one Hugo Award, which is remarkable, considering he has only been writing professionally for not quite six years.

My own response to Zelazny’s works has been mixed. I enjoyed some of them very much (the Dilvish the Damned stories from Fantastic or last year’s novella “Damnation Alley” from Galaxy) and could not connect to others at all (the highly lauded “A Rose for Ecclesiastes”). So I opened Zelazny’s latest novel Lord of Light with trepidation, for what would I find within, the Zelazny who wrote the Dilvish the Damned stories or the one who wrote “A Rose for Ecclesiastes”?

The answer is “a little bit of both” and “neither”….

(4) OCTOTHORPE. In episode 79 of Octothorpe, “You Get To Be A Little Cat”

John Coxon wants new gloves, Alison Scott is foreshadowing, and Liz Batty scrolls past spiders. We discuss a plethora of awards – Hugo Awards, Nebula Awards, BSFA Awards – while also chatting about hot dog finger gloves and Adrian “Spiders” Tchaikovsky. Listen here! 

(5) ONE OF OUR CAPTAINS IS MISSING. [Item by Dann.] Chris Gore of Film Threat magazine recently pointed out that the new Paramount graphic being used to promote all of Star Trek has omitted one of the key characters in Star Trek history; the original and one-and-only James Tiberius Kirk (ignore that inconvenient headstone).

The TrekNews Twitter feed was one of the first to note the omission.

William Shatner noted that he didn’t find it surprising.

Various users responded with reimagined graphics that place a greater emphasis on Captain Kirk.


2001[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Our Beginning this Scroll isn’t the start of this series. That would be Revelation Space, published a year prior to Alastair Reynolds’ Chasm City, which came out on Gollancz twenty-two years ago. 

Reynolds uniquely wrote Chasm City as a stand-alone novel so you needn’t be familiar with any of the five Revelation Space Universe that precede it, including the two (and soon to be three) most fascinating Prefect Dreyfus Emergencies. (There’s a seventh novel, Inhibitor Phase, which came out several years back.)

Chasm City appeals to me because to it is the rare SF novel set within a larger universe that, as I said, is intended to allow the reader who hasn’t encountered this series to be introduced to it.

It won the British Science Fiction Association Award.

It’s got great characters, an awesome setting and multiple stories that weave into each other most satisfactorily. It is certainly one of the best SF novels that I’ve ever read. 

I’m sure I spotted one character here who shows up in the Prefect Dreyfus Emergencies series which I think was a very impressive piece of writing by him some years on.

And now its Beginning…

Dear Newcomer, 

Welcome to the Epsilon Eridani system. 

Despite all that has happened, we hope your stay here will be a pleasant one. For your information we have compiled this document to explain some of the key events in our recent history. It is intended that this information will ease your transition into a culture which may be markedly different from the one you were expecting to find when you embarked at your point of origin. It is important that you realise that others have come before you. Their experiences have helped us shape this document in a manner designed to minimise the shock of cultural adjustment. We have found that attempts to gloss over or understate the truth of what happened—of what continues to happen—are ultimately harmful; that the best approach—based on a statistical study of cases such as yours—is to present the facts in as open and honest manner as possible. 

We are fully aware that your initial response is likely disbelief, quickly followed by anger and then a state of protracted denial. 

It is important to grasp that these are normal reactions.

It is equally important to grasp—even at this early stage—that there will come a time when you will adjust to and accept the truth. It might be days from now; it might even be weeks or months, but in all but a minority of cases it will happen. You might even look back upon this time and wish that you could have willed yourself to make the transition to acceptance quicker than you did. You will know that it is only when that process is accomplished that anything resembling happiness becomes possible. 

Let us therefore begin the process of adjustment. 

Due to the fundamental lightspeed limit for communication within the sphere of colonised space, news from other solar systems is inevitably out of date; often by decades or more. Your perceptions of our system’s main world, Yellowstone, are almost certainly based on outdated information. 

It is certainly the case that for more than two centuries—until, in fact, the very recent past—Yellowstone was in thrall to what most contemporary observers chose to term the Belle Epoque. It was an unprecedented social and technological golden age; our ideological template seen by all to be an almost perfect system of governance.

Numerous successful ventures were launched from Yellowstone, including daughter colonies in other solar systems, as well as ambitious scientific expeditions to the edge of human space. Visionary social experiments were conducted within Yellowstone and its Glitter Band, including the controversial but pioneering work of Calvin Sylveste and his disciples. Great artists, philosophers and scientists flourished in Yellowstone’s atmosphere of hothouse innovation. Techniques of neural augmentation were pursued fearlessly. Other human cultures chose to treat the Conjoiners with suspicion, but we Demarchists—unafraid of the positive aspects of mind enhancement methods—established lines of rapport with the Conjoiners which enabled us to exploit their technologies to the full. Their starship drives allowed us to settle many more systems than cultures subscribing to inferior social models. 

In truth, it was a glorious time. It was also the likely state of affairs which you were expecting upon your arrival. 

This is unfortunately not the case. 

Seven years ago something happened to our system. The exact transmission vector remains unclear even now, but it is almost certain that the plague arrived aboard a ship, perhaps in dormant form and unknown to the crew who carried it. It might even have arrived years earlier. It seems unlikely now that the truth will ever be known; too much has been destroyed or forgotten. Vast swathes of our digitally stored planetary history were erased or corrupted by the plague. In many cases only human memory remains intact… and human memory is not without its fallibilities. 

The Melding Plague attacked our society at the core.


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 16, 1883 Sonia Greene. Pulp writer and amateur press publisher who underwrote several fanzines in the early twentieth century. She was a president of the United Amateur Press Association. And she was married to H.P. Lovecraft, though often living apart, until eventually they agreed to divorce. (Died 1972.)
  • Born March 16, 1900 Cyril Hume. He was an amazingly prolific screenplay writer with twenty-nine credits from 1924 to 1966 including The Wife of the Centaur (a lost film which has but has but a few scraps left), Tarzan Escapes, Tarzan the Ape Man, The Invisible Boy and Forbidden Planet. (Died 1966.)
  • Born March 16, 1929 Ehren M. Ehly. This was the alias of Egyptian-American author Moreen Le Fleming Ehly. Her first novel, Obelisk, was followed shortly by Totem. Her primary influence was H. Rider Haggard, telling an interviewer that Haggard’s novel She impressed her at an early age. If you like horror written in a decided pulp style, I think you’ll appreciate. (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 16, 1929 A. K. Ramanujan. I’m going to recommend his Folktales from India, Oral Tales from Twenty Indian Languages as essential reading if you’re interested in the rich tradition of the Indian subcontinent. Two of his stories show up in genre anthologies, “The Magician and His Disciple” in Jack Zipes’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: An Anthology of Magical Tales and “Sukhu and Dukhu“ in Heidi Stemple and Jane Yolen’s Mirror, Mirror. (Died 1993.)
  • Born March 16, 1951 P. C. Hodgell, 72. Her best known work is the God Stalker Chronicles series with Deathless Gods being the current novel. She dabbled in the Holmesian metaverse with “A Ballad of the White Plague”, first published in The Confidential Casebook of Sherlock Holmes as edited by Marvin Kaye. All of the God Stalker Chronicles series are available from the usual suspects
  • Born March 16, 1952 Alice Hoffman, 71 . Best known for Practical Magic which was made into a rather good film. I’d also recommend The Story Sisters, a Gateway story, The Ice Queen, an intense riff off of that myth, and Aquamarine, a fascinating retelling of the mermaid legend. The Rules of Magic was nominated for Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature Award. 
  • Born March 16, 1966 David Liss, 57. Writer of Spider-Man: Hostile Takeover, novelization of Marvel’s Spider-Man whichis a 2018 action-adventure game. Comics writer, Black Panther: The Man Without Fear and Sherlock Holmes: Moriarty Lives series. Not at all genre but his trilogy of novels starting with A Conspiracy of Paper and featuring Benjamin Weaver, a retired bare-knuckle boxer, now a thief-taker, a cross between a PI and bounty hunter, are highly recommended by me. 

(8) SPIDER-REX. Marvel brings us “The All-New Spider-Killer Curses the Spider-Verse in Josemaria Casanovas’ ‘Edge of Spider-Verse’ #1 Variant Cover”.

On May 3, the hit comic book series EDGE OF SPIDER-VERSE returns for another wild trip through the Spider-Verse, complete with revolutionary new Spider-heroes and further adventures for the series’ biggest breakout stars, all brought to you from an all-star lineup of talent!

 …EDGE OF SPIDER-VERSE #1 will also feature the roaring return of SPIDER-REX and the daring debut of VENOMSAURUS in a story by writer Karla Pacheco and Pere Pérez. 

(9) SCIENTIST FICTION. Several sff books are part of Martin MacInnes’ list of “Top 10 visionary books about scientists: searching for an answer” in the Guardian.

Science, as much as art, is an act of imagination, the pursuit of something new. While novels about scientists often play with this likeness, there are also scientists who write with the ambition and empathy of novelists. Scientists in literature appear in all sorts of guises: as megalomaniacs, heroes, obsessives. It is this last figure – the obsessive – the character who will not stop – that interests me most….

First on the list is Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihlation.

The four women who enter Area X are named only by their profession: biologist; anthropologist; psychologist; surveyor. It is the biologist who is closest to VanderMeer’s heart, clear in the gorgeous accounts of the living world they walk through and in the novel’s concern with ecstatic dissolution and eroded borders, an awful commonality linking all things. The novel is suffused in beauty and grief, as the biologist goes on, determined to find out what it all means.

(10) WATNEYCRETE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.]They tried urine. They tried blood. But it turned out that potato starch worked better.

The University of Manchester has come up with a extraterrestrial concrete mix that uses Mars (or Moon) dust, potato starch, and a pinch of salt (magnesium chloride). Plus, the “StarCrete” is said to have at least twice the compressive strength of standard concrete. “Engineers Built a New Kind of Concrete 2x Stronger Than the Real Thing” at Popular Mechanics.

The University of Manchester’s new “StarCrete” is twice as strong as traditional concrete, making it a potential solution as a building material for Mars. Add in some extraterrestrial dust and potato starch, and you have a potentially revolutionary new material.

In an article published in the journal Open Engineering, the research team showed that potato starch can act as a binder when mixed with simulated Mars dust to produce a concrete-like material reaching a compressive strength of 72 megapascals (MPa), over twice as strong as the 32 MPa seen in ordinary concrete. Of course, mix in moon dust instead and you can get StarCrete to 91 MPa.

This strength makes it a possible solution, according to the researchers, for a building solution on Mars as astronauts mix Martian soil with potato starch—and a pinch of salt, no joke—to give extra-terrestrial-suited concrete.

Earlier recipes from the team didn’t use potato starch, instead offering blood and urine as a binding agent to reach 40 MPa. Not every astronaut would be excited about continually draining their blood to build in space, though….

(11) DRESSED FOR SUCCESS. “Spacesuit for return to the Moon unveiled” at BBC News.

A new generation of spacesuit for humanity’s return trip to the Moon has been unveiled by Nasa.

The novel design comes with specialist features to support astronauts as they conduct scientific experiments on the lunar surface.

The prototype is said to be a better fit for female space travellers.

Nasa hopes to have the updated suit ready for the Artemis III mission to the Moon in 2025….

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Steven French, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cora Buhlert, Dann, John Coxon, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cat Eldridge.]

32 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 3/16/23 Who Knows What Lurks In The Heart Of A Pixel? Only The Scroll Knows

  1. (10) Samwise will be pleased to enunciate “Po-to-toes” until this info sinks in

  2. About three years ago, WordPress started seriously screwing over how the editing functions of Green Man worked to the point that many of our editors couldn’t use it. I had to drop back two versions and freeze it so it could not ever update itself again.

    Three years later, it’s worked quite fine doing that.

  3. (1) Hell(p) wanted. As a writer, is it worth it to subscribe to look for wish lists by magazines?
    (3) Zelazny. As I have been heard to say once or twice (or frequently), not all stories are for all readers. Lord of Light was brilliant. I’d love to know what she thought of Creatures of Light and Darkness, the next book he write, IIRC.
    (9) Total failure: no mention of Jim Hogan’s Genesis Machine. The whole excitement of the story is scientists doing science. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Genesis_Machine
    (11) A black suit? Not white?

  4. (3) Zelazny made something of a career of blurring the lines between science fiction and fantasy. He used to remark that whenever he came across an attempt to define the difference he would write a story that broke it.

    Whereas Lafferty resists all classification and was a genre all by himself. (And you absolutely should count Bad John).

  5. Number three — there’s very little Zelazny that I don’t really, really like save the second set of Amber novels. That’s not to say that all of his work is well written as it isn’t. His characters are often less than paper thin and the settings, well, not quite there, but the stories are always fascinating.

  6. CatE: yeah. I gave up eventually on Amber. The first several were really good… but the stuff before that….

    Heh. Not my next novel, but one of the two after it, I started as a joke… and then found myself channeling Zelazny as I typed.

  7. @Mark @11: Various coverage (I’m not sure about the article linked) assures us that the actual Moon suit will be white. It’s not completely clear to me why the version shown was dark, but at least one article implied that there will be a white cover for the suit. That might make sense if the cover could be cleaned or replaced as it got too dirty and started absorbing too much solar energy.

  8. I suppose if Zelazny had set his novel in ancient Scottish mythology, he would have titled it “Laird o’ Licht”. (Actually “Lord of Light” is one of my favorites.)

  9. Where have all the Scrolls gone?
    Long time passing.
    Where have all the Scroills gone?
    Long time ago.
    Where have all the Scrolls gone?
    Jetpack lost them every one.
    Oh, When will it ever work?
    Oh, When will it ever work?

  10. (3) The reviewer admits that “the novel is set on a distant planet in the far future” but then says “And while I cannot claim to know a lot about Hinduism and Buddhism (though two war-battered Buddha statues guard my home), I know enough to realise that Zelazny gets a lot of things wrong.” She also remarks “And borrowing from a living religion as someone who is not an adherent feels disrespectful in a way that turning Norse gods into superheroes does not.”

    I think she missed the point. The things she thought Zelazny got wrong were deliberate authorial choices. Zelazny spent a year extensively researching Hinduism and Buddhism for the novel, and that’s well documented in his correspondence and interviews. His characters (the original crew of the starship) co-opted aspects of Hinduism to suit their purposes in order to keep the original colonists under their control. They were running a long-term scam or hustle, which is made very clear in the novel. Sam chose Buddha as a suitable rebellious figure to fight the Hindu-imitating pantheon that ruled the the colonists. The crew members readily admit they are not the gods that they are pretending to be, and due to deaths over time (including during the novel), the roles of some of the so-called gods have been played by different crew members over time.

    As a side point, after thousands of years and on a distant planet, would one expect any religious practice to be identical to what it is today? Zelazny acknowledged this aspect too in describing how he adapted (and his characters co-opted) aspects of Hinduism and Buddhism into the character’s choices in the novel. He remarked that he wasn’t writing a religious text.

    I suspect Zelazny was inspired in part by what he saw happening with L. Ron Hubbard’s efforts to create a religion. Zelazny was fascinated with religions and mythologies but also distrusted religious leaders, and these aspects come out in many of his works.

  11. God Stalk! And I must say that the audiobooks narrated by Jennifer O’Donnell are really good. I couldn’t use them while trying to sleep — helps my brain not spiral — because I kept wanting to listen.

  12. @Cat: Favorite works by Zelazny? That’d be Isle of Dead, To Die in Italbar, Home is the Hangman and the He Who Shapes novella.

    Oh, sure – pick the easy ones! Just try telling people that your favorite Zelazny story is ‘Kjwalll’kje’k’koothaïlll’kje’k.

  13. PhilRM says Oh, sure – pick the easy ones! Just try telling people that your favorite Zelazny story is ‘Kjwalll’kje’k’koothaïlll’kje’k.

    You looked that spelling up, didn’t you?

    And yet I’ve read harsh reviews of all three. Really I have.

    I also hold a certain fondness for Donnerjack though I have a strong suspicion that his role in the writing of it was less than is generally thought.

    Oh and let’s not forget Roadmarks.

  14. Bard’s Tower released a statement today.

    “Let me begin by thanking all of our amazing authors, creative storytellers, patrons, and fans.
    Since 2016 Bard’s Tower has provided a place for authors in the pop culture convention landscape. Unfortunately it has become clear that after 2020 and the subsequent 2021 and 2022 seasons that the financial and personal costs of running Bard’s Tower make its continued operation impossible.
    I regret to inform everyone that as of today The Bard’s Tower will not continue in operation.
    Thank you for your support and understanding.”


  15. @Cat: You looked that spelling up, didn’t you?

    Are you kidding? I cut and pasted it straight from ISFDB. (I’m mildly impressed that WP preserved the dieresis on the “i”.)

    @P J @Andrew: I rate The Dream Master as Zelazny’s best novel, but Doorways in the Sand is only slightly behind This Immortal (I much prefer Zelazny’s title, …And Call Me Conrad) for my favorite Zelazny novel.

  16. Favorite Zelaznys: I’ve always had a soft spot for Dilvish the Damned, Jack of Shadows and Doorways in the Sand. Plus those books about that Corwin guy. Lord of Light I kind of bounce off of when I was first trying to read it back in the day; it wasn’t until I read one of the component stories in a Gardner Dozois anthology years later that I finally was able to go back and read it & enjoy it in full.

    (I’m at a similar point with Delany’s Neveryon, for that matter — bounce off of them previously, liked a component short story I read in an anthology recently, and now need to go back and give the whole series a whirl again.)

  17. Unrelated to the current scroll, but Lance Reddick has died. :'(

    Related: Read God Stalk and the next one; did not realize there were more.

  18. Some more Zelazny works not mentioned. Madwand (and I still wish we’d had Deathmask), Eye of Cat and I still have a soft spot for Today We Choose Faces

  19. I’m a huge fan of Zelazny, too, no surprise. Doorways in the Sand may be my fave.

    One excellent book of his I seldom see get mentioned (possibly because he co-wrote it with Fred Saberhagen?) is Coils, which can be viewed as a precursor to cyberpunk.

  20. Favorite Zelaznys: I’m partial to some of his shorter works, I love “A Rose for Ecclesiastes”, “The Last Defender of Camelot” and “For A Breath I Tarry” are all favorites.

  21. Oh, yes. That reminds me – there’s “24 Views of Mt. Fuji, by Hokusai” and “Unicorn Variations,” too.

  22. I actually like the second Amber series. It suffers–immensely–by comparison with the first, which is much better, but judged solely on its own merits, I think it’s decent. I did have to get over my initial disappointment before I could reach that conclusion, though.

    As far as Lord of Light goes, I can’t entirely agree with Cora’s criticism. It’s not a retelling of Hindu myth; it’s a story of some folks who have borrowed Hindu myth and who are actively manipulating it for their own purposes. Thus, it shouldn’t really be a surprise or disappointment that it fails to follow the traditional version. I don’t entirely disagree with Cora either, though–it is a bit iffy, and I would definitely rather see how these concepts are handled by someone with a more direct connection to the culture.

  23. (1) I’m unclear how Hellnotes would offer more benefits than something like Submissions Grinder, which is updated daily?

  24. Mike Kennedy on March 16, 2023 at 9:49 pm said:
    “It’s not completely clear to me why the version shown was dark”
    Reading across several articles eventually made it clear that the dark cloth on the outside was a cover over the actual white surface of the suit, and the dark coverall was to protect tech innovations. Axiom is still in competition with Collins Aerospace and doesn’t want to reveal it’s secrets.

    10) Will be deeply disappointed if the term “WatneyCrete” doesn’t become standard.

  25. You can make concrete from Watney’s Red Barrel?!

    (Yes, I know. No need to explain it.)

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