Pixel Scroll 3/30/21 Give Me A Long Enough Pixel And A Place To Scroll

(1) CHEN QUIFAN. Yi-Ling Liu has a profile of Chen Qiufan in the April WIRED.  The article has a wealth of detail about what it is like being a sf writer in China, including the news that if The Three-Body Problem had been published in China today instead of in 2008 it would be heavily censored. “Sci-Fi Writer or Prophet? The Hyperreal Life of Chen Qiufan”. Registration required.

… But in the past few years—a period that has seen China’s sci-fi authors elevated to the status of New Age prophets—Chen’s own career has become an object in the fun-house mirror. After The Waste Tide garnered widespread attention at home and abroad, reviewers began praising Chen as the “William Gibson of China,” and the tech industry has embraced him as a kind of oracle. An institute run by AI expert and venture capitalist Kai-Fu Lee’s company has even developed an algorithm capable of writing fiction in the author’s voice. (Chen’s recent short story “The State of Trance,” which includes passages generated by the AI, nabbed first prize in a Shanghai literary competition moderated by an artificially intelligent judge, beating an entry written by Nobel Prize in Literature winner Mo Yan.) In China, it is the place of science fiction itself—and the status of writers like Chen—that have taken a turn toward the hyperreal….

(2) NOT TODAY’S TITLE: “A Mushroom You Can’t Smoke? That’s A Non-Tokeable Fungi!” The genius that is Daniel Dern strikes again.

(3) FLUSHED WITH PRIDE. James Davis Nicoll is impressed with these “Five Thrilling SFF Works About Meticulously Planned Infrastructure” at Tor.com.

Sure, there’s a lot of entertainment value in grand set piece battles, personal duels, or even two wizards engaging in a magical combat to the death. But there are those of us who enjoy a more arcane pleasure: edge of the seat thrills as protagonists struggle to build vast infrastructure projects. I would argue that providing London with a functional sewer system was more exciting than defeating the French at Trafalgar….

His first specimen is A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! by Harry Harrison (1972).

(4) A HAMMERLOCK ON FAME. “William Shatner to Be Inducted Into the WWE Hall of Fame” reports Comicbook.com.

WWE announced on Tuesday that the latest inductee into the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame will be none other than Star Trek star William Shatner. The original Captain Kirk popped up on WWE programming a few times, including his famous 1995 appearance where he flipped Jerry “The King” Lawler and his turn as the celebrity guest general manager for Monday Night Raw in 2010.

This year’s induction ceremony will take place inside the WWE ThunderDome on April 6 and will induct both the Class of 2020 and 2021 after last year’s ceremony was canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

(5) MY BIG FAT RED WEDDING. Io9 says Game of Thrones will also inspire a Broadway spinoff: “Game of Thrones Broadway: Key Westeros History Coming to Stage”.

Though the show is long gone, fans of Game of Thrones have plenty to look forward to. There will be more George R.R. Martin books (hopefully), multiple new HBO shows, and now there will be a stage production that’ll go back in time to fill in a key part of Westeros history.

Sixteen years before the events in Martin’s first novel, as well as the TV show, was the Great Tourney at Harrenhal—an event often referred to because many of the major players from across Westeros were there, either competing in, or enjoying, various competitions. Think of it almost like the Westeros Olympics. At the end of the event, Prince Rhaegar Targaryen declared his love for Lyanna Stark, a young woman who was already promised to Robert Baratheon. The event led to Robert overthrowing the Targaryens and basically starting the events that took place in the novels and series….

(6) CONTROVERSIAL MANIFESTO. “Writers in culture war over rules of the imagination”The Guardian visits the front lines.

It’s a venerable global cultural institution, dedicated to freedom of expression and set to celebrate its centenary this year. Yet the writers’ association PEN is being drawn into dispute over a declaration claiming the right of authors to imagination, allowing them to describe the world from the point of view of characters from other cultural backgrounds.

At issue is a charter manifesto, The Democracy of the Imagination, passed unanimously by delegates of PEN International at the 85th world congress in Manila in 2019. A year on , through the social upheavals of 2020, PEN’s US arm, PEN America, has not endorsed the manifesto, which includes the principle: “PEN believes the imagination allows writers and readers to transcend their own place in the world to include the ideas of others.”

While welcoming the commitment to freedom of expression, officials at PEN America indicate that aspects of the declaration might be perceived as straying into the contentious territory of cultural appropriation.

A spokesperson for PEN America told the Observer that the manifesto had not been explicitly rejected – two members of PEN America helped draft it – but “that does not necessarily indicate that we as PEN America formally endorse that action on behalf of our staff or board”.

PEN International’s “The Democracy of the Imagination Manifesto” says —

Pen International Upholds The Following Principles:

  • We defend the imagination and believe it to be as free as dreams.
  • We recognize and seek to counter the limits faced by so many in telling their own stories.
  • We believe the imagination accesses all human experience, and reject restrictions of time, place, or origin.
  • We know attempts to control the imagination may lead to xenophobia, hatred and division.
  • Literature crosses all real and imagined frontiers and is always in the realm of the universal.

(7) VERKLEMPT READERS. The New York Times absolutely knows “How Crying on TikTok Sells Books”.

…An app known for serving up short videos on everything from dance moves to fashion tips, cooking tutorials and funny skits, TikTok is not an obvious destination for book buzz. But videos made mostly by women in their teens and 20s have come to dominate a growing niche under the hashtag #BookTok, where users recommend books, record time lapses of themselves reading, or sob openly into the camera after an emotionally crushing ending.

These videos are starting to sell a lot of books, and many of the creators are just as surprised as everyone else.

“I want people to feel what I feel,” said Mireille Lee, 15, who started @alifeofliterature in February with her sister, Elodie, 13, and now has nearly 200,000 followers. “At school, people don’t really acknowledge books, which is really annoying.”

…“These creators are unafraid to be open and emotional about the books that make them cry and sob or scream or become so angry they throw it across the room, and it becomes this very emotional 45-second video that people immediately connect with,” said Shannon DeVito, director of books at Barnes & Noble. “We haven’t seen these types of crazy sales — I mean tens of thousands of copies a month — with other social media formats.”…

(8) OVERWROUGHT SKEPTIC. Everything Wrong With did Galaxy Quest recently:

Galaxy Quest is so good it hurts. It’s one of the best Star Trek movies ever made. It’s hilarious. We love it. Still has sins.

(9) EVERYBODY DROPS. NOBODY SPLATS. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] There’s this long but pretty interesting video at Brows Held High that says it’s about Starship Troopers, but is, at least in part 1, much more about Heinlein in general — it references many of his works, including, believe it or not, Farnham’s Freehold. (Any further parts aren’t released yet but probably will be soon; Kyle is reasonably reliable about his YouTube drops.) It also has an interesting dual generation take, where Kyle interviews his folks about their take on Heinlein’s work, as his father is an engineer who’s a huge Heinlein fan, and his family has a long history of military service.


1996 – Twenty-five  years ago, Paul J. McAuley wins the Clarke Award for Fairyland which had been published by Victor Gollancz Ltd the previous year. The other nominated novels were Ken MacLeod’s The Star Fraction, Patricia Anthony’s The Happy Policeman, Stephen Baxter’s The Time Ships, Christopher Priest’s The Prestige and Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age. It would also win the John W. Campbell Memorial and Arthur C. Clarke Awards.


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 30, 1746 – Francisco Goya.  Some of what this painter achieved is very strange.  Here is The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters on the cover of Haunted.  Here is The Spell on the cover of The October Country.  Here is Fantastic Vision on the cover of Positions and Presuppositions in SF.  (Died 1828) [JH]
  • Born March 30, 1853 – Vincent Van Gogh.  Another painter whose work can be very strange.  Here is Starry Night on the cover of Orphans of the Sky.  Here is Wheatfield with Crows.  Here is The Night Café on the cover of Campbell & Baker’s anthology of stories and poems it inspired.  Here is a self-portrait.  (Died 1890) [JH]
  • Born March 30, 1906 – Dirce Archer.  Served a term as President of PSFA (Pittsburgh SF Ass’n).  Half a dozen reviews in Astounding that I know of.  By 1961 she said of herself, “Primarily a book collector now.  Used to do batik, clay modelling, water colors, but am now too nervous to do art” – after chairing Pittcon the 19th Worldcon.  (Died 1972) [JH]
  • Born March 30, 1904 Herbert van Thal. Editor of the Pan Book of Horror Stories series ran twenty-four  volumes from 1959 to 1983. Back From the Dead: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories is a look at the series and it contains Lest You Should Suffer Nightmares, the first biography of him written by Pan Book of Horror Stories expert Johnny Mains. (Died 1983.) (CE) 
  • Born March 30, 1914 – Francis T. Laney.  Active in his local club, and The Acolyte (Lovecraft fanzine), but what made him famous, or notorious, was his 130-page Ah! Sweet Idiocy! blistering us with how bad we were.  Read it for its writing, not its accuracy; there is, of course, all too much truth in it.  (Died 1958) [JH]
  • Born March 30, 1928 Chad Oliver. Writer of both Westerns and SF, a not uncommon occupation at the time he was active. He considered himself an anthropological science fiction writer whose training as an academic informed his fiction, an early Le Guin if you will. Not a terribly prolific writer with just nine novels and two collections to his name over a forty year span. Mists of Dawn, his first novel, is a YA novel  which I’d recommend as it reads a lot to similar what Heinlein would write. (Died 1993.) (CE) 
  • Born March 30, 1933 Anna Ruud. Dr. Ingrid Naarveg in the Three Stooges film Have Rocket — Will Travel. Hey it is genre of a sorts, isn’t it? It’s a really fun film which is in the public domain so enjoy watching it here. On a more serious note, she was Doctor Sigrid Bomark in 12 to the Moon. She had one-offs in Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Died 2018.) (CE) 
  • Born March 30, 1948 Jeanne Robinson. She co-wrote the Stardance Saga with her husband Spider Robinson. Stardance won the Hugo Award for Best Novella at IguanaCon II. To my knowledge, her only other piece of writing was ‘Serendipity: Do, Some Thoughts About Collaborative Writing‘ which was published in the MagiCon Program Book. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born March 30, 1950 Robbie Coltrane, 71. I first saw him playing Dr. Eddie “Fitz” Fitzgerald on Cracker way back in the Ninties. Not genre, but an amazing role none-the-less. He was Valentin Dmitrovich Zhukovsky in GoldenEye and The World Is Not Enough, with a much less prominent role as a man at an airfield in Flash Gordon being his first genre role. Being Rubeus Hagrid in the Potter franchise was his longest running genre gig. He’s also voiced both Mr. Hyde in the Van Helsing film and Gregory, a mouse, in The Tale of Despereaux film. (CE)
  • Born March 30, 1958 Maurice LaMarche, 63. Voice actor primarily for such roles as The Brain on the Pinky and The Brain series (which Stross makes use of in The Laundry series) with Pinky modeled off Orson Welles, the entire cast as near as I can tell of Futurama, the villain Sylar on Heroes, the voice of Orson Welles in Ed Wood, a less serious Pepé Le Pew in Space Jam, and, though maybe not genre, he’s voiced  Kellogg’s Froot Loops spokesbird Toucan Sam and  the animated Willy Wonka character in Nestlé’s Willy Wonka Candy Company commercials. (CE)
  • Born March 30, 1975 – Wendy Isdell, Ph.D., D.D., age 46.  Two novels.  Likes Barbara Hambly for characterization and style.  Plays classical guitar.  “Can also tie things into knots with my feet….  Anyone who claims to be sane is simply clinging to the illusion that they agree with what everyone else says reality should be.  Sorry.  I don’t subscribe to that publication.  (I used to, but the cover price became too high so I bought Reader’s Digest instead.)”  [JH]
  • Born March 30, 1991 – Michelle IzmaylovM.D., age 30.  Five novels.  Aristine Mann Award.  Also loves drawing and painting.  First published at age 14.  Resident physician at Vanderbilt Univ. Medical Center.   “After a tough day … I sit down and write.”  [JH]

(12) KEEP YOUR DOCTORS STRAIGHT. “Pierce Brosnan joins Black Adam as Doctor Fate, who is not Doctor Strange” explains Yahoo!

Big news in the world of superhero casting, aTHR reports that Pierce Brosnan has joined Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam movie, where he’ll play DC superhero sorcerer Doctor Fate, who is not Doctor Strange. This will be Brosnan’s first indulgence in the world of super-powered cinematic throwdowns, taking on the role of Kent Nelson, an American archeologist (played, obviously, by a British man), who stumbles onto vast magical powers while exploring a foreign country, and yet is not, against all odds, Doctor Strange…

(13) DON’T PLAY WITH THAT! IGN tells where “LEGO Star Wars Darth Vader Helmet and More Sets Are Up for Preorder”. Kylo Ren would buy one of these.

…There’s a Darth Vader helmet, a Scout Trooper helmet, and an Imperial Probe Droid. All three sets will be available April 26, but you can preorder them now on Amazon.

LEGO says these sets are geared toward adults and experienced LEGO makers. They’re not designed to be played with; they’re designed to be displayed. They come with stands and placards so you can put them on your desk or bookshelf….

(14) ALWAYS BE CLOSING. Charles Seife’s biography Hawking Hawking regards Stephen Hawking as a “scientific celebrity”:

Stephen Hawking was widely recognized as the world’s best physicist and even the most brilliant man alive–but what if his true talent was self-promotion? When Stephen Hawking died, he was widely recognized as the world’s best physicist, and even its smartest person. He was neither. A brilliant exposé and powerful biography, Hawking Hawking uncovers the authentic Hawking buried underneath the fake. It is the story of a man whose brilliance in physics was matched by his genius for building his own myth.

(15) TICKED OFF. [Item by David Doering.] Another funny story. Swatch and Apple are in court over using the phrase “One more thing…” (Yeah, go figure.) The British judge concluded, however, that while:

Steve Jobs had used the phrase, it had probably been borrowed from television detective Columbo.

Not often does a fictional hero hold sway over a legal decision in a court of law. “Apple loses latest round of legal fight with Swatch over ‘one more thing’ phrase”.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Bravely Default II,” on YouTube, Fandom Games says that this game features “bland do-gooders shaped like bobbleheads” and “will make you regress into your childhood like an adult eating a Lunchable,”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Jennifer Hawthorne, Andrew Porter, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Rob Thornton, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, John Hertz, David Doering, Daniel Dern, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

45 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 3/30/21 Give Me A Long Enough Pixel And A Place To Scroll

  1. First!

    So tell me what novel that’s forthcoming the rest of this year that you’re most looking forward to reading. I’m actually looking forward to London set novels from Simon R. Green that start off new series from him.

  2. 11) It is of course, The Brain, not Pinky, who sounds like Wisconsin’s own Orson Welles.

  3. @ Cat. Dealbreaker! It’s already out but I have not read it yet.

    14) He was the best physicist who couldn’t talk. Obviously his medical issues and struggles were a big part of what made his story so interesting to many.

  4. When DC and Marvel did their crossover/merger event under the name Amalgam Comics, they came up with the character Doctor Strangefate. Funny that.

  5. Maurice LaMarche voiced Sylar in an episode of Heroes? I learned something cool today. Thanks!

  6. (6) I have no problem with PEN’s manifesto. PEN America is being timid–I know that cultural appropriation is an issue, but authors who do a crummy job of research while writing across cultural lines will suffer the usual penalty for doing a lousy job: bad sales and worse reviews. Editors who let them get away with such infractions count as accessories after the fact. For that matter, this goes for a wider field. A poorly-researched story is likely to flop, whether or not it crosses cultural boundaries.

  7. DC superhero sorcerer Doctor Fate, who is not Doctor Strange.

    Fate predates Strange by decades and has a worse deal than Strange. A good of his mojo comes from the Helmet of Fate, but for a long time, putting it on meant the Lord of Order Nabu (who iirc inhabited the Helmet) could hijack his body. Or if Nabu was feeling pissy that day, shred the wearers mind like a mouse in a Moulinex .

  8. (12) Yahoo! displays its usual devotion to accuracy. Pierce Brosnan is Irish, not British.

  9. 5) While I was always intrigued by the never-seen Elia Martell as a potential character, I’m not sure Broadway is QUITE the venue to explore Westeros.

    @Cat Eldridge: Looking forward to the last Murderbot novel, “Fugitive Telemetry.”

    I just wanted to mention that I recently sold a story to Fusion Fragment! It will be coming out in November.

  10. @Cat Eldridge: Well, one I have on preorder is The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng third of K. S. Villoso’s Chronicles of the Wolf Queen.

    (I’m also very much looking forward to the Saga Press Elric omnibus editions due out starting this fall, but that might stretch your definition of “forthcoming”.)

  11. Speaking of Maurice LaMarche and Pinky & The Brian, you must watch this:

    I have it bookmarked so I can watch it regularly (especially the bartenders in the background).

  12. Congrats Jayn!

    On: Born March 30, 1991 – Michelle Izmaylov, M.D., age 30 – my daily dose of feeling like an underachiever 😉

    13) I’ve built the previously released Tie fighter pilot helmet, interesting build. More suitable for a shrunken head at about 8 inches high, including stand.

  13. 4) I can’t help wondering, after reading William Shatner is getting a spot in the WWE Hall of Fame, whether he’ll eventually end up in the American Academy of Chefs Hall of Fame as well, for his role hosting IRON CHEF USA.

    (IRON CHEF USA was a 2001 “Americanized” version of Japan’s highly popular cooking-competition show IRON CHEF. By “Americanized” I mean “make the worst possible version of Iron Chef you can.” I couldn’t even finish the first episode.)

    11) re Van Gogh: When I was still doing security for a golf-equipment company, one of my duties on graveyard shift was doing walk-thrus of the various buildings to make sure nothing was awry. In the customer service department, long-time employees decorated their cubicles with all kinds of mementos and kitsch and what-not.

    One employee was a comics fan who liked to dabble in art. Besides the row of old Doctor Strange and Spiderman comics in mylar bags hung from the top edge of his cubicle, he had a dozen or so pieces of his own art (not what I’d call professional level, but wouldn’t have been out of place in a lot of fanzines, and a few quite striking pieces), most on post-it notes, stuck above his work station.

    I’m getting to the Van Gogh part, trust me.

    One side wall of his cubicle was dominated by a large whiteboard. About once a month, he’d use the whiteboard to do a larger piece of art. Usually a comics character. Captain America, the Hulk, Doctor Doom, etc., usually with a clear Jack Kirby influence. He did these with dry-erase markers, so the art was intrinsically ephemeral.

    But one month he did something completely different. He reproduced Van Gogh’s “Self-Portrait” in dry-erase. Considering he only had about a half-dozen colors to work with, and none of the texture and thickness Van Gogh is known for, it was a surprisingly effective copy, and I was very impressed. Considered taking a photo, but 1) against company policy and 2) didn’t want to do that without the guy’s permission.

    (I did look him up on Facebook later, to see if he’d posted some of his art, but his page was only about golf and his new marriage.)

    Googling a bit, I found other people who use work cubicle whiteboards to make dry-erase art. Here’s a WordPress account by a guy who only identifies as “Bill”: Cubicleism. (No updates since 2018, sadly.)

  14. Thanks for the credit!

    @Cat Eldridge: My current preorders are Network Effect previously mentioned, The Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison, and A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark. Only thing harder to say than which one I anticipate more is whether, given the rate at which I read these days, I will actually read any before 2022-01-01.

    @Bruce Arthurs: I had thought that Iron Chef USA was a one-off; if not, it should have been. The Shat as Chairman was the least bad thing about the entire production.

  15. Patrick Morris Miller, there were two episodes of IRON CHEF USA, aired ten days apart. I think the second was rebranded as a “special” before broadcast. If I remember correctly, the plan was if it got a favorable response it would have gone to a full season.

    (Narrator: The response was not favorable.)

  16. (8) I will never, ever understand the appeal of CinemaSins. I mean, that’s true of most of the Internet too and that’s fine, but most of the Internet is just hastily scribbled nonsense, whereas someone has to put a reasonable amount of time into making those CinemaSins videos and… why? Have I missed some actual insight in them, beyond “look, in case you thought this thing was 100% devoid of anything anyone could complain about— it’s not!!”?

  17. I will never, ever understand the appeal of CinemaSins…..Have I missed some actual insight in them, beyond “look, in case you thought this thing was 100% devoid of anything anyone could complain about— it’s not!!”?

    Well, humor is completely subjective. I love the “Everything Wrong With…” series and have since I first stumbled across it years ago, but things like “Jackass” and “Punked” and the strange stuff PewDiePie does has always left me completely unamused. With the CinemaSins guys I feel that a deep and abiding love for cinema and storytelling comes through in their videos — unless it was a really bad movie in which case there’s a deep and abiding loathing that’s also pretty amusing. They are always poking fun at themselves in the videos, which works great for me as I really enjoy self-referential humor. Their “sins” aren’t typically cases of “HEY THERE’S A REAL ERROR HERE! SOMEONE SHOULD FIX IT!”; instead, they do things like pointing out continuity errors, which I find entertaining, and plot holes, which I find very interesting from a storytelling standpoint (As in, why was that plot hole left in? What were they trying to do? What else could they have done instead that would have sealed the hole?) They also regularly praise amazing camera shots, great acting performances, outstanding set and costume design, and so on, by taking away sins for particularly great stuff they see in the movie.

    In any case it’s definitely not straightforward review and critique; it’s much more along the lines of “We got the DVD and went through it frame by frame, and look at what we found! Also here’s some takes on the story and the performances in general.”

    But as always with humor, your mileage is bound to vary. I share a lot of memes and such with friends via Discord and email and it always takes me a while to calibrate what will tickle their fancy, and what won’t do it even if it was something I found hilarious. There’s never been a case where any two friends have agreed 100% on the humor value of any list of supposedly-funny things I’ve provided.

  18. 4) Hunh, I somehow missed that entirely. It was toward the tail end of when I was regularly taping shows for my Mom (who worked second shift) but still, William Shatner on Raw. Hunh.

  19. @2, I want to simultaneously shake Daniel Dern’s hand and pelt him with tomatoes….

  20. Meredith moment: Elizabeth Bear just announced on her subscriber list that Ancestral Night was a buck ninety nine for all of April at the usual suspects. It’s actually already up at that price now.

  21. (11) Van Gogh is my wife’s favorite painter. When our son was born we decorated his room with a suns and moons and stars theme and one of the pictures we put in the room was Van Gogh’s Starry Night over the Rhone. (Not the more famous Starry Night but this one: https://www.vincentvangogh.org/starry-night-over-the-rhone.jsp)

    Fast-forward eighteen years, we’re on vacation in Paris and spending a day in the Musée d’Orsay. I turn a corner in one of the galleries and I’m face-to-face with the actual painting. I had no idea it was in the museum and I was so startled I couldn’t even think to take a picture of my son with it. (So, I guess we have to go back some day. Oh, the pain.)

    The thing about Van Gogh’s art that you don’t realize until you see it in person is how much texture there is to it–he used so much paint that his canvasses are like little relief maps. You don’t get any sense of it in a book or on a screen, and that’s a shame.

  22. @Acoustic Rob

    Van Gogh is my wife’s favorite painter.

    I’ve always liked this painting of his.

    And, all kidding aside, this one is in the National Gallery in DC.

  23. (6) It’s depressing and disappointing that we live in a culture in which the statement “PEN believes the imagination allows writers and readers to transcend their own place in the world to include the ideas of others.” is considered controversial.

    Doubling disappointing that the best PEN America can do is not explicitly reject the statement. You know, they’re for free expression – unless that expression strays into contentious territory. Then, geez, I dunno guys. Maybe we should only be for partial free expression, you know, the non-contentious kind. Isn’t there a word for that?

  24. It’s depressing and disappointing that we live in a culture in which the statement “PEN believes the imagination allows writers and readers to transcend their own place in the world to include the ideas of others.” is considered controversial.

    It’s not an innocuous statement, so I’m not surprised that it sparked controversy. If PEN was going to wade into the issue of cultural appropriation it should’ve chosen words that didn’t completely reject the notion that such concerns are worthy of consideration.

  25. @rcade
    It’s rejecting gatekeeping on who’s qualified to write what.
    Should writers about space travel be required to be space travelers? How about people writing about living underwater? The people complaining about “cultural appropriation” seem to think so, and also seem to believe that you [general you] can only write about things you personally have experienced. (Which would eliminate about 98% of all stories.)

  26. It’s rejecting gatekeeping on who’s qualified to write what.

    I would not call X people writing non-X characters victims of gatekeeping because more people are starting to ask whether that’s cultural appropriation.

    PEN’s worried that non-marginalized authors might face pushback when they write about marginalized people and this would limit their expression. Where’s the concern about the expression of marginalized people who’ve been drowned out by the monolithic majority? Either their stories haven’t been told at all or are always being told by outsiders.

    I don’t pretend to be an expert on this, but it seems like a lot of people have a reflexive antipathy to accusations of “cultural appropriation” that stops them from paying attention to what it’s about — authors wanting to be heard when they’re coming from a place of authenticity and tired of being left out.

    There’s a nice discussion on The Guardian from 2016 where a variety of authors wrestle with this issue. I thought the perspectives of two of those authors were particularly compelling.

    Kamila Shamsie: “if you do start with an attitude that fails to understand that there are very powerful reasons for people to dispute your right to tell a story — reasons that stem from historical, political or social imbalances, you’ve already failed to understand the place and people who you purport to want to write about. That’s a pretty lousy beginning, and I wouldn’t want to read the fiction that comes out of it.”

    Nikesh Shukla: “Here are some tips for writing ‘the other’. Do your research. Do it properly. Make sure someone from the ‘other’ community reads your work before it gets read by someone with publishing power. Especially if the person with publishing power isn’t from that community. Don’t get defensive if people tell you that you got it wrong. Don’t think you can hide behind ‘it’s fiction and I can do what I want’ because that tends to err on the side of fetishization. I think we have the right to tell stories that are different from our own backgrounds, heritages, races, if we do them responsibly. I don’t know why this is a hard thing to understand. Also, ask yourself: why am I telling this story? Why are there no stories out there written by people from that community? Did I find it easier to write about this because I filtered it through a white gaze and thus made it palatable for a largely white publishing industry? And most of all, and this bears repeating, don’t get defensive. Because you may be making a larger conversation about marginalized communities, and their ability to tell their own stories in their own voices, all about yourself.”

    “Cultural exchange is not about what you cannot do, but instead what you’ve been invited to partake in.” — Shabnam Banerjee-McFarland

  27. Meredith moment: Tea with the Black Dragon, R. A. MacAvoy’s novel that finished second to David Brin’s Startide Rising at L.A. Con II for a Hugo is available from the usual suspects for a buck ninety nine. Twisting the Rope currently is not.

  28. John Lorentz: That was a great link to Pinky and the Brain so thanks for the link!

  29. @rcade

    Where’s the concern about the expression of marginalized people who’ve been drowned out by the monolithic majority?

    This sounds like there’s some sort of conservation of stories effect in place — that for every story about color-blind Korean deep-sea divers written by John Grisham, then actual gay Korean deep-sea divers will be able to write one less story. But fiction isn’t zero-sum, and the CBKDSD can still write their stories,. If authenticity is important to readers, then their stories will rise over Grisham’s. (and if authenticity isn’t important to readers, then none of this makes any difference anyway)

  30. @Acoustic Rob
    The Bremen art museum owns one Van Gogh painting, “Field with Poppies” from 1889. It’s acquisition caused a scandal at the time, because several German artists felt that this foreign stuff had no business in a German museum.

    Of course nowadays, “Field with Poppies” is probably the most famous and valuable painting in the whole museum, along with Claude Monet’s “Camille” and Pablo Picasso’s “Sylvette”. But whereas “Camille” and “Sylvette” have been displayed in prime locations for as long as I can recall, “Field with Poppies” was hidden away in a corner until the entire museum was renovated in the 1990s. I remember the first time I saw it and thought, “That looks like a Van Gogh – crap, that is a Van Gogh. So why are they hiding it in a corner?”

    Though after the renovation, the museum hosted a Van Gogh exhibition of paintings of fields, which was the most successful special exhibition in its history.

    And yes, Van Gogh paintings really are best seen in person, because the textures just don’t come out in reproductions.

  31. The Art Institute of Chicago has a very fine, very extensive collection of French Impressionist paintings; I think it has the largest such collection outside of Paris. The collection includes a number of Van Goghs. I agree his use of thick paint for texture is integral to his work.

  32. Cassy B.: The Art Institute of Chicago has a very fine, very extensive collection of French Impressionist paintings; I think it has the largest such collection outside of Paris. The collection includes a number of Van Goghs.

    And a room full of haystacks! I love just sitting in that room.

  33. JJ, personally, I truly love the Rodin bronzes. I think “The Fallen Caryatid Carrying Her Stone” is one of my favorite pieces in the museum. But I do agree with your love of the haystacks. The way Monet plays with the light is incredible.

  34. @bill: fiction an abstract sense may not be step son, but publishing definitely is. There’s far more writers than there are published books, so every time a piece of misogynistic, Orientalist crap like the Windup Girl is published, a novel by someone from the actual area isn’t, even leaving out institutional racism

    A world where lazy anti-Asian racism like that of Neuromancer no longer gets a pass, is a world where fewer of those writers get published. So i this isn’t so much a reaction to alleged censorship, as it is to non-white authors getting a slice of the publishing pie. After all, if a Malinda Lo, Fonda Lee or R.F. Kuang can actually write SFF about Asia, what reason is they’re to publish someone who’s only exposure to Asia is the old Kung Fu TV series and rants about “teeming hoards of exotic Easterners”?

  35. @Rose Embolism

    every time a piece of misogynistic, Orientalist crap like the Windup Girl is published, a novel by someone from the actual area isn’t,

    I think the Dude had the best response to this.

    First, Night Shade had reasons to publish the book, and whatever they were, it’s vanishingly unlikely that whatever hypothetical book you would substitute into its place instead of it would have fulfilled those reasons, and would have been published in its absence had Windup Girl not existed. (This is the major argument I’m making, and you aren’t refuting it — that books by white/Western/cis/ etc. authors displace other books by BIPoC/Eastern/non-cis/ etc. authors.)

    Second, it’s been commercially successful, so it’s hard to argue that it displaced another book — if anything, the revenue it generated allowed other books to be published. Any “zero-sum” resources put into it by the publisher were paid back, and then some.

    Third, it’s been critically successful. An Amazon quote: “Named one of the best novels of the year by Time, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Locus, and the American Library Association.” While your negative reaction to it is certainly valid to you, you are on the opposite side of a broad consensus that the book was not “crap”.

    Fourth, it won a Hugo and a Nebula, so Bacigalupi’s audience and his peers disagree with you regarding the merits of the book. And it took a Seiun award, so actual Asians found it worthy.

    We’re going back and forth here over a single example as a proxy for the general situation, but to the extent that The Windup Girl is an example of “cultural appropriation” *, it doesn’t support the idea that cultural appropriation is a bad thing for either readers or writers.

    *Can a culture that won’t exist for a couple of hundred years even _be_ appropriated? Seems to me that it can only be made up.

    what reason is they’re to publish someone who’s only exposure to Asia is the old Kung Fu TV

    The only reason that counts for anything — will it make money?

  36. I have yoinked my copy of Ancestral Night, thank you!

    Right now I am most looking forward to Fugitive Telemetry and The Witness for the Dead, both of which I have on preorder. You can read an excerpt from Witness at Tor.com right now.

    Every time the subject of cultural appropriation comes up, it always seems like there’s a predominately white contingent chiming in with statements meant to reduce this vastly nuanced subject to mere absurdity (“Oh, so you think the only people who should write about space travel are actual space travers, huh?!”), so that they can dismiss the whole topic out of hand. I’m extremely suspicious of that impulse; it certainly says nothing good about the speaker.

  37. bill: While your negative reaction to it is certainly valid to you, you are on the opposite side of a broad consensus that the book was not “crap”.

    Rose is also on the same side as a broad consensus that The Windup Girl was indeed crap. There’s a lengthy thread of comments over on a post at Cam’s by a bunch of extremely well-read SF readers — many of them white — discussing the book’s flaws and expressing a lot of dislike for it. While it had plenty of critics as well as advocates (a fair bit of whom, I am convinced, were “bandwagoners”) at the time it came out, I think it is one of those books that, 10 years down the road, has aged very badly and has received a lot of reconsideration and re-evaluation by a wide range of avid SF readers.

  38. When there are two groups holding opposite opinions,any consensuses involved can’t both be “broad” — you’d have a broad consensus on the larger side, and a narrow countervailing opinion on the other. Sure, some didn’t like it when it came out, and some have come to dislike it since. But it is clear by any reasonable measure that such is a minority view, not a “broad consensus” (“You keep using that [phrase] — I do not think it means what you think it means.”)

    But again — “Windup Girl” is a single tree in a big forest, and not particularly relevant to the argument that one book which may be culturally appropriative displaces a hypothetical book occupying a similar cultural space that is not appropriative. People who decry books as being “cultural appropriation” make the claim, but never support it any kind of data. Convince me.

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