Pixel Scroll 3/20/17 The Pixelated Empire. Filed, Scrolled And Godstalked Since The Fifth Era

(1) WHAT DID YOU NOMINATE? Arifel compiled the votes reported in “What Did You Nominate for the 2017 Hugos?” and posted the top-level results in comments:

If you want to see the complete tallies with everything that got even one mention, go to this Google drive document.

(2) SECOND STAGE FANSMEN. Rocket Stack Rank is hosting its own compilation of File 770 commenters’ votes in the short fiction categories, which has the advantage of linking to the works online, as well as to RSR’s reviews.

(3) ONE LUMP OR TWO? Congratulations are in order and everyone is invited to “Celebrate 10 Years of the Black Gate Blog!”

There was precisely one comment on that post, a pingback from something called “The Scrolls of Lankhmar.” 8,355 blog posts and 10 years later, the Black Gate blog is stronger than ever, with a staff of 45 volunteers, and two Hugo nominations and a World Fantasy Award under our belt.

Just one thing surprises me – that they are counting Hugo nominations they turned down — withdrawing after the first (though too late to be removed from the ballot), and declining the second. They even got an Alfie for turning down the second.

I admit I was stumped to discover the Science Fiction Awards Database, maintained by Mark R. Kelly of Locus Online, also credits them with two nominations.

I think the final arbiter ought to be the Sasquan and MidAmeriCon II reports of Hugo voting statistics. Black Gate appears in the 2015 report with 489 votes received and the notation “withdrawn after deadline.” In the 2016 report Black Gate is not reported receiving any votes because it was not on the ballot, and in the section counting nominating votes, it is shown above the cutoff but with its name lined out.

So my personal opinion is – Black Gate has one Hugo nomination because it has only appeared on the final ballot one time.

That answer would also square with the way the Science Fiction Awards Database skips over 1996 in its list of File 770’s nominations. I withdrew because I was chair of the Worldcon that year, but the final report shows I still got enough votes to have been a finalist. Since File 770 wasn’t on the ballot, it should not be counted as a 1996 finalist, and isn’t.

(4) A MARTIAN ODYSSEY. WIRED writes about “A Stunning Video of Mars That Took Three Months To Stitch Together – By Hand”.

If you should one day find yourself in a spacecraft circling Mars, don’t count on a good view. The Red Planet’s dusty atmosphere will probably obscure any window-seat vistas of its deep valleys and soaring mesas. “The best way to see the planet’s surface would be to take a digital image and enhance it on your computer,” says planetary geologist Alfred McEwen, principal investigator on NASA’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment. He would know: In the past 12 years, the powerful HiRISE camera has snapped 50,000 spectacular, high-resolution stereo images of the Martian terrain from the planet’s orbit, creating anaglyphs that anyone can view in 3D using special glasses. The highly detailed stereograms depict the planet’s surface in remarkable detail—but 3D glasses aren’t always handy, and still images can only convey so much about Mars’ varied topography.


(5) THE WEED OF CRIME. Two of quarterback Tom Brady’s stolen Super Bowl-worn jerseys were recovered from a credentialed member of the international media. A couple of weeks before, Brady had posted a parody suspects list on his Facebook page that includes Gollum and other genre characters.

(6) BEST-OF COMPILATION. At Bookscrolling, “The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of 2016 (A Year-End List Aggregation)”

“What are the best Science Fiction & Fantasy books of 2016?” We aggregated 32 year-end lists and ranked the 254 unique titles by how many times they appeared in an attempt to answer that very question!

There are thousands of year-end lists released every year and, like we do in our weekly Best Book articles, we wanted to see which books appear on them the most. We used 32 Science Fiction & Fantasy book lists and found 254 unique titles. The top 42 books, all appearing on 3 or more lists, are below with images, summaries, and links for learning more or purchasing. The remaining books, along with the articles we used, can be found at the bottom of the page.

(7) OUT OF STEAM. “Denver Based Steampunk Convention Anomaly Con Callls It Quits” – a former guest, Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn, is sorry to see it go.

After seven successful events, Denver, CO based steampunk convention Anomaly Con has called it quits. Organizer Kronda Siebert made a lengthy post to both the con’s official website and Facebook page explaining their reasoning. For the most part it sounds like losing ten of their twelve directors over the years (and not having replacements) was a large part of the decision,

(8) BRESLIN OBIT. Columnist Jimmy Breslin died March 19. While reading about him I followed a link to his 1963 piece “Digging JFK grave was his honor”. It was deeply moving and I thought you might like to see it, too.


World Storytelling Day

Once upon a time, a long time ago (well, actually, back in 1991 in Sweden), a Storytelling Day was held. The ethos behind this event caught on around the globe, and now we celebrate World Storytelling Day on an international level. The aim of World Storytelling Day is to celebrate the art of oral storytelling, with as many people as possible around the world telling and listening to stories in their own languages on the same day. People taking part can link up with others around the globe who are also contributing – making it a truly international festival that creates new friends and promotes positive understanding of cultures around the world! So, go on, sit down with your friends and loved ones and join the United Nations of storytellers on this day of celebrating cultural folklore and the art of oral storytelling! Why not spin a yarn, and pass down your stories to the next generation?


  • Born March 20 Sesame Street’s Big Bird  

(11) COOKING CORNER. She deserves her own show on the Food Channel.

(12) THE PEOPLE’S CLARKE. More input from the Shadow Clarke Jury.

As readers of the finished work we, of course, don’t begin with a blank page. We start with the first chapter, a half-page that introduces its text in the broadest of strokes: “I grew up in a world of music, in a time of war,” says Priest’s narrator. “I became an inadvertent traveller in time.” In this short chapter, Priest effectively summarises the entire novel. But this only serves to emphasise that being provided with the scaffolding is not the same as being able to walk around the whole edifice. This reflects a key aspect of The Gradual the extent to which an extraordinary experience can be captured in a linear narrative.

If science fiction doesn’t make us look differently at our world, then science fiction doesn’t have a point.

Let me unpack that. Science fiction makes changes in the world, that is one of the key things that makes it science fiction. But that change must connect in some way with how we understand the here and now. An alien in a story makes it science fiction, yes, and the author may have taken great pains to specify the greenness of the skin or the exact length of the tentacles, but unless the intrusion of the alien reflects upon what it is to be human it is little more than wallpaper. When H.G. Wells wrote about Martians invading Surrey it wasn’t a novel about Martians, but about being human in the face of that invasion, about people used to being colonisers suddenly finding themselves colonised. The way the novel looks out into the world is why The War of the Worlds is still read today.

One of the ways in which genre reviewing differs from mainstream reviewing is that genre reviewers have traditionally been willing to go after books that get their facts wrong and fail to achieve verisimilitude. It is easy to understand why mainstream reviewing tends to frown on this type of approach as questioning an author’s use of style directs discussion back towards the book while questioning an author’s grasp of how space elevators are supposed to work only ever results in people slapping their slide-rules down on the table.

I mention this as while I think there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on in Joanna Kavenna’s fourth novel, my enjoyment of the book was hampered by my initial urge to disagree with every word of it. In fact, the only thing that kept me from throwing the book across the room was a growing suspicion that I did not so much disagree with A Field Guide to Reality as agree with it far too much.

The story begins in thirteenth-century Oxford where the great and the good of medieval philosophy dine on bread and discuss the nature of reality. Rather than portraying this fledgling academic community as a place of potential and great innovation, Kavenna presents it as dark, dank, and treacherous. Outside the colleges, monks get stabbed for the contents of their pockets. Inside the colleges, monks get burned for the contents of their heads.

(13) REGAL SWIMMER. BBC’s video of this 18th-century masterpiece is a public post on Facebook

The Silver Swan, made by James Cox in London in about 1773, is a life-size clockwork automaton that imitates the behaviour of a real swan. The mechanism is clockwork, of great quality. It plays music, moves its head, preens, and eats a fish.

The Wikipedia entry explains further:

The swan, which is life size, is a clockwork driven device that includes a music box. The swan sits in a “stream” that is made of glass rods and is surrounded by silver leaves. Small silver fish can be seen “swimming” in the stream.

When the clockwork is wound the music box plays and the glass rods rotate giving the illusion of flowing water. The swan turns its head from side to side and also preens itself. After a few moments the swan notices the swimming fish and bends down to catch and eat one. The swan’s head then returns to the upright position and the performance, which has lasted about 32 seconds, is over

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mark-kitteh, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

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44 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 3/20/17 The Pixelated Empire. Filed, Scrolled And Godstalked Since The Fifth Era

  1. “The Silver Swan who, living, had no note…” I have to look up the rest.

    The Silver Swan
    The silver swan, who living had no note,
    When death approached, unlocked her silent throat;
    Leaning her breast against the reedy shore,
    Thus sung her first and last, and sung no more:
    “Farewell, all joys; Oh death, come close mine eyes;
    More geese than swans now live, more fools than wise.”

    I’ve seen video of what may be the same automataton. I was thrilled to spot the front of the Museum of Automata in York, but found out they’d closed up shop and hadn’t taken the sign off yet. They’d already had their swan song.

  2. (4) Gorgeous. Wonderfully mixed terrain, some of which is spectacular.
    And the one place where all my brain saw was “Splat!”

  3. Reading excerpts of each Pixelated Empire by side it’s clear which scroll is better

    Pixels are not looking good for mr Scroll.

  4. @Kip W thanks for that – this musical arrangement is one of the favourite pieces I remember doing in secondary school choir.

    Do we know if Kowall’s red wine caramel succeeded in the end? Sounds super intriguing.

    Also, yay, I can subscribe again!

  5. (1) Look at the widespread nature. We are not hiving and cabaling properly, people! What will become of our reputation for groupthink?

    (11) I am relieved to know that there’s ONE thing MRK can’t do with effortless grace and superb results. I shall feel much less inferior.

    Third fifth?

  6. @ Matt Y: bahahahahaha. I know it’s unlikely that Mr fiscal will join us in this thread, having done his duty for Ted in the C* Empire thread, but I do hope he sees your comment all the same.

  7. (3) ONE LUMP OR TWO? I agree with your assessment, @Mike Glyer. And it’s a little puzzling that the SF Awards Database counts things differently in the same circumstance – uh, if I’m reading you right. You wrote “Science Fiction Awards Database” and “Science Fiction Database” – same thing, I presume?

    (6) BEST-OF COMPILATION. Best of the best! I like seeing lists like this. Wow, All the Birds in the Sky crushed with 14 lists they surveyed. Death’s End was #2 with only 9 list recs!

    Now I’m thinking of parody titles like All the Recs on the Net, Rec’s End, The Obelisk Rec, The FireRec, Sleeping Recs, NineRec Gambit (or Ninefox Rec), Dark Rec (Rec Matter?), After Recs, A Gathering of Recs, Inforecracy, etc. Some of these work better than others. It was really All the Recs on the Net that started it in my head, so thanks, Bookscrolling and Charlie Jane Anders.

    Why yes, I do need sleep. Why do you ask? 😉

    (13) REGAL SWIMMER. Way cool!

  8. And because you lot have already started in with recommendations of 2017 works, Mike has added a permalink at the top of the blog to the
    2017 Recommended SF/F Page.

    Ticky and recommend away.

  9. JJ on March 21, 2017 at 12:45 am said:

    And because you lot have already started in with recommendations of 2017 works, Mike has added a permalink at the top of the blog to the
    2017 Recommended SF/F Page.


  10. I’d watch a Mary Robinette Kowal cooking show. There would almost certainly be puppets involved.

  11. Can’t talk now as the squirrels got me. (What was I going to say anyway? I forget.)

    Reading the compilations of nominations, I’m slightly amazed by how much good stuff I haven’t missed out on, this year.

  12. The Silver Swan is currently on display at the Science Museum in London as part of the Robots exhibition. It wasn’t functional when I saw it at the weekend, and I’m not sure if it is intended to be switched on at all while there. Still an impressive sight, but stationary it loses a lot of the magic.

  13. (13) REGAL SWIMMER

    I’ve seen this at its regular home at the Bowes Museum. It’s an impressive piece of work.

    This is also possibly the only Pixel Scroll-related activity I have done with my parents.

  14. @7: I wonder what a “director” does that caused their disappearance to close the con — and whether (if that’s an operational rather than a visionary role) the con would have survived if it had enlisted some of the “70-80 volunteers” as new directors. Providing for succession isn’t easy, but it’s the only way to ensure a group’s survival. I see that Dorn’s post points to another group that will run its first convention in March 2018; with luck and work they may be able to draw some of the same audience and workers, instead of overpromising and blowing up as too many conventions have recently.

  15. @Chip:

    Cons seldom have room for “visionary roles” on staff. Directors oversee the convention, either a department (security director, gaming director, guest relations, hotel relations, hospitality) or overall. Lose more than a couple of key directors overnight, and you’re in trouble. One of my local cons takes deliberate measures to “crosstrain” its board and department heads in multiple departments, so that even if Joe Bob does the best job dealing with the hotel, Billy Ray can step up and do a satisfactory job if need be.

  16. I’ve been unsure whether to mention this, but it’s based on a public event rather than any private knowledge so I presume it’s OK to at least express concern:

    Peter Beagle had to halt a reading in San Francisco three days ago due to apparent illness. He seemed fine at the outset and was reading very lucidly and expressively (if you’ve never had a chance to hear him read, it’s a pure delight), but developed some kind of distress that was interfering intermittently with his speech, and eventually he couldn’t continue. He said he had had an exhausting trip, but also that he’d never had this problem before. I hope he’s OK. He’s scheduled to appear at another San Francisco event in two weeks, which is still on as far as I know.

  17. I wanted to thank whoever recommended Kristine Smith a week or so ago; just finished Code of Conduct and loading the next on my Kindle.

  18. @Oneiros: “The Collapsing Rec List” – LOL, very nice intersection of riffs, there!

    @Peter J: “File 770 – The Reccing Crew” – Great name for us! 😀 But does that make us supervillains?

    @JJ & @Mike Glyer: Eek, I have to rec 2017 stuff now?! 😉 Seriously: Thanks for starting a page for that!

  19. Gah, I forgot my original reason for commenting. Guess who has an ebook deal out there? GUESS! @Mike Glyer, this one’s for you:

    Ray Bradbury’s I Sing the Body Electric and Other Stories is on sale for $1.99 in various U.S. outlets (at least) from William Morrow (uses DRM).

  20. Oh, that swan is so pretty.

    I’m not putting it in the official rec thread, since I don’t think it’s nominations material, but I found the character of Fish in The Last Novelist (or A Dead Lizard in the Yard) very charming, and overall I enjoyed it, with reservations. A pleasant story to spend a little time with.

  21. 1) To no real surprise, very little of what I nominated made those lists. My tastes are a little off from the fannish norm, I think; especially in the short fiction, stuff that absolutely knocked my socks into orbit isn’t on the list.

    6) “United States of Japan”? Really? C’mon, I’ve seen books with that plot for 30 years; all that’s changed in this one is the identity of the conqueror, from Russia or Germany to Japan. “America conquered by X, a ragtag group of rebels fights to Restore Our Freedom” is as formulaic as Regency romance. Unless it’s doing something really different with that tired old trope, but the blurb doesn’t sound like it.

    @ P J Evans: Yes, that’s a Really Big SPLAT!

  22. @Rev Bob: this must be some new meaning of the word “director” that I’ve previously been unfamiliar with; every con I’ve been involved with has called these people “area heads”. (I was thinking of corporations, where a board of directors provides some very large-scale guidance without interfering in operations; IIRC a Chicon used this model.) If Anomaly worked as you described, I’m not surprised it failed; what’s needed is not crosstraining but uptraining, where volunteers with sense (enough to be useful but not enough to run screaming from recruitment efforts 😉 ) are encouraged to take a hand in running an area and ultimately to run it themselves, so the convention doesn’t die when some of the original area heads gafiate. A closed concom is a recipe for a death spiral.

    @Mike Walsh: I don’t think I realized I had a page in Fancy. I wonder who wrote in that I revived NESFA Press; I would not be so bold as to make that claim, even though I sometimes say I was the first person to edit (as opposed to producing) a book for them.

  23. @Rob: Heh, I had to add “Marvel” to my Google search to find what I was looking for, partially due to hits for that other crew. Hmm, with the filking that happens here sometimes, maybe we are session musicians! 😉

  24. @Chip: “some new meaning”

    Maybe it’s regional and/or size-related usage. I tend to attend smaller cons (1000 and lower), except for DragonCon, and I never got too deep into Dragon’s inner workings.

    At any rate, a small con doesn’t have much use for a purely administrative board that contributes nothing to actually running the event. I suppose one might get such a model by starting with an organization that “spawns” a convention as one of multiple activities. One of my local cons indeed operates on paper as a fan organization that operates a convention, but in practice the board of the organization and the directors/heads of the con are frequently the same people wearing different hats. It’s not like the con has a detached group of overseers.

  25. The con I’m most familiar with has a board and a concom; there’s overlap between the two but they’re not identical. (For one thing, there’s about forty concom members and maybe half-a-dozen board members.) The board also runs a publishing effort. The concom are called Department Heads/Department Seconds. And most departments do have a second, in case something happens to the head — which is rare, but does occur.

  26. Either that or some of the very best session musicians ever.

    That’s the one I had in mind. Bur supervillains might be fun – perhaps we could show Beale how it should be done 🙂

  27. @Lee

    Did you post in the nominations thread? I’m deeply curious about what you picked, now. 🙂

  28. @Rev Bob: I also attend moderate-sized regionals (and work on one); I’ve never heard the term “directors” applied to the working management, which is why I was puzzled. But my remarks about continuing to involve new people are still relevant.

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