Pixel Scroll 3/23/17 I Fifth The Pixel Electric

(1) SACRIFICIAL FIRST. Camestros Felapton, who has been “Reading ‘Corrosion’so you don’t have to”, files this after-action report:

So with the tune of ‘Don’t You Want Me Baby’, running in my head I descend into ‘Corrosion: The Corroding Empire Part by Johan Kalsi and/or Harry Seldon Edited by Vox Day’.

Servo is a robot working in a cocktail bar, when we meet him. Again, if only this book was a pastiche of new-romantic pop lyrics but it isn’t – I mean how would it have been to have included a cocktail bar in the story?

Instead, we get a bunch of connected not-exactly awful stories set in a technological society run by ‘algorithms’. The style is one I shall now christen ‘Puppy Clunk’. If you read some of the less appalling slated works in 2015, you’ll recognise the style. It’s not illiterate or wholly unreadable but it just sort of goes ‘clunk’ in every sentence.

(2) FLAME ON. Entertainment Weekly’s James Hibbard assures everyone that the “’Game of Thrones’ dragaons are ‘the size of 747s’ in season 7”. Is there a word in Dothraki for “bodacious”?

The dragons are bigger this season. Okay, we say that every year. But this time, they are a lot bigger.

For Game of Thrones season 7, which has Daenerys’ trio of beasts headed to Westeros as part of the dragon queen’s invading fleet, the creatures are more fearsome than ever before.

“The dragons this year are the size of 747s,” director Matt Shakman tells EW. “Drogon is the biggest of the bunch – his flame is 30-feet in diameter!”

Shakman is one of four directors helming next season (the others are GoT vets Alan Taylor, Jeremy Podeswa, and Mark Mylod). He was probably being at least somewhat approximate when comparing the dragons to the venerable Boeing airliner. But for reference, a 747 is about 230 feet long with a 210 feet wingspan. So, really big.

(3) BLIND DATE. I’ve used up my quota of free articles in the Washington Post this month, however, Daniel Dern recommends this article about The Expanse. If you are still on the free side of the paywall, treat yourself to “The best show about international relations on television right now is on – wait for it – Syfy”.

(4) OCTAVIA BUTLER. Fortunately this Boston Globe article hasn’t gone behind the paywall just yet — “Science fiction, black music meet in Toshi Reagon’s opera-in-progress”.

In the parable of the sower in the Gospels, Jesus tells his followers about different outcomes from scattering seeds. Some are cast to the side and eaten by birds, some are planted in rocky soil or among thorns and fail to grow, but the seeds sown on “good ground” will take root and provide a bounty.

Science-fiction author Octavia E. Butler called back to that allegory about the word of God with her 1993 book “Parable of the Sower,” about a young woman in an apocalyptic future America who wanders a drought-stricken landscape, planting the seeds of a new religion fueled by empathy.

Now Butler’s book is adapted into an opera that synthesizes a wide range of musical styles culled from its creators’ deep reservoir of knowledge about black music in America.

(5) TODAY’S DAYS

You get your choice:

Commemorates March 23rd, 1989, when a large asteroid missed the Earth by a mere 500,000 miles – a very near miss indeed! What would you do if an asteroid was about to hit the Earth – how would you spend your last hours, and would you even want to know?

(6) FISHER MEMORIAL. The public memorial service for mother and daughter will take place March 25.

Fans will be able to pay their respects to Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher during a public memorial Saturday at Forest Lawn Memorial Park-Hollywood Hills, where the late stars were buried together in January.

The joint service — described as a “celebration of life” — will begin at 1 p.m., Todd Fisher said in an announcement about the tribute for his mother and sister on his website.

“We will be celebrating their lives with friends, family members, and the people who loved them, you,” he wrote in the announcement.

The memorial will take place inside the cemetery’s Hall of Liberty, which, according to the Forest Lawn website, seats more than 1,000.

(7) GRAVE CONCERNS. Patrick Stewart is among the people campaigning to preserve a piece of Brooklyn history — “Patrick Stewart: Revolutionary War heroes are buried under empty Gowanus lot!”

Starship Enterprise captain and Park Slope resident Sir Patrick Stewart is throwing his weight behind a controversial theory that the bodies of hundreds of Revolutionary War heroes are buried beneath an vacant lot in Gowanus — and he wants a memorial placed there so that history never forgets the name “Maryland 400.”

Stewart claimed in a recent Gentleman’s Quarterly interview that the empty Ninth Street site is the final resting place of the famed band of soldiers — who died saving General Washington’s rebel army from annihilation during the Battle of Brooklyn — and said he has personally petitioned Mayor DeBlasio to install a monument to them there, to which Hizzoner replied, “I’m on it.”

(8) NEAGLE OBIT. Long-time New Orleans-area fan Robert Neagle (1955-2017) passed away March 22 from a massive heart attack. He was active in many local and regional fan groups, and a veteran conrunner. I first met him at Nolacon II 1988), where he was wearing his Porno Patrol t-shirt. Neagle was the Captain of the Porno Patrol and I remember asking for an explanation of what they did, and vaguely remember an explanation involving the French Quarter. I remember much more clearly being grateful that he and his friends were volunteering at the con which needed all the help it could get.

Neagle was chairman of Crescent City Con throughout its 20-year history, ending in 2005. He was one of the founders of the Companions of Doctor Who, chaired DeepSouthCon 37 (1999), and worked on Vulcon, CoastCon and NOSFF, the New Orleans Science Fiction and Fantasy Festival. He was a member of Area 504 and the Amalgamation of Non-Aligned Lifeforms Starfleet.

He was the first Fan GoH of the (relatively new) Gulf Coast convention CONtraflow. He was honored for his contributions to Southern fandom with the Rebel Award in 2001.

Neagle is being cremated and there are no services planned at this time.

(9) COMIC SECTION. Pearls Before Swine has a real groaner today.

(10) STIFLED DISCOURSE. Lela E. Buis, in “Intimidating People Into Silence”, comments on a political trend to threaten and bully people:

In the last blog, I reported on a group (wisely anonymous) who advanced an article challenging Cecily Kane’s 2016 Fireside article that used a statistical analysis to show anti-black bias among SFF editors. Although the anonymous authors agreed there was a bias against black authors, they disagreed on the cause. After threats, they withdrew the article. Fireside then posted the article on their site.

So, what was the problem here? Why were these authors threatened? Was it because they challenged Kane’s specific conclusions about editorial bias? Or was it because they challenged possible gains that might have been made because of Kane’s article? Is this a political issue? Are the anonymous authors misguided statisticians? Or are they really racists trying to undermine black progress?

The interesting thing is that this isn’t an isolated case of attacking and bullying people, not just for their social/political views, but also for research that might contradict the opposition’s conclusions. It’s actually a fairly common theme in US society right now….

(11) KSR H2O NYC. From Scientific American “Q&A: Kim Stanley Robinson Explains How He Flooded Manhattan”

His new book, New York 2140, explores the interplay of climate change and global finance on a warmer, wetter future world

What would you say this book is really about? It’s about climate change and sea level rise, but it’s also about the way that our economic system doesn’t allow us to afford a decent future. As one of the characters says early in the book, “We’ve got good tech, we’ve got a nice planet, but we’re fucking it up by way of stupid laws.”

Finance, globalization—this current moment of capitalism—has a stranglehold on the world by way of all our treaties and laws, but it adds up to a multigenerational Ponzi scheme, an agreement on the part of everybody to screw the future generations for the sake of present profits. By the logic of our current system we have to mess up the Earth, and that is crazy. My new novel explores this problem and how we might get out of it.

(12) WHO OF WHOVILLE. At the end of Daily Beast’s post about coverage of yesterday’s terror incident, “Londoners Reject British ‘Traitors’ Peddling Terror Dystopia on Fox News”, comes a genre reference —

James Moran, a screenwriter who worked on shows including Doctor Who and Torchwood, said the unique nature of London could never be altered.

“The only things that shut down London: (a) leaves, (b) 3 flakes of snow, (c) when you try to get on trains without letting people off first,” he wrote “Now let’s carry on being Londoners. Rude, always in a hurry, and completely ignoring each other, LIKE GOD INTENDED.”

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Stephen Burridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern, Raymond Boudreau, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

104 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 3/23/17 I Fifth The Pixel Electric

  1. @Bill

    Ummm, the anonymous article was criticised, and Lela says they were bullied. It’s not the strongest example of when she’s pulled that conflation, but it was the most convenient.

  2. I’m putting this on today’s thread to put yesterday’s madness behind me.

    @Rev Bob – Thanks for your note. Glad you are healthy. Being a very thin person who exercises and has diabetes, I understand the importance and blessing of taking a couple of pills every day to be healthy. Getting bad genes from your parents can sometimes suck.

    @Greg – Thanks for your kind comments also.

  3. @Mark – I was trying to find evidence of the bullying Buis mentioned and was unable, which made me wonder if maybe she was doing that again.

    Looking through her website more thoroughly, I think she comes off much more trollish when she posts here. Her story reviews on her site are interesting and her conclusions don’t seem to fall along party lines. I also suspect I may have her and Vivienne (who posts here occasionally) mixed into one person in my head. Vivienne is much more of a *pup, but also does the rhetorical question thing, and, from what I remember, likes to allude to points without quite making them.

  4. @Mark — Not only were they criticized, they were given threats. That’s real bullying, not conflated bullying.

    But going back to the Riley post that Meredith mentioned, I can see the argument applying there.

  5. Did you know there’s a new Cats Laughing CD out? All the gangs there including Emma Bull and Steven Brust. And there’s a very cool film of the concert they did. T-shirts too.

    I wish she’d write another book!

  6. All right, since my book reviews and the veracity thereof have prompted a bit of discussion recently, let’s see if I can use my Sooper Sekrit SJW Powerz for good…

    I’ve owned the first of Joseph Lallo’s “Big Sigma” novels, Bypass Gemini, for a while now, ever since it had the old cover. Finding the first omnibus in a February StoryBundle prompted me to pay for the first tier, getting me that omnibus, the other first-level books in the bundle, and the option to later spend ten bucks to get the bonus books. Not a bad deal, especially since the omnibus didn’t get released to most channels until a month later!

    Anyway, the omnibus contains the first three novels plus three new short stories. The series is very much “space opera with a sense of humor” – a hotshot racer/pilot hero, his investigative reporter girlfriend, a couple of mercenaries, a mad engineer (don’t insult him by calling him a mad scientist!), a maternal AI, and a very smart pet round out the main cast. The books generally focus on the pilot stumbling into the middle of some world-shattering situation, which naturally requires him to call on the others for assistance.

    Technically speaking, the books are far from flawless. As I almost always say where indie fiction is concerned, this could use another edit pass. On average, I think I noticed about one or two slip-ups per chapter on that front – more than I’d want from a Big Five book, but not bad for indie work, and most of those errors are rather minor. For instance, despite men having the “Mr.” honorific (with period), women were “Ms” (no period). Likewise, the hero’s ship is named the Son of Betsy, usually referred to by its initials, but one book calls it the S.O.B. while another calls it the SOB – a little thing, but jarring.

    The plots and language are just plain fun, more than enough to make up for those issues. The pet I mentioned is a cross between a fox and a skunk, explaining why its creator dubbed it a “funk.” (The collective term is “parliament” – as in “a parliament of funks.” I was greatly amused by the detail.) The enemies range from mobsters and big corporations to a rogue military faction and planet-eradicating weaponry, and the stories seldom get boring. Content-wise, there are a couple of risqué comments, but no sex scenes or (to my recollection) cursing.

    I’m presently at the 85% mark in the collection, which puts me between the last novel and the first story. I’ll be rather surprised if the short fiction fails to live up to the quality of the rest, but it is possible. At this point, my major question is whether to get the fourth novel by itself or by giving StoryBundle more money, but I’m definitely interested in reading further.

    I’m provisionally rating this one four stars: four as a baseline, minus one for editing, plus one for literal LOL moments. (How can you not like that the mad inventor solves his pooper-scooper problems with an orbital laser?)

    If you’re interested in checking out the series, Bypass Gemini is available as a freebie and is an accurate representation of the overall series. I recommend getting the omnibus rather than paying for books two and three, though – the extra content is definitely worth the one-cent price difference.

  7. @Rev. Bob–thanks for the tip.

    In related news, the Dark Lord Gossage-Vardebedian is continuing to lose his shit over you, to the plaudits of his idiot minions.

  8. Mike, I really wish you wouldn’t give this troll bandwidth

    Given that Mike regularly links to VD and others, this seems like a strange request. Noting all kinds of comments on a previously mentioned topic, the Fireside chat, is in keeping with the traditions of this blog.

  9. @Bill — Thanks for the link. This place is soooo educational. Also, LOL. Though I may have to think of myself as a sea lion now! 😉

  10. rochrist on March 24, 2017 at 12:47 pm said:

    I wish she’d write another book!

    I keep hoping the sequel to Territory will eventually appear.

  11. @Space Oddity:

    Well, isn’t that special of them? It’s funny how many completely wrong things they’ve managed to state as absolute fact. (Their wild speculations on my mental state are positively precious; not one of them has even gotten in the ballpark of the truth. It’s as if they think all “brain meds” are psychotropics, which is not even remotely true.)

    I suppose this does explain the renewed surge of interest in my Amazon review today, though. It’s amazing how worked up that crowd has managed to get over a two-sentence review. At least they have VP as a safe space!

  12. Rev. Bob on March 24, 2017 at 1:44 pm said:

    @Space Oddity:

    Well, isn’t that special of them? It’s funny how many completely wrong things they’ve managed to state as absolute fact. (Their wild speculations on my mental state are positively precious; not one of them has even gotten in the ballpark of the truth. It’s as if they think all “brain meds” are psychotropics, which is not even remotely true.)

    I suppose this does explain the renewed surge of interest in my Amazon review today, though. It’s amazing how worked up that crowd has managed to get over a two-sentence review. At least they have VP as a safe space!

    Vox Popoli. Where Beale’s skills as an editor are on display in the very title of the blog.

    I have to admit, even when I am rather offended by his drivel, there’s always something amusing about watching him do the world’s worst Don Corleone impression in prose.

  13. @bookworm1398

    Mike, I really wish you wouldn’t give this troll bandwidth

    Given that Mike regularly links to VD and others, this seems like a strange request.

    It’s prima facie evidence that File770 does have bullies. This one is so privileged that she even thinks she can give orders to Mike.

  14. @Geeg Hullender

    I don’t think saying “I really wish you wouldn’t” is the same as giving an order.

  15. Greg Hullender: It’s prima facie evidence that File770 does have bullies. This one is so privileged that she even thinks she can give orders to Mike.

    Greg, I’m sorry that you don’t understand English well enough to be able to distinguish between “expressing what is obviously a forlorn hope” and “giving orders”.

    And you are hardly in a position to accuse anyone else of being a bully.

  16. @Meredith
    @Bill
    Mr. Pixel, surely?

    I can only give the same answer that Paul Simon gave Dick Cavett, when asked why the song “Mrs. Robinson” referred to Joe Dimaggio instead of Mickey Mantle:
    “It’s about syllables . . It’s about how many beats there are.”

  17. Mark: Props to JJ for the great idea

    It was Iphinome’s great idea. I was just in a whimsical enough mood to drop £5 on it.

    The review wildly exceeded my expectations! It’s absolutely priceless. I tried to post a comment on his post tellling him that, but sadly, I had the same problem as on Horton’s blog, where it wouldn’t recognize my WordPress credentials.

  18. @Bill

    Good point!

    @Greg Hullender

    I just noticed I typo’d your name – my apologies.

  19. I feel like this is more the equivalent of the fights my sister and I used to have over the dinner table about keeping one’s mouth closed while chewing and etc. than it is an example of bullying.

    @Bill (or anyone, really) – do you have any links to the bullying the other analyzers experienced?

  20. @kathodus

    If I recall correctly, the threats(/bullying) were mentioned by the people who did the analysis as their reason for taking down their post. I don’t think they were ever public, and I’m unclear how they were received given the people were anonymous.

  21. @Greg Hullender:

    It’s prima facie evidence that File770 does have bullies. This one is so privileged that she even thinks she can give orders to Mike.

    Having just revisited the linked thread about the HWA thread and what Lela Buis classified as bullying, I wondered if this was a joke. The text you quoted is very far from a privileged issuance of orders to OGH. Rather than continue wondering, I’m just gonna ask: was that a joke that didn’t land, or were you being serious?

  22. @Meredith – that would make sense from my dim recollection of the story as reported here.

  23. Meredith is correct — when the anonymous writers pulled their paper offline, they left a message saying that the reason they pulled it was they had been receiving threats. As far as I know, no further details about it have come out.

    As to how they could have received them, their original paper included a gmail address to which they invited comments.

    So we don’t know what the threats were. But it is not unreasonable for Buis to equate “receiving threats” with “being bullied”.

  24. Meredith: If I recall correctly, the threats(/bullying) were mentioned by the people who did the analysis as their reason for taking down their post. I don’t think they were ever public, and I’m unclear how they were received given the people were anonymous.

    There was an anonymous throwaway e-mail address published with the so-called rebuttal. It’s not clear to me how a threat sent to that (assuming that there actually was one) would be considered worrisome, since whoever was behind the rebuttal took great pains to remain anonymous.

  25. @Bill

    Mm, Buis has managed to hit on one of the few relatively unambiguous cases (leaving aside that some people are skeptical about the threats existing), which considering her quite remarkably broad definition of bullying is quite something.

    Since Buis is using it as an example of widespread bullying, however, I think it’s fair to mention exactly how broad her definition is. Much of what she considers to be bullying is nothing of the sort, which makes her conclusion that it’s widespread a little suspect.

    @JJ

    To be fair, we know that it isn’t impossible to figure out who someone is even with a veil of anonymity, even from something as close to impersonal as Hugo nominations. Having writing style, job, and political stance to work from would make it a lot simpler.

    I dislike receiving threats even though I’ve never had a credible one; I wouldn’t remove a post, but it isn’t a nice thing to happen. I can see how someone who wasn’t used to it might freak out a little. Threats feel like someone is trying to bully you, even if they’re not credible enough to be worth paying attention to.

  26. Several here asked about future books by Emma Bull, so I asked Will Shettery. He says she’s still working on the Territory sequel, so that’ll likely be awhile yet.

  27. @Bill

    Fair enough, if you uncritically accept the claim that threats were made then you can justify a description of bullying. As I already said, it wasn’t the best example of that, it was the most convenient (and it showed the other point I was making quite clearly).
    I stand by my description that it’s something she does in general.

  28. @JJ

    And you are hardly in a position to accuse anyone else of being a bully.

    I have never bullied anyone. You and Vox Day have a great deal in common, including the habit of accusing others of what you yourself do.

  29. @Greg/JJ

    Maybe you should (metaphorically) walk away from each other at this point.

  30. Greg Hullender: I have never bullied anyone.

    Surely you’re not inviting me to post again all of your comments proving this is false? You didn’t learn your lesson the last time? 🙄

  31. @Rev. Bob
    Thanks for the recommendation for Joseph Lallo’s space opera series. I regularly follow the podcast he co-hosts with Lindsay Buroker and Jeffrey Poole, but I haven’t read his fiction yet.

  32. @JJ said of Greg: “And you are hardly in a position to accuse anyone else of being a bully.”

    I’m thankful that I was not drinking something when I read that. I would have sprayed my keyboard!

  33. On a thankfully unrelated note, I just finished Lovecraft Country and enjoyed it despite the episodic structure (which sometimes puts me off).
    Oddly, I found the police scarier than the monsters, which was probably the intent.

  34. @Kevin Harkness: Oddly, I found the police scarier than the monsters, which was probably the intent.
    I had the same reaction, which I thought somewhat undercut Ruff’s metaphorical use of Lovecraftian horrors (which really weren’t all that Lovecraftian): the virulent real-world racism faced by the characters is so horrifying that it really overshadowed the supernatural elements in the novel (which I otherwise very much enjoyed).

  35. Brilliant review of Walrus! They really got it. Timothy must be so pleased. Thanks, JJ and Iphinome! I do think he at least looked through the book, if not read it. It’s a real review where we expected fake, and is thus meta-fake!

    @Rev. Bob: I’ve only read “Bypass Gemini” but would like to read the later ones. I enjoy his “Free Wrench” steampunk series, which is not at all Victorian, since it’s not at all this planet.

  36. @Cat Eldredge: Did you know there’s a new Cats Laughing CD out? All the gangs there including Emma Bull and Steven Brust. Not quite; keyboard-etc.ist Colsher wasn’t up for the reunion so they found someone else.

    @PhilRM: I think that was the point: HPL’s racist paranoia had far less basis than the facts of how black USians were treated. (Didn’t we go through this a few days ago? Or was that someone else?)

  37. JJ, Greg:

    These altercations bring out the worst in both of you. You are both smart, active people with a great deal of positive commentary here, and you both have, and share, a lot of strong opinions, some of which clash with one another in particular. However, I don’t think EITHER of you fall into Geek Social Fallacy territory of actually being bullies or damaging to the social group, or of doing active harm (or driving out) others in the circle — except possibly when you clash with one another.

    I will say I feel one of you is slightly more likely to provoke it into starting, but once it has begun, you both seem to prefer to tear into it when ignoring a snark might be the wiser course.

    Let’s please please try the wiser course for the sake of the people who want to like both of you.

  38. It’s a bit late to comment on it, but the more I think about it, the more Buis’s reference to The Bell Curve as a form of ‘scientific inquiry’ bothers me. The Bell Curve is largely warmed over eugenic discourse, and about half the citations of the book draw from a long history of racist and white nationalist (and discredited) ‘research’. The work has been taken apart repeatedly on political and methodological grounds. By referring to this propaganda work as ‘research’ Buis implicitly legitimates its racist goals. While I think that its completely legitimate to debate the tactics of the protest at the college, one should not do so by legitimizing the book’s shoddy scholarship or minimizing it’s racist foundations or the racist and reactionary thread to be found in Murray’s work. (There are significant reasons to dispute Buis’s characterization of the protest as well, but that feels a bit like a distraction within this context.)

  39. I’m going to third Lenora Rose.

    @Robert Wood

    I don’t have anything to add, but in the absence of a ‘like’ button: +1

    @airboy

    Not helping.

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