Pixel Scroll 4/21/18 If I Have Filed Further It Is Only By Scrolling On The Pixels Of Giants

(1) FIRST. Continuing the conversation about sff reviewing on his blog, Camestros Felapton offers this draft of “The Three Laws of Reviewbotics?”

…So here’s maybe a start for the hyper-critic oath (‘hyper’ because I’m overthinking this and ‘critic’ because ‘reviewer’ doesn’t work for the pun).

First, do no obvious harm. Don’t ever slander a writer. Avoid attacking them personally, even indirectly [that’s not always possible because writing is to varying degrees an extension of the self. In addition, some texts themselves are INTENDED to be harmful to others (I’ve reviewed many here over the years) BUT while we can all think of exceptions the norm should be to review texts, not people.] This does not mean treating all people the same – if you knew that somebody was currently in a vulnerable emotional state, then maybe reviewing their book isn’t a great idea. The flip side of that is you can’t reasonably tailor reviews around what a writer you don’t know might be feeling. And obviously don’t use slurs, stereotypes or language which we know to be harmful – such as overt racism, sexism etc. In an equitable society, some people are more vulnerable to others and if we KNOW that we have to be mindful of that while bearing in mind the points below as well.

(2) TO THE TUNE OF CORALINE. The opera based on Neil Gaiman’s Coraline is available on the BBC iPlayer for the next 29 days: “Mark-Anthony Turnage: Coraline”.

Kate Molleson presents the world premiere production of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Coraline – an operatic version of the dark fantasy tale by Neil Gaiman, directed by Aletta Collins with libretto by Rory Mullarkey. Soprano Mary Bevan sings the title-role with a cast including mezzo-soprano Kitty Whately and baritone Alexander Robin Baker who are making their Royal Opera debuts. Sian Edwards conducts the Britten Sinfonia.

During the interval, Kate is joined by guest Fiona Maddocks with contributions from Mark-Anthony Turnage and Mary Bevan.

Neil Gaiman has transformed the landscape of children’s literature with his highly inventive, atmospheric and otherworldly narratives. His prize-winning novella, Coraline is packed with astonishing imagery – a much-loved story about a girl who discovers a door in her parents’ house, leading to an entirely different place and family. For Mark-Anthony Turnage “the fundamental message beneath the story is that we shouldn’t be afraid to do what we believe is right. Coraline is brave, not because she doesn’t cry or get scared, but because despite these things she still tries her best and doesn’t give up. That’s why I wanted to write Coraline, because here’s a message well worth telling; through opera or in any other way.”

(3) FANTASTIC HOW MANY? A trailer advertising the Fantastic 4’s return to comics in August. But Carl Slaughter says, “Wait a minute.  Maybe I missed someone, but I saw only 3 members of the Fantastic 4 at the end of that teaser….” Actually, Carl, couldn’t that pillar of fire in the closing image be your missing fourth character?

(4) TRACK RECORD. A member of the Universal Fan Con committee – a con cancelled at the last minute — is alleged to have a problemactic past.

(5) SPOILER ALERT. Commentary on a recent Red Dwarf-themed word puzzle: “Inquisitor 1533: A Little Light Relief by Eclogue”.

There were enough clues that I could solve to get a firm foothold in the grid and start to see the message emerging.  It was the skeleton of the message that gave me the breakthrough.  I could see something like IT’S COLD OUTSIDE and THERE’S NO appearing and  those five words were enough to track down the theme to Red Dwarf, a cult television series which was still producing new episodes in late 2017

The theme tune can be found by by clicking here

The full message is IT’S COLD OUTSIDE THERE’S NO KIND OF ATMOSPHERE which are the opening lyrics to the show’s theme song.  The wording of the preamble was very precise when it stated ‘the correct letters from misprints in definitions provide the opening to the theme’.

I could see then that the unclued entries were going to be the characters from the show.  It was the one I didn’t really know that fell first – KOCHANSKI –  followed by HOLLY, LISTER, RIMMER, KRYTEN and CAT.  CAT came last because I nearly missed it.

(6) IT’S HUGE! In “Kickstarter Final Note”, Steve Davidson shares a bit of news about Amazing Stories’ next first print issue.

One thing of note:  we’ve gone way over our word count for the first issue and none of us have the heart to deny any of our authors and artists the opportunity to be in Amazing first new issue since 2005 (and not even that’s technically correct – we’ve published four issues since 2012 in point of fact), so, rather than disappointing a handful of authors and artists, we’ve chosen the high road and are biting the bullet on an extended page count – rather than our originally planned 192 pages, it looks like we’re going for 248…

Yes, it’s going to blow our budget out a little bit, but, well, we really want this first issue to be SPECTACULAR, AWESOME and REALLY GREAT!  And it’s going to be.  (Really Great Science Fiction magazine was rejected as a title….)

(7) HOW HARD CAN IT BE? Tough SF by “Matter Beam” says this is its mission:

… One genre defined by the struggle to create living settings in science fiction is Hard SF. ‘An emphasis on scientific or technical detail’ is a sure-fire way to create a realistic and functional universe, but often the need to adhere to realism slows creativity, stresses the narration, leads to improbable results or otherwise has negative effects. One of the biggest complaints is that it just isn’t ‘fun’….

…This blog therefore try to help authors, world-builders and game designers to create Tough Science Fiction. This is science fiction that is as resistant as Hard Science Fiction to criticism, review and general prodding and poking by the audience, but does not sacrifice the author’s vision or core concepts to pure, dry realism…

Here are a couple of illustrative posts:

Space Piracy is a common science fiction trope. It has been continuously derided in Hard Science Fiction as silly and a holdover of the ‘Space is an Ocean’ analogy.

But is it really that unrealistic to have space pirates? Let’s find out.

There’s more to piracy than just attacking a target and running away afterwards.

Put yourself in the shoes of a pirate, a merchant or the authorities. What would you do?

(8) BUNCH OF LUNCH. Why aren’t there more big mammals? We ate them.  “New Study Says Ancient Humans Hunted Big Mammals To Extinction”.

Over the past 125,000 years, the average size of mammals on the Earth has shrunk. And humans are to blame.

That’s the conclusion of a new study of the fossil record by paleo-biologist Felisa Smith of the University of New Mexico.

Smith studied fossils going back 65 million years, when dinosaurs died and mammals came into their own. Many of the early mammals went on to get big. Among the giant creatures: “Llamas and camels and sloths and five species of pronghorn [antelope] actually,” she says, “and certainly mammoths. And then lots of really cool predators, like Arctodus, the short faced bear.” The short-faced bear stood 11 feet tall, about the shoulder height of some species of ancient camel.

And that was just North America.

Being big was just as successful as being small, and had some advantages when it came to surviving big predators. “Taken as a whole, over 65 million years, being large did not increase mammals’ extinction risk. But it did when humans were involved,” Smith found.

Looking back over the most recent 125,000 years of the fossil record, Smith found that when humans arrived someplace, the rate of extinction for big mammals rose. She says it basically came down to hunger. “Certainly humans exploit large game,” she says, “probably because they are tasty”—and because a bigger animal makes for a bigger meal. …


  • April 21, 1997 — Ashes of Gene Roddenberry journeyed into space.


  • John King Tarpinian shared this link with pun lovers in mind — Off the Mark.

(11) BRADBURY MUSEUM UPDATE. A proponent told the Chicago Tribune “Ray Bradbury Experience Museum planning start in smaller space, eventual move to old Carnegie Library”.

The multi-million dollar dream of renovating and redeveloping the childhood library of Ray Bradbury for a museum dedicated to the Waukegan author is still alive more than two years after a campaign was launched to make it happen.

But a team of Bradbury devotees, civic boosters and creative minds has decided it isn’t going to wait for that overall package to take shape at the historic but dormant Carnegie Library on Sheridan Road.

Instead, early next month, plans will be unveiled for a more modest Ray Bradbury Experience Museum (RBEM) with a goal of opening in a Genesee Street storefront in time for the 100th anniversary of the late author’s birthday in August 2020….

(12) WOTF. Kyle Aisteach posted a memoir about “My Writers of the Future Experience” in the 1990s. Aisteach was a paid add-on student of the workshop, not a contest finalist.

… The workshop itself was much like what others have described: A whirlwind of big names coming in to talk to us, intensely trying to churn out a complete short story in just a few days, a lot of theory, and a lot of making friends. I learned a tremendous amount, much of which I carry with me and still use to this day. The workshop was wonderful.

But the question everyone wants to ask is this: What about the Scientology?

Well, it was definitely there. The impression I had at the time was that L. Ron Hubbard founded Scientology and therefore Scientology loves L. Ron Hubbard and everything he was associated with, and therefore the Church of Scientology wanted to support us in any way it could. David Miscavige was there to welcome us all. L. Ron Hubbard’s name was not just mentioned frequently, it was extolled. We were clearly and obviously using Scientology property for both the workshop and the gala. I, personally, found it a little uncomfortable at times, but I’m always uncomfortable in someone else’s sacred space, so there was nothing weird about that to me. A couple of the texts we used were clearly Scientologist documents (the biography of Hubbard had him transcending instead of dying, and another essay – I don’t recall exactly what it was about – Budrys explained was written for Scientologists and he explained what terms like “clear” meant so we could follow it), but that didn’t faze me either, since texts that inform writing can come from anywhere and most of us pull from our own traditions when teaching.

Before anyone has a meltdown about any of this, remember that this was the 1990s. Scientology had some legal troubles as a young religion, but at this point the general feeling was that it had left them behind….

And former Writers of the Future winner J. W. Alden has written another thread – start here.

(13) BEWARE EVENTBRITE. Slashdot warns “Eventbrite Claims The Right To Film Your Events — And Keep the Copyright”.

But in addition, you’re also granting them permission to record and use footage of all your attendees and speakers, “in any manner, in any medium or context now known or hereafter developed, without further authorization from, or compensation to.” And after that Eventbrite “will own all rights of every nature whatsoever in and to all films and photographs taken and recordings made hereunder, including without limitation of all copyrights therein and renewals and extensions thereof, and the exclusive right to use and exploit the Recordings in any manner, in any medium or context now known or hereafter developed…”

(14) PERSISTENCE. At NPR, Genevieve Valentine analyzes Joanna Russ’ nonfiction classic: “‘How To Suppress Women’s Writing:’ 3 Decades Old And Still Sadly Relevant”:

…It’s hard not to get freshly angry at the status quo, reading this. But amid the statistics and the sort of historical pull quotes you’ll want to read out loud to horrified friends, Russ is also defying a literary tradition that, she points out again and again, wants to forget that women write. In so doing, she deliberately creates a legacy of women writers who came before. Well, white women. Russ mentions a few writers of color in the essay proper, and includes more in her Afterword, but this is a very white family tree. (It’s one of the ways the book shows its age; another is the way any genderqueerness is reduced to sexual preferences, which amid so much far-seeing commentary feels quaintly second-wave.)

And despite how much there is to be angry about, How to Suppress Women’s Writing is shot through with hope. There’s the energy of a secret shared in “the rocking and cracking of the book as the inadequate form strains or even collapses.” And beneath every denial of agency, there’s the obvious truth: For hundreds of years, despite those odds against them, the “wrong” writers still manage to write. Likely it won’t be remembered long enough or taken seriously enough, but to read this book is to admire this buried tradition, and realize how much there is to be discovered — and how there’s no time like the present to look at the marginalized writers you might be missing. “Only on the margins does growth occur,” Russ promises, like the guide in a story telling you how to defeat the dragon. Get angry; then get a reading list.

(15) MOVERS AND SHAKERS. In California, they’re “Betting On Artificial Intelligence To Guide Earthquake Response”.

A startup company in California is using machine learning and artificial intelligence to advise fire departments about how to plan for earthquakes and respond to them.

The company, One Concern, hopes its algorithms can take a lot of the guesswork out of the planning process for disaster response by making accurate predictions about earthquake damage. It’s one of a handful of companies rolling out artificial intelligence and machine learning systems that could help predict and respond to floods, cyber-attacks and other large-scale disasters.

(16) HAPPY BIRTHDAY HUBBLE. Great photo: “It’s The Hubble Space Telescope’s Birthday. Enjoy Amazing Images Of The Lagoon Nebula”.

The Hubble “has offered a new view of the universe and has reached and surpassed all expectations for a remarkable 28 years,” the agencies said in a statement, adding that the telescope has “revolutionized almost every area of observational astronomy.”

Hubble was launched on April 24, 1990, aboard the space shuttle Discovery as a joint project between NASA and the ESA. Each year, the telescope is diverted from important scientific observational duties to take an image of the cosmos in intense detail.

This year’s featured image, the Lagoon Nebula, is a colossal stellar nursery, 55 light-years wide and 20 light-years tall, that is about 4,000 light-years away from Earth.


(17) END GAME. Looper tries to explain the ending of Ready Player One. Watch out for spoilers, I assume!

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, David Langford, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Peter J, Mark Hepworth, Jim Meadows, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

76 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 4/21/18 If I Have Filed Further It Is Only By Scrolling On The Pixels Of Giants

  1. Did I hear the Looper video correctly and learn that the big battle scene at the end of READY PLAYER ONE involved storming “Castle Anorak?” !!!

  2. Gile 770? (last line)

    (8) Which explains why all our threads become about food.

  3. Lurkertype: If I’d misspelled it “Guile 770” I could have sold it as intentional…..

    Correction made. Appertain yourself your favorite beverage!

  4. (8) Being big was just as successful as strategy as being small, until humans came along and said, “Mmm, looks tasty!” I’ve always found this a more convincing theory than that it was pure coincidence that megafauna tended to go extinct around the time humans arrived in the regions the megafauna lived in.

  5. (3) FANTASTIC HOW MANY? I thought this would be about the six shadowy figures in the penultimate image. 😉 The final picture in the video does have the Human Torch near the top left. I see arm, chest, and head; his head’s thrown back too far (or his chest is thrown out too far), so it looks unnatural, but it’s recognizably humanoid. It’s the Human Torch’s torso and head, just to the left of the Thing.

    Now, as for those six characters: who are they?! Ben (Thing), ???, Sue (Invisible Woman), Reed (Mr. Fantastic), ???, and Johnny (Human Torch). Is the 2nd from right Franklin? And who’s the second from left? (Can you tell I never followed the FF much?)

    (13) BEWARE EVENTBRITE. What the ever-loving what?! What a ridiculous attempt at rights-grabbing, though I have to wonder if EventBrite has the wherewithal to actually to film any events anyway. But regardless, this is absurd. Safer to stay away, events. Some SFF cons use them, IIRC.

    ETA: Ooh, coveted second fifth two days in a row – what’re the odds?!

  6. 3) I did follow the FF for some time, but having lost track of underwear pervert comics generally by the late eighties, I was a little lost at the “divided by tragedy” part. They aren’t talking about the ending of Secret Wars, right? (Which I have read at least a lot of.)

  7. 8) The idea that, if things go on, the largest land mammal will soon be the cow is rather disturbing.

    16) Yeah, saw that image. Awfully pretty!

    Re: Piracy. One thing that gets mentioned but not explicated and explored in re: space piracy is that piracy thrives and does best where there are defined lanes of travel, choke points that lots of commerce goes through so that in the absence of state power, pirates can target and thrive in.

    The Straits of Malacca, for example, have had piracy problems for centuiries. Somalia would not have a lot of pirates if it wasn’t located near two choke point straits.

    The wide open nature of space reduces these opportunities. Now, if you had an Alderson-drive (Mote in God’s Eye) interstellar jump point system, and a lack of state power, areas around those points would be prime locations for pirates to target.

  8. As well as Franklin, Red and Sue have a daughter, Valeria. She’s done level of super genius, with affectionate toes to her uncle Victor.

  9. Since NickPheas just mentioned Doctor Doom, I just wanted to give a shout-out to the Infamous Iron Man. I enjoyed this short-lived book.

    While Victor Von Doom is recovering from his stint as God of the entire Marvel Universe during the Civil War II event, he decides to replace the missing Iron Man (who was in hiding as a bodiless AI at the time). His all-the-way conversion to armored hero is complicated by the evil Reed Richards from the Ultimates universe, the Thing, SHIELD’s Maria Hill, and his mother (previously saved from Hell).

    Writing the last paragraph was a ton of fun. You gotta love comic books!

  10. (13) BEWARE EVENTBRITE. St least in the music concert end of things, they’ve not a chance in Hell of enforcing this as most artists via their agent explicitly retain the tights to all sound and visual recording rights even prohibiting audiance recordings by any means. In addition, many venues have their own policies on who may or may not re it’d an event.

    Someone at Eventbrite is getting them involved in a fight that they cannot win if they choose to try to press their claim.

  11. Read Curse of Chalion, Paladin of Souls and Penric’s Fox. The religious setup and thoughts about free will, prayer, courage were interesting. But overall, the books seemed somehow thin, and not very memorable.

    Read The Collapsing Empire. The plot was exciting, but I didn’t care for the writing style, it grated on me.

    Read City of Miracles. It was fantastic, loved the characters, plot and the moral point was well made. The events of the very last chapter seemed a little wierd, I wonder if they are setup for the next series? This is certainly going to be first on my best series list.

  12. (1) I’ve always thought the job of a reviewer was to be a matchmaker helping a work find its audience. The reviewer is not critiquing the work, but merely describing it and comparing it to other similar works for the benefit of the person reading the review. Now a critic on the other hand, definitely digs deeper into a work and also considers the person(s) involved in creating it. Roger Ebert reviewed movies and to my mind is a model for all reviewers to aspire to, and John Clute is a critic that SF/F critics can emulate. As for not slandering creators, while some have accused Joss Whedon of being a sexist jerk, it’s not that hard to fairly criticize the things he’s created without making personal attacks, really.

  13. (1) If I had to pick just three “rules” for reviews, they would probably be:

    1) Be honest.
    2) Be impartial.
    3) Don’t pile on.

    There’s certainly a place for detailed literary critiques, but, in my view, a review has an opinion on a work. It takes a stand. The review is just an explanation of the reviewer’s honest reaction to the work. It takes practice to really get in touch with what things make you like or not like a story, but whatever rules you develop should only be used to explain your honest feelings. Never pretend to like something you didn’t just because it satisfied some rules. Or pretend you hated something you enjoyed. Use those as opportunities to increase your understanding of what features of a story are really important to you. Readers don’t have to agree with your reviews (30% agreement is actually pretty good), but they do need to feel they understand where you’re coming from.

    “Impartial” just means review the story, not the author. I’d go beyond that to say that a reviewer shouldn’t be obsessed over novelty. What seems like an old idea to a reviewer who’s read lots of SFF for decades may seem new and fresh to a young reader. The question isn’t how new the ideas are (there aren’t many truly new ideas under the sun); it’s how well did the story portray those ideas.

    “Piling on” is when you go on and on about how awful a story was. If you’re giving a story one-star for persistent infodumps, just mention one and then move on. The author isn’t going to use your comments to rewrite the story, and readers will get bored with a litany of complaints. If the story was so bad that you’re mad at both the author and the editor for inflicting it on you, wait a day or two to write the review.

    Reviews are for readers, not authors, and they should focus on what readers find interesting and useful.

  14. @David W. and Cat Rambo
    I actually go out of my way not to compare the stories I review to other stories (even by the same author). That’s because I don’t think most readers have a vast exposure to that material. (This may be an issue peculiar to short-fiction reviews though.)

    Obvious exceptions are when a story is part of a series or when it depends on the reader having already read (for example) a particular Lovecraft story.

    Another thing is that, again for short fiction, people don’t generally use reviews as a way to find stories to read; they read them after finishing a story. This was Neil Clarke’s explanation for why Clarkesworld won’t run short-fiction reviews. I talked about that in my response to Neil three years ago.

  15. David Hullender’s explanation of how reviews should work pretty well describes how I feel. Every once in a while, in my Amazing Stories column, I take the time to tell readers it’s my personal reaction/opinion to a story or film or TV series, whatever I’m reviewing. Over time, readers get a sense of who I am and whether they generally agree with me, so they can guess how much credence to give to my review if they read it before seeing/reading something genre.
    Well said, David!

  16. @bookworm1398 —

    Read Curse of Chalion, Paladin of Souls and Penric’s Fox. The religious setup and thoughts about free will, prayer, courage were interesting. But overall, the books seemed somehow thin, and not very memorable.


    Out, out, damned blasphemer!!


    I’ll actually agree with you about Penric’s Fox — not a lot there. I do hope you’ve read the other Penric novellas, though. 🙂

    And don’t you dare dismiss Paladin of Souls (which won the Hugo, Locus, MFA, and Nebula) or Curse of Chalion (which won the MFA and was nominated for Hugo, Locus, and WFA), you heretic. Sniff. I may have to come lash you with a wet noodle or something.

  17. (Incidentally, there’s a good chance that the Five Gods books will not be at the top of my list, just because I don’t think they really form a coherent series. I’m pondering that problem.)

  18. What I remember from the 1984 Worldcon was that there was a break-even budget, before which there were no guarantees, and until it was met, nothing past that break-even program was included.

  19. There’s a pretty big range of things a review/reviewer can do, from providing a buyer’s guide to making analytical or evaluative comments and any number of click-stops in between.

    Myself, I can’t imagine writing a review that doesn’t place a work in some kind of context–historical, taxonomic, cultural, political–whatever has occurred to me as useful in accounting for it and my reaction to it. Of course, I come at reviewing from a background in academic criticism, which is analytical/historical to start with (but not, in my case, particularly theoretical in the current sense of Theory–I’m too old for that stuff). And any review of mine is implicitly a recommendation, at least in the sense of “I found this book engaging enough to finish it and write about it,” though I’ve been known to wax explicitly enthusiastic. Still can’t abide stars or thumbs-up ratings or numerical ranking, though. I maintain that reviewing (like academic criticism) is a conversation about the objects under review and the processes that produce them and the ways that they are received.

  20. I just watched Thor: Ragnarok last night. Very silly movie in parts!

    It was fun, but it certainly won’t be at the top of my list. Looks like it’s gonna be a tough year, though — I loved Blade Runner 2049 and have gotten more and more fond of The Shape of Water as I reflect on it, and I haven’t watched Get Out yet.

    Decisions, decisions, decisions!

  21. @P J Evans: you were closer to the 1984 Worldcon than I was; what I heard included budgeting so that break-even did not require any at-the-door memberships, which was seen as greedy even with Connie’s bad example from the previous year. (Yes, it’s personal; a friend involved with Registration reported their equipment budget being cut 50%, which was why the line stretched out the convention center and down the driveway to the hotel (not fun in LA August). Seemed a bit unbalanced vs the ice-cream social — which was certainly announced well before the doors opened.)

  22. I also watched Thor: Ragnarok time ago. I found fun, ridiculous and forgettable. And a bit disappointing in how they handled the moment of glory for the Executioner. This was his time to shine, as in the comic. In the movie, you hardly had time to notice his battle scene.

    I would give it 3/5. Certainly not award worthy.

  23. Heading off to surgery in a few hours to remove two kidney stones. I’m so looking forward to this, it has been three hellish weeks of first fevre without a known cause, then having an operation inserting some tubes that have made me hurt, urinate blood and fell slightly nauseous all the time.

    Bah. So this how it is growing old. Welcome to the club I guess.

  24. @Martin Wooster
    “Anorak” is the screen name of the guy who set up the Macguffin hunt, and not even in a self-aware way like Hiro Protagonist.

  25. @Russell Letson

    Myself, I can’t imagine writing a review that doesn’t place a work in some kind of context–historical, taxonomic, cultural, political–whatever has occurred to me as useful in accounting for it and my reaction to it.

    I’m usually content to indicate whether the story was about characters, plot, setting, or idea, and what I liked/didn’t like about those elements. I suppose I could dig deeper and try to analyze why I liked it that the protagonist made a big sacrifice to win her victory, but that starts to make the review about me, not the story. (Unless I’m misunderstanding your point here.)

    Context is great, but only as long as I think readers will be interested in it. E.g. “Although the story doesn’t say so explicitly, we can tell the story is set in Manilla because . . .” is fine. A complex comparison with five or six novels would be too much. I’ve thought about making it possible to invite a guest reviewer to write more complex critiques for outstanding stories, though.

    Still can’t abide stars or thumbs-up ratings or numerical ranking, though.

    Without those, though, there’s no way at all to direct readers to the better stories. You don’t need to vote things down, but you do need to be able to identify the 10% to 20% that are the best. Sure, different people have different ideas of what’s good, and (by my measures) even serious reviewers only overlap 30% to 40% of the time, but among a large set of reviewers, patterns turn up. Some stories really are outstanding, and they do stand out. Readers deserve to have their attention brought to them.

  26. @Hampus Eckerman: I had my kidney stones at twenty-three. I don’t think it could have been any worse at any age. So terrible! For decades I sought someone who could give me an informed opinion about my hunch, which was anecdotally confirmed: Kidney stones are more painful than giving birth.

  27. @Hampus —

    Heading off to surgery in a few hours to remove two kidney stones.

    Poor guy!

    I had my gallbladder out about 1 1/2 years ago because of gallstones, which are similarly No Fun At All. But I didn’t have to go through the tube thing beforehand.

    I hope all goes well!

  28. As a reader, I think of reviews as being a way of finding things I am likely to enjoy reading (or want to read for other reasons), and identifying things I am unlikely to enjoy before I invest time and/or money in them.

    If a work is good, a review that does that will help it find its audience, but if an honest review would be “this doesn’t do anything well” or “there’s a good idea buried somewhere after the half-way point, but it doesn’t make up for X, Y, Z flaws,” I want to be told that. A review that says “this is the book for people who like new ideas about hyperreal widgets” and stops there because the reviewer is trying to be kind, instead of continuing to say “and don’t mind plodding through 150 pages of crap first” or “and can ignore egregious sexism and abuse of English grammar” isn’t fair to the reader.

    If you can’t bring yourself to write “this is a bad book,” “save the price of your ticket,” or “don’t read this” when that’s what you’d say to a friend who asked about it, maybe just don’t review that item.

  29. @Chip: I don’t know why they’d have left at-the-door memberships out when planning the budget; you can’t depend on them in terms of numbers (and the ones that year were huge mostly because of the Star Wars marathon being advertised), but they’re not likely to be non-existent. (IIRC, break-even was 6K members.)

  30. @Hampus Eckerman: I hope surgery goes/went well! I didn’t know there were surgical options. I’ve had a couple of kidney stones, but by the time I went to the hostpital (first stone) or called a doctor (second stone, a few years later), it was too late and basically I had to just ride it out. My first was the worst – very, very bad! 🙁

    My first was when I was in my early to mid-30s. I drink a lot more water/liquids than I used to, and I’ve been fortunate not to have had one in many years now.

    Anyway, it sucks and you have my sympathy!

    @John A Arkansawyer: Yup, I’ve been told that both by a female doctor (or was it a nurse?) and by another woman – that kidney stones are more painful than childbirth. (Granted, not all kidney stones – or all childbirths! – are created equal.)

  31. @ Paul Weimer #8 – speaking as the guy who wrote three novels about Pirates of Mars, I beg to disagree about choke points. Every planet or celestial body is a choke point. If you want to go into orbit around a planet, you need to be traveling a specific speed at a specific time. Especially in a scenario in which there’s a lot of space travel, everybody will have pretty much the same engine tech which will put hard limits on where you need to be to achieve orbit.

  32. (14) The thing I remember about How to Suppress Women’s Writing, apart from its great usefulness of analysis and as a list for further reading, is how funny it is, even the afterword, when Russ is making fun of herself. Great book, if unfortunately still quite applicable.

    Bests wishes for successful surgery and speedy recovery, Hampus!

  33. I’ve had three or four kidney stones, and though they are hellish to me, I can’t quite believe they’re worse than childbirth. For one thing, the pain doesn’t go on for twenty hours while I’m expected to stay awake and engaged and able to follow instructions. My experiences always go about the same: Around 5:00 am or so, the big pain hits, first as discomfort, then pain and sweating. As soon as I recognize it, I disturb my lovely and capable wife, who then gets me into an automobile and takes me to the emergency room and she has them give me the shot in the hip that makes everything go white. When I wake up, the stone has gotten through Painful Pass, and I just have to whiz through a filter for the next week or two, to catch the stone when it makes a break for it.

    The only exception was this last time (following twenty years or so in which no stones had manifested themselves, which I chalk up to taking Magnesium daily), when it took a lot longer to get lined up for the shot, so I just had to moan quietly in a chair in the waiting room with Cathy and Sarah (who wasn’t around twenty years ago), at which time they put me on a gurney, and when I put one foot on top of the other for comfort, someone pointedly removed it from there. Anyway, they put me under and took the stone out that night—or that morning, I guess, by then—because it was something like 3mm x 7mm, my all-time record.

    I still have my previous stone, which I kept instead of giving it to them to smash up and analyze, since they always got the same results. It’s actually an intricate little thing, and some day I’ll get it put into a bead of glass and made into a piece of jewelry.

  34. @Kip W: “I can’t quite believe they’re worse than childbirth.”

    And yet, somehow I trust the two women who told me they were (one was, IIRC, quoting what another woman had told her). 😉

    Of course, with tons of painkillers, anything is great, I suppose. I didn’t get any with either of mine. 🙁 Psniff!

  35. How do I find out who can sell an ebook in a particular country?

    I’m trying to send e-versions of the Binti stories to someone in Namibia. I bought them through amazon.com, to be sent to the email address used for her Amazon account (it is a gmail address). She says “It is telling me that they are not available in my country and it doesn’t really give me an alternative.”

    Simultaneously, I’m mailing hard copies to a different Namibian person, and there is no apparent trouble (besides expense).

    How do we find out who’s the authorized distributer in Namibia? Should I buy epub versions and send them to her directly (via a website I control)?

  36. @ Hampus: Sympathies and good luck! My partner had a kidney stone hit on our way home from Sasquan, and he spent a miserable 3 months dealing with medical mismanagement, stents, and constant pain before he was able to get it taken care of.

  37. Chip Hitchcock: @P J Evans: you were closer to the 1984 Worldcon than I was; what I heard included budgeting so that break-even did not require any at-the-door memberships, which was seen as greedy even with Connie’s bad example from the previous year

    Holier-than-thou is never a good look on a fan.

  38. As well as Franklin, Red and Sue have a daughter, Valeria. She’s done level of super genius, with affectionate toes to her uncle Victor.

    “My metatarsals belong to you.”

  39. I think the entire process of childbirth is likely worse than the entire process of a kidney stone–I was exhausted at the end of our kid’s birth, and I wasn’t doing a damn thing!–but I have no trouble believing the worst pain of the kidney stone is worse than the worst pain of childbirth.

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