Pixel Scroll 4/28/18 The Great Emu-Scroll War Was Lost When The Pixels Attacked The Gazebo

Now, where were we when we were so rudely interrupted?

(1) INFURNITY. Camestros Felapton, the world’s most understanding cat owner, provides his pet with “Tim’s Facial Hair Guide to Infinity War”.

So, I’ve explained before that Timothy doesn’t distinguish human faces well. He is also confused by facial hair. OK strictly speaking he is confused by human skin, which he assumes is fur and hence is doubly confused by facial hair which he thinks is fur that is growing out of fur. Look, the main thing is he finds beards confusing and panics if I shave.

So, Marvel’s Infinity War has many characters and about 40%+ of them have facial hair (90%+ if we count eyebrows – do eyebrows count as facial hair? I assume so.) Some of them i.e. Captain America have gained beards for this film.

So to assist Tim to keep track, here is a field guide to various beard styles in the film….

(2) PUBLIC ASKED FOR PODCAST NOMINATIONS. The Parsec Awards Steering Committee is accepting nominations of podcasts for the 2018 Parsec Awards through June 15. Nominate here.

Any material released between May 1, 2017 and April 30, 2018 is eligible for the 2018 awards. Material released needs to be free for download and released via a mechanism that allows for subscriptions. Thus, YouTube, Facebook, etc.. series are eligible.

If you are a podcaster or author, please feel free to nominate your own podcast or story


(3) MORE STAR WARS. Disney announced “Star Wars Resistance, Anime-Inspired Series, Set for Fall Debut”. The series is set in the era before The Force Awakens.

StarWars.com is thrilled to announce that production has begun on Star Wars Resistance, an exciting new animated adventure series about Kazuda Xiono, a young pilot recruited by the Resistance and tasked with a top-secret mission to spy on the growing threat of the First Order. It will premiere this fall on Disney Channel in the U.S. and thereafter, on Disney XD and around the world.

(4) BROADDUS JOINS APEX. Maurice Broaddus has been named nonfiction editor for Apex Magazine. Jason Sizemore, Editor-in-Chief, made the announcement April 2.

Maurice is a prolific and well-regarded author who works in a multitude of genres. He is also the Apex Magazine reprints editor and now wears two hats for our publication. Upcoming authors Maurice has lined up for essays include Mur Lafferty, Mary SanGiovanni, and Tobias S. Buckell.

You can find Maurice Broaddus on Twitter at @mauricebroaddus and online at www.mauricebroaddus.com. His novella “Buffalo Soldiers” was recently published at Tor.com.

(5) SWANWICK CITES LE GUIN ON PRESENT TENSE: Michael Swanwick would be authority enough for many, but first he appeals for support to “Le Guin on Present Tense” before handing down the stone tablets:

Here’s the rule, and it covers all cases: Only use the present tense if there is some reason for doing so that justifies losing some of your readers and annoying others. (This rule goes double for future tense.) Otherwise, use the past tense.

(6) THINGS FALL APART; THE CENTRE CANNOT HOLD: Aalto University reports 2.7 billion tweets confirm: echo chambers in Twitter are very real.

Bipartisan users, who try to bridge the echo chambers, pay a price for their work: they become less central in their network, lose connections to their communities and receive less endorsements from others.

(7) STARTING OUT AS A WOMAN SFF AUTHOR. From Fantasy Café: “Women in SF&F Month: Ann Aguirre”:

…I first sold to New York in 2007, over eleven years ago. That book was Grimspace, a story I wrote largely to please myself because it was hard for me to find the sort of science fiction that I wanted to read. I love space opera, but in the past, I found that movies and television delivered more of the stories I enjoyed. At the time, I was super excited to be published in science fiction and fantasy.

My first professional appearance was scheduled at a small con in Alabama. I was so excited for that, so fresh and full of hope. Let’s just say that my dreams were dashed quite spectacularly. I was sexually harassed by multiple colleagues and the men I encountered seemed to think I existed to serve them. To say that my work wasn’t taken seriously is an understatement. That was only reinforced when I made my first appearance at SDCC (San Diego Comic Con) six months later.

There, the moderator called me the ‘token female’, mispronounced my last name without checking with me first (she checked with the male author seated next to me), and the male panelists spoke over me, interrupted me at will, and gave me very little chance to speak. I remember quite clearly how humiliated I was, while also hoping that it wasn’t noticeable to the audience.

Dear Reader, it was very noticeable. Afterward, David Brin, who was in the audience, came up to me with a sympathetic look and he made a point of shaking my hand. He said, “Well, I was very interested in what you had to say.” With a pointed stress on the word “I.”…

(8) WTF? Can you believe somebody is comparing what they’re marketing to “The Veldt” as if it’s a good thing? “Madison Square Garden cites Ray Bradbury as an influence on upcoming Sphere Arena in Las Vegas”.

Madison Square Garden officials lifted the curtain a bit on their MSG Sphere Arena entertainment venues coming to Las Vegas and London, with a demonstration Thursday that hinted at advanced technology going into the design and experiences for audiences within the new-generation venues.

In his presentation at the Forum in Inglewood, which his company rejuvenated in 2014 with a $100-million face and body lift, Madison Square Garden Co. chairman James L. Dolan cited a short story from science-fiction author and futurist Ray Bradbury’s 1951 anthology “The Illustrated Man” as something of a spiritual model for the new facilities.

In particular, he referenced Bradbury’s story “The Veldt,” which centered on a high-tech room of the future, called the “liquid crystal room,” which could synthesize any environment in which children desired to play or explore.


  • April 28, 2007 — Ashes of actor James Doohan and of Apollo 7 astronaut Gordon Cooper soared into space aboard a rocket.

(10) SIXTY-THREE. Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus takes his monthly whack at my favorite-in-the-Sixties prozine: “[April 27, 1963] Built to Last?  (May 1963 Analog)”.

If this trend continues, we can assume that our children and grandchildren will not only have Burroughs, Wells, Verne, Shelley, and Baum to read, but also reprinted copies of our present-day science fiction, as well as the SF of the future (their present).  Perhaps they’ll all be available via some computerized library — tens of thousands of volumes in a breadbox-shaped device, for instance.

The question, then, is whether or not our children will remember our current era fondly enough to want reprints from it.  Well, if this month’s Analog be a representative sample, the answer is a definitive…maybe.

(11) HORTON ON HUGOS. Catching up with Rich Horton’s commentaries about the 2018 Hugo nominees and who he’s voting for.

My views here are fairly simple. It’s a decent shortlist, but a bifurcated one. There are three nominees that are neck and neck in my view, all first-rate stories and well worth a Hugo. And there are three that are OK, but not special – in my view not Hugo-worthy (but not so obviously unworthy that I will vote them below No Award.)…

This is really a very strong shortlist. The strongest shortlist in years and years, I’d say. Two are stories I nominated, and two more were on my personal shortlist of stories I considered nominating. The other two stories are solid work, though without quite the little bit extra I want in an award winner….

This is by no means a bad shortlist. Every story on it is at least pretty decent. …

(12) SIPPING TIME. Charles Payseur finds stories with reasons for the season: “Quick Sips – Fireside Magazine April 2018”.

Spring might finally be arriving, and at Fireside Magazine that means the stories are about rebirth and new beginnings, even as they’re about decay and endings. For me, at least, spring always brings to mind thaw. A thawing of the world after the long freeze of winter. Which means new growth, new green, but also means revealing all the death that the snow concealed. The roadkill, the rot, the dead leaves not yet turned to mulch. And these stories find characters at this point, seeing all around them the evidence of death and pain, and having to make the decision to also see the life. To see the good, and to try and foster that good, to help it grow. These are stories that show people pushing back against the pressure to die, to be silent, and embrace a future full of the possibility of failure, yes, but also full of the hope of success. To the reviews!

(13) GENIUSES AT WORK. Nine letters from the 1940s by Freeman Dyson show “Another Side of Feynman” at Nautilus.

l through a long life I had three main concerns, with a clear order of priority. Family came first, friends second, and work third.”

So writes the pioneering theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson in the introduction to his newly published collection of letters, Maker of Patterns. Spanning about four decades, the collection presents a first-person glimpse into a life that witnessed epochal changes both in world history and in physics.

Here, we present short excerpts from nine of Dyson’s letters, with a focus on his relationship with the physicist Richard Feynman. Dyson and Feynman had both professional and personal bonds: Dyson helped interpret and draw attention to Feynman’s work—which went on to earn a Nobel Prize—and the two men traveled together and worked side by side.

Taken together, these letters present a unique perspective of each man. Feynman’s effervescent energy comes through, as does Dyson’s modesty and deep admiration for his colleague.

(14) ADVANCED TRAINING. Did MZW graduate from this course?

(15) EJECT. Yes, this is me: I sometime I feel like I have finished delivering the info yet haven’t figured out how to end the sentence. “Your Speech Is Packed With Misunderstood, Unconscious Messages” at Nautilus.

Imagine standing up to give a speech in front of a critical audience. As you do your best to wax eloquent, someone in the room uses a clicker to conspicuously count your every stumble, hesitation, um and uh; once you’ve finished, this person loudly announces how many of these blemishes have marred your presentation.

This is exactly the tactic used by the Toastmasters public-speaking club, in which a designated “Ah Counter” is charged with tallying up the speaker’s slip-ups as part of the training regimen. The goal is total eradication. The club’s punitive measures may be extreme, but they reflect the folk wisdom that ums and uhs betray a speaker as weak, nervous, ignorant, and sloppy, and should be avoided at all costs, even in spontaneous conversation.

Many scientists, though, think that our cultural fixation with stamping out what they call “disfluencies” is deeply misguided. Saying um is no character flaw, but an organic feature of speech; far from distracting listeners, there’s evidence that it focuses their attention in ways that enhance comprehension.

Disfluencies arise mainly because of the time pressures inherent in speaking. Speakers don’t pre-plan an entire sentence and then mentally press “play” to begin unspooling it. If they did, they’d probably need to pause for several seconds between each sentence as they assembled it, and it’s doubtful that they could hold a long, complex sentence in working memory. Instead, speakers talk and think at the same time, launching into speech with only a vague sense of how the sentence will unfold, taking it on faith that by the time they’ve finished uttering the earlier portions of the sentence, they’ll have worked out exactly what to say in the later portions.

(16) A MARCH IN MAY. Naomi Kritzer tweeted photos from a Mayday parade – including a notorious purple cat (who may or may not be named Timothy!…) Jump on the thread here:

(17) WHAT’S THAT SMELL. BBC tells how “Sentinel tracks ships’ dirty emissions from orbit” — unclear they’re picking up individual polluters yet, but that could come.

Sentinel-5P was launched in October last year and this week completed its in-orbit commissioning phase.

But already it is clear the satellite’s data will be transformative.

This latest image reveals the trail of nitrogen dioxide left in the air as ships move in and out of the Mediterranean Sea.

The “highway” that the vessels use to navigate the Strait of Gibraltar is easily discerned by S5P’s Tropomi instrument.

(18) EGGING THEM ON. Did anybody see this coming? “Chicken Run 2: Sequel confirmed after 18-year wait”.

The Oscar-winning animation studio hasn’t set a release date yet. Its announcement comes 18 years after the original flew onto the big screen.

Chicken Run is the highest-grossing stop-motion animation film of all-time – banking £161.3m at the box office.


(19) HOLD THE BACON. On the other hand, don’t expect to see this anytime soon: Hollywood Reporter headline: ““Tremors’ Reboot Starring Kevin Bacon Dead at Syfy”

Here’s a headline you don’t read every day: A TV reboot of a feature film toplined by the original star is not moving forward.

Syfy has opted to pass on its TV follow-up to 1990 feature film Tremors, starring Kevin Bacon.

…Bacon broke the news himself, writing on his verified Instagram page that he was “[s]ad to report that my dream of revisiting the world of Perfection will not become a reality. Although we made a fantastic pilot (IMHO) the network has decided not to move forward. Thanks to our killer cast and everyone behind the scenes who worked so hard. And always keep one eye out for GRABOIDS!”

(20) CHESLEYS. Here is the Association for Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists (ASFA) “2018 Chesley Award Suggestions List (for 2017 Works)”. The members have finished making nominations and ASFA says the finalists will be posted in a few weeks.

(21). UNSUSPECTED GOLDMINE. American news infamously neglects most countries of the world, but who knew there were big sf doings in Bulgaria? At Aeon, Victor Petrov discusses “Communist robot dreams”.

The police report would have baffled the most grizzled detective. A famous writer murdered in a South Dakota restaurant full of diners; the murder weapon – a simple hug. A murderer with no motive, and one who seemed genuinely distraught at what he had done. You will not find this strange murder case in the crime pages of a local US newspaper, however, but in a Bulgarian science-fiction story from the early 1980s. The explanation thus also becomes more logical: the killer was a robot.

The genre was flourishing in small Bulgaria in the last two decades of socialism, and the country became the biggest producer of robotic laws per capita, supplementing Isaac Asimov’s famous three with two more canon rules – and 96 satirical ones. Writers such as Nikola Kesarovski (who wrote the above murder mystery) and Lyuben Dilov grappled with questions of the boundaries between man and machine, brain and computer. The anxieties of their literature in this period reflected a society preoccupied with technology and cybernetics, an unlikely bastion of the information society that arose on both sides of the Iron Curtain from the 1970s onwards.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Cora Buhlert, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Jason, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day johnstick.]

98 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 4/28/18 The Great Emu-Scroll War Was Lost When The Pixels Attacked The Gazebo

  1. Meredith Moment:

    The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson is on sale at Amazon US for $1.99.

  2. @Kyra: None of the claims about present versus past from fans of present tense hold water for me; they don’t match my experience reading fiction. Yeah, don’t write for approval! De gustibus, etc.!

    But I find present tense less transparent than past tense, in fiction. I’ve never noticed more immediacy, connection, or tension in present tense stories, or less in past tense ones. Maybe I just get more immersed in books, once I get going, but unlike past, I notice someone using present tense, but I get no benefit from it.

    That said, it seems related to what we’re used to, e.g., I’ve read more in recent years and it doesn’t bug me nearly as much as it used to. Instead of a strong aversion, now it’s just a mild irritant. I still get an “Oh, present tense…” reaction, which may never go away, but once I settle into a good book, it can be mostly transparent (isn’t always). I presume this is because I’m getting used to it, though it’ll never be my favorite tense for fiction. 😉

  3. Present tense very often annoys me, though when it’s done well I can appreciate the effect.

    OTOH, **editing** present tense can be a royal pain in the petunias, because so many authors try to do it when they really, REALLY shouldn’t. 😉

  4. First step on our new homeworld…

    That’s one small pixel for a fan, one giant scroll for fankind.

  5. JJ: I’m not clear what phenomenon you’re trying to explain. But I haven’t moved or reposted anything. If things vanished and reappeared, I don’t know why.

  6. Second person does have a video-game/choose-your-own-adventure feel to it. Which can actually be a reason to use it if that’s what you want. Charles Stross’s Halting State and Rule 34 use it for just this reason, but also use it remarkably subtly.

    In fact, it was so subtle that I was most of the way through the first of those before I noticed. Then I stopped and said, “when did he start doing that?” but when I looked, it turned out he’d been doing it since the very beginning of the book!

    In Rule 34, he not only uses second-person (subtly, again), but switches point-of-view character in each chapter, while continuing to use second person the whole time. Which really really shouldn’t work, but seemed to–at least for me. It’s also the book where he decided to include no cis characters, quietly, to see if anyone noticed. (I didn’t until later.)

  7. Mike Glyer: I’m not clear what phenomenon you’re trying to explain. But I haven’t moved or reposted anything. If things vanished and reappeared, I don’t know why.

    I’m sure that it’s all just an artifact of the transfer process.

    I started seeing the posts at the new DNS quite early in the process. I received two different “New Post” notifications for the recent thread by Barkley — one before, and one after, I experienced the DNS change. After that point, I also received several comment notifications for that thread — but none of them appear on the thread I can see, so I figure that those people were all still pointed at the old DNS, and their comments all got posted to the old version of that thread (which means that they were subsequently lost). So posted a copy of those comments to the migrated version of that thread.

    Likewise, I’ve reposted numerous other comments on various threads for which I received notifications, but which I cannot see on the thread because they were presumably lost.

    In the meantime, I was seeing comments added to the 4/28 post and the Hugo Voting post, but not getting notifications for them.

    Somewhere in the last 12 hours, the WordPress comment subscription started pointing at the new DNS, and I am now getting notifications which match what I’m seeing on the threads.

  8. One of the most interesting things about the latter two books in the Broken Earth trilogy was how your perception of the second-person sections changed as you realized whowas actually narrating them.

  9. @Xtifr — Stross did a great job with second person. Of course, he’s an interesting writer in general!

  10. I tried to read Rule 34, but couldn’t get further than the first page. Didn’t work for me.

  11. I will take present tense every day over a book written in past tense that refuses to use past perfect when appropriate. That really grates on me.

  12. @Joe H.: “The Broken Earth” was one of those exceptions for me – second person that worked! Mostly it doesn’t work for me, but Jemisin’s a very, very good writer who did a lot of interesting things in those books that worked for me. Which just goes to show, never say never to a tense or person! 😉

    @Xtifr & @Contrarius: I haven’t read Stross (not because he uses second person or present tense or anything, just haven’t gotten to him yet), but there are a couple of his books I’ve been meaning to read (those aren’t the ones).

    @Rev. Bob: That sounds a little less annoying to me, though I’ve probably noticed and rolled my eyes at it somewhere. Then there’s present tense where the author should’ve used past in certain spots, but didn’t; I know I’ve seen this, but I forget where. Everything can be mangled. 😉

  13. @ Xtirf: “no cis characters”? I’m pretty sure that Rule 34 has “no straight characters”.

  14. @13 is fascinating, but both times I opened the link it ate my computer (Firefox process got up to 2GB before I killed it; I’m running 59.0.2, allegedly up to date, but I’ve seen this with many previous versions.) Has anyone else seen this and if so do you have suggestions? (Aside from reading the link quickly….)

    @Lis: I didn’t know that opossums ate ticks. Definitely a Good Thing; I have a friend whose Lyme has recurred in his brain (costing him his career), and I just found out that a classmate has a pacemaker because Lyme got into his heart. (Came up because we were watching deer feeding in the preserve next to his home.)

  15. So far nothing anyone has said regarding tenses actually contraindicates the advice, which applies to virtually all stunt writing tricks. Simply have a good reason to do it, and know some people won’t like it.

    (One of my few published stories to date was in future tense, though, so YMMV. Alas it appears to be lost with the rest of ideomancer, unless someone else has better luck with the wayback machine than I.)

  16. Rev. Bob on April 29, 2018 at 9:42 pm said:
    I will take present tense every day over a book written in past tense that refuses to use past perfect when appropriate. That really grates on me.

    I heard from a friend that her copy editor routinely removed all past perfect uses in her work.
    Words like artificial, archaic, and pretentious were employed as justification for this.
    The discussion did not become violent, probably only thanks to it taking place on-line.

  17. @Rev Bob, years ago I was helping someone at the office with some formal writing, and I had updated his draft from simple past to past perfect. He changed it back, explaining to me the English Major that “passive voice” was always wrong. No matter how I tried to explain it, he would not see that “John had gone out” was no more passive than “John went out.”

  18. That’s not even passive voice.

    The rule for passive voice I was taught is if you can add “by zombies” to the end and have a coherent sentence, it’s passive.

    (Mistakes were made … by zombies)

  19. Then again, I tried to change a Canadian person’s spelling of maneuver* in a Canadian company’s release to the Canadian spelling and had it changed back…

    * manoeuvre. It makes more sense if you know the word has the French “oeuvre”, which many people have seen before, as one of its roots.

  20. Lenora, that was my point. The guy had been made so paranoid about avoiding passive voice that he avoided any verb construction other than present tense and simple past. If you had to add an additional word, that meant passive voice. He knew better than the only person in the office with an English degree and had no patience to try to grasp the difference between “John hit the ball” and “The ball was hit” by zombies LOL…

    Everyone else in the office had majored in accounting or business.

    ETA Thanks for the “zombie” tip. That’s an easy to explain and remember rule.

  21. @Lenora Rose

    Got a chance to read it. Beautiful story! The rhythm and prose were just right. The ending could have maybe used a little clean up but that’s a nit pick (and might be a side effect of speed reading it). Hope you retained the rights or they revert to you with the magazine going under. It deserves a reprint!

  22. Thanks!

    I do retain rights. Ideomancer was a good little zine. I pretty much never remember to sub the few stories I have, never mind the reprints.

  23. Ah, finally, here I am. Shoggoth ate my earlier comment here.

    (1) I had thoughts you can read in the comments, largely about Black Panther’s classification, and how the Chrises fit into it.

    (14) Possums don’t get rabies. Ahem.

  24. Jeff Smith on April 28, 2018 at 10:37 pm said:
    Tiptree used present tense all the time, so as her literary trustee I got pretty comfortable with it. The story “Yanqui Doodle” switches back and forth between past and present, and I couldn’t figure out why. When working on the posthumous collection Crown of Stars I looked at the story several times without makeup no sense of it (I swear I typed “making any sense” there, but I kind of like the autocorrect). One night I cleared off the dining room table and spread the story out page by page, and just went over it again and again, and finally had my “aha!” moment and realized what she had meant to do. The manuscript was incorrect, as was the original Asimov’s publication, but I was now able to fix it.

    Two lifetimes ago I loved that story so much I translated it to give it to my mom. It was my first translation ever and I learned a lot about writing from it. I took it from Asimov’s – where can I find the correct version?

  25. Curiously, French and Italian (northern Italian, anyway) no longer make significant use of their narrative tenses in normal conversation, but they are heavily used in literature (even children’s stories), and you can use them in speech if you’re actually telling a story. You almost never see them in newspaper articles though.

    On the other hand, Southern Italian uses the passato remoto for everything, including things we would use the passato prossimo for in writing. Florentines use the correct tenses and look smug.

  26. So far nothing anyone has said regarding tenses actually contraindicates the advice, which applies to virtually all stunt writing tricks. Simply have a good reason to do it, and know some people won’t like it.

    Then I will. I don’t think present tense is a stunt writing trick, so I don’t think it requires a reason any more than past tense does.

    (I am, however, well aware that some people don’t like it.)

  27. (15) The triggering event that got me into Toastmasters is that I watched video of a talk I gave in which I had disfluencies in pretty much every single sentence.

    TM can be a bit cargo cultish, and surely a zero tolerance approach to disfluencies is excessive, but the fines are trivial, were (in my club) pronounced and accepted in good humor, and they worked wonders.

  28. (11) So far, I’ve only read the short stories, but was very impressed with the nominees. In the 4 years I’ve been voting, this appears to be by far the strongest field. I did not care much for Clearly Lettered…, but I really liked all of the other stories.

  29. In my novella-in-progress I’m experimenting with having one of the POVs in second person. (One of the ways I’m distinguishing the major POVs is by putting them variously in first, second, and third person.) Though technically, the second person parts represent two of the viewpoint characters because you discover it’s one character addressing another character, but the identity of the first comes out later.

    Mind you, I have no idea whether anyone will think it’s well done.

  30. (15) EJECT. “Saying um is no character flaw, but an organic feature of speech; far from distracting listeners, there’s evidence that it focuses their attention in ways that enhance comprehension.”

    It’s possible that’s true for some people, but I find it very hard to believe. Repeated “um”s, “uh”s, “like”s, and “you know” annoy the hell out of me and take my attention away from whatever’s being said — to the point where I may have to tune the person out because it’s so annoying.

    I think part of the problem is that our culture seems to socialize people to believe that someone always has to be talking — and that if there’s a moment of silence, then by all the gods SOMEONE NEEDS TO FILL IT.

    Really, it’s okay to have moments of silence, and if more people realized that, it would be easier for them to avoid using the crutch words. People who aren’t sure of exactly what they want to say next should take a moment, figure out what they want to say, then say it, instead of babbling on mindlessly while they try to figure it out.

    Brought to you by the letters “S”, “T”, “F”, and “U”, and the person who’s had to endure numerous excruciating day-long road trips (and a particularly agonizing 6-hour kayak trip) with people who thought that every damn moment needed to be filled with someone talking, even if they had nothing meaningful to say.

  31. JJ: Your comment reminds me — those non-word noises are also vocalized by speakers to signal they aren’t “yielding the floor” in a conversation.

  32. “I think part of the problem is that our culture seems to socialize people to believe that someone always has to be talking — and that if there’s a moment of silence, then by all the gods SOMEONE NEEDS TO FILL IT.”

    Around 20 years ago, when I started at my current workplace, I remember going out to lunch with my new colleagues. And there suddenly was this silence at the table where everyone there was perfectly happy with there being silence. While I almost exploded because IT IS TRUE THAT IT NEEDS TO BE FILLED.

    I remember complaining enormously to my friends, saying that people were crazy, just sitting there in silence (no one of my colleagues were from Stockholm, my boss from the far north).

    At least we have mobile phones now when the silence arrives.

  33. Mike’s right about the purpose of those words to show you still have the floor.

    They are also lifesavers for people with stutters, stammers, and certain kinds of other speech problems. They’d lose their turn to talk and finish their thought all the time if they didn’t make noises to let people know not to jump in yet. They’re not done!

    They DO have the complete thought, it IS clearly thought out, but it’s taking a while for the whole thing to be produced. A slowdown between brain and mouth.

    They’re buffering, not empty, so “uh, um…” is basically that circle that goes around and around to let you know there’s more to come, hang on a second.

    I can type very fluently, but talking requires a LOT of buffering. Sometimes when I’m tired I’ll actually type to people in the same room, because my writing brain parts work better and faster than my speaking brain parts. If I don’t have something to type on, you’re going to hear a lot of disfluencies and watch me wave my hands around till I can grab the right word, with my eyes closed to cut off input.

  34. I’m not sure it’s particularly culture-specific. Watch enough videos of people from around the world and you’ll hear most of them do something to indicate that they haven’t finished talking yet, even if it isn’t the same vocalisations we use. Comfort with silence is a bit of a different thing from using filler noises while talking.

    Whenever I’ve attempted fully accurate transcription (for the purposes of casual linguistics study) it has surprised me how many ums, ers, repeated words, half-stutters, etc, people go through which I otherwise don’t notice at all. I’ll notice if they’re very frequent but otherwise I mentally edit them out. Very few people are so fluent that they hardly use any. Few enough that I notice the relative absence just as much as I notice someone who uses them very frequently.

    I find it more annoying if someone pauses with no I’m-still-talking indicators at the end of a sentence but before they’ve finished their whole thought – easy to interrupt them by accident and then both their thought and yours gets derailed by sorting that out.

    Re: Tenses and POVs, I notice the more unusual ones but they don’t bother me. Sometimes they pull off rather neat tricks, too, that you can’t do with bog standard third-person-past-tense. All of these things are just tools. They can be done badly or done well. One of the Tobias Buckell stories I read recently used second person to keep the main character distinct during a multiverse story where she met other versions of herself. I won’t say it was such an amazing trick the story wouldn’t have worked without it, but it did work and that’s good enough for me. I’m picky about different things. 🙂

  35. lauowolf on April 30, 2018 at 12:07 pm said:

    I heard from a friend that her copy editor routinely removed all past perfect uses in her work.
    Words like artificial, archaic, and pretentious were employed as justification for this.
    The discussion did not become violent, probably only thanks to it taking place on-line.

    How do you get work as a copy editor without knowing how the English language works?

  36. @ Hampus Eckerman:

    Nah, as long as the complete silence lasts less than 35-50 seconds, it’s a mere lull, givinbg your verbal tanks a moment to recharge. More typically, what you get is the “almost complete silence” when one is saying something utterly stupid (or, something that sounds stupid out of context), just as the rest of the table/room goes silent, to allow one’s stupidity to shine SO much clearer. Me, I prefer the complete over the almost-complete…

  37. Acceptablr silence is 5 seconds. Then something is wrong and we have entered the twilight zone.

  38. Speaking of 2nd person, there’s the second coda in “Redshirts” (the first coda is in first person and the third in third person as I recall).

  39. I write fiction in present tense. Going back during editing to put it in past is painful and I find it difficult to figure out past without making everything passive. I end up doubling or tripling my word count. It’s a big part of why I gave up on the Jewish Vampire series. Just too frustrating especially since the car accident when I now have word recall problems.

    I don’t have problems reading present tense fiction or 2nd person POV. I like the change of pace.

  40. @Meredith: Oh you reminded me – I seem to recall running across people who hate first person (or was it third???). I totally don’t understand that, whichever it was.

  41. There was an entire thread on one of my facebook groups a week ago about how much people hated first-person stories, with all sorts of reasons given for why they were objectively awful–not all of which made sense. (I think my unfavorite was, “When I read a first-person story, I can’t get out of my head the idea that it’s the author claiming to have done everything.”) I just don’t get it. Where does this prejudice come from?

  42. @Heather Rose Jones: LOL, good grief! I wonder how your unfavorite would handle an audiobook in first person. 😛 But yeah, okay, I was remembering right – some people are anti-first-person. Odd, since first person is pretty common, ISTM.

  43. Speaking of first-person, I just picked up a recent Silverberg collection called First-Person Singularities, which contains first-person stories written throughout his career. An interesting idea for a collection, but I want to note a comment he makes in the introduction (wearing his editor hat):

    […] an inexperienced writer working in first-person narrative can fall into the trap of garrulousness; it is all too easy to run off in all directions while telling things to the reader, digressing here and there in the happy, if naive, assurance that the reader is hooked […]

    (BTW, this is my first attempt to post from a temporary loaner machine I’m using while my replacement hard drive is being shipped. In case the post doesn’t make it obvious, this is Xtifr, who is now a few days behind on all his on-line forums.)

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