Pixel Scroll 4/7/18 The Secret Diary Of Pixel Scroll, Aged Four And Five Fifths

(1) HUMANITY. Marko Kloos describes his reaction to “The Münster incident”.

There was a vehicle-based attack in Germany today. It happened in the city of Münster, which is where I spent much of my childhood. I went to kindergarten and elementary school there, and my family still lives in the surrounding area, so they are in the city a lot.

You want to know a Xanax moment? Try texting your siblings after learning of a terror attack in the city where they go to school and do their weekend shopping trips. Today was a sunny day, the first really nice day of spring, and the sidewalk cafes were full. Some asshole with a box truck intentionally crashed it into one of those sidewalk cafes, killed two people, and injured thirty more (six of which are still in critical condition.)

To the dismay of some of the German right-wing party members, the attacker wasn’t a Muslim. He was a 27-year-old German with no police record, but he had a history of mental illness. So nobody gets to make much hay out of this incident–just a brain wired wrong. The perpetrator killed himself with a gun right after he had plowed into the crowd, so this was clearly a suicide that was supposed to make a statement.

…But I keep looking at that picture, taken a minute or so into the incident. The first police car has just arrived on the left edge of the picture, and one of the civilians is hurrying over to them to let them know the situation. But look at the people by the van. They don’t know the background of the attack or the motivation of the driver (other than the fact that it was clearly intentional.) They don’t know if the driver is armed, or if there are explosives in the van. But before the authorities even get there, they are busy helping the injured and each other.

(2) LGBTQ INITIATIVE. Inspired by John Picacio’s success with the Mexicanx Initiative, Chuck Serface has launched the “LGBTQ Initiative for Worldcon 76”.

Recently, John Picacio raised enough money to send 50 deserving Mexicanx professionals and fans to Worldcon 76 happening in San Jose, California from August 16-20, 2018. Let’s replicate that success by opening the door for interested members of the LGBTQ community.  Welcome to the LGBTQ Initiative for Worldcon 76!

You can participate in two ways.

As a Donor

Your donation will fund sponsored memberships for LGBTQ science-fiction and fantasy professionals and fans. We’ve begun accepting gifts already. So far we’ve gathered $1135, enough to fully fund seven memberships.  Help us keep that momentum rolling!  We’d like to help 50 individuals.

Click here to give: http://www.worldcon76.org/donations

As a Sponsored Membership Recipient

To apply for sponsored memberships, send an email to lgbtqworldcon@gmail.com telling me about yourself and why you want to attend Worldcon 76.

You must identify as LGBTQ.

You can be a professional writer, artist, or any kind of performer in the science-fiction and fantasy realm. Why do you want to attend Worldcon 76? Show me your enthusiasm!

You can be a fan. If so, why do you want to attend Worldcon 76? Let’s see that passion!

I, Chuck Serface, will review submissions and select recipients.  Please keep your statements under 500 words. I may ask follow-up questions, however.  If you’re a professional, links to examples of your work would be helpful.

We realize that marginalized groups have felt reticent about joining us, and understandably so. But we need more representation from the LGBTQ community in science fiction fandom! Bring it!

(3) THE TWILIGHT ZONE’S PAST GLEAMING. Galactic Journey’s Natalie Devitt covers “[April 7, 1963] The Twilight Zone, Season 4, Episodes 9-12”.

What is the price you would pay for one last chance at achieving a dream? That is the question that Douglas Winter, played by Robert Sterling, has to wrestle with in Printer’s Devil. Douglas is the editor of a failing newspaper called The Courier. Faced with the possibility of the paper, to which he has dedicated his life, folding, Douglas contemplates suicide. He drives himself out to a local bridge in the middle of the night, hoping to end it all there. At the bridge, he meets a mysterious stranger named Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith is played by Twilight Zone favorite Burgess Meredith. Mr. Smith offers Douglas everything he needs in order to keep The Courier in business. In no time, the paper is beating its competition to the latest scoop. In this surprisingly strong update of Faust, Douglas begins to question if his paper’s success is worth the price he will have to pay Mr. Smith, who is really the devil in disguise.

(4) RULES TO LIVE BY. Stephen L. Carter shares “My own 12 rules of life: Drawn from science fiction but a good fit for reality”.

Like so many other scribes, I have been inspired by psychologist Jordan Peterson’s fascinating book to sketch my 12 rules of life. But mine are different, because each is drawn from canonical science fiction. Why? Maybe because this is the literature on which I grew up, or maybe because I have never lost the taste for it. Or maybe because the sci-fi canon really does have a lot to teach about the well-lived life.

Here are a couple of examples:

  • “Repressive societies always seemed to understand the danger of ‘wrong’ ideas.” (Octavia Butler, “Kindred.”)

Butler, of course, means this the other way around: that a society’s taste for getting rid of “wrong” ideas is a mark of its repressive nature. The time-traveling narrator is explaining the need to get rid of an inflammatory book in the antebellum South — inflammatory in this case meaning that it might spark a slave uprising. Whether the “wrong” ideas that must not be expressed are ideas we love or ideas we hate, the same mischief is afoot. Better by far for us to trust each other to draw the right answers from the wrong books….

  • “The books are to remind us what asses and fools we are. They’re Caesar’s praetorian guard, whispering as the parade roars down the avenue, ‘Remember, Caesar, thou art mortal.’?” (Ray Bradbury, “Fahrenheit 451.”)

As Bradbury notes, a crucial reason to read is that we can be surprised, upset, offended, turned in a different direction. Books at their best make us think. We don’t live in a thoughtful age, and for just that reason, reading books that challenge us has become more important than ever. When we read seriously and thoughtfully, we run the risk that we might change our minds. That’s good. One of the worst things in the world is conformity, which is another word for intellectual cowardice.

(5) EVANGELIZING READERS. Here’s video from this weekend’s Science Fiction Outreach Project at Silicon Valley Comic Con.


  • April 6, 1933 King Kong premiered theatrically. (Trivial Trivia: Upon a re-release of the movie, in 1938, Ray Bradbury & Ray Harryhausen took double dates to see King Kong.)


  • Born April 7, 1915 – Henry Kuttner


  • Mike Kennedy says, “I don’t believe Spielberg got his start like this Bloom County might imply.”
  • Mike also admits, “This Non Sequitur isn’t clearly genre, but given how much Cat Fancy has been going on at File 770, I thought you’d want to see it.”

(9) RADCH AND OTHERS. Glyn Morgan, in an essay for LA Review of Books, devotes a great deal of attention to the Imperial Radch trilogy before exploring the questions “Where Have We Come From? Where Are We Going?: Identity and Self in Ann Leckie’s ‘Provenance’”.

…In Provenance, too, Leckie diverts us toward quieter, more introspective fare, expanding the size and complexity of her universe while retaining the character-driven focus that has become her trademark. Indeed, much of the novel’s success or failure rests on how the reader warms to its protagonist, Ingray Aughskold. At the opening of the novel, Ingray hatches a plot to rescue convicted thief Pahlad Budrakin from the prison planet euphemistically known as “Compassionate Removal” in order to identify the location of the priceless Budrakin vestiges, historical artifacts prized by Ingray’s Hwaean people for their connection to the past. Recovering these vestiges, Ingray hopes, will give her the edge on her brother Danach in the siblings’ lifelong competition to succeed their adoptive mother, the aristocratic Netano, as heir.

The Budrakin vestiges are particularly valuable because they date back to the ancient arrival of the Budrakin ancestors on Hwae. Vestiges of lesser value include party invitations, event tickets, and myriad souvenirs and mementos whose values increase with connection to important figures. It quickly becomes apparent that the Hwaean people’s obsession with vestiges goes far beyond a reverence for momentous artifacts like the Magna Carta or The Declaration of Independence: instead, it resembles a mania for collectibles and memorabilia. This mindset knowingly evokes an environment familiar to science fiction fans and attendees at conventions, some of whom pay significant sums for autographs and photographs of even minor actors from their favorite shows….

(10) HE’S ON THE COVER. At Not A Blog, George R.R. Martin shared his latest triumph as a “Cover Boy” on the Chinese edition of Esquire.

(11) FEED YOUR HEADSET. The TechCrunch headline “MIT’s new headset reads the ‘words in your head” dramatizes things to the point of misrepresenting what this headset actually does. See if you can figure it out:

“The motivation for this was to build an IA device — an intelligence-augmentation device,” grad student Arnav Kapur said in a release tied to the news. “Our idea was: Could we have a computing platform that’s more internal, that melds human and machine in some ways and that feels like an internal extension of our own cognition?”

The school tested the device on 10 subjects, who essentially trained the product to read their own neurophysiology. Once calibrated, the research team says it was able to get around 92 percent accuracy for commands — which, honestly, doesn’t seem too far off from the accuracy of voice commands for the assistants I’ve used.

The MIT Media Lab says:

AlterEgo is a wearable system that allows a user to silently converse with a computing device without any voice or discernible movements — thereby enabling the user to communicate with devices, AI assistants, applications, or other people in a silent, concealed, and seamless manner. A human user could transmit queries, simply by vocalizing internally (subtle internal movements) and receive aural output through bone conduction without obstructing the user’s physical senses and without invading a user’s privacy. AlterEgo aims to combine humans and computers—such that computing, the internet, and AI would weave into human personality as a “second self” and augment human cognition and abilities.


(12) D&D&FUD. C.J. Ciaramella admires “The Radical Freedom of Dungeons & Dragons”, a retrospective on Gary Gygax and D&D at Reason.com.

D&D is a deeply libertarian game—not in a crude political sense or because its currency system is based on precious metals, but in its expansive and generous belief in its players’ creative potential. It’s collaborative, not competitive. It offers a framework of rules, but no victory condition and no end. The world you play in, and how you shape it, are entirely up to you.

In the afterword to the original D&D manuals, Gygax encouraged players to resist contacting him for clarification on rules and lore: “Why have us do any more of your imagining for you?”

(13) BUT WAS IT WEARING A KILT? More on the Skye discovery: “Giant dinosaur tracks found in Scotland reveal the secrets of the Jurassic period”.

The discovery is being lauded for how much it can tell us about the Middle Jurassic Period, in particular, an important time in dinosaur evolution when meat-eating tyrannosaurs and the first birds came exist. The find was made at Brothers’ Point on the north-east coast of the Island of Skye. While it is now a collection of craggy ridges and stunning rocky beaches, the area used to be subtropical in the days of the dinosaurs, with lagoons and rivers.

(14) POKEMON INFILTRATED? The keen-eyed Hampus Eckerman asks –

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, ULTRAGOTHA, Dann, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

70 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 4/7/18 The Secret Diary Of Pixel Scroll, Aged Four And Five Fifths

  1. (1) “Always look for the helpers.” —Fred McFeely Rogers, quoting his mother

    Cam was looking at you.
    Cat, what did you do?

  2. 4) I read the whole article and I’m still unsure if ‘facinating’ was sarcasm or not.

  3. 1) Minor correction: According to German news reports, the attacker was 48 years old, not 27, “bio German” (i.e. German passport and ancestry) and did have a history of mental illness. No political motivation recognisable so far and he’s definitely not an fundamentalist Muslim.

    I was vaguely aware that Marko Kloos was from Münster (which is approx. 150 kilometres south of where I live and indeed a very pleasant city) and I’m glad that his family is okay.

    And talking of the urge to help, the university hospital of Münster had so many blood donors that they had to turn people away.

  4. @Ultragotha —

    LOL! If I were on my laptop, I’d post a link to the vid on Youtube of Lehrer performing that song. If anyone cares, you can find multiple Lehrer performances there. 🙂

  5. Morning.

    Finished The Good House. Loved it. Review live now, not waiting for Monday.

    Oh, and thank you to everyone who didn’t warn me how dark it is. If you had, I might have skipped it.

  6. 1) I saw Marko’s original tweets of horrified reaction to this in real time.

    12) the GM adversarial relationship to the players in early D&D could be, if I squint, to be considered “libertarian”. The GM (the authority) is there to screw over, trick, befuddle and if possible kill the PCs. (c.f. the infamous Tomb of Horrors).. This sort of hostile relationship was a default for many games for years thereafter.

    13)…if its not Scottish, its crap?

  7. 1) We did have the same kind of deed in Stockholm more or less exactly one year ago. The impact was larger, because all subways and trains were closed down, because the perpetrator escaped.

    The fantastic thing was to see how people started to organize on twitter. They opened up their homes to strangers under specific hashtags. People in the suburbs ordered food for them. Outside Stockhilm, haters were screaming, but in Stockholm there was this strange kind of community. I went in to the city with flowers the day after and people were so careful around each other. Waiting for their turn in the subway, never bumping into any other. Moving slowly, letting others pass. Things that never happen in a busy city.

    Catastrophes sometimes bring out the best in people.

  8. Hampus, sometimes not even catastrophes are needed. Houston driving was always a somewhat grinding experience. Motorists there operated on the Fait Accompli system: “There. I have moved into your lane. You can now either kill us both or you can let me get away with it.” Yet, whenever a traffic light went out, the veneer of bestial self-interest seemed to peel away, and everyone became a polite turn-taker. Same thing in Hampton Roads, Virginia, normally an overheated, snarling rat king of traffic, but which became a picture of cooperation right out of a Driver’s Ed teacher’s happiest dream.

  9. @9: An interesting overview and review; it makes clear, in non-academic language, just how threatening works like Leckie’s are to the Puppyview — even without (AFAICT) being written in response to it. At the end of The Analog Men (aka Hell’s Pavement) we learn there aren’t enough sane people to keep the world going without artificial monitors; Leckie suggests there are enough (collectively?) sane ~people to work us through problems, however messily. (This is provoked partly by some of the principles in @4.)

    @Cora: the university hospital of Münster had so many blood donors that they had to turn people away. This seems to be a common factor even in the US, where blood donors at least used to be a smaller fraction of the populace than elsewhere. (I haven’t seen figures in some time; in the 1970’s and 1980’s it was reported as 3% vs 5%.) Ordinary appeals work moderately, but a disaster wakes people up (sometimes uselessly — there was a huge surge after 9/11, when relatively little blood was needed).

  10. (12) Re: “libertarian” games

    This is thoughts spinning off, not in any way challenging the interpretation of D&D in this context…

    One of the most fascinatingly libertarian table-top games that I play regularly is Settlers of Catan. (It is, as I only semi-jokingly explain, one of the Rituals of My People.) I’m thinking specifically of the context of economic exchanges of resources, at least as practiced by the people I play with regularly. Within the basic framework (exchanges must involve the turn-taking player and cannot involve a functionally zero-content exchange on either side) we get a lot of aspects that would be interesting to study from a game theory perspective: past reputation as a factor in willingness to exchange, willingness to exchange as a strategy to affect third parties, complex exchanges (“if I get resource X for you by exchanging with someone else, will you be willing to exchange Y to me for it?”), and even trust-based futures exchanges (“if you exchange X to me in this turn, I pledge not to occupy space Y that you want during the next two turns”). There’s even a fair amount of “mood of the market” involved. (“I have no hope of getting out of last place, so I’m not going to participate in the economy or maybe I’ll participate in disruptive ways.”)

    I’d be interested in other people’s “game culture” experiences on this one and whether they parallel mine.

  11. Hugo homework (largely C&P’d from my goodreads account; add me as a friend any time):

    “All Systems Red”: The blurb totally lies: “all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is”. LIES. Murderbot wants to be left alone to watch its stories, it’s very #relatable. Not surprising to see that FanficFan!Murderbot already has a bunch of stories on AO3. A really excellent story; as usual, the Novella category is going to be closely fought.

    “In Other Lands”: Did you ever love Rodney McKay? If the answer is “No, can’t stand him, what an asshole” then you probably should stay away from this book. If the answer is “Yes”, then you’ll love Elliot.

    I laughed, I cried, I worried and admired along with him. Even though Elliot is, in fact, an asshole, and frequently an idiot. But he reminds me of — or maybe he predicted — the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas students, who are his age and have an equally strong grasp of what children should, and should not, be expected to do. And what they *can* do, while adults are doing the same stupid things over and over.

    That was great, but I’m going to take a break from the YA ballot for a bit: there’s only so much teenage angst I can stomach at one go. Next stop, more novellas! And a run at New York 2140.

  12. Doctor Science ponders I’m in moderation and I don’t know whyyyyyyyyy.

    I’ve nbeen in moderation several times and never for content. If you misspelled your name, email address or site, it’ll bounce you into that status.

  13. Doctor Science: We went through a period here when some commenters felt free to refer to others as assholes and I got tired of looking at it. So now I moderate all comments with that word. Nearly all of them still get posted.

  14. I suspect the entity we call “Timothy” has had thousands of names over the millennia …

    My personal game culture is ruthless and obsessive. I have been a ludophile all my life. I grew up playing boardgames with my brother, and Avalon Hill with the boys in AP electronics. My AP classes introduced me to D&D in the ‘80s and I did tabletop for a while (lots of Steve Jackson), but then I fell in love with video games and the internet. Was married to another gamer for a spell, we used to chase each other around playing LAN Diablo (and get into epic arguments over the cow armor). Got hooked on MMOs, made my way to WoW, was an every-night-progression-25s raider for a couple years, then the guild imploded after an expansion. These days I play mostly WoW (mostly solo/casual), Hearthstone (anon multiplayer) and Cuphead, with occasional fits of housebuilding in Sims 4. I’m slightly annoyed that the pending WoW expansion comes out the day before I leave for WorldCon, so I’ve only got about 24 hours to geek out with it before I have to tear myself away from the computer and do hardcore social interaction (feck!).

    While I can be a benevolent liberal player who nurtures noobs and fosters team spirit and goodwill amongst my guildies, I have some definite PVP skills. I can be a team player, sacrificing myself for the group night after night, and I can be a shadowy ronin that grabs the treasure and runs. A lot of the time, I can be that repetitious grinder who spends hour after hour on incredibly boring tasks, because it flattens out my brainwaves and helps me think. I used to be a more sociable multiplayer gamer, but ever since Gamergate it’s all partisan and ugly, plus I don’t get along with either side, so I mainly hang out with randomly-assigned strangers and people from my Facebook groups. Right now I’m grinding out the last allied race in WoW, exploring the jungle in Sims 4 and obsessively assaulting the queen of the candy castle in Cuphead (an absolutely gorgeous game based on 30’s style animation which is currently eating my brain).

  15. The Queer Scholarship is fascinating! The Journey is quite demographically diverse (gender, ethnicity, age, and preference), so we heartily approve of the concept.

    Donation made, and thank you, Mike, for letting us know about it!

  16. 9) Interesting review article. It certainly reveals more depth to the book than I had appreciated.

    Also — “The first book in this series, Ancillary Justice (2013), is also the first novel to win the major science fiction awards on both sides of the Atlantic: the Hugo, the Nebula, and the Arthur C. Clarke (it also won the British Science Fiction Association award, the Locus Award for Best First Novel, the Kitschies award for best debut, and the Japanese Seiun Award for best translated novel).”

    Huh. I had forgotten it won all those!

    @Chip —

    @9: An interesting overview and review; it makes clear, in non-academic language, just how threatening works like Leckie’s are to the Puppyview

    You would think, though, that if the pups were being intellectually honest with themselves (don’t laugh, it could happen), they would embrace much of Leckie’s central tenets, which at times are quite libertarian. As explained in the review:

    “As with the gender of characters, this conflict of identities foregrounds the way in which characters accept identity choices in Leckie’s novels at large, underlining the primacy of individual choice and the importance of staying true to one’s individual needs and feelings.”

    No surprise, of course, that the pups fail to appreciate the libertarian bent amongst all that evil gender subversion. It’s only okay to be libertarian in the ways THEY approve of, of course! 😉

  17. Meanwhile, I’m now reading “Down Among the Sticks and Bones”, and I’m confused by this sentence:

    Had they been allowed to grow according to their own paths, to follow their own interests, they might have met Alice, and Peter, and Dorothy, all the children who had strayed from the path and found themselves lost in someone else’s fairy-land.

    Peter? Peter who? P. Pevensie followed Lucy, P. Pan is in his own fairyland. ++scritches head++

  18. I remember reading Advanced Dungeons and Dragons – the introduction in the Dungeon Master’s Guide (IIRC) took a very strong line on following the rules, and if you didn’t follow the rules as written you weren’t playing D&D.

    Not exactly what I’d call libertarian, and I’m pretty sure that was from Gygax himself

  19. 10 – King Lear?

    Just read Jeff Noon’s A Man of Shadows. Which is toweringly ambitious, but a bit uneven in pacing. It takes place in Dayzone, where the sky is made up of multitudinous lightbulbs, with everyone working to their own timezone. Lots of dislocation/feeling of not belonging/struggling characters, and is a fascinating book. Some of the writing is almost poetic. It’s kind of JG Ballard and M John Harrison, I guess? Still not sure if awesome or overcomplicated, but the atmosphere of last half dozen chapters is lyrical and haunting.

    Any other filers read this?

    Always liked him since Vurt

  20. I’m about 12 hours in (audio version), but I think I’ma gonna give up on The Way of Kings, at least for now. Some interesting ideas — I especially like the natural history bits, with the animate plants and the giant crustaceans, though I’m disappointed by the horses — but my God it seems like it’s taking forever to get anywhere. Perhaps when there are more books and people are able to see the overall shape of the series it’ll turn out to be something marvelous, but for right now I’m completely running out of patience with the bloat. It feels like Sanderson took waaaay too many pointers from the later Jordan, only with less interesting immersive details.

    On to something with more forward momentum!

  21. Reading-wise, I finished River of Teeth, which I enjoyed, and started Taste of Marrow, just because it’s another short novella and because I did want to see what happens next.

  22. When my younger son was smaller than he is in my WordPress picture and I therefore had a lot of time sitting still but not enough brain to read full novels, I decided I was going to try something someone else had used to thin out their own TBR bookcase, which was this: Read the first chapter, and ONLY the first chapter, or each book, and filter it in or out by how much it grabbed me.

    A few books made the cut easily (Laura J. Mixon’s Glass Houses is the only one that jumps to mind immediately as me setting it down after going “Wait, I’m well into chapter two”. The book wasn’t quite as good as its promise, but I still enjoyed it), but only 4 got cut easily, and enough others fell into “Would intrigue me enough in the right mood, will decide later” that I gave up after a shelf and a half.

    Despite having some interest in epic fantasy, and having enjoyed some of his prior works, the Way of Kings, which I’d gotten as a convention freebie when it was fresh, didn’t make the cut.

    I’m not heavily planning on voting this year (I could afford it so I could still get a supporting membership, and have considered it), or I might feel obliged to see if it’s in one of the boxes of possible trades still in the house, but to be honest, even if I do decide to, the unfinished finite series has the lowest chance of winning me over and therefore would be bottom of my priority list, even below KSR.

  23. So while waiting for the library to find various Hugo nominees for me, I read the following:

    The Tea Master & the Detective: excellent! Highly recommended! Will probably be on next year’s nominating ballot. Loved both characters, secondary characters were well done, too, and the mystery as such was also good.

    The Wrong Stars: hmm. good if you like that sort of thing (I do). Characters were okay. I picked it up on sale, and I may pick up the sequel eventually, just to see if it goes where I think it will.

  24. Just finished the first volume of Diana Wynne Jones’ The Chronicles of Chrestomanci. It was great worldbuilding and fun, but does anyone think Christopher Chant the Chrestomanci protagonist is kind of a major dick?

  25. Doctor Science: “In Other Lands”: Did you ever love Rodney McKay? If the answer is “No, can’t stand him, what an a$$hole” then you probably should stay away from this book. If the answer is “Yes”, then you’ll love Elliot.

    Well, that doesn’t bode well for me. I’ve been debating on whether I want to attempt to read the YA finalists, because of the few YA novels which I have read, the majority of them have valorized selfishness and stupidity as heroic traits. 😐

  26. @Lenora —

    Read the first chapter, and ONLY the first chapter, or each book, and filter it in or out by how much it grabbed me.

    These days I try to give each book at least five hours (I do almost all my “reading” by audio). I’m quite tolerant of slow pacing as long as the book can keep me interested (like Jordan most of the time), so I try to give a book time to decide what it wants to be when it grows up. 😉 But enough is enough!

    I’m on to

    Down Among the Sticks and Bones

    now, which I’m eyes-on-the-page reading instead of listening to (not willing to pay the $$ for a novella-length audio, and I already had the ebook), and though McGuire and I usually don’t quite mesh, I’m enjoying it so far.

  27. Contrarius: I really like it, although there were a few bits in Oathbringer that dragged a bit even for me. One thing about The Way of Kings (and much of Sanderson in general) is that a lot of the slower parts come together towards the end and you get a lot of fairly non-stop action at that point. I’ve found the payoffs to be worth the early waiting. I will also fully admit I am a sucker for detailed secondary worlds – I appreciated, e.g., some of the Interlude chapters that show facets of the world that haven’t really impacted the main narrative yet.

    I would, incidentally, not generally recommend starting Sanderson with The Way of Kings: I’d go with either the Mistborn trilogy or Warbreaker (which is available for free on his website). But obviously that’s not really helpful for this year’s Hugo ballot.

    Having said all of that I would not have nominated The Stormlight Archive for the Series Hugo until at least the release of Book Five (there’s apparently going to be a timeskip/break between the two halves of the series) since there are definitely some significant open plot and character questions for which I’m awaiting resolution.

  28. @Goobergunch —

    Thanks! And yeah, I’ve read Sanderson before. I quite liked the everything-including-the-kitchen-sink-ness of Elantris, and I was impressed with the first book of Mistborn (my enjoyment decreased somewhat with books 2 and 3, especially the ending). And I thought he did a good job taking over for Jordan (I never have finished the whole WoT series, but I did read the first book he cowrote). So I don’t have anything against Sanderson in general.

  29. @jayn: “Just finished the first volume of Diana Wynne Jones’ The Chronicles of Chrestomanci. It was great worldbuilding and fun, but does anyone think Christopher Chant the Chrestomanci protagonist is kind of a major dick?”

    He is in a job he never wanted, on call 24-7. Also a lot of his interactions with Cat were based on the idea that Cat knew what he was, and knew exactly what he was doing. That tends to make one rather less congenial.

  30. Goobergunch: I would, incidentally, not generally recommend starting Sanderson with The Way of Kings: I’d go with either the Mistborn trilogy or Warbreaker

    I really enjoyed the Mistborn trilogy, Warbreaker, his two Legion novellas, and especially The Emperor’s Soul. And I thought that Sanderson deserved a Hugo just for pulling off a satisfying ending to the convoluted mess that was The Wheel of Time.

    But I thought that the Perfect State novella gamed onto the ballot by the Puppies was rather pedestrian, I found the novella Snapshot a little too formulaic, and I found the first Wax and Wayne novel so tedious I DNFed it. I am not optimistic about The Way of Kings, based on what a bunch of Filers have said.

    A few years ago I wrote a pretty scathing review of a book which I DNFed after 110 pages (25%). In their own review, someone else wrote a response to my review saying, “If you only read 25%, of course you’re going to completely miss the point”. My response to that is, “If I haven’t gotten even a glimmer of an enjoyable read after 110 pages, then, for me, the book has failed.” If I read 100 pages of The Way of Kings and it’s not working for me, I’m not going to feel obligated to read any further. And even if I do enjoy it, I’m not likely to rate an obviously-incomplete story as Best Series.

    Right now I’m on the second Raksura book and enjoying the series very much — but I don’t think it’s going to come close to surpassing The Divine Cities for me. After that is the Lady Trent series, and then the InCryptid series. And then The Way of Kings will get its chance.

  31. The first chapter only thing was meant to filter out the sorts of things that one impulse-buys when buying used books anyhow, gets free one way or another (per the Convention swag bag example above) and thinks might maybe be worth reading enough not to return to the trading table during the con, or picked up for research or at someone else’s recommendation or because they’re supposed to be a classic and you really should sometime, but have sat there for 5 years plus. IE, not the section of Mount TBR that is made of books I know 100% for sure I WILL read. Since a lot of people winnowing their TBR piles under those circumstances pull out books without reading them at all, it felt like a good compromise.

    (IOW even if I had rejected every book in the part I was winnowing, I would have still had 2 shelves’ worth. Instead I have 6+.)

    As it is, it turned out I couldn’t be ruthless enough to pull it off.

  32. @Rose Embolism
    According to The Lives of Christopher Chant, while he disliked the idea of eventually becoming the Chrestomanci for most of the book, when he actually had to take over for the present Chrestomanci because he’d been incapacitated he found that ur rawblrq vg naq qvqa’g jnag gb fgbc.

    So when he grew up and took over the office in A Charmed Life, I really had more sympathy for Gwendolyn than I think I was supposed to.

  33. It’s been a while since I read Charmed Life, but my recollection is that the reader is supposed to at least wonder if Gwendolyn has a point about him until the point where they really grasp how awful she herself is and what she’s done. And maybe even for a while after (Since two wrongs don’t etc).

    I always find him aloofish and kind of distant, and too convinced of his own cleverness and I don’t think it’s just me — though it’s most and most bluntly called out in Conrad’s Fate, IIRC — but I don’t dislike him.

  34. It has long seemed to me that not just Christopher Chant/Chrestomanci, but most of her protagonists or leadership characters, are often dicks. Not decent, not kind, and not because it’s essential to the important roles they play.

    I realize this is not necessarily a widely shared judgment on her characters, but it’s how I’ve always perceived them. Fun to read about; glad I can close the books and not have them in my life. I like Terry Pratchett’s characters a lot better, and Diane Duane’s,and a long list of other authors.

  35. @ Dr Science re: Peter

    As I recall, Peter Pan was a real-world boy who fell out of his pram unnoticed and thus ended up in Neverland. So I think he fits the description and is probably the referent.

  36. I just finished Down Among the Sticks and Bones. I gotta say I liked it much more than Every Heart a Doorway, which did not especially appeal to me last year. I’ve just started a reread of Every Heart to see if it improves with a second reading, given that I now have more back story for Jack and Jill.

  37. Re: Chrestomanci, etc. One thing I always liked about Howl, another too-smug protagonist, is that the heroine calls him on it constantly. I think Chrestomanci is a bit more sympathetic after—is it Charmed Life? The one where he’s young?—but he’s basically got the Doctor Who problem of being powerful and smug and the answer to everyone’s problems and we don’t get the likeability of an actor to soften it.

  38. Lis Carey on April 8, 2018 at 6:15 pm said:

    It has long seemed to me that not just Christopher Chant/Chrestomanci, but most of her protagonists or leadership characters, are often dicks. Not decent, not kind, and not because it’s essential to the important roles they play.

    That may have something to do with the authority figures in her life growing up. Her upbringing was abusive.

    Time of the Ghost is evidently semi-autobiographical.

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