Pixel Scroll 4/10/17 The Phantom Scrollbooth

(1) OFF THE HOOK. Remember when she said she didn’t write sf? Now she is sf. Margaret Atwood makes a cameo in the game Zombies Run:

Hampus Eckerman adds, “I do recommend that game as a very good way of activating oneself for jogs or long walks. There is an additional game called Zombies, Run! 5k Training by the same creators for people who aren’t fit enough to jog as yet. It works as a prequel and lets you do basic exercises and gradually increased walk/runs for eight weeks to get fit enough to hit the main game. The main game works as a radio theatre, where your progress is checked by GPS and where (configurable) zombies sometimes attack you, forcing you to increase your pace.”

(2) MAYDAY. On Obscura Day, May 6, Atlas Obscura plans an international self-celebration.

Join us at an event.

We’re hosting over 170 events in 36 states and 25 countries.

A kayak exploration through the largest ship graveyard in the Western Hemisphere. A private tour of the world’s original nuclear power plant. A classical concert in an abandoned hilltop spy station outside Berlin. What discoveries await you?

There are a bunch of events in the LA area, including a walking tour of The Kitschy Culture of Los Feliz Village, not far from Forrest J Ackerman Square.

(3) AN UNORTHODOX MOVE. Michael A. Burstein helped his Facebook readers translate the Four Questions. But not the way you might assume….

Once again, for those of you celebrating Pesach (Passover) as it begins tonight, here are the Four Questions in Klingon:

(4) MORE ABOUT CHINESE SF. Another interview with the author of “Folding Beijing” — “Award-Winning Sci-Fi Writer Hao Jingfang Sets Her Sights Closer to Home”.

When you first posted Folding Beijing for free on a Tsinghua university server, was that also for pleasure?

Yes, when I was in school, I had lots of time.

I am very surprised that studying physics, especially quantum physics, gave you a lot of time?

Perhaps that’s why I didn’t become a scientist! I was a good student, but not one good enough to become a scientist. Probably 95% of the physics students entered other fields after graduation. Only 5% to 10% of the top students became real physicists.

Is sci-fi an effective tool for investigating social issues?

I think science fiction is perhaps the freest genre for me to set my characters and everything else according to my opinion. Because in pure literature, I need to make sure I have the whole background and the reality of the people. You cannot just change the reality, if you do that the readers will be like ‘oh no! Life isn’t like that’. In science fiction you’re free, you can set the stage and tell readers, life is this, and you can form other stories on that stage. In my longer novel, I created one society on Mars and another on Earth, and then I can compare different policies and methods in these two places. The two societies can mirror each other. This is the kind of freedom I cannot find anywhere else.

(5) COODE STREET ADDRESS. The April 2 edition of The Coode Street Podcast promotes “A New Theory of Science Fiction.” The podcast is looking at Robinson’s New York 2140 which Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan claim is more in keeping with the Heinlein thesis that capitalism can fix Big Problems without a change in political and social structures. And they believe it’s also critiquing the controversial usage of info dumps and the belief that they’re particular to SF.

They also cover the history of the Crawford Award, the ICFA and Gary’s new History of Science Fiction.

(6) FIRST ON THE LIST. Popsugar ranks this café as “The 1 Place in Scotland that All Harry Potter Fans Should Visit at Least Once”.

Scotland is a veritable mecca for Harry Potter fans, considering J.K. Rowling herself lives there and wrote a large majority of the series there. Everywhere you turn, you can see Rowling’s inspiration or something that could easily be found in one of the films. While our Harry Potter travel bucket list can take you all over the world, it’s important to make a stop at where it all began: the Elephant House Cafe in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The cafe in the heart of Edinburgh touts itself as the birthplace of Harry Potter, because Rowling spent countless hours in this shop penning Harry Potter. She sat in the back of the restaurant, overlooking Edinburgh Castle and Greyfriars Kirkyard, where a grave for a man named Tom Riddell can be found.

(7) BROWN OBIT. Chelsea Brown (1942-2017), best remembered as a cast member on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In in the Sixties, passed away March 27 at the age of 74. She also had a genre credit — as Rosey Grier’s love interest in The Thing With Two Heads (1972). As the New York Times explains —

In that film, the head of an ailing bigot, played by Ray Milland, is grafted onto the body of a death-row inmate played by Mr. Grier, a former defensive lineman in the N.F.L. Car chases, gunfights and bickering ensue.

Mr. Grier and Mr. Milland eventually reach Ms. Brown. At first undaunted by Mr. Grier’s second head, she moves in for a kiss, then quickly withdraws and deadpans, “Honey, I know you don’t like to answer a lot of questions — but, but, how did that happen?”


  • April 10, 1981 The Howling was released in theaters.


  • Born April 10 – David Langford

(10) TIME’S A-WASTIN’! There’s less than a week left to vote in the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards and Steve Vertlieb would like people to take a look at his nominated blog.

My blog, BETTER DAYS; BENNER NIGHTS, has been nominated for BEST BLOG OF 2016 in this year’s annual RONDO AWARDS competition. To vote for my series of articles, just send your selection (along with your name and E-Mail address) to David Colton whose voting address is tara[email protected] prior to Sunday night, April 16th, 2017, at midnight.

Thanks sincerely for your consideration of my work. It’s an affectionate remembrance of the Saturday Matinee and 1950’s television when classic cliffhanger serials thrilled and excited “children of all ages”… when careening spaceships and thundering hooves echoed through the revered imaginations and hallowed corridors of time and memory…and when Buster Crabbe lovingly brought “Flash Gordon,” “Buck Rogers,” and “Captain Gallant Of The Foreign Legion” to life in darkened movie palaces all over the world. Return with us now to “those thrilling days of yesteryear” when Zorro, Hopalong Cassidy, “Space Patrol,” Ming, The Merciless, and Larry “Buster” Crabbe lit the early days of television, and Saturday afternoon motion picture screens, with magical imagery and unforgettable excitement.

(11) LIADEN UNIVERSE. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have posted their appearance calendar for the rest of the year.

We’ve had some queries about upcoming publications, and upcoming appearances, and, and — herewith an attempt to get them all in one place, for you, and for us.  Please note that the list is probably not complete; it’s only as complete as far as we know, as of Right Now.

(12) MAKE SCI-FI COME TRUE. GeekWire claims “NASA funds ideas from science fiction”. Well, if they’re smart they do.

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program, also known as NIAC, has been backing far-out aerospace concepts for almost 20 years. It started out as the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts, modeled after the Pentagon’s DARPA think tank.

NIAC’s latest crop of 22 tech projects was announced this week, and they include a few concepts that were virtually ripped from the headlines of science fiction’s pulp magazines. Here are our favorite five:

Flying airships of Mars: The idea of sending airships floating through the Red Planet’s skies dates back to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom novels of the early 20th century.

One big problem: Mars’ actual atmosphere is so thin that an airship would have to maintain a vacuum to become buoyant. That’s exactly what Georgia Tech’s John-Paul Clarke intends to do with an experimental double-shelled, reinforced vacuum airship….

(13) EVEN BETTER. The 2084 anthology of dystopian fiction hit its funding target and now is plowing through its stretch goals.

Stretch goals!

After an opening week like that there’s only one thing we can do… And what better way to make the anthology better than with more stories? We’ve got more great writers lined up – people who will bring a fresh angle to the theme, people whose writing we love – and they’re poised and ready to go, right now. The first target is nice and easy, as well…

£6,000 – we add another story – HIT!

£7,500 – we add a second bonus story – HIT!

£9,000 – we add a third extra story

(14) SOUND OF HUGOS. Camestros Felapton can’t believe his ears. (I really want to make this a Spock reference. I’m sure you do, too.) “Hugo 2017 Review: Splendor & Misery by Clipping”.

Experimental Hip Hop group, Clipping are not a stereotypical Hugo nominee but I’d be hard pressed to name an album that is so tightly linked to the Hugo tradition. Science fiction themes are not new to popular music from David Bowie to Janelle Monae but Splendor & Misery approaches science fiction from a different direction musically. Rather than reaching for the broader aesthetics of SF visuals, Splendor & Misery dives directly into science fiction as both a narrative and as a distinct historical genre.

(15) THOSE TRAD PUB JUNKIES. Claire Ryan (intentionally) revives the Sad Puppies favorite argument in “The Hugo Awards are irrelevant”.

I went to Amazon.com, and I took a look at the current bestsellers for sci-fi and fantasy in Kindle. I found a couple of self-published authors immediately. Let’s not hash out the same tired arguments that the indies are somehow less worthy or less talented, please. Clearly the readers don’t think so. Hugh Howey and Amanda Hocking probably have more readers than all the current Hugo Best Novel finalists put together, and they’ve never even been nominated.

(16) LONDON CALLING. Shhh! Please remember, Jonathan McCalmont abhors attention.

(17) KAEDRIN BLOG. Mark Kaedrin says the novel category of the final Hugo ballot looks pretty good.

The novel ballot looks pretty good and indeed, I’ve already read three of the nominees, all of which were pretty good (and two of which were in my nominations). Ninefox Gambit is the clear front-runner for me, with its intricate worldbuilding and simple, pulpy plot. A Closed and Common Orbit ranks a distant second, but I liked its focus and positive attitude enough to throw it a nomination. All the Birds in the Sky has a great, whimsical tone to it, but of the novels I’ve read, it’s the one that could fall behind some of the things I haven’t read yet. Speaking of which, Cixin Liu returns to the ballot with Death’s End, the conclusion to the story begun in the Hugo-winning Three Body Problem and the one I’m most looking forward to catching up with (even if it requires me to read the second novel, which I never got to last year). Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning has been on my radar for a while, but I never pulled the trigger. It sounds like it has potential for me. N.K. Jemisin’s The Obelisk Gate rounds out the nominees. A sequel to last year’s Hugo-winning The Fifth Season, a book that I have to admit that I did not enjoy at all. Well written and executed, but it felt a little too much like misery-porn for my liking, and thus I’m not particularly enthused about reading the sequel. I realize this puts me in the minority here, but it’s got me seriously considering not actually participating this year. I really don’t want to return to that gloomy world of suffering and despair, as well written as it may be…

He’s able to restrain his enthusiasm about some of the others.

(18) RED, WHITE AND BLUE. But somebody in their comments says they use Russian rockets – “Building on ULA’s Heritage, Setting the Pace for the Future of Space Launch.”

As a new era dawns, ULA continues to set the pace in space launch. Building on a heritage extending to the early days of American space launch, ULA is bringing future innovations to the table to support human launch from American soil and next-generation technology that will create transportation infrastructure to support a permanent human presence in space.


[Thanks to JJ, Hampus Eckerman, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, and David K.M. Klaus for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]

135 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 4/10/17 The Phantom Scrollbooth

  1. The ConCom’s response to Valentinelli is a classic in patronizing disregard for a woman’s experience.

    And oh crap, was their response to publish PRIVATE Emails? Who the hell is running things over there, Sean Spicer?

  2. @Rose Embolism:
    From the Nerd&Tie link:

    Update (4/11 3:45pm): While we have not received a response, Odyssey Con Co-Chair Janet Lewis has taken to the official convention Facebook group and posted copies of the convention’s correspondence with Valentinelli.

    Update (4/11 5:45pm): Odyssey Con seems to have deleted the posts and official statement from Facebook.

    So it seemed someone over there did eventually figure out that the initial response was indeed a bad idea.

  3. @rob_matic: “If there is awesome SFF out there, I want to know about it.”

    Just in case, I did mention Cidney Swanson’s Saving Mars series here some time back, right? Six books, but I’m not sure now whether they’re indie, small press, or transitioned from the former to the latter. Pretty sure they’re not Big Five, but the current covers are very different from the ones I got. (And, to my mind, not as good. I liked the more realistic style.) Anyway, my capsule review is “reminds me of what a modern Heinlein juvenile series might be, in all the best ways.”

    Speaking of indie-YA-with-teen-girl-protag series, Maddy Edwards has a decent one running with Paranormal Public. The first nine books are one big arc, and I’m holding off on the next few (starring her little brother) until that arc’s complete and I can dive into it all at once. I recall some editing issues, but I think they were fairly minor with one major exception. (One of the books had several duplicated chapters. I got in touch, and I’m pretty sure it’s been fixed.)

    Let’s see, there’s also the IFICS “mindwiped cyborg girl” trilogy, the Daggers & Steele “second-world police procedural” series, Robert Bevan’s coarse-but-funny Caverns and Creatures series that plays the “gaming group gets sent to the game world” trope for laughs (and could use some editing), and Michael Bailey finally has a new Action Figures superhero novel out, which reminds me that I need to read his first fantasy novel…

    I do try to read a good chunk of indie work and rate it fairly. Most of those examples are from the last couple of years and fall squarely into the “remember liking them pretty well” category. Looking at Goodreads, a couple of the books hit five stars, more are four, and the ones that are three tend to be “four for content, minus one for editing.” I still intend to keep up with all of those series that are still producing new volumes, so I’m definitely putting my credit where my mouth is.

  4. @rob regarding Afro-Futurism: Yes, I’m old enough to remember George Clinton when he was new. Ditto Sun Ra. But, back then there’s no way an album like that would have been nominated, particularly when we only had one Best Dramatic category instead of two.

    I will provisionally accept @Camestros’ characterization of Ms. Monae. If she was built by some futuristic engineer, would that make her a Related Work? Oh, the future WSFS Business Meetings when “natural person” is expanded to cover AI.

    @Scott Lynch: please accept this internet I forgot to give you last night. You have to share it with @Ann Leckie, though.

    @Andrew M: Yes! Long Way to a Small Angry Planet was MUCH MUCH better than the second. I was incredibly disappointed by Chambers’ sophomore slump. It seemed trite and had less sensawunda. I require my space opera to have sensawunda.

    @bookworm1398: Yes, do stay up all night. The Amber books were written before doorstops; I think all 5 of them mass less than one GRRM. The second 5 are entirely optional and not worth staying up all night. Not to the level of Star Wars prequels, but certainly lesser. Read those and then go back to Hugo work.

    Regarding indies: Cat Rambo has listed some excellent authors indeed. I’ve read and enjoyed all of them. Start with those authors. Along with Oor Wombat and Oor Heather, of course. If you want Heinlein juveniles without problematic aspects, buy everything by L.J. Cohen. Pretty hard SF, diverse cast, the teens aren’t perfect and the grownups aren’t idiots. And it’s proofread!

    Serieses: both the McGuire and Gladstone books are anything BUT light urban fantasy. Gladstone’s is in a different world from ours, and both have some really, really terrifying parts where even if Good wins over Evil, it’s temporary and not without losses, sacrifices, scars, and PTSD. Not grimdark, but darker than Peter Grant (who also gets into scarier stuff as the books go on. People who’ve read them all SPOILER Jura Yrfyrl erirnyrq fur jnf jbexvat jvgu gur Snpryrff Zna? NNNTTTUU! Naq gur qrzba genc znqr ol gbeghevat gur qbtf, lvxrf.).

    McGuire’s really picks up around book 3. From most to least dark of the fantasies, I’d say McGuire, Gladstone, Aaronovich, Novik. I’m glad none of them are unrelieved grimdark though; there are a lot of laughs, relationships, and downtime along the way. Toby Daye has acquired a lovely if odd set of friends.

    “Teddy and the Puppies Fail Again”; is that really news at this point? It’s kinda up there with “Sun (Appears To) Rise in East”, “Temperature is generally lower in winter than summer”, “Cats are popular on Internet”.

    OdysseyCon: Cruising to new levels of stupidity!

    I follow MRK so that’s where I heard about it first; then Jim Hines.

    Yeah right, they never heard of any problems with their Guest Liaison. It must take a lot of work to be that cut off from news nowadays. Do you think they know about Brexit and Trump? Have they heard about Armstrong and Aldrin?

  5. Soon Lee:

    Despite two attempts, I have never made it past fifty pages of John Crowley’s “Little, Big”…

    I had a similar experience. Nevertheless, I persisted.

    I liked it much more the third time, when I knew enough not to expect a conventional narrative. And now that I’ve read it all the way through, im looking forward to reading it again, now that I know the overall shape of it and can better appreciate the details.

    So in my case, I went from “I don’t get this at all,” to “Man, I wish I could write something this cool.” It helped that the opening scene has such wonderful language…

  6. lurkertype on April 11, 2017 at 5:20 pm said:
    That was interesting – and yeah, Kirk wasn’t usually chasing females.
    (Duane has a remark about that in one of her novels, where the glass spider (and I’m not going to try writing her name without checking, because I’d likely get it wrong) is teasing Kirk about his rep with females and her being in his quarters, and he says something to the effect of “not often as I wish there had been”.)

  7. The audible versions of the Chronicles of Amber books are also excellent. Zelazny read the first 9 books. He died before recording book 10. I think Wil Wheaton did 10.

  8. @lurkertype:

    I will provisionally accept @Camestros’ characterization of Ms. Monae. If she was built by some futuristic engineer, would that make her a Related Work?

    And what if someone made a short film about exactly that? Would that be a Related Work? A Related Related Work? A Dramatic Presentation (Short)? You tell me:

  9. I just checked Jonathan McCalmont’s Twitter feed and he has now gone into complete meltdown. His reading comprehension skills also haven’t improved.

  10. @Contrarius: our mileages vary. The first may have had a different tone from the others (although I don’t remember this), but I think of “light and breezy” as being something like a typical first-person Heinlein — and I didn’t get anything like that feel.

  11. “I just checked Jonathan McCalmont’s Twitter feed and he has now gone into complete meltdown. His reading comprehension skills also haven’t improved.”

    He’s really puppyesque in his way of twisting words and drawing weird conclusions.

  12. He’s really puppyesque in his way of twisting words and drawing weird conclusions.

    After looking at his Twitter feed, I can only conclude that he is a really stupid motherfucker.

  13. Oh, for pete’s sake, JMC and his buddies are talking about File770’s “hatred” of him. Ridicule, sure, mockery, bafflement over some of his stupidity… but “hatred”? Melodramatic, much? 🙄

  14. Coincidentally, it’s also not true that McCalmont has never interacted with Scott Lynch before, since both were active on the same, long defunct forum approx. 10 to 12 years ago. No idea if they ever interacted directly – it’s been ten years now – but it’s not a case of “I don’t even know these people”.

  15. Cora: it’s not a case of “I don’t even know these people”

    McCalmont suffers from the same delusion as the Puppies, in that he thinks declaring “I’ve never even heard of that person/website!” provides a stunning demonstration of that person/website’s insignificance, rather than offering regrettable evidence of his own ignorance.

  16. @Mark: For me, I’d feel generous if I disliked book 1 and couldn’t bring myself to read book 2, and just left it off the ballot. However if I actively hated something else and wanted to put No Award on my ballot to vote against it, then this other book I merely disliked and didn’t want any more of – ugh, I’d have a dilemma on my hands. Eek.

    @airboy: Dresden, now there’s an example of what folks are talking about upthread. I DNF’d the first Dresden and can’t imagine wasting time finishing book 1 or reading more. Yeah, yeah, I hear it gets so much better (though then I hear some books, maybe late-series, are a little meh). Different strokes. And if it were on the Best Series list, though, I’d just leave it off my ballot; I wouldn’t No Award it.

  17. @Cheryl S.: The Obelisk Gate is not hearts and flowers, ’tis true. But if it were possible to give away spoons – why yes, I would give them to you right this instant, because you thought the previous one was extraordinary! Hmm, someone needs to invent a spoon transference machine. 😉

    @Andrew M & @rcade: Also, the pro sales (or eligible indie sale) just starts the clock. It’s not like we can’t consider their fanfic that made no money, etc. 😉

    I feel it’s silly for someone out there (not here) to complain that this award doesn’t do what they want. It’s not supposed to; it has its own purpose.

    @Various: I “reread” the Amber books via audiobook and it was a great way to reread them, although 6-10 were uneven and parts were not nearly as good as the first set. The unabridged ones I got from Audible were 1-5 by Alessandro Juliani and 6-10 by Wil Wheaton, both of whom did a good job.

    @P J Evans: Oh, no! I liked Children of Dune a lot. Even “God Emperor,” though it’s been a long time, so I don’t know how well it will hold up, if I reread it. Hmm, I don’t have audiobooks of anything but book 1. What the heck?! I should rectify that.

    @Jack Lint: “Take the Skinheads Scrolling by Pixel von Beethoven” – Oh, you are a magnificent person, thank you. 😀 I didn’t expect a Camper reference here! I saw them at least a couple of times in concert in college, IIRC.

  18. Oh good grief, third time’s the charm. It would help if I even thought about the checkbox before posting. Gaaaaah.


  19. JJ: Oh, for pete’s sake, JMC and his buddies are talking about File770’s “hatred” of him.

    It seems to take a lot of others by surprise, but what we’re witnessing is McCalmont’s expertise at leveraging even more attention from the attention he’s already received.

    Remind you of anybody whose initials are VD?

  20. I read McCalmont’s regular column in Interzone, frequently disagreeing with his opinions when I’m familiar with his topic or books he critiquing. I figure part of his style is to stir the pot with the odd unpopular or controversial viewpoint. But I’m now beginning to wonder how much of his grumpiness stems from his failure to comprehend and consequently drawing wrong conclusions.

  21. Hatred? Really? Yes, I could check Twitter, but I had real children and I already know what tantrums look like.

    @Kendell – Hmm, someone needs to invent a spoon transference machine.

    That would be lovely. I generally have some to spare for everything except suffering and I would gladly trade. While I’m waiting, I’ll just keep reading Death’s End, where the horrible things do not arrive with brilliantly written heartache.

    Much gratitude for those who said I could skip the middle book. You were right.

  22. @Soon Lee: I almost always find McCalmont’s Interzone columns interesting, even when I disagree with him, but I really have no idea what he’s going on about. If he finds the comments in File 770 so objectionable, well, there’s a simple solution for that, isn’t there?

  23. Okay I re-read Scott Lynch and Ann Leckie’s comments very, very carefully. I can see how he might have jumped to the conclusion that he did, but even so I got the distinct impression that they were actually treating him like a spoilt little child.

  24. Oneiros: Okay I re-read Scott Lynch and Ann Leckie’s comments very, very carefully. I can see how he might have jumped to the conclusion that he did, but even so I got the distinct impression that they were actually treating him like a spoilt little child.

    That’s exactly what they were doing.

    It’s pretty clear that Lynch’s intent was not “Go drink yourself to death.” That’s just JMC trying to paint himself as martyr, and making himself look like a real jerk while he’s at it.

    And Leckie’s post is pretty clearly pointing out just how childish JMC is being.

  25. McCalmont undeniably has a brain (there’s good stuff in his archive, particularly on hard SF and certain films), but he can be such a tedious thin-skinned gripe-humper. His comprehension is sharp but incomplete; his writings on fandom are seeded with solid observations and then let down by snide generalizations. His stupid “conformity” quote would be a case in point– and having sneered at something, you can see that he’s prickly about even stray return commentary.

    I had no idea what his private history with alcohol was, and I will take him completely at his word on the subject and desist from ever mentioning it in connection to him again. That seems only fair. But the idea that I “want him to die” is utter nonsense.

  26. @JJ: hell, if I had a reach as long as JMC’s when he’s looking to be offended, I’d have no trouble sending this goddamned project I’m working on at the climbing gym here.

  27. Can you explain to me again, why someone who obviously doesnt want attention, is having a twitter account?

  28. Dissenting opinion here.

    I know the “go drink yourself into a stupor” comment wasn’t *intended* as it was taken, but given how little we know about each others’ histories and experiences, why even go there? I have family and friends who have struggled with alcoholism and other substance abuse problems, and I’m sure that’s true for many of us. I just don’t think it’s something we should joke about in reference to people we don’t know very well.

    Just my two cents.

  29. @Nerds of a Feather:

    I didn’t see it as a joke about alcoholism at all. What I read was Scott Lynch comparing JMC to a fussy baby. Change their diaper, give them a bottle, put them down for naptime. And I’ve certainly seen the joke of adults being given a baby bottle with liquor instead of milk before. In this case there was an added dig about conformity since one of the original tweets was about peer-group uptake + conformity.

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