Pixel Scroll 4/12/16 My Pixels Were Fair And Had Scrolls In Their Hair

(1) MAN INTO SPACE. Wake up The Traveler – the thing sf fans have dreamed about just happened! “[April 12, 1961] Stargrazing (The Flight of Vostok)” at Galactic Journey.

The jangling of the telephone broke my slumber far too early.  Groggily, I paced to the handset, half concerned, half furious.  I picked it up, but before I could say a word, I heard a frantic voice.

“Turn on your radio right now!”

I blinked.  “Wha..” I managed.

“Really!” the voice urged.  I still didn’t even know who was calling.

Nevertheless, I went to the little maroon Zenith on my dresser and turned the knob.  The ‘phone was forgotten in my grip as I waited for the tubes to warm up.  10 seconds later, I heard the news.

It happened.  A man had been shot into orbit.  And it wasn’t one of ours.

(2) MAKING IT BETA. R. S. Belcher thanks “The League of Extraordinary Beta Readers” at Magical Words.

Stephen King says in On Writing, to write with the door closed and edit with the door open. I agree wholeheartedly with that sentiment. Your beta readers get first dibs when you open that door, they are your test audience. I have worked with different beta readers on different projects and over time, you find the folks that are going to help you the most with getting the very best out of your writing. A few tips I’d offer that have worked for me.

1) Punctuality: If it takes your beta reader as long to read and get your MS back to you as it took you to write it, they may not be the person you need. By the same token, if you get it back the same day you sent it off to them to read, chances are they skimmed it, so take their advice with a grain of salt.

2) Consistency: If three of your beta-readers all pick up on the same thing, LOOK AT IT and consider their advice. I’ve found that that trait is a flag for readers who I can count on to be giving me good, consistent feedback on trouble spots in the book.

3) Objectivity: If all a friend, family member, or loved one can give you as feedback is how awesome every word is, that is great for the poor writer’s ego but not much help to the professional writer. By the same token, if all you get is negative feedback, you may need to take that advice with a grain of salt too.  Some beta readers are glass-half-full people and others are more glass-half-empty.

(3) STARTING LINES. Rachel Swirsky studies the first lines of her own stories, then others’.

“First lines Part I: Half a Dozen of My Recent Stories”.

I decided it might be interesting to look at some of the first lines of my stories. I’m grabbing a half-dozen first lines from some of my recent publications. I’m only looking at stories that are online, so if people want to see how the first line relates to the rest of the story, they can.

Tomorrow, I’ll look at a half-dozen from some of my favorite stories.If this proves interesting (to me or readers), I may do more another time.

Love Is Never Still” in Uncanny Magazine

“Through every moment of carving, I want her as one wants a woman.”

I’m happy with this–which is useful because I essentially just finished it (six months ago). The story begins as a retelling of the myth of Galatea, a statue who is wished to life when her sculptor falls in love. For people who are versed in Greek mythology, this should evoke Galatea as a possibility — carving, want, woman.

“First Lines Part II: from Some of My Favorite Stories”

The Evolution of Trickster Stories among the Dogs of North Park after the Change” by Kij Johson

“North Park is a backwater tucked into a loop of the Kaw River: pale dirt and baked grass, aging playground equipment, silver-leafed cottonwoods, underbrush, mosquitoes and gnats blackening the air at dusk.”

Obviously, this sentence is scene setting. Kij makes it beautiful with her specific details: “pale dirt,” “baked grass,” “aging playground equipment,” “silver-leafed cotton-woods,” “mosquitoes,” “gnats.” Almost all of the details evoke slow decay–“backwater,” “baked grass,” “aging.” Insects don’t gather in the air so much as dirty it–“blackening” the dusk. The evoked colors are washed out–pale, baked, silver–we can possibly also include the old metal and rust of the playground equipment. The silver-leafed cottonwoods are the exception here–the color is on the grey/black spectrum, yes, but the tree still sounds beautiful. This is decay, but not hopeless decay.

The sentence also establishes the academic tone. This is the kind of sentence assembled by someone speaking authoritatively about a subject, not describing their sensory impressions of the world. The phrasing is formal and complex, and the use of the colon an even more significant marker.

(4) BEYOND LIMITS. John Carlton’s “Generation Ships”, an interesting critique of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora, focuses on the requirements for such a space mission. How many other stimulating observations might Carlton have made if he had read the book?

Kim Stanley Robinson wrote a book recently apparently to show that interstellar travel is impossible….

It’s not possible to travel between the stars and even if we could, the missions would all fail.  Of course he also believes that utopia is possible as some sort of Socialist paradise.  Now that’s a fantasy….

As an engineer, I think that Mr. Robinson is clearly wrong. Or at least, he doesn’t understand the basic rules for setting mission parameters and designing to meet those parameters. Mr. Robison’s vessel failed because he wanted it to fail. But to extend that to saying that ALL such proposals would fail is more than a little egotistical. And wrong, really wrong.

Now I haven’t as yet read the book. Reading Greg Benford’s review left me going WTF, WTF, WTF, are you kidding? If you are going to write a book on pioneering could you at least set it up so that the pioneers are at least a little realistic. A ship without a captain or seemingly a crew? No community structure? What was it, a commune in space? Of course something like that is going to fail. That’s what happens to fragile structure and the commune is the most fragile of all. Just look at all the failed examples in the 19th Century. So that’s fail #1….

(5) GALAKTIKA MAGAZINE. SFWA President Cat Rambo has been following A.G. Carpenter’s reports about the Hungarian magazine that published numerous stories in translation without paying the original authors. Rambo wrote a post at her blog about receiving “Answers to Some Galaktika Magazine Questions”.

In the process of talking to people, I dropped Istvan Burger [editor in chief of Galaktika] a mail because I had these questions:

  1. Would all writers be paid, preferably without their having to contact Galaktika?
  2. Would all translators be paid? (my understanding was that the same lack of payment has happened with them.)
  3. For any online stories, would authors be able to request that the story be taken down?
  4. Would a process be put in place to ensure this never happens again?

Here’s the reply:

Dear Cat, I’m writing on behalf of Istvan Burger, editor in chief of Galaktika.

We’d like to ask authors to contact us directly to agree on compensation methods. You can give my email address to the members. [email protected]

The short stories were published in a monthly magazine, which was sold for two months, so these prints are not available any more. So Authors don’t need to withdraw their works. As we wrote in our statement, there is no problem with novels, as all the rights of novels were paid by us in time.

Also let me emphasise again that all the translators were paid all the time!

You can quote my reply. Thank you for your help!

Best regards, Katalin Mund, Manager of Galaktika Magazine

(6) CARPENTER OPINES ON LATEST GALAKTIKA RESPONSE. Anna Grace Carpenter, who has been developing this story, commented on Burger’s answers to Rambo in “Galaktika Magazine: Legacy”.

Mr. Burger and Mr. Nemeth have offered vague explanations that are, quite frankly, not satisfactory given the number of years this theft has occurred. But whether it was ignorance or laziness or just the inclination that if they could get away with it, they would, something has to change drastically going forward.

I would really like to think that the offer to provide compensation for the authors whose work has been stolen indicates the problem has been resolved. Although requiring the individual authors be aware they’ve been stolen from and making them responsible for seeking payment does not seem a good faith step.

And there is the question that Cat Rambo raised regarding whether authors could or would be able to request their work withdrawn from Galaktika. She referenced a potential online edition (which is seems there is not one), but the response from Katalin Mund was as follows.

The short stories were published in a monthly magazine, which was sold for two months, so these prints are not available any more. So Authors don’t need to withdraw their works.

As I mentioned earlier, a comment from a Hungarian reader promptly revealed the misrepresentation of that statement.

They state it, but this is a flat-out lie. Nearly ALL back issues are available for ordering on the publisher’s webshop, http://galaktikabolt.hu/. I checked, and every issue from the year 2015 is available now. (The original article on mandiner.hu was about the magazine’s 2015 issues.) They’re not digital copies, the physical, paper-based issues are still sold.

At the very best, Mund and Galaktika are misrepresenting the situation regarding further sales of the pirated work. And this is key – they are selling that work.

(7) HEINLEIN SOCIETY SCHOLARSHIPS. The Heinlein Society is taking applications for three $1,000 scholarships for undergraduate students at accredited 4-year colleges and universities.

The “Virginia Heinlein Memorial Scholarship” is dedicated to a female candidate majoring in engineering, math, or physical sciences (e.g. physics, chemistry). The other two scholarships may be awarded to either a male or female, and add “Science Fiction as literature” as an eligible field of study.

Applicants will need to submit a 500-1,000 word essay on one of several available topics.

Those interested should fill out the Scholarship Application 2016 [PDF file] and print or email. The deadline to apply is May 15. Winners will be announced on July 7.

(8) KEN LIU. At B&N Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog, Ken Liu describes “5 Chinese Mythological Creatures That Need to Appear in More SF/F”. You know it’s a winner, because five!


Usually depicted as a sort of winged lion—but with the wings folded to the sides of the body—the pixiu is said to be one of the nine children of the loong. Like the loong, it has antlers on its head (the male pixiu has two antlers and the female just one).

As one of the most auspicious Chinese mythological creatures, statues of the pixiu once stood at ancient city and palace gates as guardians. These days, the pixiu is more often seen in the form of small jade pendants dangling from rear-view mirrors or worn as jewelry for good luck. In this evolution lies a rather interesting tale.

In the oldest Chinese sources, the pixiu is depicted as a ferocious beast. The legendary Yellow Emperor recruited the fiercest animals into a special unit of his army in the war against the Yan Emperor, and the pixiu made the cut along with bears and tigers and similar apex predators (another interpretation of this passage is that the beasts were the totems of the tribes who followed the Yellow Emperor). In classical texts, the pixiu is thus often used as a metaphor for a powerful army.

But folklore also speaks of the pixiu violating the decorum of the heavenly court by pooping on the floor. To punish the creature, the Jade Emperor sealed the pixiu’s anus so that it could only eat but never defecate. The pixiu is supposed to go around devouring evil spirits and demons and convert their essence into gold and treasure, which it must hold in its belly forever. This explains the pixiu’s reputation as a bringer of wealth.

I like to think of the pixiu as a precursor for the modern military-industrial complex.

(9) MAGAZINE TO SUSPEND PUBLISHING. Interfictions Online is going on hiatus after the November 2016 issue. The editors have posted this letter:

Dear Friends of Interfictions,

With your support, we have run a marvelous magazine for three years.

At this point, Interfictions needs to take a break to allow the Interstitial Arts Foundation to figure out how to best support us. Our archives will remain available and free, but as of December 2016, the magazine will be on indefinite hiatus.

We will be ending this round of the magazine with a fantastic fall issue in November 2016. We’re going to solicit material for it, so there won’t be an open submissions period. We promise it will thrill and inspire you!

Thank you for participating in this project as artists, writers, readers, and listeners.

Sincerely, The Editors

(10) AFTER YOU SELL THE SERIES. Women in Animation’s Professional Development program will present a panel on Tuesday, April 26 – “They Said Yes! Now What?”

A follow-up to last year’s highly successful panel, “Who Says Yes? And Why?”. This panel will cover what someone who has created or developed an animated series does once they get a positive response, the legal and business issues of the actual deal, and what you can expect after the studio or network says yes, including the development process from this point forward (What? You thought you were done developing it  when you sold it?) and just how much you can expect to be involved with or in charge of the series.

Free for WiA members. $15 for non-members. Panelists include Jennifer Dodge (SVP, Development, Nickelodeon Preschool), Cort Lane (SVP, Animation & Family Entertainment, Marvel Televsion), Annette van Duren (agent), Donna Ebbs (producer, former exec at The Hub and Disney), and Craig Miller (writer-producer)

(11) STORY OF YOUR LIFE. A Paramount movie based on Ted Chiang’s short story “Story of Your Life” is expected to open in the fall of 2016. Amy Adams will play the linguist Dr. Louise Banks, Jeremy Renner will play the theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly, and Forest Whitaker plays a military figure (Colonel Weber). An extended segment of the film was screened at CinemaCon, a trade show for theater owners.

io9 has the news:

A linguist and a theoretical physicist are the stars of the latest movie from the director of Sicario and the upcoming Blade Runner 2. The movie is Story Of Your Life, based on the short story by Ted Chiang, and this Amy Adams/Jeremy Renner movie looks awesome.

Paramount Pictures screened an extended look at the film as part of CinemaCon, a trade show in which movie studios show their upcoming films to theater owners. Paramount showcased Ninja Turtles 2, Ben Hur, Jack Reacher 2 and plenty of other upcoming releases (not including Star Trek Beyond, for some reason.) But the highlight was Story Of Your Life, which has no release date yet but is expected to open this fall.

(12) VOLCANIC ENDINGS. Leah Schnelbach, writing at length about “Preparing Myself for Death with Joe Versus the Volcano” at Tor.com, implicitly argues that this Tom Hanks movie is worth the fine-toothed-comb study she gives it.

At the dawn of the ’90s, a film was released that was so quirky, so weird, and so darkly philosophical that people who turned up expecting a typical romantic comedy were left confused and dismayed. That film was Joe Versus the Volcano, and it is a near-masterpiece of cinema.

There are a number of ways one could approach Joe Versus the Volcano. You could look at it in terms of writer and director John Patrick Shanley’s career, or Tom Hanks’. You could analyze the film’s recurring duck and lightning imagery. You could look at it as a self-help text, or apply Campbell’s Hero Arc to it. I’m going to try to look at it a little differently. JVtV is actually an examination of morality, death, and more particularly the preparation for death that most people in the West do their best to avoid. The film celebrates and then subverts movie clichés to create a pointed commentary on what people value, and what they choose to ignore. Plus it’s also really funny!

The plot of JVtV is simple: sad sack learns he has a terminal illness. Sad sack is wasting away, broke and depressed on Staten Island, when an eccentric billionaire offers him a chance to jump into a volcano. Caught between a lonely demise in an Outer Borough and a noble (if lava-y) death, sad sack chooses the volcano. (Wouldn’t you?) Along the way he encounters three women: his coworker DeDe, and the billionaire’s two daughters, Angelica and Patricia. All three are played by Meg Ryan. The closer he gets to the volcano the more wackiness ensues, and the film culminates on the island of Waponi-Wu, where the Big Wu bubbles with lava and destiny. Will he jump? Will he chicken out? Will love conquer all? The trailer outlines the entire plot of the film, so that the only surprise awaiting theatergoers was…well, the film’s soul, which is nowhere to be seen here…

(13) HOW MANY STICKY QUARTERS IS THAT? A Frank R. Paul cover from the collection of Dr. Stuart David Schiff is currently up for auction. The owner of “Where Eternity Ends”, a pulp magazine cover from the June 1939 issue of Science Fiction, is looking for an opening bid of $6,000.

Here’s how the piece looked when published. The original art can be seen at the auction link.

(14) YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST. The Hugo results are in!

(15) VIRGIN AMERICA HUMOR. Jeb Kinnison writes, “Friend Steve Freitag works as a gate agent at Virgin and often comes up with fun comments on the status sign. Since they’re being bought by Alaska and probably won’t be free to have such fun soon, he put up a selection of the best…”

Here’s a sample – click to see the full gallery.

View post on imgur.com

(16) THE ART OF THE DICE. David Malki (Wondermark) posted a new batch of Roll-a-Sketch artwork.

I just got back from the Emerald City Comicon in Seattle, and here are a few favorites of the many Roll-a-Sketch drawings I made for folks there!

Roll-a-Sketch, as longtime readers know, is something I do at conventions and other appearances: folks can roll some dice to select random words from a list, and then I have the task of combining those words into a creature! …


 [Thanks to Jeb Kinnison, John King Tarpinian, Rob Thornton, and Will R. for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

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196 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 4/12/16 My Pixels Were Fair And Had Scrolls In Their Hair

  1. @TheYoungPretender

    Yep. I think the big value of having an industrial base on the moon is to extract minerals (e.g. rare-earth metals) without damage to Earth’s environment.

    The energy cost of transporting mass from the moon to Earth doesn’t have to be bad because it’s downhill most of the way. Lifting stuff up from the Earth into orbit is fabulously expensive, but bringing it back need not be.


    I’m not finding the link right now, sadly, but there’s been some work done on getting processed ores back down without losing 1) half the product, 2) anyone in a wide radius under them.

    I had mentioned it, because in any state with a great deal of mining and a strong enough state government to prevent the mining companies from burying the research, you get a very good look of quite how much crap one must deal with. Waste-water is a key issue because there’s a crap ton of it, and the sheer variety and quantity of poisons in it is quite something, and most critically, the more it’s researched, the more it’s becoming obvious that there may be no good way of preventing it from leaching out into the biosphere.

  2. Also, if it’s totally legit to believe we could have great leaps in scientific and technical knowledge that will make space settlement more practical, isn’t it just as legit to believe we could have great leaps that will make terrestrial industry much cleaner? For that matter, if I shouldn’t bet against technologies that make interstellar travel viable, why should I bet against technologies that let us keep Earth’s mantle from cracking? Or divert solar megaflares? Etc.

  3. @Jim Henley

    Also, good point on wastewater in refining. So our space-based heavy industries are going to need access to copious water to work, right?

    I think the proposal is to use liquid CO2 (under pressure) to accomplish the same thing.

    Truthfully, I think it’ll need decades of experimentation to figure out the right way to exploit the moon’s vacuum, temperature extremes, and lower gravity. Existing techniques are all optimized for conditions on the surface of the Earth.

    For example, it might turn out that an excellent way to refine some metals is simply to focus sunlight on the ore and heat them enough to break the chemical bonds. On Earth, this might fail due to the metals instantly oxidizing again. Someone just needs to get up there and start trying things.

    I suspect the biggest problem (which may be fatal) is that lacking the Earth’s plate tectonics, hydrosphere, and gravity, the moon simply may not have any ores. It may be nothing but plain old rock with no special concentrations of metals at all. (This is part of the reason why some folks think it’s asteroids or nothing.) But, again, it’d need a fair investment of time and effort to determine that for sure.

  4. @Jim

    Half those rocks up there are mostly ice. It’s why the aliens steal the water trope is so roundly mocked – there are oceans of it floating around up there.

  5. @Greg Hullender: Interesting about the possible refining techniques. Thanks.

    Even most of the asteroids are just rock rather than ore, as I understand the latest thinking.

  6. @Jim

    They are. It’s just as much a matter of smashing them up and leeching trace amounts out until you have usable quantity. The advantage of doing it in orbit is that all of the byproducts are completely separate from the biosphere we are thinking about in the ultra-long term.

    The political question is the big one. The difference between regular deliveries and someone trying to make themselves Space King via Bond villain-esque blackmail could be rather fine.

    But in the end, hoping that technical progress would make space necessary seems to be in the same bin as hoping it will make it ultra-easy. Neither is likely, but the long-term costs of doing it could ultimately be better than the costs of not doing it.

  7. Young Pretender — Charles Stross himself is quite cynical about all that Rapture of the Nerds nonsense — which is why he wrote Rapture of the Nerds with Cory Doctorow, which gives some of the ideas of his earlier work Accelerando a good kicking — and will give any fan who gets rapturous about the technology without regard for the human beings short shrift.

    I think he’s happy to write about technology, but as a British writer he’s not happy to write about it all being completely wonderfully Gernsbackian. And as one of the Scottish Socialist SF Circle (got to think of a snappier name for that) he has no patience for the more Libertarian fans, either. (Even if he has won a prize for writing Libertarian SF. It was an accident! It could happen to anyone!)

  8. @Jim Henley

    Even most of the asteroids are just rock rather than ore, as I understand the latest thinking.

    Yes, but some are iron-nickel-cobalt, although I wonder how many truly valuable metals are there in useful quantities. Asteroids are going to be a lot more expensive to extract from, in energy terms–especially main-belt asteroids. (There was a fun panel on this at the recent NorWestCon, by the way.)

  9. @TYP:

    The political question is the big one. The difference between regular deliveries and someone trying to make themselves Space King via Bond villain-esque blackmail could be rather fine.

    I’m actually less worried about the WMD aspect of dropping heavy objects on Earth from space than other skeptics, probably because I think that even if space-based industry happens, it’s far enough in the future that we’ll either have more mature political and social institutions or we won’t exist.

    But someone earlier was talking about the relative cheapness of dropping heavy objects on Earth, and there I am dubious. For this to be other than a niche activity* and for it to provide the desired ecological benefits, entire industries’ worth or production has to relocate to space. So pick an industry: steel production, say, or a reasonably complete basket of rare-earth mining. How much does a year’s production weigh? How much do the containers for that product weigh? Now how much energy do you need to expend to conduct a soft landing of all that mass from orbit? What forms are practical for that energy to take? Now, where does that energy in that form come from that it gets to the Moon or orbital manufacturing stations? What’s the cost of producing and transporting that energy source to the drop zone? How much pollution of what form comes from the expense of that energy to land that mass of industrial goods?

    Now you start to have an idea how cheap it is or isn’t to get stuff back down the gravity well, and what the net ecological benefit may or may not be.

    *It won’t ever be more than a niche activity.

  10. But … If we don’t go out and mine the asteroids, we’ll never discover the fragments of the alien civilization from the planet that broke up to form the asteroid belt!

    [he said, having spent his formative years reading YA books written in the 50s and 60s — Scavengers in Space, anyone? Or Assignment in Space with Rip Foster?]

  11. On beta readers, I’m on the first draft reader list of an author, and I have to say, I would find the idea of filling out a questionaire on a first draft a bit intimidating, really. I normally make notes as I go, then compile and expand the notes. If the author has any specific things they mentioned when putting up the draft for download, I’ll address those if I think I have anything useful to say.

    But mostly I concentrate on a fairly low level of crit: egregious or subtle spelling errors, grammar lapses, continuity errors, redundant passages, characters acting out of character or overdoing their character, errors in matters of fact, any odd thoughts that occur. Themes and story beats and whatnot, I’m not so hot on, or maybe they just do a fair job on that stuff themselves and they don’t need a lot of crit that way.

    The most involved thing I’ve done was draw up a timeline chart for a multithreaded narrative that showed the various characters’ movements in time and space; no time-travel, just an involved plot in a restricted geographical space where the timing and order of scenes got a bit wobbly. That took a few days with a spreadsheet to work out; mostly, if I take more than a week to read a complete manuscript and write up my notes, I start to feel I’m getting behind.

    Anyway, I must be doing an okay job, as I’m still on their first reader list after a half-dozen books or so.

  12. @Andrew Hickey

    Touchscreens are also inaccessible for (some) visually impaired people, because of the lack of tactile feedback.

    They might be inconvenient, but as long as the users have some hearing, it’s certainly possible to make touch screens accessible. I see blind people using iPhones all the time.

    (The most problematic case, I suppose, is people whose vision is too poor to comfortably pick out controls visually, but not poor enough to make it worth their while to regularly use a screen reader).

  13. Re: Chinese mythology, a translation of =The Classic of Mountains and Seas= is available on Amazon as a Penguin paperback at a very reasonable price, especially if used. I also recommend =Chinese Mythology=, by the same translator, Anne Birrell, also available as a cheap paperback. I bought both of them recently and have been very pleased.

    Since the books are from the 90s, she does use the old Wade-Giles romanization system, but there are several online conversion tables for converting from Wade-Giles (WG) to pinyin (PY) or vice versa. This one looks good and easy to use: http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/mulu/wgpy.html

    Re: Delany, my favorites are =Trouble on Triton= and the Neveryon books. I think that many people who have tried the earlier books and didn’t go for them might like the Neveryon series.

    Re: Reading matter in general, I have just finished a four-book series that I absolutely loved, =The Age of Unreason= by J. Gregory Keyes. I’m surprised that there wasn’t more fuss over these when they first came out, or if there was, I somehow missed it. They are alternate history with maybe-fantastic elements (depending how you interpret the “angels”), set in the early 18th century; they also somewhat resemble post-apocalypse stories, since a disaster occurs that has an effect similar to a nuclear winter.

    Hampus, in case you and your father have not yet discovered these, you will be interested to know that Charles XII, the Lion of the North, is an important supporting character in book 2, =A Calculus of Angels=, and reappears in book 4, =The Shadows of God=.

  14. @TheYoungPretender

    As well as the simple amusement that even in Aurora, hibernation is easy enough that a group of island regressives can whip it together from scratch.

    Wasn’t it more of a case of reproducing the research that had been done on Earth while they were out gallivanting in space for a few centuries?

    I am a sceptic of the value of human space flight not because I expect that we’ll never make any progress on the many difficult issues standing in its way, but because I see current experiments as contributing very little of value to said progress.

    As Richard Feynman said:

    In the newspaper I used to read about shuttles going up and down all the time but it bothered me a little bit that I never saw in any scientific journal any results of anything that had ever come out of the experiments on the shuttle that were supposed to be so important.

    30 years and several billions later, have there really been results out of the shuttle program to refute that view?

  15. My feeling about the generation ship premise is that it’s a really neat place to start a story. Sometimes I wish authors would not try to justify it economically, politically, or in any other supposedly rational way. Just say the people took off in the generation ship because they could (which in my mind implies a wealthy, crisis-free homeworld, with lots of resources and labor available). The later generations get to grow up knowing that Grandma chose this narrow, confining life for them for some damned reason or another, and then what?

  16. @Lucy Kemnitzer, isn’t that pretty much what the premise of Aurora was? The ship was launched because their homeworld could, and later generations started questioning the life that was chosen for them.

  17. 2014 crude steel output was roughly 1,600,000,000 tonnes. Its approx 8,000 kg (8 tonnes) per cubic meter. So that’s a cube approx 585 meters on each side. I wouldn’t stand under it without wearing a hard hat….

    It’d fit inside 193,000 or so 747s. They wouldn’t fly though 🙂

    There’s a lot less copper – 2,800,000 tons. That’s only 68 meters per side, or an NFL field (excluding end zones) covered 70 meters deep. Still wouldn’t stand under that…

    Aluminium is 49,300,000 tons – 263 meters cubed.

    I’d be shocked if I’m not out an order of magnitude, sizewise 🙂

    The bigger problem is that the cost of raw steel has collapsed to $50 per ton, so you’re not going to compete.

    Yeah, vacuum smelting will be really interesting to observe from a distance 😉

    @microtherion – When the ISS only had 3 crew, I think they spent most of their time nailing it back together and keeping it running, so science was a bit sparse. Now the crew is 6 people, they have more chance to do some science, but it’s still a bit basic and most of it is about people in zero g. They’ve had a play at melting some metals but nothing really useful, as far as I can tell. It’s very expensive.

  18. microtheron, it just proves that great minds think alike, because I also have not (yet) read Aurora. I’ve had kind of fifty-fifty experiences with KSR, so I had not rushed to get this one (loved the future California books, hated the Mars ones so bad I did not finish any of them and yes I tried the later ones after bouncing off the first). I’m cheered if he chose that narrative line, though.

  19. Lucy Kemnitzer: I also have not (yet) read Aurora. I’ve had kind of fifty-fifty experiences with KSR, so I had not rushed to get this one (loved the future California books, hated the Mars ones so bad I did not finish any of them and yes I tried the later ones after bouncing off the first).

    I managed about 50 pages of it — 50 infodump-filled pages, with unlikeable characters — before I set it aside, because I had too many other things I wanted to read for the Hugos. I’ll may give it another try at some point, but it’s not anywhere near the top (or even middle) of my list.

    I found 2312 okay, but thought that it had plotting and pacing issues. Shaman was horrible, and a definite case of “Book, meet Wall” after I forced myself to read around 25% of it. So KSR already had 1+ strikes with me, and Aurora pretty much cemented that — though a lot of people seem to really like the Mars books, so I may give those or the Orange County books a try some day, if I’m feeling particularly generous.

  20. 12) Huge agreement on Joe Versus the Volcano! One of my favourite movies of all time. It is absurd, touching, and oh, so funny. Thank you for reminding me that I need to see it again.
    4) I always assumed people would go nuts on a generation ship. I liked the idea so much–floating madhouses getting weirder with each new generation–that I wrote a (horrible) poem about it.


    Space is measured only
    By our lives,
    The slow impulse takes, drives
    Generations through
    The empty Stations of the Cross
    From Loss to Resurrection.
    Our old connection to Earth
    Pulled thin, but still complete,
    A dry and terrible conceit.

    Ten generations gone,
    But not to dust
    Here we die, hanging,
    On this vast, heroic lie,
    Our purpose red-shifting, obtuse,
    Our bodies ‘cycled for
    Our children’s use.

    And they for theirs,
    Until those lucky
    Distant heirs touch down,
    Wear their laurel crowns
    And start the story.

    We have lived and died
    For another’s glory,
    No single chapter ours,
    Just a short citation:
    a prologue or a dedication.

    Down these corridors we pace,
    Servants of that distant race.
    Our hands upon the
    Instruments that might,
    Kill their purpose,
    Oh, Delight!
    Yet we’re held,
    Restrained, cowed.
    Our shackles by the weight
    Of all our dead maintained.
    For now.

    Thank you, I’ll show myself out. (and some weird breaks and font sizes appeared during the cut and paste)

  21. @ NelC

    On beta readers, I’m on the first draft reader list of an author, and I have to say, I would find the idea of filling out a questionaire on a first draft a bit intimidating, really.

    And I’ve had beta-readers who never even opened the “discussion prompts” file. Not everyone wants or needs it. But for people still new to beta-reading who haven’t developed their own set of tools and approaches yet, it’s usually the blank screen that’s intimidating. What do they say after they say whether they liked it? Not having had the luxury of having all experienced beta-readers like you, I’ve had to come up with ways to help them help me.

  22. Chris S: @Tasha – I’d argue that the US has already passed peak learning (education), especially in the southern states, and is on a rapid downslope.
    As you’re in another country, YMMV.

    I must have missed when New Jersey succeeded from the US. I grew up in Massachusetts. I see lots of cool things happening on Kickstarters, libraries, museums, maker spaces (for kids and adults), hackathons for kids/girls/PoC. Maybe I just have more faith in the next generations. American public education has always sucked. But I went to amazing schools doing unusual things. They are still around and more schools are trying new things. Yes they tend to be private or charter or experimental but one never knows when a miracle will happen and we’ll walk away from standard testing, treating students the same, and 40 kids in a classroom without basic resources.

  23. @Jim Henley

    Heh. Well, if you started with Dhalgren and liked it fine, screw my own plan! 🙂

    It helped that I’d been prepared to expect a really weird book. I won’t say it was an easy read. I took a number of breaks. But it wasn’t as difficult as I’d been led to believe. Although I was not prepared for so much detail about biological daily details. Picking noises, pissing off buildings, crapping wherever was a bit much at times. But in the end it all worked.


    I think someone more sensitive to growing up black and gay who’d been abused would have done a better job interviewing Delany. IMHO Shettly lacks a personal touch and understanding to help Delany put his thoughts in proper context. I suspect if Jim C. Hines had done the interview it would be very different.

    ETA: or Daniel Jose Older or a number of queer PoC.

  24. @Heather: the discussion prompts sound great! Very helpful in organizing one’s thoughts and bringing them to mind. Kind of like how multiple choice tests are easier than essay ones. Certainly less intimidating for most people than having to start from a blank page. Plus, then you’ve got your book club questions right there already. I might suggest this to some authors I read for.

  25. @Greg Hullander, re word counts

    I’m mostly being excessively cautious and not wanting to warrant the results from a method I haven’t double-checked. Also, I’ve previously been burned on the differences between (old) OpenOffice and Word in word counts, which mainly resulted in me thinking neither was totally reliable.

  26. Tasha, best wishes for tomorrow/today (allowing for time zones) and the days following.

    Re the intervewer. Didn’t you know that WS has taken a project implicit test? Read back a week or so in his blog and I’m sue he’ll mention it.

  27. Heather Rose Jones — Heh, I guess I’m an experienced first/beta reader now, but I wasn’t when I started. In fact, I resisted joining the author’s reader list on the basis of failing my English Literature O-Level back in grammar school (I blame DH Laurence). So maybe a prompts file would have helped back then, or just reminded me of my failed exam, I don’t know.

    I’ve remembered what I wanted to say last night about beta reading and criticism, but didn’t because I rambled off in another direction, which is that beta reading isn’t quite like critting a published book.

    For one thing, you want the author to read it, and you know that they will read it, so you don’t need to sell the criticism at all. You’ve already got their attention, so no need to frontload your emotional response to whatever sticky bits of the first draft you have; just point out where you have the problem, say a thin bit of world-building for a critical bit of plot, and suggest a way for it to be improved, if you can. Some readers are a bit leery of offering crit, I think, because the crit they read elsewhere is all about the emotional response and they’ve absorbed the lesson that that’s the essence of criticising. Whereas an author, especially an SFF author, often really needs someone to keep track of the details for them while they’re concentrating on getting the story right.

    It’s a bit like having headcanon for a story, except that you can tell the writer that that bit doesn’t work and they can do something about it. “If the antagonist’s race are all proud warriors, who does the paperwork for running their interstellar empire? Is there a bureaucrat class, or is that petty stuff dealt with by conquered aliens? Or is the ‘proud warrior’ story a myth they tell themselves to get them through the daily grind of necessary empire maintenance?” Then the author writes in a line about the AI doing all the paperwork. (Not an actual example.)

    I’ve had the odd discussion in the author’s blog where another reader has gotten stuck on something and doesn’t like my suggestion for why a bit of plot because it’s not what the text says, and I had to point out that that’s our job as first readers: to help the author change the text so that it works, which means sometimes making suggestions that they can write in, or reject in favour of writing something that works better.

    This had a link to our engineer critic in the post, but I’ve forgotten what now, and I need to go have something to eat, so I’ll just trail off inconclusively now….

  28. @microtherion

    There’s a fair bit of science that couldn’t have been done without the Hubble repair and servicing missions.

  29. @WestCoastCanada

    Nice poem!

    Certainly in the resentful, rebellious, teenage years of the second generation you’re likely to see that. Longer term though it’s the culture and environment the crew has grown up in. Earth becomes a story of the old country and they’re living life in the now. It’s shopworn as a trope but by the end of the journey the ultimate generation of crew may be more terrified of re-creating life on a planet than remaining aboard. I’m thinking The Roman Centurion’s Song by Kipling might be more the mood (except more agoraphobic and angsty):



    I really enjoyed the first book of The Age of Unreason. The second kind of put me off it though and I never finished the series. Nothing particularly heinous in the 2nd book mind you. Just something in pacing and tone didn’t work for me. Did you notice something similar? If so, I’m assuming 3 and 4 returned to the form of the first?

  30. @Tasha–

    Sorry, rant ahead.

    I got a fantastic education in the public schools of lowly, grubby Everett, MA. When I got to college, it was quite, um, startling, let’s say, to discover what the kids from the leafy suburbs, a fair number of whom had attended those fancy private schools, who at a minimum had attended public schools “everyone” knew were “better,” hadn’t learned.

    Friends of mine, and my dad in an earlier generation, got fantastic educations at Boston Latin, or at what was then Girls’ Latin–public schools.

    And yes, there are some fine private schools, too. There are also crappy ones. Private is the way to go if you’re absolutely determined not to teach real science, for instance.

    Charter schools don’t have an overall higher success rate than the real public schools that they leach funding from.

    No society has ever achieved mass literacy without free, mandatory public education. Let’s stop trying to go determinedly backwards.

  31. @stewart fair point, although the cost of these missions approached or exceeded the cost of simply launching a new telescope.

  32. Chris S:

    @Tasha – I’d argue that the US has already passed peak learning (education), especially in the southern states, and is on a rapid downslope.

    That’s peak larnin.

    I’m from Mississippi, so I think I can say that.

  33. I’ve had kind of fifty-fifty experiences with KSR

    Lucy, you might like the ‘Science in the Capital’ books. The characters are likable and the infodumps are better handled. (That’s 40 Signs of Rain, 50 Degrees Below, and 60 Days and Counting.)

  34. @stewart @microtherion: In fact, it would have been far more cost effective (as well as much cheaper in absolute terms) to have built half a dozen copies of the Hubble telescope and launched one (via rocket, not the shuttle) every three years with a new, updated package of instruments. NASA forcibly tied HST to the shuttle program to give the shuttle something to do.

  35. P J Evans on April 14, 2016 at 8:02 am said:

    I’ve had kind of fifty-fifty experiences with KSR

    Lucy, you might like the ‘Science in the Capital’ books. The characters are likable and the infodumps are better handled. (That’s 40 Signs of Rain, 50 Degrees Below, and 60 Days and Counting.)

    There’s an omnibus edition of them called Green Earth now

  36. Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little on April 14, 2016 at 1:05 pm said:

    re: Generation ships, as regards to later generations questioning the mission – obligatory link to Jo Walton’s story “Turnover“

    Thank you. That was a delightful read.

  37. @Lis Carey No society has ever achieved mass literacy without free, mandatory public education. Let’s stop trying to go determinedly backwards.

    I went to exceptional and weird private schools. I also had mixed experiences in public school. I met plenty of poorly educated private educated private school students and well educated public school students. I was shocked when I got to college for a variety of reasons including students and teachers.

    In my opinion the only way to fix education in the US is to fix it for all students at a public level. We need to provide books and other necessary tools for students in poor districts. We need to stop applying one way works for all – as true for public, private, charter schools. IMHO we need to spend less time teaching for regional and national test and more time on teaching how to think, research, determine good data from bad, recognize code words, understand poor rhetoric, how topics link, make education interesting and accessible.

    Does that make more sense?

  38. Tasha, yes, that does make sense. I think we’re pretty much in agreement, except that I think the charter school movement is harmful.

    I do think the problem isn’t testing, so much as it is high stakes testing. Texas used to have a system where students needed for graduation any two of: 1. Grades/GPA at the required level. 2. Required score on the statewide test. 3. SAT score at the required level.

    And then they succumbed to the high stakes testing model. 🙁

  39. Back on the topic of beta reading: the punctuality thing really resonates at the moment as I have on more person to hound over a crit she promised to try to get back by March at the latest … March 2015. and one who gave minimal, mostly positive feedback after an almost as long wait. I feel like I can’t totally complain as I have been the one to be way behind on returning an MS. And I got a bit distracted myself by having a baby about when the crits were due.

    The only case of it that actively offended me was on another project, and a critiquer who had agreed to do the work for pay, half in advance, and where nothing ever materialized. People who do it for free (or for a nice dinner out or the like) are held to a much more generous standard.

    Heather Rose Jones: I’d be half curious to see your list of questions, though first I’d need to read the Mystic Marriage (this does NOT sound like a hardship). I’ve shied from having too many questions for fear of influencing the reader ahead of time, but the critiquer who gave me the minimal commentary also gave me the impression she’d have been happier, and possibly speedier, with more template.

    Of course my eternal question is always “what to cut??” I write long and compress after… which if anything makes it harder to ask anyone. Asking about a 90k word work feels hard, but this was 153k. Getting it under 120k is gonna be hard, and if anything, the market for first published novels is getting shorter, not longer.

  40. Chris S said:

    The bigger problem is that the cost of raw steel has collapsed to $50 per ton, so you’re not going to compete.

    That’s commodity steel– the really popular grades that big mills churn out by the millions of tons per year. But there’s also a specialty market for grades that are in less demand and/or much harder to make. I worked for a specialty steel producer for 12 years. Some of the stuff we made went for over US$1000/ton even when the economy was bad.

  41. Pingback: Why Generation Ships Will NOT “Sink” A Failure To Communicate | The Arts Mechanical

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