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.]

Discover more from File 770

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.

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

  1. (4) I had no idea that deciding to check out John Carlton’s post would take me to Sarah Hoyt’s blog. He was apparently stimulated to write by a couple of Robinson blog posts and substantial reviews of “Aurora” which he cites up front in his post. He evidently felt this was enough for the purposes of his post, but he really should have read the book, I think it pretty much goes without saying.

    Of course his main argument is a broad political one, suitable for According To Hoyt. An important aspect of the novel is that the characters who arrive at the destination star system are meant to be more or less realistic human beings in unprecedented desperate circumstances that they didn’t volunteer for, the result of arguably quixotic decisions taken by their ancestors. Carlton says they lack “pioneering spirit” because they are socialists, like (he says) Robinson. I think this is naive and misses the point. However I suspect it would probably have some resonance with some of the novel’s detractors who do not share Carlton’s politics.

  2. It is possible to write about a work you haven’t experienced – I blogged about Watchmen before and after seeing the film – but you need to be very clear about what you’re doing. My Watchmen two parter was initially about my love of the comics and my expectations about filming an unfilmable work, and then the degree to which it had been made into a working film.
    One could write an overview of the generation ship concept, from Heinlein to Aldiss, to KSR without getting into the specifics of the book.
    I don’t think (4) manages on either front.

  3. So the Kindle Oasis dropped and I am… underwhelmed.

    The WiFi with Special Offers version is 290 dollars, which is ridiculous. Which means the 3G one without Special Offers is going to be absurdly ridiculous. It looks great, but I’m going to hold onto my money until they do something I want like waterproofing.

  4. Let’s maybe not read too much into a single tweet re: results that aren’t meant to be known for another two weeks?

    Plenty of time for speculation and alarm when we actually know, ummm, anything. 🙂

  5. (2) I’m one of the “dreadfully non-timely” beta-readers, mostly for my Israeli writerfriends.

    Which sucks, because I love it, I do it *well*, and I wish I had time to do more and be quicker.

  6. I’ve been asked to beta a couple of times. I keep feeling like I have not been helpful, despite reassurances to the contrary from those who have asked.

    The thing that’s out that you can read that I beta-ed to a degree is Kate Elliott’s BLACK WOLVES, where I batted back and forth with her on the opening part of the novel.
    I felt so happy to wind up in the acknowledgements.

  7. Kindle Oasis: No, not for that price. And am I blind, or are there no “without special offers” models listed?

  8. On the reading front: Just finished Babel-17 by Delaney. This was the first Delaney that I’ve read, and I really don’t know how I feel about it. Some of the characters, concepts, and settings were really interesting, but everything felt so unexplained and glossed over that I found much of the book frustrating. Alot comes together at the end, but it just felt really short and choppy and hard to really care about any of the characters or situations. About the only person I really liked was the Customs Officer. While I’m not terribly displeased about the book, I just don’t know if I really cared much for it. I have “The Einstein Intersection” on a bookshelf at home that I’ll eventually get around to, but I’m not as excited about it currently.

  9. @Joe H.

    You are not blind. There are also no w/ 3g models listed. A hundred dollars more for a reader that does less things, doesn’t seem to be the way to gain customers.

    Also, I’m about twenty percent into Blood Mage by Stephen Aryan, and one of the characters went a medieval rave, dropped some fantasy ecstasy, and then had some random sex in an alcove. That’s… not something I’ve read in a fantasy novel before.

  10. I have a lot of opinions on the beta-reader process, but quite possibly because I over-analyze everything. So I keep a spreadsheet of all the people who have asked to beta for me, and what I’ve sent them, and whether they replied in a timely manner (or at all) and how extensive and useful their feedback was.

    My current experience is that, of beta readers chosen based solely on expressions of interest, only half will provide feedback with useful detail. (“I loved it” is not useful detail.) Interestingly, the rate is lower for short fiction than for novels. I guess people may be more realistic about whether they have time to beta a novel.

    My method is to provide a cover letter with the manuscript that gives general guidelines on what I am and am not looking for. (E.g., I don’t expect beta-readers to do my ordinary proofreading.) And then I give them a separate document file labelled “SPOILERS” that includes a very detailed “book-club style” set of discussion questions and feedback prompts for characters, events, and other topics. Betas don’t have to answer every single question, but the idea is both to help them get past empty-page syndrome (“I have no idea what to say!”) and to focus on aspects that I have specific concerns about.

    Most of my beta-readers are “general interest readers”, but I usually have a few special topics that I want to make sure I cover. Those can be tougher, especially since I prefer to rely on volunteers rather than asking people directly. (Although I did reach out personally for Mother of Souls because I hadn’t gotten any volunteers with certain specific backgrounds that I wanted to cover.) It doesn’t help that some of my special topics are things like “early 19th century opera” and “15th century philosophers”–and that’s before getting into topics of personal sensitivity like race and gender identity.

  11. @k_choll
    The Einstein Intersection is from about the same period in Delany’s work, but it’s further from any conventional plot structure.

  12. Unless it’s to pay for tech development on the charging case, I’m really not sure why the Oasis is that expensive.

  13. @Joe H. Holy Father of Mary. That’s more than my first two cars cost combined.

    @James Moar, apparently they figured out a way to electroplate plastic? That’s one rumor I’ve heard.

  14. I also have not read John Carlton’s piece on Aurora, but speaking as an IT admin, I found the part about the glowing toasters to be utterly ridiculous.

  15. Re: The new kindle. What Oneiros said, serious folks, don’t make right handed devices. I gave away my kobo because I couldn’t comfortably use it with my left hand.

  16. @Iphinome: Kobos too? 🙁 Is there an ereader that you use that can be used easily with your left hand?

    ETA @Joe H.: that’s probably a worlds’ first. Normally lefties just get screwed.

    It’s still an ugly design though (just checked some images for it and yep, there’s one on Google Images of it being held in either hand)

  17. don’t make right handed devices

    The view can be flipped — saw a leaked picture of that, and though there’s fairly little point for them you can already do that with older models.

  18. @k_choll I’m pretty sure you’ll have the same problem with “The Einstein Intersection”, from my rather distant recollection. You might find “Nova” more your kind of thing – it’s the most polished and together example of his early style.

    (And I can’t resist adding a plug for “The Motion of Light in Water”, which is neither SF nor exactly fiction but is a tremendously good book. And it’ll give a bit of perspective on Babel-17, among other things.)

  19. I’m right-handed but I almost always hold my Kindle in my left hand. I had an easier time of it when I had a Keyboard model because that had physical page-fwd and page-back buttons on both sides of the screen, so I could use it one-handed.

    I only just recently discovered (thanks!) that I can actually turn pages on my Paperwhite by swiping with my left thumb, but it’s still generally easier to turn pages by tapping with my right hand. It’s possible the Oasis would let me go back to true one-handed usage.

    But it’s still not worth paying $350-$400 at this point.

  20. @Oneiros It was a first or second generation Kobo, My e-reader evolution has gone, Kindle 1, kobo, back to the old kindle 1….. years pass, oh that kindle 4b is on sale for $40 I think I’ll buy it.

    I’ve been using the kindle 4b since.

    Yes lefties get screwed. One would think that in the entire design process there’d be a left-handed person who says hey how about making it for either hand?

  21. Pulls out kobo mini.
    Holds it in left hand.
    Reads, turns pages, right hand staying well away.

    A bit clumsy, but that’s mainly because I’m not naturally left handed. Not sure I see the problem.

  22. @Heather: Oooh, now I want to see a “Discussion Questions” page! 🙂

    When I beta-read, I first and foremost try to capture my own reaction on the first readthrough. I jot down my thoughts and reactions as I go along – what’s cool, what’s grabbed my attention, and various vexations and WTF moments. At the end I go back and clean the comments up to be clearer; sometimes expanding upon them if I have more to say now that I’ve read the whole thing.
    I feel like that’s really helpful to the author; they can get a sense of what my whole reading experience was like, rather than just “Maybe do this” or “I didn’t like that.” (It’s also pretty helpful when I’m trying to point out a continuing issue; no individual instance is the problem, but jotting down reactions makes patterns clear.)

    @alexvdl, if you have the time, and you’d like to try your hand at it, maybe take a look at Critters? I admittedly haven’t been in for years and years, but it used to be a really good place. Lots of slush, to be sure, but good stuff too – and even for the slush, critiquing it in detail teaches you lots. That’s where I got my first critiquing chops, and they’ve got lots of good advice on how to critique a story in a way that’s helpful and constructive.
    (And this is more an anomaly than a matter of course, but I had the privilege of critiquing a few of Ken Liu’s stories on Critters, way back when — not that I think he needed a word of my advice 😀 )

  23. Oh, and full-length novels are way harder. Much, much bigger time commitment — and also, beta-stage novels are often messier.

    This is probably less true at pro levels than the less-experienced cases I’ve had. But… a beta-novel may still be finding its structure, and be sprawling and aimless in a way a short piece won’t be. It also just takes much longer to grok what the book is about and where it’s headed, and until you do that, it’s much harder to give constructive comments. (Also, if you’re being selective about what big crit projects to take on, a great first chapter might not be very indicative that the rest of the book is strong.)

  24. I just wish that you could still easily get non-Kindle ereaders with physical buttons — I’m glad that the Oasis actually *has* page-turn buttons again — and I wish you could find ones with buttons for anything *other* than page-turning.
    Touchscreen interfaces are well-nigh impossible for me — a combination of dyspraxia, fat fingers, and incipient arthritis makes using them an exercise in frustration. And while that’s not a problem if you’re only using the interface to select a book or to turn pages, it’s a real problem if you’re reading a book with a lot of footnotes, when tap-on-the-middle-of-the-screen can mean variously “bring up the menu”, “go to the footnote”, “highlight this text for annotation”, “turn the page” or “look up word in English/French dictionary”, seemingly at random depending on the whims of the ereader…

  25. Re: Kindle handedness: The Oasis has an accelerometer in it, so if you switch it to the other hand, your screen flips. It’s an ambidextrous device.

    @Standback: I’ll definitely take a look at that. Thanks!

  26. @Andrew: Wow, I’m sorry to hear eReaders are so frustrating for you.

    I was really pleased when I switched from a Kindle Keyboard to the touchscreen-only Paperwhite; I felt that backwards-forwards navigation buttons were hopelessly slow and clumsy for making your way through a list of books, or links on a web-page. But I didn’t think of how the difference might affect somebody who can’t swipe as deftly…

    (Also, I dearly wish there were some way to burninate the Kindle dictionary. I DO NOT WANT. It just keeps popping up and being exasperating.)

  27. Touchscreens are also inaccessible for (some) visually impaired people, because of the lack of tactile feedback. My legally-blind wife just about manages with a touchscreen on her ereader (she reads less footnoted stuff than I do), but has to use a BlackBerry as her phone, as it’s the only phone she can find that actually has a keyboard. (I solve that problem by not having a mobile phone at all…)

    It’s annoying, because when I largely switched to ebooks five years ago, ereaders were extremely usable for me. But slowly — and especially since the market has narrowed enormously, with only a handful of manufacturers — they’ve become far more frustrating than they were. Were it not for the lack of space for new books in my house, I’d switch back to paper in a heartbeat…

  28. Regarding (8), Tze-lan Sang’s The Emerging Lesbian has a very good chapter on writers who wrote queer women as supernatural creatures.

  29. @Bruce Baugh

    I’m kind of struck by this, because I’m not sure I see much love for one’s fellow human beings amongst those who are currently warning us all of the dangers of dreaming of the star. Charles Stross is not some who I’d describe as filled with optimism, and some of his ardent followers remind me of nothing so much as fundamentalist Christians, only with the Rapture replaced with the upload. KSR himself, heck, Aurora itself seems to have a highly negative view of human nature, with the crew as squabbling children with the need of an AI to act as man on horseback and Orwell all in one.

    Mind, this could be the fact that while I enjoy harder sci-fi, my introduction to the idea of colonization was through Clarke, Asimov, and Gene Roddenberry. City On The Edge Of Forever has a pretty good view of humanity on the whole. More practically, the accusation of magic technology seems odd when we’ve just discovered CRISPR and were already discovering an incredible potential in biotech. The view that our current technology is it, set in stone, no serious advances to be made, is not a particularly well supported one, nor has it been in the past.

    And to circle around to my starting point, the people pooh-poohing space as an elaborate fantasy tend not to have the nicest view of human nature either.

  30. @NickPheas: It is possible to write about a work you haven’t experienced

    Write about yes. Properly review no.

    I never did get my Hugo nominations fixed. The database problems may have led to strange results depending on how many nominators took the time to send my ballot should look like this emails. The admins asked us to wait for final emails. I shouldn’t have waited since I knew how messed up my final input was. Instead of having 3-5 things nominated in all but long dramatic I had 0-2 in less than half the categories with the final wipeout and duplication problem in my last submit 15 minutes before closing.

    But I’ve been a bit busy with all the pre-op for surgery tomorrow and prep for Passover next week much of that in the form of Xanax and Percocet which has me either unable to concentrate, forgetting what I need to do, or sleeping more than usual. Yay happy surgery day is tomorrow! I’ll find out today between 3-9pm what time surgery is. In a few weeks I can start slowly adding more foods back into my diet. Woot, woot.

    Living wills aren’t a lot of fun to keep creating on the fly I need to sit down with an attorney and do one which works for multiple states. Husband and mom are on the same page now so if necessary they’ll work as a team and not be fighting. This stuff is exhausting. Especially when one person keeps saying but I don’t know if the hospital will go along with x so I kept having to figure out if the problem was really what was being said or if the person was not comfortable with my wishes. Denial and living in situations which happened 20-30 years ago make for bad and stressful conversations.

  31. @ Standback

    @Heather: Oooh, now I want to see a “Discussion Questions” page!

    That might make an interesting blog post. I’ll think about it. My beta-reader instructions for Daughter of Mystery were a lot sparser and more general than the process I’ve evolved since then. And I’m hesitant to post the much more detailed discussion prompts for The Mystic Marriage without a lot of fuss to conceal spoilers because I can’t really assume that interested parties have already read it.

    Maybe someday when I’m famous and everyone’s already read the books (hah!) I’ll do a detailed process discussion. The most fascinating notes that I’ve kept are actually the step by step evolution of DoM from it’s first seeds up through the point when the plot as a whole had gelled. Being the sort of person that I am, I deliberately kept a diary of the process, knowing that it would be interesting to go back and review years later.

  32. @TheYoungPretender : Have you read Charles Scholz’s Gypsy?

    It teeters between the ingenuity and daring of humanity, and the tendency of systems to break down over time – both technological systems, and social ones.

    It’s not an optimistic piece, but the balance it strikes might be what you’re looking for.

  33. Thanks for #7! I have several students who are eligible for this award. If they don’t make the deadline this year, I’ll nag them about it next year.

  34. @Standback

    I often find Stross’ writing quite pleasant, even if I think he’s Peter Hamilton for white boys with vague tech-anarchist leanings. He has a good hand, and I’ll have to consider it. It’s some of his followers? Stans? Acolytes? that get me.

  35. @k_choll
    I love Delany’s books but a lot of people don’t. However, I don’t know many people who’ve tried him at shorter length who didn’t like it. If you can turn up a copy of either version of his short story collections–Aye, and Gomorrah is more complete, but the best stuff is in both it and Driftwood–give them a try.

  36. Thanks for all the Delany comments. I’ll try and check out some of his shorter works, and maybe some of his later stuff and see how that gels.

    Another recent finish was S.K. Dunstall’s debut novel from 2015, “Linesman”. I really enjoyed this novel, it had some interesting thoughts on sentient energy/ships. Definitely had some issues with the book, and found the main character to be almost too powerful, but I’ll definitely read the sequel which just released, I think.

  37. @Mark

    His #4, the shapechanging fox, features in a recent story Foxfire, Foxfire by Yoon Ha Lee. (It’s a Korean version though; I don’t know how that differs from the Chinese version)

    Thanks for the link. I’m going to have to check that story out.

    I remember reading an article on the comparative use of fox spirits in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese folklore years and years and years ago. If I am remembering it at all clearly, there are differences between the fox spirits in each culture, but they tend to be small differences of emphasis rather than large differences of type. The “more tails equals more years” thing is present in Japanese folklore, but is often secondary to other attributes like whether or not they were white (which in context probably meant albino). While foxes were generally connected with the deity Inari, white foxes had an even closer connection.

  38. I am bemused by the complaints about handedness of ereaders. I have never read physical books one-handed, so I’m perplexed by requirements to read ebooks that way. Whether it’s a paper book (any format) or an ebook on a tablet, I hold the object in one hand and use the other to turn the pages.

    I do think I slightly prefer the older 7 inch tablet form factor to my current 8 inch one: the smaller tablet in its leather case fit into pockets and purses more easily.

  39. I gave away my kobo because I couldn’t comfortably use it with my left hand.

    I have an Aura HD, and it’s all touch-screen. Physically, it isn’t handed.

  40. @k_choll:

    I recently read Babel-17 and found the concepts really interesting and the execution disappointing. If you’re looking for more examination of language and how it shapes perception, I highly recommend Delany’s Tales of Nevèrÿon, which was a much more satisfying read.

  41. The thing that’s out that you can read that I beta-ed to a degree is Kate Elliott’s BLACK WOLVES, where I batted back and forth with her on the opening part of the novel. I felt so happy to wind up in the acknowledgements.

    Paul, any idea when the next one will be published? I really liked Black Wolves.

  42. “As an engineer…..”

    IME, pretty much any explanation that begins with “As a/an (insert label here)…..” has a pretty high chance for less than productive commentary.

    Beta reading….

    I’m beta reading a first book for a friend. Or I was. He was handing me single chapters and I was pointing out many of the inconsistencies which in turn caused edits/revisions. So he wants to have more of it done before handing it over. ***chuckle*** Perhaps we are doing this wrong.

    In any case, perhaps I’ll get a chance to do it again….


Comments are closed.