Pixel Scroll 4/3/17 The Dread Pixel Roberts

(1) MARKET FOR DIVERSITY? ICv2’s interview with Marvel’s VP of Sales David Gabriel spawned a controversial discussion about retailer or customer resistance to female characters (As you can see from the following excerpt, Gabriel has subsequently tried to walk back some of his comments.)

Part of it, but I think also it seemed like tastes changed, because stuff you had been doing in the past wasn’t working the same way.  Did you perceive that or are we misreading that?

No, I think so.  I don’t know if those customers with the tastes that had been around for three years really supporting nearly anything that we would try, anything that we would attempt, any of the new characters we brought up, either they weren’t shopping in that time period, or maybe like you said their tastes have changed. There was definitely a sort of nose-turning at the things that we had been doing successfully for the past three years, no longer viable.  We saw that, and that’s what we had to react to.  Yes, it’s all of that.

Now the million-dollar question.  Why did those tastes change?

I don’t know if that’s a question for me.  I think that’s a better question for retailers who are seeing all publishers.  What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity.  They didn’t want female characters out there.  That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not.  I don’t know that that’s really true, but that’s what we saw in sales. We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against.  That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.

[Note:  Marvel’s David Gabriel reached out to correct the statement above:  “Discussed candidly by some of the retailers at the summit, we heard that some were not happy with the false abandonment of the core Marvel heroes and, contrary to what some said about characters “not working,” the sticking factor and popularity for a majority of these new titles and characters like Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, The Mighty Thor, Spider-Gwen, Miles Morales, and Moon Girl, continue to prove that our fans and retailers ARE excited about these new heroes. And let me be clear, our new heroes are not going anywhere! We are proud and excited to keep introducing unique characters that reflect new voices and new experiences into the Marvel Universe and pair them with our iconic heroes.

“We have also been hearing from stores that welcome and champion our new characters and titles and want more!  They’ve invigorated their own customer base and helped them grow their stores because of it.  So we’re getting both sides of the story and the only upcoming change we’re making is to ensure we don’t lose focus of our core heroes.”]

(2) RISE OF YA COMICS. Discussion about the Gabriel interview led Ms. Marvel writer G. Willow Wilson to do a wide-ranging commentary on the contemporary comics market, “So About That Whole Thing”. This excerpt is the last half:


  1. This is a personal opinion, but IMO launching a legacy character by killing off or humiliating the original character sets the legacy character up for failure. Who wants a legacy if the legacy is shitty?
  2. Diversity as a form of performative guilt doesn’t work. Let’s scrap the word diversity entirely and replace it with authenticity and realism. This is not a new world. This is *the world.*
  3. Never try to be the next whoever. Be the first and only you. People smell BS a mile away.
  4. The direct market and the book market have diverged. Never the twain shall meet. We need to accept this and move on, and market accordingly.
  5. Not for nothing, but there is a direct correlation between the quote unquote “diverse” Big 2 properties that have done well (Luke Cage, Black Panther, Ms Marvel, Batgirl) and properties that have A STRONG SENSE OF PLACE. It’s not “diversity” that draws those elusive untapped audiences, it’s *particularity.* This is a vital distinction nobody seems to make. This goes back to authenticity and realism.


On a practical level, this is not really a story about “diversity” at all. It’s a story about the rise of YA comics. If you look at it that way, the things that sell and don’t sell (AND THE MARKETS THEY SELL IN VS THE MARKETS THEY DON’T SELL IN) start to make a different kind of sense.

(3) BOMB HATCHES. Variety’s weekend box office report says “’Boss Baby’ Tops ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ ‘Ghost in the Shell’ Bombs”.

The animated comedy bottled up a leading $49 million from 3,773 locations, edging out Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” a box office juggernaut that’s dominated the multiplexes since debuting three weeks ago. “Beauty and the Beast” added another $48 million to its mammoth $395.5 million domestic haul. The weekend’s other new release, Paramount’s “Ghost in the Shell,” bombed, taking in a demoralizing $19 million.

(4) GOFUNDME SIGNAL BOOST. “The 17-year-old son of a woman in my writing group has been diagnosed with an osteosarcoma in his right shoulder,” writes Nick Tchan, a Writers of the Future winner and Aurealis nominated author. “It’s an aggressive and rare form of bone cancer. At the very least, he’s going to have an extensive regime of chemotheraphy and a bone replaced in his right arm.

“Both he and his single mother are keen speculative fiction fans and writers. I’m putting together a GoFundMe to help pay for the time she’ll have to take off work as well as the other costs that tend to accumulate. Any funds left over from cost-of-living and treatment expenses I’m hoping to put towards something like Dragon Dictate so that he can write even if they have to amputate his arm.”

The GoFundMe link is — “LachlanB’s Recovery Fund”

We are the friends of Lachlan, a 17 year old Australian student and aspiring speculative fiction writer who has been struck by cancer. Lachlan is a compassionate, creative, bright young man who embraces life to the fullest.  A few weeks ago, he was enjoying his first week of university, planning a 3rd anniversary surprise for his girlfriend Sarah, organising his Dungeons and Dragons mates for their bi-monthly weekend session, and starting edits on the first draft of his YA fantasy novel. Cancer has interrupted his short and long-term plans. His first two weeks of university were spent undergoing a series of medical tests and consultations. Fifteen minutes into his 3rd anniversary date, he became unwell and had to go to Emergency.  He has now been diagnosed with osteosarcoma (an aggressive, painful bone cancer), and been forced to defer his university studies in order to receive the treatment he urgently needs.

The fundraiser has incentives, such as books from Grimdark magazine or John Joseph Adams’ Seeds of Change anthology, as well as print editions of Alliterate magazine.

(5) A CONVIVIAL EPISODE. Scott Edelman interviews Sunny Moraine at Washington DC’s Convivial restaurant in Episode 33 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Sunny Moraine

We discussed the best writing advice she’s heard, how being named the most promising author of 2013 messed with her mind, her favorite Ray Bradbury story (which is one of her all-time favorite stories period), why she writes Walking Dead fan fiction, the contradictions of writing a breakout book, how she decided her trilogies were meant to be trilogies, and more. (She refused, however, to tell me for whom the bell actually tolls or why birds suddenly appear every time you’re near.) Plus—I reveal how Tim Burton prevented me from eating a perfect sticky toffee pudding!

Edelman recently launched a Patreon in the hope that he’ll someday be able to afford to do episodes more frequently. He says, “Biweekly will never be enough to capture all the amazing creators out there!”

(6) PLEASE SAY THAT AGAIN. Astronomers have discovered three more Fast Radio Bursts:

FRBs have baffled scientists ever since the first one was discovered in archived data in 2007. The longstanding mystery of their origin, which is further compounded by the fact that only about two dozen such events have ever been detected, has spawned a plethora of scientific (and some that sound not so scientific) theories, including the occasional speculation that aliens are responsible for them.

For some reason, FRBs never seem to repeat, and, as a result, most theories about the origin of these mysterious pulses involve invoking cataclysmic incidents that destroy their source, for instance, a star exploding in a supernova, or a neutron star collapsing into a black hole.

This changed in 2012 when the first and only known repeating burst, named FRB 121102, was discovered by scientists at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. And, in January, over four years and several recurring bursts of this FRB later, astronomers were able to directly trace the mysterious burst to its point of origin, a dwarf galaxy 3 billion light-years from Earth.

So far, this is the only FRB whose source has been pinpointed — although even that hasn’t brought scientists any closer to understanding what birthed it.

(7) HOLLYWOOD ACCOUNTING. In a BBC video, Disney animators explain why characters have only three fingers.

Chip Hitchcock adds, “The answer’s obvious but there are some interesting bits about drawing animation scattered through the clip.”

(8) SINGLE-CELL. If E.T. phones anyone, Neil deGrasse Tyson doubts the call will be for him: “The Future of Science: What Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson Thinks About Aliens, Elon Musk and Traveling”

Neil deGrasse Tyson has no plans to meet advanced life on Earth or other planets anytime soon. The famous astrophysicist told fans this weekend he won’t be traveling to Mars via private space exploration and he doubts humans will make contact with complex organisms—that is, alien life— within his lifetime.

Tyson’s remarks came up during an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit Sunday where he promised to divulge his views on “life, the universe and everything.” Asked by one commentator whether “we will ever make contact with complex organisms within the next 50yrs?”, Tyson was not encouraging.

“I think they (we) might all be too far away from one another in space and possibly time. By complex, I’m presuming you mean life other than single-celled organisms. Life with legs, arms, thoughts, etc. It’s all about our capacity to travel interstellar distances. And that’s surely not happening in the next 50 years. Not the rate things are going today,” he wrote back.

(9) BACK TO THE FUTURE. Making the rounds of film festivals, Fight for Space recalls, “In the 1960s and 70s, the Space Race inspired a generation to pursue careers in science and technology, and then it all ended. Fight for Space looks at why.”

“FIGHT FOR SPACE” is a documentary film that asks, why haven’t we gone back to the Moon, or sent humans to Mars? Weren’t we supposed to be there in the 80s? What lead to the decline of NASA’s budget and why is it stuck in low earth orbit?

Filmed over the course of 4 years, Fight for Space is the product of thousands of Kickstarter supporters who believed that the exploration of space is worth fighting for. Over 60 interviews were conducted with astronauts, politicians, educators, historians, scientists, former NASA officials, commercial space entrepreneurs, and many other experts in the space community. It is a film like no other that tackles issues no other documentary has touched, featuring newly restored 35mm and 16mm footage from the National Archives NASA collection.


(10) APRIL 1 LEFTOVERS. Never realized that you’d need firmer biceps when your jetpack finally arrives. “Real-life ‘Iron Man’ flying suit built by British inventor” says a British Marine has invented and flown a turbine powered suit.

A British inventor has built his very own jet-propelled ‘Iron Man’ suit, which he says can carry him at several hundred miles per hour, thousands of feet in the air.

The suit, designed by entrepreneur Richard Browning, allows the pilot to vertically take off and fly using the human body to control flight. Browning has recently founded Gravity, a technology start-up, which has filed patents for the human propulsion technology that could re-imagine manned flight.


(11) LAST TO KNOW. Dave Freer tells a painful story about the announced mass market paperback edition that never happened.

I want to start by apologizing to readers here: at the end of February I said here that CHANGELING’S ISLAND was now available in mass market paperback, and provided a link. Some 96 people clicked through that, and I assume some of those good folk ordered the book. If you were one of them: I must ask you please to check your credit cards.

If you have been charged for it: you have been the victim of a fraud in which I had no part other than advertising my book in good faith. I was sent the proofs of the mmpb on the 9th of December and returned them – giving up a rather lucrative little casual job to do my bit, to have them back in time. Baen advertised the book on its website, Amazon listed it on its website. As this near non-effort appears to be the only form of publicity I actually get, I did my best, and kind folk on Facebook gave me nearly 200 likes and over 40 shares. I had some shares on Twitter, and the release of the mmpb was up on Instapundit, as well as on several other blogs besides this.

Prior experience – TOM — says this could produce around two thousand sales. I’m a minor author, and I’m very grateful for that support, be it ten or ten thousand. There’s always a few new people, and reaching new readers is vital. Mass Market Paperbacks are great as tryouts, as they’re quite cheap, and given that CHANGELING’S ISLAND seems to have been a hit with readers across a broad spectrum, I hoped I’d get more readers.

Unfortunately… the mass market paperback of the book does NOT exist. It was cancelled back in early fall of last year. That, of course is their decision, which they’re perfectly entitled to make. However, they didn’t tell me – or, it seems anyone else.  The formatting, the proofs, the listing on Baen.com still went ahead. Simon and Schuster, who distribute for Baen, put the book up on Amazon – and presumably other venues. Well, possibly….

(12) WRIGHT ON RELIGION IN SFF. Angelo Stagnaro interviews John C. Wright for the National Catholic Register. The views will be familiar to readers of his blog.

  1. What do you think is the place of such elements in science fiction?

Hmm. Good question. Science fiction is by and large based on a naturalistic view of the universe. When penning adventures about space princesses being rescued from space pirates by space marines, religion does not come up, except as local background and local color, in which case, the role of religion is to provide the radioactive altar to the Snake God of Mars to which our shapely by half-clad space princess is chained, that our stalwart hero can fight the monster.

Now, any story of any form can be used as a parable or as an example of a religious truth: indeed, my latest six-book trilogy is actually about faith, although it is portrayed in figures as being about a man’s love for his bride.

Fantasy stories, on the other hand, once any element of magic or the supernatural is introduced either declare for the Church or declare for witchcraft, depending on whether or not occultism is glamorized.

Note that I speak of occultism, not magic itself. Merlin the magician is a figure from King Arthur tales, of which no more obviously Christian stories can be found, outside of Dante and Milton, but no portrayal in olden days of Merlin glamorized the occult. Again, the way characters like Gandalf in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, Coriakin in C.S. Lewis’s Narnia, or Harry Potter, even those they are called wizards, are clearly portrayed either as commanding a divine power, or, in Potter’s case, controlling what is basically an alternate technology or psychic force. There is no bargaining with unclean spirits, no rituals, not even a pack of tarot cards. These are like the witches in Halloween decorations, who fly brooms and wave magic wands, and nothing like the real practices of real wiccans, neopagans or other fools who call themselves witches.

Fools, because, as I did when I challenged God, they meddle with forces of which they have no understanding. I meddled with bright forces, and was spared. They meddle with dark, and they think they can escape the price….

Fantasy stories generally are hostile to Christianity, some intentionally and some negligently. The negligent hostility springs from the commonplace American desire for syncretism, that is, for all religions to be equal. Even some fairly Christian-themed fantasy stories yield weakmindedly to this temptation, as in Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising or A Wrinkle in Time is a science fantasy novel by American writer Madeleine L’Engle, where the forces of light are portrayed as ones where Christ is merely one teacher among many, each equally as bright and good, but makes no special nor exclusive claim. Or tales where the crucifix will drive back a vampire, but so will any other sign or symbol of any religion, from Asatru to Zoroastrianism, because all religions are equal, dontchaknow.

(13) ANCIENT VIDEOGAME HISTORY. It may be a long way for some but, for Nigel, Tipperary was once a short commute.

(14) WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH THE TICK. Carl Slaughter explains:

Like superheroes in the “The Spirit” movie and the “Ax Cop” animated series, The Tick is a superhero that requires a special appreciation.  Amazon is bringing “The Tick” to the small screen again in 2017.  Unlike Netflix, which greenlights an entire series, Amazon commissions a pilot, posts it for a month, and gives the thumbs up/down based on fan reaction and news coverage.  The pilot for the Amazon reboot was released in 2016.  Here is a documentary on the history of The Tick.


(15) BLASTS FROM THE PAST. Secret Screening also asks if you remember Eerie Indiana?  Remember Goosebumps?

(16) NOT A CAREER MOVE. Is it true? Why Dick Grayson Doesn’t Want to Become Batman, and Why Bruce Wayne Agrees.

[Thanks to Nigel, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Nick Tchan, Carl Slaughter, mlex, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day RedWombat.]

124 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 4/3/17 The Dread Pixel Roberts

  1. (12) I don’t get what everyone’s so confused about. It’s all duckspeak, where the only real difference between Good and Bad is Us vs. Them. Anything Wright likes is automatically good, whatever those he dislikes like is eeevil, and any overlap is a lie told or a trick played by his critics (aka The Opposition) in a transparent attempt to curry favor with the Wright side. Puppies good, SJWs bad, read all about it in the next knockoff decalogy (coming soon to a Kindle near you).

    It’s that simple. Any verbal calisthenics that presume to justify or explain that distinction using any other rationale are nothing more than window dressing, recognized as such and duly ignored by all concerned. Tribalism über alles!

  2. If you read the actual Wright interview and not just the excerpt, yes he does go on to mention such exceptions as ‘A Canticle for Leibowitz’, etc.

    And his points about magic vs. the occult are pretty much Catholic boilerplate. Fantasy magic is one thing, as it doesn’t exist in reality, but the occult — contacting spirits, etc. — is believed in as being real both by their practioners and by the Church.

  3. It’s always seemed to me that Maiar like Gandalf are, well, much more theologically human than Biblical angels – they have characteristics like fallibility and free will which are absent from the angels, who just go about doing God’s work as instructed (as messengers, angeloi in the Greek, they don’t speak for themselves at all.)

    Even if you take into account the idea of Satan as the first and greates of the Fallen Angels (and it’s sometimes surprising how little Biblical justification there is for that), the implication is strongly that it was, well, a one-shot deal – all the angels who were ever going to Fall, Fell, and the rest of them are good and faithful messengers and always will be.

    Whereas Istari/Maiar are certainly subject to temptation (Gandalf and the Ring) and can succumb to it and fall from goodness (Saruman.) And they go about in the world using their own judgement and their own initiative, rather than delivering infallible messages from an unimpeachable source – and their judgement and initiative is not always faultless (Gandalf and Saruman both make mistakes, and there are the two Blue Wizards who wandered off on their own and accomplished absolutely sod all during the War of the Ring.)

    tl;dr – wizards like Gandalf have personalities in ways that angels don’t.

  4. 7) Former Disney employee Virgil Partch left those pastures to do freelancing, and every now and then he drew hands with six or seven digits. It was a modest rebellion. H wrote a Donald Duck screen play titled “Duck Pimples”.

    All your scrolls are belong to us.

  5. The usual cut-off point for Marvel comics is monthly sales of 20,000 — sales below that number, and cancellation beckons. ‘Ms Marvel’ sells, I believe, around 18-19, 000 units per month.

    Not the best-selling success that you might have expected from the buzz that the comic gets — but still, in no danger of getting cancelled precisely because of that buzz.

  6. (12) Does anyone else remember Gene Wolfe’s rather desperate attempt to claim “The Dying Earth” for Christianity? It’s in a collection of essays on Vance – possibly with an attached bibliography? – but I can’t remember the the title and I don’t have the book to hand right now.

  7. @clack

    Ms Marvel outperforms in trade and digital format, which is one of the reasons it isn’t in any danger of cancellation from direct sales. The direct market is still the biggest indicator of success, but it seems that comic companies are starting to realize that there are significant market sectors that don’t consume comics in an issue by issue physical format.

  8. Mark on April 4, 2017 at 2:54 am said:
    Things that usually trip me up with timezones:

    b) Remembering which way the Earth spins.

    Ah, another sufferer of Niven’s Disease!

    @Dex: a little like Star Trek making money when syndicated? (Sidebar: local movie critics have occasionally commented on the decreasing time between theatrical and disc releases of a movie. Do disc sales depend on residual buzz? ISTM that comics can’t depend on this factor since trade publication takes several months worth of originals, but it’s interesting to see that the collections are becoming significant for books other than blockbusters (e.g. Sandman).)

    I haven’t had the stomach to read the JCW directly, but discussions have been interesting. I wonder how he would react to Blish’s conclusion (somewhere in Black Easter / The Day After Judgment that allmagic is the summoning of demons and hence black.

  9. Pixel Scroll very pretty and the Pixel file is sweet but the fifth of that poor Pixel is impossible to tweet

    My favorite Eerie, Indiana was the braces/retainer that allowed a boy to understand dogs and their quest for the secret of the doorknob.

  10. 2 – Considering the rise in popularity over time with manga and anime, a lot of which are either set in a high school or feature teenagers dealing with the supernatural or powers, it’s not so much a rise in YA comics as much as it’s catching up.

    11 – I love a Freer crazy rant word salad, but it’s sort of strange to see someone publicly going off a distributor and sideways to their publisher. Especially since he leaps to conclusions all over the place. Such as if people were charged who ordered the paperback in advance (Amazon doesn’t typically charge until release date), why the decision was made, if it was Simon and Schuster or Baen at fault, etc. That’s a lot of unknowns to claim ‘To me Simon and Schuster appear to have been for distributing my books what Adolf Hitler was for synagogue building in Berlin in 1941.’

    He also throws in some strange anecdotal accusations of how all publishers screw up on their authors all the time.

    Then again maybe he has a point about distribution because the only time I’ve seen his works out in the wild were in a used book store on the clearance rack.

    Grand assumptions and leaps to conclusions in order to justify matyrdom complex is routine with MGC, but in this case it seems like he could’ve just emailed his agent or editor to ask what’s going on instead of assuming the worst of both publisher and distributor.

    12 – A lot to unpack in that junk closet but the vampire part sticks out to me. I never figured vampires shied away from religious symbols because they were all equal, but that they were spurned by the power of that person’s pure faith. Which is something regardless of symbol you’d think JCW would agree with. Not to mention it also ignores that vampires are like many other pre-Christian things, absorbed and changed to fit as needed but existed in folklore for a long time.

    But it reminds me of the scene in The Mummy where the guy goes through all the religious symbols in a panic.

  11. @matt That scene cracks me up, because it really is in character for Beni to have a ton of holy symbols on him…just in case.

  12. @Chip Hitchcock

    a little like Star Trek making money when syndicated?

    Yes and no. Certainly many books benefit from the trade/digital market as a secondary source, but those tend to be, at least in my understanding, books that have a core, serialized readership. Often those are older, popular titles who have collectors who have been following for decades. So, while say, X-Men trades sell well, their core fans are still likely buying by the issue.

    However, many of what were niche or ‘fringe’ books back in the 80s-90s really found the reverse, that the issue sales propped the book up long enough for success in the trade market. Vertigo basically led the way with Sandman, Preacher, Transmet, etc.

    A lot of newer titles, especially those that are less connected to that older readership, appeal to markets that prefer either digital as their medium of choice or prefer to get their comics in trade as opposed to the direct market. Now, there’s lots of potential reasons for that, especially since trades are easily accessible in traditional brick and mortor book stores and online by Amazon, etc. But there are certainly elements where some direct market comic stores are still reaping the results of the hard turn to young men at the exclusion of everyone else in the 90s, and as a result, people who liked comics but didn’t like the atmosphere essentially abandoned the direct market serialized approach. Thanks to the success of trades in the 90s, a market grew up that allowed a different model in which to read and enjoy comics.

    Completely anecdotal, but most of my female friends who are comic fans are strictly digital/trade. Even the issue collectors are usually confined to a couple of titles and the rest in trades.

  13. @Chip Hitchcock: (movie/disc sidebar)

    I remember noticing several years ago that some movies were still playing at the local discount theater when they came out on DVD. That’s less common now, but I think the idea of a digital-stream early sales period might be a factor there, pushing the disc sales back to make room for people to get the movie early by going with a purely intangible product. I believe movies are also generally spending less time in theaters, so even if the time between leaving the big screen and hitting the small one stayed constant, the time from premiere to disc would shrink.

    Frankly, I read the phenomenon as the studios not seeing a point in waiting longer than necessary to collect the disc/digital money, and I can’t say I disagree. I’m certainly not alone in having shifted from seeing most of my movies in a theater to waiting for the more convenient Blu-ray purchase, complete with helpful subtitles and nifty bonus features. (My copy of Rogue One arrives today! Usually would’ve been an in-theater movie for me, but with money tight…)

    Oh, @all, speaking of watching movies at home:

    In case some of you are Comcast/Xfinity customers and have missed the announcement, Watchathon Week started yesterday. I took advantage of the Starz access to watch a couple of recent movies last night (The 5th Wave and The Shallows), along with a certain De Palma movie from the late 70s about a young woman who manifests off-the-chart psychic abilities after being taunted by a gaggle of classmates.

    No, not that one. This one was made a couple of years later – The Fury, starring Kirk Douglas as an ex-spook searching for his abducted son. Definitely inferior to Carrie, but it was interesting to compare the two. In retrospect, I’m amused to note that the 1999 sequel to the original Carrie was called The Rage: Carrie 2. Fury, rage… eh, close enough! 😀

  14. Matt Y on April 4, 2017 at 9:01 am said
    I remember seeing Freer books in actual bookstores in the past, but as I now get into actual bookstores about once in four months, I can’t speak to his current distribution. (However, he might want to consider that sales matter, and if a lot of his books are going back stripped, he’s not going to be getting the distribution he used to have.)

  15. 12) I sense that John C. Wright doesn’t have a large reading background in SF to miss R.A.Lafferty, James Blish, Walter Miller, David Lindsay, Connie Willis, Charles Williams, G.K..Chesterton… etc.
    Some of his asides sound like he’s making it up as he goes along. Does he re invent himself with each interview?

  16. P J Evans on April 4, 2017 at 9:32 am said:

    I remember seeing Freer books in actual bookstores in the past, but as I now get into actual bookstores about once in four months, I can’t speak to his current distribution. (However, he might want to consider that sales matter, and if a lot of his books are going back stripped, he’s not going to be getting the distribution he used to have.)

    Yeah, that’s why I thought it was strange he is ranting before knowing the reason why. If they got a bunch of stripped books back previously, or haven’t historically made the sales needed from prior copies of his books to justify the MM paperback, then that sucks but makes sense as a business decision. If bookstores aren’t ordering them then why make them?

    Going off on them to find out later it was a reasonable business decision because they didn’t think they’d sell would be embarrassing and sounding off like that without knowing isn’t going to make folks want to take a risk on him.

  17. Some of his asides sound like he’s making it up as he goes along. Does he re invent himself with each interview?

    I think it’s expansion more than invention. His origin story of being an atheist who demanded a sign from God and got a heart attack in response is becoming bigger with each telling. I feel like there’s a version coming with a lightning bolt on a cloudless day or perhaps a shrubbery set aflame.

    I was hoping the National Catholic Register interview would attract some comments from ordinary Catholics responding to his take on religion and conversion, which seems exceptionally grandiose and silly to me as a person raised in that church.

  18. @Matt Y–

    Going off on them to find out later it was a reasonable business decision because they didn’t think they’d sell would be embarrassing and sounding off like that without knowing isn’t going to make folks want to take a risk on him.

    Cancelling the MMPB may have been a completely reasonable. Doing so but not telling anyone, so that Freer wound up working on page proofs and promoting the book to his fans. That’s both a bunch of wasted and probably nontrivial work for him, when he could have been doing something else (either more productive, or more fun), and really embarrassing. That’s gotta cheese a person off, and intemperate and ill-considered things might be said, Puppy or no Puppy.

  19. Lis –

    That’s gotta cheese a person off, and intemperate and ill-considered things might be said, Puppy or no Puppy.

    Oh yeah, someone should’ve told him, that’s real crappy that they did not.

    Ill-considered things said publicly about a publisher and distributor through baseless assumptions just doesn’t seem to be the best response. Though then again it sounds like it isn’t the first time he’s been on the short end of the stick so maybe he just doesn’t care.

  20. @Ghostbird Gene Wolfe’s rather desperate attempt to claim “The Dying Earth for Christianity

    Bad form to reply to my own post, but I tracked it down in case anyone else is interested – “The Living Earth”, published in the hard-to-google “Jack Vance – Critical Appreciations and a Bibliography” edited by A E Cunningham. It’s longer and more unconvincing than I remembered, particularly if you read it alongside the actual stories. (The bit that stuck with me is the the claim that the magician Pandelume is “one of the more transparent masks of God” and that the amulet Turjan retrieves for him must obviously therefore be a Christian symbol.)

  21. The JCW magic debate kind of reminds me of literary people who claim books that they like can’t possibly be fantasy or SF, because they like it, and go through mental gymnastics and gyrations to prove that 1984, or The Handmaid’s Tale, or what have you are really literary fiction and not that “Sci-fi stuff”.

    (The fact that Atwood has claimed that portions of her own work is not SF is not lost on me)

  22. Fair warning: Cherryh’s Convergence, though it’s the third book of this arc, feels very much like a middle book. Lots of stuff is left hanging.

  23. 16) As I see that, Batman is Batman first and Bruce Wayne a distant second; he’s invested most of his identity and self-image into Batman. Dick Grayson wants to be Dick Grayson first and Robin/Nightwing second; he doesn’t want to lose his personal identity in the superhero. Does that sound about right?

    @ Paul: Sort of like the people who argue that they hate science fiction — but this is good, therefore it can’t be science fiction — and then bend themselves into all sorts of knots trying to prove that science fiction isn’t science fiction.

    @ Contrarius: Because it’s the faith itself that counts, not the form in which the faith manifests. Presumably a Satanist’s faith in the protective power of Satan would work equally well. Or at least I can’t see why it wouldn’t.

    @ P J Evans: The exact same thing is totally different depending on whether the Christian God does it or not.

    @ Mike: IMO anything that claims to be magic is either supernatural or fraudulent. If it genuinely defies the laws of physics or causality, it’s supernatural no matter what or who causes it. But there are a lot of frauds out there, and a fair number of them claim to be operating by means of the Christian God.

    @ Aaron: That’s another version of the “if it’s good, it can’t be SF” argument. Wright hates magic that doesn’t come from his God, but he likes those stories, so therefore those characters have to be using divinely-inspired magic.

    @ Mister Dalliard: The Lord Darcy series is explicitly based around Catholic-controlled magic. You’d think he would be familiar with those. Almost everything written by Diane Duane that isn’t Star Trek involves people overtly battling the forces of evil — but not in an explicitly Christian context, although some of it can be read as ” Christianity with the serial numbers filed off” if you squint. The Changed World books by S.M. Stirling also have an overt religious struggle — but again, not in an explicitly Christian context.

    @ William R.: I primarily associate “does not use contractions” with artificial intelligence, cf. Data. I think some people associate it with formal speech, and therefore only use contractions in casual conversation and not at all in writing.

    @ Kurt: Something similar happened to Meisha Merlin Books; their distributor “lost” an entire print run, and it killed the company. (Anyone more conversant with the details than I am is welcome to expand on this.)

  24. @Lee —

    “@ Contrarius: Because it’s the faith itself that counts, not the form in which the faith manifests. Presumably a Satanist’s faith in the protective power of Satan would work equally well. Or at least I can’t see why it wouldn’t.”

    Yes, of course. My point was that Wright is criticizing a prominent feature of Jim Butcher’s Dresden series, even though I thought the puppies were supposed to LIKE Butcher. It seems that he can’t keep his friends and his enemies straight.

  25. @ Clack: Religion — or at least, any religion which depends on the acceptance of a supernatural being — IS part of the occult.

    @ Steve W.: Yeah, almost all of the lore concerning Satan and Hell is straight out of Paradise Lost, which is at best Biblical fanfic.

    @ Dex: I prefer trades when I can get them, for the sturdiness and ease-of-reading factor. I still have my issues run of Camelot 3000, but you’d better believe I grabbed the reissue in trade format, and that’s the one on my shelves to read now. Ditto the early Elfquest.

    @ Matt: Good point. However, that sort of thing does seem to be a recurring motif with members of that club.

  26. Among other inaccurate characterizations in Mr. Wright’s interview, his mention of religion in “Sixth Column” was wildly off. The protagonists created a religion specifically to mislead the conquerors, and at least one character had a crisis of conscience about it. It was also discussed as an issue with ‘real’ religions, where the protagonists went out of their way to cultivate friends among the real clergy, recruiting them as agents of the resistance.

    Calling Heinlein’s use of religion here as ‘a means of social control’ is … pretty misleading at best.

  27. I never by comics issue by issue. I find the format horribel as the issues are too short. The swedish marker has crashed, but when it was on its high, a swedish issue consisted if several american issues put together. Not seldom taking individual pages from cross-over issues making it possible to read everything as a single whole.

    So the reasons for never bying single issues are two: 1) Too short. 2) Cross-overs.

  28. @Lis – In reading the comments for more info it appears that S&S sent him a proof and he paid $1K to have it proof read. So nevermind, the venting makes more sense now. I’m not sure I understand why if BAEN was the publisher he’d need to do so much stuff independently for his book though. I mean at that rate he’s got a point you might as well self pub.

  29. A story on the matter of cancelled books…

    Ace published Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks as a MMP in ’87 and then promptly decided that was out of print but not available for the next decade. Tor picked it up and announced that they would published a spiffy hardcover.

    However that didn’t happened. They printed this edition but dumped it unto SFBC who offered it up though it says it’s a Tor publication. Tor would do several trade paper editions, one on Tor and one on their yo under reader imprint, Starscape.

    Any of you that know Emma and her husband Will know their SJW creeds are deeps in their bones so the argument that a book was cancelled because those evil SJWers cancelled that book because they didn’t like the politics is utter bullshit.

    As it happens, I have two signed copies — one done after she broked both of her arms in an accident at a RedFaire, the other after she healedup.

    Oh and there was a lovely library edition with no DJ but all the art and writing directly on the boards.

  30. @Lee & @Hampus Eckerman

    Lee, I’m going to make an enormous assumption by thinking you’re from the UK. If wrong, I apologize.

    That said, European comics historically, as I am aware and admit could be wrong, used a larger digest format a lot more commonly than in North America. Most imports from the big two tended to be bundled into multiple issues to adapt to it. Where are for older comic readers, even trades were not common as a kid. You got your comics by the issue and occasionally, for a big event, a trade would bubble up; The Dark Phoenix Saga, Death In The Family, The Dark Knight Returns, extra. There was the graphic novel, but those were usually released as a singular volume first and sometimes later reprinted in issues.

    So maybe it is a cultural thing, as it wasn’t until the late 90s that both companies started to release trades of just issues after a certain point, as opposed to just events, for their standard books.

  31. In reading the comments for more info it appears that S&S sent him a proof and he paid $1K to have it proof read

    The distributor sent the page proofs? I guess Baen takes this “we don’t edit” thing seriously.

  32. To be picky, he said he turned down a job worth nearly $1000 in order to work on the proofs himself. Still results in $ not in his pocket either way.

  33. Kurt Busiek notes The distributor sent the page proofs? I guess Baen takes this “we don’t edit” thing seriously.

    I find extremely unlikely that a distributor would even have access to proof pages as they wouldn’t even need them. The only page proofs I’ve ever had sent to me was a copy of them from Cemetery Dance for a Christopher Goldden collection they did.

  34. Asking me to check the proofs of a book they’re not going to produce is bloody annoying, cost me the better part of a thousand dollars — but I don’t have to do it. I’d be a fool not to, as proof-readers vary in quality. It’s a normal part of what an author does, but is not paid for, or obliged to do.

    Checked the comments myself: this does not say S&S sent him the proofs or that he hired a proofreader. I would read this to mean that Barn sent him the proofs, and the work time involved in going over them cost him income, not that he paid money out.

  35. Mark on April 4, 2017 at 2:29 pm said:

    To be picky, he said he turned down a job worth nearly $1000 in order to work on the proofs himself. Still results in $ not in his pocket either way

    Ah, didn’t know. His comment said it cost him a grand, didn’t see that it was due to turning down another job to do so. That actually makes it even worse, losing an opportunity, taking the time, and so on. Also because editing your own work is possible but I find it difficult as I see the things that I know are part of the story but someone else will point out that I made a continuity blunder or wasn’t clear to anyone not in my head. I always highly value the editing work done by others even when I disagree with some edits I value the input at how someone else saw the sentence.

    If he can and still have it turn out good, well awesome!

    Kurt Busiek on April 4, 2017 at 2:38 pm said:

    ‘Asking me to check the proofs of a book they’re not going to produce is bloody annoying, cost me the better part of a thousand dollars — but I don’t have to do it. I’d be a fool not to, as proof-readers vary in quality. It’s a normal part of what an author does, but is not paid for, or obliged to do.’

    Checked the comments myself: this does not say S&S sent him the proofs or that he hired a proofreader. I would read this to mean that Barn sent him the proofs, and the work time involved in going over them cost him income, not that he paid money out

    Sentence before was about how he doesn’t have a relationship with S&S which led me to believe they were the ‘they’ in the sentence following. The ‘cost me a thousand dollars’ led me to believe he paid a grand do do so.

  36. 12)–Had to check out the author of this piece. Especially after reading “He’s never written a bad book . . .” . Found enough to know that Stagnaro’s just not my kind of person. And I’m really sure he’d feel the same about me.
    But the perfect one to interview JCW.
    Who’s as pompous as ever.
    But really, Foundation and Stranger and so on are ‘juvenile and shallow”?
    And what’s this hate hard-on he has for the remake of BSG? I would that thought that the –to my mind– stupid and annoying ending would have been right up his alley.

  37. (12) Wright’s arguments, political or religious, always start with the conclusion, and he carefully hand picks the facts he wants to use to support them. I did the same thing, basically, in my entry-level college Lit courses, where I would eg. take an old book written by a known Christian author with ab blatantly Christian message and argue that it contained anti-Christian themes (or anti-government, or whatever I was on about at the time).

    Reading-wise – finished Summer in Orcus and loved it, then went on to McKillip’s Solstice Wood and liked it. Returned to Laird Barron’s Imago Sequence collection (which I enjoy, but is at times a little nasty for my tastes) and, once I finish that, will move on to reading for Hugo voting.

  38. Oh yeah, also…
    Someone – here, maybe? Or maybe on social media somewhere, but I think it was here – brought up Bradbury’s suggestion to write one short story a week. I decided to try that, as I get about three or so ideas a year, and figured I might get somewhere if I were to actually start trying instead of being put off by how difficult all the details are (PoV, dialog, pacing, etc.). I’m currently two days late with my first story, but in that week + 2 days I mentally worked through two ideas, then came up with what I thought was a decent idea, only to once again fall victim to DETAILS. But then I woke up at 5am this morning and some noise I heard in the house (I suspect it was a cat scratching the side of her litter box) triggered a bunch of ideas about the story. I’m on-call, so I sleep with my phone next to me. I sent myself an email with all those ideas. They kept coming as I typed. It was nifty. I almost decided to wait until morning to write the ideas down, but every time I’ve done that in the past the ideas are gone when I wake up. I’m not necessarily going to try to do anything with any of these stories, but I miss the old days when I used to write for fun.

  39. @ Dex: No, I’m in the US. Our standard comics issue size is about 6.5″ x 10″; I don’t know how that compares to what you’re calling “digest” size, but it’s larger than what we call “digest”.

  40. “That said, European comics historically, as I am aware and admit could be wrong, used a larger digest format a lot more commonly than in North America. “

    That is absolutely true for the scandinavian market anyhow (it used to be the same publisher for Sweden, Denmark and Norway – not sure about Finland). I think UK used the american issues, but someone else will have to answer on that one.

    And as the swedish market has totally crashed, the only comics that have survived are The Phantom and the funnies, the alternative with buying american issues does not seem very attractive. So trade paperbacks it is.

  41. And it is more about how many pages. At the end of the 90s, the Marvel comics were sold as “Mega Marvel”, consisting of 148 pages with no commercials. It used to be that one Mega Marvel was about Ghost Rider, the next one about Wolverine and so on. And some heroes had their own comics, like Spider-Man. 64 pages if I remember correctly. Again, no commercials.

    Issue size was still about 6.5″ x 10″ for most comics, but one publisher used a larger format.

  42. @Steve Wright: I think you do have the remnants of a classical education, and NoRelation pretends to. Also you are capable of writing short sentences. And you know about Stapledon. And you don’t go so far justifying what you like with elaborate specious arguments.

    @WorldWeary: (re Bewitched and The Coven) Of course! Subservient housewives good, uppity teens bad!

    @Lee: Lord Darcy, yes! Western European Catholic magic. It’s magic that’s been codified scientifically, you have to learn it through a lot of study, and pass Church examinations of your soul. If you do it outside the church, then it’s black magic. Most people can do one or two simple spells, but years of formal training and certification are required to be a master.

    @Cassy B: Of course L’Engle isn’t Christian enough. According to him, the Pope isn’t Catholic enough. Nobody’s [anything] enough compared to him.

    Gandalf, as one of the Maiar, was one of those who sang the universe into creation under the direction of Eru/God, and then descended to Middle-Earth to help the mortals out in the fight against Morgoth/Satan. He also learned spells in all his travels (evoking them of his own free will), and he can rise from the dead.

    Merlin does many, many un-Christian things (helping Uther rape Ygraine, chap. 2), and also learns and teaches spells. He doesn’t die either; at worst he gets stuck in the cave by the mortal lady he taught — who out magics him!


    @Dex: In the late 70’s-early 90’s, I would buy single issues at my LCBS or bookstore or whatever. Then they made it clear that my girl cooties were completely unwanted. Nowadays I’m all about the trades, and digital if I want it monthly. So here I am, a data point for your idea.

    Being a middle-aged woman, I am really unwanted nowadays; evidently I’m only supposed to be in there if I’m bringing a male dependent.* The last LCBS in my town that didn’t pander to horny dudebros was sold when the owner retired, at which point I was no longer welcome. Shortly thereafter it went broke after being “the” store in town for decades. Stores also don’t much care about my late-middle-aged husband; he’s starting to get shunned too.

    *And my only male dependent is a kitty.

  43. @Lee

    I don’t know how that compares to what you’re calling “digest” size, but it’s larger than what we call “digest”.

    Sorry, I think of digest as the anthology sets like the British ‘Battle’ series; usually 100+ pages, often hard covered, packing in anywhere from 5-10 stories of varying length. I forgot that the Archie mini-form was always called a digest.


    In the late 70’s-early 90’s, I would buy single issues at my LCBS or bookstore or whatever. Then they made it clear that my girl cooties were completely unwanted.

    Yup. I remember the shift happening and not understanding why as a teenager. I was lucky that my main comic shop was welcoming to women and avoided the trend, but it was one of the lesser popular ones. The biggest one, you could almost hear the mouthbreathing at the door, like a seashell letting you hear a douche.

    I don’t have the data to claim it, but I think the comic shop ‘experience’ drove a lot of women into the trade market, which further shows the flaws in the direct market model.

  44. @Kendall et al: Thank you for the welcome! I’ve had a lot of fun reading the conversations here in the past, and while I don’t know if I’ll have enough interesting things to say to become a regular commenter, I’ll try not to be so shy in the future. 🙂

    @lurkertype: “[S]omeone who wants to sound ‘important'” is about as apt a description of Wright as I can think of, though I’d hesitate, of course, to even suggest that “one of the finest [writers] writing today” is anything less than a master of English. Perish the thought!

    I probably wouldn’t have even mentioned the contraction thing if weren’t for all of his other charms; it’s like the cherry on top of the pretentious sundae that is J.C. Wright. Whenever I find myself reading his polemics, I’m reminded of that Twain line about taking Heaven for the weather and Hell for the company.

  45. I’ve been thinking about the status of religion in Butcher’s Dresden series for awhile, and I think there might be a deliberate ambiguity in the depiction of religion. Despite the fact that the world of the Files is built off of the kind of social constructionism that you find in Mage: The Ascension, the depiction of Christianity is distinctively different than the other religious systems discussed in the book. I think you can legitimately read that difference in one of two ways: Christianity is simply the more dominant belief system and therefore has more influence over the world or the religion is qualitatively different than the other belief systems and constitutes a real moral compass for the world. I think they’re both there. If Wright takes the second view, it could take him out of his dilemma between dogma and the friend enemy distinction. (I’m not going to go into it, but it kind of makes Dresden similar to Peter Wimsey in the books by Dorothy Sayers.)

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