Pixel Scroll 5/22/18 The Return Of The Revenge Of The Son Of The House Of The Bride Of The Night Of The Living Pixel Scroll

(1) ROBSON ON WORLDBUILDING. Juliette Wade interviews celebrated author Kelly Robson in her latest Dive Into Worldbuilding hangout — “Kelly Robson and ‘Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach’”. Wade has both notes on the interview and a video at the link.

This hangout looks twice as exciting now that Kelly has gone on to win a Nebula in the meantime (for her novellette, A Human Stain)! It was a pleasure to have her on the show to talk about her recent novella, Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach.

Kelly started out by telling us about how critical economics was to this story. She’s passionate about economics! (And so she should be; worldbuilding without economics is flimsy.) She calls it “the physics of worldbuilding.” She told us that when she was first writing historical fiction, she began with medieval settings because it seemed more straightforward to manage, but that since then, she’s branched out into greater challenges. In this story, the historical portion is set in Mesopotamia!

(2) RECAP. Shannon Hale, one of the principals in the story, gives her own rundown of yesterday’s FanX antiharassment news in “My FanX craziness, annotated”.

Since this has blown up and become news, I’m going to lay out here all my interactions with FanX (Salt Lake City’s Comic Con).…

(3) IN TUNE. Olga Polomoshnova shares her analysis “On Lúthien’s power of singing” at Middle-Earth Reflections.

The fairest of all Children of Ilúvatar, Lúthien is not an ordinary character. Being the daughter of an Elf and a Maia, she inherited various traits of both kindreds. Among many of her gifts and skills singing was one of the most exceptional. However, when it comes to talking about Lúthien’s singing, we should bear in mind that hers was not renowned just for being done in a beautiful voice. Lúthien’s songs possessed special power

(4) REALITY SHOW. Tom McAllister tells new writers to recalibrate their expectations in “Who Will Buy Your Book?” at The Millions.

Before I ever published anything, I’d assumed that if I ever finished a book, there would be so much demand from family and friends alone that we’d have to go into a second printing before the release date. But I am here to tell you: most people in your family will never buy your book. Most of your friends won’t either.

I have a handful of friends and family members—people I consider close to me, people I see regularly—who have never come to any of my dozens of book events. I don’t know if they own any of my books because I haven’t asked, but I have a pretty good guess. After my first book came out, I would peruse friends’ bookshelves, trying to determine their organizational system (if it’s not alphabetical, then where is my book? Maybe they have some special hidden shelf for books they truly cherish?). On a few occasions, I called them out for not having it. This accomplished nothing, besides making both of us feel bad.

The point of this piece is not to shame those people or to complain about not getting enough support. It’s just to say: whatever you think it’s like after you publish a book, it’s actually harder than that.

(5) PAYSEUR. Quick Sip Reviews’ Charles Payseur covers “Beneath Ceaseless Skies #251”, which, coincidentally has a story by Jonathan Edelstein.

It’s a rather quick issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, with two stories linked in a way by their length (neither of them over 2500 words, which is unusual for the publication). But it lends both stories a sort of impact, and a feeling of anticipation. In the first, that means having to wait for the results of a very important test. In the second, that means having to wait for the results of a very important confrontation. In both, there are certain indications that might guide readers otwards guessing what happens next, but both times it’s left up in the air what _actually_ transpires after the final stories end. What it is certain is that both look at characters struggling to solve tricky problems, ones where they have been made culpable of a misstep and are desperate to find a way forward. So yeah, to the reviews!


“The Examination Cloth” by Jonathan Edelstein (2232 words)…

(6) LAW WEST OF THE EAST RIVER. The New York Times Magazine offers the verdict of “Judge John Hodgman on Children Watching James Bond Movies”. Here’s the problem —

Ren writes:  Our children, ages 7 and 9, love James Bond movies.  We’ve seen almost every one, but my wife doesn’t want them to see Casino Royale.  It’s often referred to as the best Bond, but she believes it is too inappropriate for them.  Can you help?  I’d like to watch the movie with my kids, who are James Bond fans just like me.

John Hodgman’s answer:

Of course 7-and 9-year-olds like movies with cars that fly.  But they don’t love problematic gender portrayals and seventh-grade-level sex jokes.  That’s why Ian Fleming wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for children and the James Bond series for man-children.  But if Casino Royale (which is great!) is truly the last one you have left, why not?  Why not complete your experiment and cuddle up with your kids and watch Daniel Craig be tortured in a very private area?  No one can stop your mad plan now.  Not even you, Mr. Bond!

(7) GOLD OBIT. Virtuoso movie poster creator Bill Gold died May 20 at the age of 97. His iconic work included Casablanca and The Exorcist.

Mr. Gold comfortably spanned the years from paperboard to the computer era, and many of his posters became nearly as famous as the movies they promoted. Some won design awards; many were coveted by film buffs, sold at auctions or collected in expensively bound art books. The best originals came to be considered rare and costly classics of the genre.

For Michael Curtiz’s “Casablanca” (1942), Mr. Gold’s second assignment, he drew Humphrey Bogart in trench coat and fedora, dominant in the foreground, with a constellation of co-stars — Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid and others — in the airport fog behind him. To raise the drama, Mr. Gold put a pistol in Bogie’s hand. And he put fear and regret, not love, in Ms. Bergman’s eyes, to avoid stepping on his last lines.


(9) SHORT STUFF. Camestros Felapton walks us through his rankings in “Hugo Ballot 2018: Short Story”.

…It doesn’t feel that long ago that the talk was whether the SF short story was dead or close to death. The impact of Sad Puppy campaigns and Rabid Puppy vandalism hit the short story category hard. And what an emblematic category it had been for the Hugo Awards and science fiction! American style science fiction had grown out of the short story style and some of the greats of SF were intimately connected with shorter form fiction. Ray Bradbury especially but also Issac Asimov – The Foundation Trilogy being one of many SF classics that grew from connected shorts.

The Hugo finalists this year are a set of entertaining and varied reads. There’s not one theme or style and there are elements of fantasy and science-fiction as well as some classic twists.

(10) KATE BAKER AT WORK. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak points to Clarkesworld where people can “Listen to one of the best short science fiction podcasts right now”.

In the years since she became the full-time narrator for the podcast, Baker has become the de facto voice for the podcast, an experience that she says is “surreal.” “I view it as a huge responsibility and an honor,” she says. “because I get to go and be in someone’s ear, and I think that’s an intimate power, and I don’t ever want to abuse that.”

Baker doesn’t read or rehearse the story before recording, and while she notes this approach has burned her a couple of times, the “biggest draw to this whole job is the fact that I’m experiencing the story along with the listener for the first time, and I can experience those emotions with the listener. If you’re hearing my voice crack or if I sound stuffy because I had to walk away because I started crying, that’s all pretty genuine.”

That’s something that shines through: a recent episode featured Rich Larson’s heartbreaking short story “Carouseling”, and you can hear her voice break after she finishes reading the story. This emoting, along with Baker’s long-standing narration for the podcast, provides a familiar and consistent warmth that subtly enhances each story that the magazine produces. The result is not only a catalog of powerful short fiction, but one that’s also presented in a voice that makes them even better.

(11) CHINESE BOTS. My brethren are bound for Luna. “China launch will prep for Moon landing”.

“The launch is a key step for China to realise its goal of being the first country to send a probe to soft-land on and rove the far side of the moon,” the state news service Xinhua quoted Zhang Lihua, the satellite project’s manager, as saying.

In addition to its onboard communications equipment, Queqiao will also carry two scientific instruments and will deploy two microsatellites.

The forthcoming Chang’e 4 mission will explore the Moon’s South Pole-Aitken Basin with a payload of scientific instruments. It is a key step in China’s long-term plan to further its ambitions as a major space power.

China previously landed a robotic lander and rover, collectively known as Chang’e 3, on the Moon in December 2014. The rover continued to transmit data until March 2015.

(12) STONY END. BBC tells about plans for “Turning carbon dioxide into rock – forever”.

With rising concentrations of atmospheric CO2, scientists have been testing “carbon capture and storage” (CCS) solutions since the 1970s.

CarbFix, however, stands out among CCS experiments because the capture of carbon is said to be permanent – and fast.

The process starts with the capture of waste CO2 from the steam, which is then dissolved into large volumes of water.

“We use a giant soda-machine”, says Dr Aradottir as she points to the gas separation station, an industrial shed that stands behind the roaring turbines.

“Essentially, what happens here is similar to the process in your kitchen, when you are making yourself some sparkling water: we add fizz to the water”.

The fizzy liquid is then piped to the injection site – otherworldly, geometric igloo-shaped structure 2km away. There it is pumped 1,000m (3,200ft) beneath the surface.

In a matter of months, chemical reactions will solidify the CO2 into rock – thus preventing it from escaping back into the atmosphere for millions of years.

(13) HOW IT BECAME A KILLER. From the BBC: “Malaria genetics: study shows how disease became deadly” — relatively recently — and a warning to watch for other parasites and viruses jumping species.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 200 million people are infected with malaria every year; the disease caused the deaths of almost half a million people globally in 2016, and the majority of those deaths were children under the age of five.

By far the deadliest species of the parasite which causes this global health scourge is Plasmodium falciparum.

While this species infects and often kills people when injected through the bite of a female Anopheles mosquito, there are many other related species which infect some of our great ape cousins – chimpanzees and gorillas.

To study those, the researchers collaborated with a team caring for injured and orphaned apes in a sanctuary in Gabon. As part of the animals’ health checks, veterinary staff take blood samples from them.

“It turns out that healthy animals have a really high background level of parasites in their blood,” Dr Berriman told BBC News. “[These animals] are blissfully ignorant of the scientific value in their blood.”

The blood samples provided a series of malarial genetic codes that the scientists could use to trace its evolutionary history.

“We don’t have fossils for tracing the history of a parasite,” said Dr Berriman.

(14) WATCHMEN PITCH. ComicsBeat is less skeptical after seeing how “Damon Lindelof details new WATCHMEN television adaptation in open letter”.

But recently, reports began to spring up that the showrunner might be taking a completely different approach to the material. Instead of a mannered, straight adaptation of the 12 issues or any kind of extrapolation thereof, he was instead comparing it to what Noah Hawley has been up to with FX’s Fargo: a series whose world is informed by the original property, but not beholden to it in terms of character or plot. In short: think of it as “stories taking place in that same world, at any time period you can think of”. It’s great, with a capital “G”.

And today, Lindelof has spoken in more specific (maybe) terms, with a letter he posted on his Instagram, to give the public an opportunity to dig into his headspace a bit regarding his overall pitch for the series…if it sounds familiar, well…it should:


View this post on Instagram

Day 140.

A post shared by Damon (@damonlindelof) on

More at the link.

(15) ZOMBIE EMERGENCY. Not “Florida man” this time: “Florida city apologizes for alert warning of zombies”.

Officials in a Florida city apologized for an emergency alert that warned of a real power outage and a not-so-real “zombie alert.”

The alert, sent out by the city of Lake Worth early Sunday, warned of a “power outage and zombie alert for residents of Lake Worth and Terminus,” referencing a city from AMC’s The Walking Dead.


[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr. Horrible copyediting courtesy of OGH.]

153 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 5/22/18 The Return Of The Revenge Of The Son Of The House Of The Bride Of The Night Of The Living Pixel Scroll

  1. It’s a dilemma because if I wanted to include Cherryh I’d be inclined to lean towards Gate of Ivrel, but the Morgaine books are actually SF if you scratch beneath the surface. My other choice would be “A Thief in Korianth”, but that’s just a short story.

    Was Zelazny on the list? Nine Princes in Amber would be the obvious choice, but I might go for Jack of Shadows myself.

    Also on any list that I produce: Some combination of M.A.R. Barker’s Man of Gold, Michael Shea’s Nifft the Lean and/or Michael Reaves’ Shattered World.

  2. @Joe H.: Does Jack of Shadows age well, then? I remember liking it (eons and eons ago), though not as much as the first Amber series, but it’s been a long time.

  3. @Kendall — I may not be a good judge, but I reread Jack of Shadows a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it.

  4. Wait, is there no entry from the book of the new and/or long sun on that list?

  5. @Kendall: Jack of Jack of Shadows is not a all a nice guy, and most of the story is about him taking revenge on other people who probably didn’t deserve it as much as he thought they did. Somewhat the theme of the first Amber series too, when I think about it. I also still enjoyed Jack of Shadows when I reread it a year or two ago.

    I’ve read about a third of the books on that list, although I have at least 15 more in my “purchased and TBR” list.

    I was wondering if anyone had a recommended reading order for the Incryptid series. It looks like there’s a whole bunch of prequel short stories (or at least less than novel length) available on McGuire’s website, and I was wondering if it’s better to start with them or with Discount Armageddon?

  6. @Joe H.: Thanks! Shoot, older and shorter books like this would be great for an audio reread, but it doesn’t have an audiobook.

    Same with the Dilvish books, which I was thinking about earlier when you mentioned “Jack.” I want to reread those now, too. Must…read…Hugos…. 😉

  7. @Bruce A: Thanks! Another bump/like for the book. 😀

    Your balance of “read” versus “TBR” on that list is better than mine, which tilts the other way. (blush)

  8. Joe H and Kathodus, I thought I remembered that cover as having two people on it, and, sure enough, it did.

    ETA: I believe that cover is by her brother, David Cherry. I wondered if the other figure might be him, but I couldn’t find anything that said.

  9. Kendall: At least half of the books I’ve read from that list were ones that I read at least 20 years ago, probably around the time they were written, and most of the recent ones were Hugo nominees from this decade. As far as Winterfair Gifts is concerned I think it’s possible that Rxnegreva frafrq gung Ebvp unq zber guna n cebsrffvbany vagrerfg va Gnhen, naq gung pbzzragvat nobhg ure nssnve jvgu Zvyrf jbhyq unir orra n jnl sbe ure gb vaqverpgyl fnl gung n crefbany vagrerfg jbhyq abg or bowrpgvbanoyr gb ure be Zvyrf.

  10. @Bruce A: (InCryptid reading order)

    I read the first novel and then started in on the prequel stories, but the reverse should work just as well. I don’t recall any plot crossover (well, not involving the earliest arc; the “current” stories are best read after about book three), so it’s a question of whether you want to see the family history first or get to know her and then go back to see what kind of family she grew up in.

    As Vlad Tepes might say, it’s a matter of taste.

    And mice. Definitely mice.

  11. @ Lenore: I’ve met David Cherry. That picture doesn’t look much like him, but it’s harder to tell from the rear.

  12. It looks like Captain Mal Reynolds to me.

    That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it. 😀

  13. @Lenore Jones — When I was doing an image search on Google, I was very confused when I found that version of the cover painting with two people on it because I’d never seen that variant before — my old DAW paperback is the one with just the woman.

  14. @Kendall: a local reading group planned to discuss Jack of Shadows, but concluded it was so bad/blah there was nothing to discuss — nobody showed up. The problem with picking a Zelazny is that the early books wander back and forth over whatever line there is between fantasy and SF, and the later ones aren’t very good; I remember Amber being mocked as it came out, even with so little to weigh it against (and some of the competition being The Sword of Sha-na-na).

    @Bruce A: the shorts are some generations before the books; I’ve just skimmed the descriptions, but I doubt that reading them first is important. They could be well worth reading — I like McGuire’s recent books but was blown away by her shorter work in the October Daye world — just not critical-path.

  15. Philip Roth is certainly getting a lot of hype, but IMO you really have to be New York City Jewish to appreciate him (I’m only half that, so for me it’s only “kind of”). I can understand why Dick bounced off on him.

    I suppose he’ll get a mention in the Locus obituary page, as he did write two “genre” novels.

  16. (I’m only half that, so for me it’s only “kind of”).

    So you’re Jewish and from York?

  17. For InCryptid, I’d personally suggest reading at least the first novel, and then the shorts. But I’m the sort of person who likes Cherryh because she drops you into situations without explanation in the first chapter… <grin>

    The novel, I believe, was written first. And it gives you everything you need to understand the world. But the shorts are excellent for focusing-down-on-the-details on the world.

    On the other hand, if you don’t yet have Discount Armageddon and you’re working on your Hugo reading, there’s honestly nothing wrong with reading the shorts first. But, in that case, stop with “Target Practice”; “The Ghosts of Bourbon Street” and the shorts following will introduce spoilers for Discount Armageddon.

    Hope this helps!

  18. I have Discount Armageddon and a 4 day weekend starting tomorrow, so if the Hugo Packet doesn’t come out today, I’ll probably start on it. Thanks, everyone.

  19. For Cherryh, you could try The Paladin – it’s not conventional fantasy, but it’s good. (I prefer the cover from the older edition, not the current mess.)

  20. @ Lurkertype: (14) Who’s more of a hack, Snyder or Lindelof? While the opening credits of the “Watchmen” movie are some of the best 5 minutes evar, and tell the backstory so elegantly, the rest of it… eh. (And he’s only gotten worse)

    Snyder tried hard, but I think, like in Superman, he just didn’t get the characters. (Except Rorschach: he was totally into that Objectivist). For an example, it’s just a detail, but the hand to hand combat off the normal heroes shouldn’t have been fancy martial arts, but practical, vicious real world styles, as the comic showed. Only Ozymandus can pull off wuxia moves. It’s a detail, but one that illustrates the reality of the setting.

    The whole thing needs re-imagining a LOT to work today.

    Well for a start, someone needs to do something about the massive sexism in the story. Watchman is a perfect case study of lack of agency, where the woman’s character arc is defined by the men in her life.

    Rorschach: I’m going to get to the bottom of the Conspiracy!
    Night Owl: I’m going to rescue Rorschach, then travel to Antarctica to get to the bottom of the mystery!
    Silk Spectre: I’m going to uh…sleep with Dr. Manhattan. And Dan. And get kidnapped to Mars. Where I cry.

    In general, I wince whenever I hear Moore is writing a woman character. And after League’s “Rape is a larf and a half” , he simply shouldn’t be allowed to write comics with women in them.

    And everyone’s tired of Alan Moore’s (hypocritical) whining. Anything that pisses him off is a good thing, regardless of quality IMO.

    I am at least. Someone who creates massively tone deaf, racist fanfic that portrays rape for laughs has no cause to complain about anything done to his work.

    In fact, I think the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie was the perfect rendition of the comic, because it did the exact same thing to the comic that the comic did to the source novels.

  21. @Kendall – I figured since one of McCaffrey’s Pern books was on the list, the Wolfe would be equally appropriate. Both of those series scratch a Fantasy itch for me, as well as the SF itch.

    @Cassy B

    I’m the sort of person who likes Cherryh because she drops you into situations without explanation in the first chapter…

    Yes! Oh, I so hated that when I was a teenager, and love it now in my dotage.

  22. Is Cherryh’s The Paladin even a fantasy? I’ve always considered it historical fiction.

  23. I think they are not too strikt about the SF/Fantasy devide, which is good.

    I remember reading a Zelazny (always hit and miss for me) when I was a teen, that I found disturbing and interesting and didnt know what to make of it. I forgot the title, but it was playing on a planet with different tribes, each with a unique power. The main character could regrow body parts, but learned other skills as well. What was the title? I think i always confused it with Jack of the shadows, but it must have been a different book.

  24. Re: Cherryh — Yes, The Paladin is another great fantasy novel. (Edited to say: “Fantasy” in the sense that, say, some of Guy Gavriel Kay’s books are, or K.J. Parker, where it’s a relatively low-tech secondary world which may or may not have hints of the supernatural lurking around the edges, but it’s never foregrounded in the frame.)

    And re: her dropping you in without explanation — now I kind of want to conduct a double-blind experiment where half of the participants are given a copy of Gate of Ivrel and the other half are given Gate of Ivrel without the opening bit explaining the qhal and Morgaine’s quest …

  25. @ Bruce A

    Is Cherryh’s The Paladin even a fantasy? I’ve always considered it historical fiction.

    It’s hard to absolutely tell for sure. It doesn’t seem like there’s any magic in this milleu but the land seems to be fictional (Wikipedia says the world was inspired by the Tang Dynasty of China).

  26. @Peer : That sounds a lot like Orson Scott Card’s A Planet Called Treason. Any chance you’re misremembering the author?

  27. @Wanted in Alpha Centauri: I don’t think so. A Planet Called Treason (which I liked quite a bit) is very reminiscent of Cordwainer Smith’s “A Planet Called Shayol” (which I liked even better). But it’s been a while since I’ve read it, so I could be wrong!

  28. @Rob Thornton: I’m not sure whether I would call historical fiction that takes place in an imaginary country a fantasy if it doesn’t have magic elements to the story. Does that make The Prisoner of Zenda a fantasy? I don’t think so, but I’m not someone with the background to make such pronouncements.

    @Peer: I tend to agree with Wanted in Alpha Centauri that your description sounds like A Planet Called Treason, or the revised edition entitled Treason. The metal poor planet was populated by the members of a failed rebelllion, Empire (or whatever it was) has left devices that give iron in exchange for stuff from their descendants, some hundreds or thousands of years later. The tribes/families with special abilities tend to have had a rebellious ancestor with a particular specialty. For example, protagonist Lanik Mueller, with the mutation that causes him to grow body parts was the descendant of a biologist, flees his home after a fight with his brother, and after being branded a traitor, hides out with other families, one of which the family members have the ability to change the speed time passes faster or slower, compared to the rest of the world. There are also more secrets to be discovered about other families, and even his own, but I’m afraid I’m getting too close to spoiler zone. If you think this is it and want more confirmation that this is the novel you remember let me know, and I can provide a longer, more detailed synopsis, in rot-13 of course.

  29. @Bruce A: Thanks and good point. I can understand the motivation, but the implementation still feels off for that character.

    @Chip Hitchcock: Ouch! 😉 I do like some of his wanderings between fantasy & SF, but I have to say, I’m fairly under-read in Zelazny, except for Amber and a few other exceptions. (BTW I love the Amber serieses, though the first more than the second.)

    @Kathodus: Heh, when I saw Pern on the list, I raised my eyebrows, much as I enjoyed it for years. But I admit, it’s really very “fantasy except the backstory” until veeeery late in the series. That backstory just makes me call it SF regardless. 😉

  30. Just read the synopsis fro A Planet Called Treason and you are right – thats definitly the one! I wonder, why I mentally filed it under Zelazny…

  31. @Bruce A: “I’m not sure whether I would call historical fiction that takes place in an imaginary country a fantasy if it doesn’t have magic elements to the story. Does that make The Prisoner of Zenda a fantasy?”

    Contrariwise, I’m not sure how one properly applies the term “historical fiction” to a tale set in an imaginary land, whether or not there’s any magic to be found. The place and trappings may look like medieval Europe, but if none of the places exist, who’s to say it’s historical?

  32. Rev. Bob, the term I usually see applied to “historical” fiction set in a fictional country is “Ruritanian” (the country in which The Prisoner of Zenda, which you named, is set). Of course, those fictional countries are usually somewhere in Europe, not Asia, and usually the stories involve the upper classes, not peasants, so it’s a bit of a stretch to call Cherryh’s The Paladin “Ruritanian”, but no more so than calling it a fantasy. For what it’s worth, The Paladin quacks just enough like a duck that it’s classified as fantasy in my own head.

  33. @Cassy B:

    Bruce brought up The Prisoner of Zenda, not me. I merely quoted him.

  34. @ Bruce A

    I’m not sure whether I would call historical fiction that takes place in an imaginary country a fantasy if it doesn’t have magic elements to the story.

    That was a major question in how to classify Ellen Kushner’s Riverside/Tremontaine stories. I wouldn’t call them Ruritanian because the setting isn’t inserted into our history and geography (though clearly analogous in many ways). But no overt magical elements.

  35. Heather Rose Jones, Kushner’s “Tremontaine” stories, like Cherryh’s The Paladin, hits enough of the tropes I associate with a really good fantasy novel that they classify themselves as fantasy in my head (although I recognize the lack of explicit core fantastical elements). They quack enough like ducks that my heart calls them ducks, even if one is (perhaps) a loon and the other might actually be a swan…

  36. Although Swordpoint doesn’t have magic, The Fall of the Kings does, so we know it is a magical world. (Whether that’s a perfect sign I don’t know – is Archie fantasy because he lives in the same world as Sabrina? – but it contributes to the duckishness of the works on this occasion.)

  37. Kendall: Heh, when I saw Pern on the list, I raised my eyebrows, much as I enjoyed it for years. But I admit, it’s really very “fantasy except the backstory” until veeeery late in the series. That backstory just makes me call it SF regardless.

    The discovery of the backstory is an important part of the first book, though, which to me makes it SF from the beginning.

    The Wolfe, I think, is different, because it’s not just science fiction disguised as fantasy: it’s a genuine mix, where some of the distinctive features of the world have scientific explanations, but others do not (even by the story’s own light)

  38. Agree with all those who are worried about the absence of Little, Big . Also, surely, Lud in the Mist.

  39. @Andrew M: I’m missing something; the first Dragonrider book published didn’t show the characters discovering anything really significant about the SFal part of the series backstory (e.g., that they came there from Earth in starships). But I was unclear; I consider it SF not because of things that happen later [ETA: at least, not just], but because the prolog in the first book makes it clear it’s SF. But it does read like fantasy for the first two books and the three Harper Hall books, till we get SF reveals in The White Dragon.

    Oh now I’m wanting to re-read/listen to the series, thanks. 😉 I have no time for that!

    Wolfe: Sorry, I should’ve said I haven’t read it; I was going based on what I’ve read about it. Things-not-explained doesn’t make something not SF, but I should get around to reading the books anyway. They always sound interesting but daunting. 😉

  40. Zelazny definitely did deliberate genre-bending. Lord of Light was (roughly speaking) science fiction draped with all the trappings of fantasy, while Creatures of Light and Darkness was fantasy draped with all the trappings of SF.

  41. Bruce:

    I’m not sure whether I would call historical fiction that takes place in an imaginary country a fantasy if it doesn’t have magic elements to the story.

    I don’t think I would, either. I’ve read books set on imaginary streets, in imaginary cities, in imaginary counties, in imaginary states, and more. An imaginary country seems like just a matter of scale. Is the Marx Brothers movie DUCK SOUP fantasy because of Freedonia?

    Then again, there’s a difference between inventing an imaginary European nation (or an imaginary African nation, an imaginary Oceanic nation, etc.) and an imaginary nation in its own imaginary world.

    “Ruritarian” has come up, and we could easily distinguish between Ruritanian fantasy, Ruritanian romance, Ruritanian historically, Ruritanian mystery, and so forth.

    But if you make up a whole world with fantasy elements, we often call that “invented-world fantasy.” We could just as easily categorize something as an invented-world historical or an invented-world romance. The invention of the world doesn’t have to make it fantasy — after all, there are a lot of invented worlds in science fiction.

    King Bob:

    I’m not sure how one properly applies the term “historical fiction” to a tale set in an imaginary land, whether or not there’s any magic to be found. The place and trappings may look like medieval Europe, but if none of the places exist, who’s to say it’s historical?

    If it’s an entirely-fictional world, then the distinctions we use to call something a historical don’t seem to exist — if it’s not set in “our” past, it’s set in the world’s present. It could have a framing sequence set in a “present” and the rest of it takes place in the relative past, but still, that’s not what we seem to use “historical” to mean.

    On the other hand, if it’s a Ruritanian land, interpolated into our world, then its history is shaped and affected by what we recognize as history, much like those historical with invented cities or streets.

    [Hm. Now I want to write a story set on Ruritan Blvd…]


    is Archie fantasy because he lives in the same world as Sabrina?


    Archie continuity doesn’t always recognize all the bits of it — sometimes in large ways, like how the “Archie One” series is caveman versions of the Archie gang, sometimes in smaller ways, like how the “Little Archie” series has young versions of the whole cast in it, even though other Archie stories have shown that either Betty or Veronica moved to town as teens.

    So any Archie story that references Sabrina is fantasy, as is any story that uses Jughead’s magic pin that makes him irresistible to girls, or any Captain Hero or Pureheart the Powerful story, or all the other occasional fantasy elements.

    Similarly, any Josie and the Pussycats story involving Alexandra Cabot’s magic powers is fantasy.

    But the stories that don’t…they’re not fantasy stories. For many stories, there is no magic, there are no super-powers, Jughead does not know a magic word that’ll turn him into a superhero. They’re just teen humor stories.

    So the world of Archie has fantasy to it, but is not a consistent fantasy world. It comes and goes. And Archie stories are mostly not-fantasy, except for the times they are.

    Kind of like a TV drama that occasionally does stories where psychic powers seem to work aren’t ongoing fantasy series, just series in which fantasy sometimes shows up temporarily.

  42. I’d accept that The Paladin is a Ruritanian historical fiction, even though the setting is not Europe adjacent. There’s no overt magical elements, and since I don’t really know Chinese history or territories, it certainly seemed to me to be set in ancient China. IIRC, it was published by Tor, and I probably bought it at Uncle Hugo’s, so I was expecting it to be a fantasy, but after reading it and not discovering any magic in it (although I kept expecting some any time now), my classification of it switched to historical fiction. I would have done the same if she had written the same story set in an indeterminate European location set in the middle ages.

  43. @Kurt: an interesting distinction re Archie. I know them so little that Jughead’s pin (at least) was news, but ISTR other comics having a similarly cavalier attitude towards boundaries; e.g., the Jeep in Popeye, or the Yoyos(?) in Little Lulu (which Wikipedia tells me also had Little Men from Mars at one point).

  44. Yeah, THIMBLE THEATRE feels like fantasy because it’s consistent — even when Eugene the Jeep or the Sea Hag is off-stage, they still exist. It’s that kind of world.

    LITTLE LULU has fantasy elements that seem to be true in the stories they appear in but in others, it’s not that they’re off-stage but the characters are still aware of them, it’s more like they don’t exist. But maybe not quite as strongly as ARCHIE.

  45. Well, after all, Popeye’s origin story is that he’d been shot full of lead, and he spent all night holding the wish-granting Whiffle Hen, and it not only restored him, it made him stronger than ever. His antagonist gaped upon seeing him walking around, and stammered that he thought he’d shot him. “What ya think these is?” demanded Popeye, opening his shirt up, “Button holes?”

  46. Popeye’s real origin story is:

    “Hey there! Are you a sailor?”

    “D’ja think I’m a cowboy?”

    “Okay, you’re hired.”

  47. Of course I’m referring to the origin of his super powers, just as you’re referring to his first appearance. Another possible definition of ‘origin’ could be the backstory of who his momma was, or where Segar obtained his first drawing implement.

Comments are closed.