Pixel Scroll 5/27/19 You Have The Right To A Dragon. If You Do Not Have A Dragon, Or Cannot Afford One, One Will Be Provided To You Free of Charge.

(1) A DAY OBSERVED. At Book View Café, Diana Pharoah Francis marks the U.S. holiday: “Memorial Day”.

Today is the day we remember and honor those who’ve served in the military and those who continue to serve. Those who died in service to their country, and those who gave up more than any of us can possible know, even though they kept their lives.

This is the day we say thank you, paltry though that is. For me, it’s also the day to remember those who’ve fallen in service to others in all capacities. You give me hope.

(2) PLUS ÇA CHIANG. Ted Chiang authored “An Op-Ed From The Future” for the New York Times: “It’s 2059, and the Rich Kids Are Still Winning”. An editor’s note explains, “This is the first installment in a new series, “Op-Eds From the Future,” in which science fiction authors, futurists, philosophers and scientists write op-eds that they imagine we might read 10, 20 or even 100 years in the future…”

…We are indeed witnessing the creation of a caste system, not one based on biological differences in ability, but one that uses biology as a justification to solidify existing class distinctions. It is imperative that we put an end to this, but doing so will take more than free genetic enhancements supplied by a philanthropic foundation. It will require us to address structural inequalities in every aspect of our society, from housing to education to jobs. We won’t solve this by trying to improve people; we’ll only solve it by trying to improve the way we treat people….

(3) GAME OF FORKS. “4000 misplaced forks and knives became a cutlery throne” – translated from Swedish by Hampus Eckerman:

About 300 forks, knives and spoons are separated each day from the food remains of the Uppsala populace, by their local biogas plant. In order to, in a fun way, show how important it is to sort properly, Uppsala water has built a magnificent cutlery throne.

– We believe that the majority of cutlery comes from catering establishments and schools where cutlery is easier to get lost among leftovers. But we do not know for sure, says Jasmine Eklund, Communicator at Uppsala Water.

The cutlery throne consists of about 4,000 pieces of cutlery which corresponds to two weeks of cleaning. The cutlery has been washed and then welded together.

– We do not think that people have thrown the cutlery among the leftovers on purpose. Therefore, we hope that the throne will make people more aware of what they throw out and how they sort, says Jasmine Eklund.

“Great fun that people want to come here”

Until easter Thursday, anyone who wants to visit the Pumphouse in Uppsala can sample the huge glittering throne.

 – We have had many visitors this weekend, and hope for more during the Easter week. It is great fun that people want to come here and learn more about our work, says Jasmine Eklund.

 On Monday morning, Vilgot Sahlholm, 11 years old, visited Pumphouse with his brother, grandmother and grandfather.

 – I think the throne was pretty hard, so it wasn’t so comfy to sit in, he says.

 Cutlery Throne

 Weight: 120 kg.

Number of cutlery: About 4000 pieces.

So much cutlery is sorted out each year: 3,5 tons, which means around 100 000 pieces.

(4) LANGUAGE BUILDING. Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury, weighs in with  “A Lesson for (and From) a Dystopian World” in the New York Times.

…Throughout his life, the American writer Russell Hoban produced a number of startlingly original novels. Perhaps the most startling of them all is “Riddley Walker,” first published in 1980. (Hoban died in 2011.) The book belongs to the dystopian genre that has become fairly popular in recent decades. What makes it unlike any other is its language — a version of English as it might be spoken by people who had never seen words or place names written down, an idiom among the ruins of half-remembered scientific jargon, folklore and garbled history. In the post-apocalyptic universe created by Hoban, words create ripples of meaning, echoes reaching into the heart of language and thought through a thick fog of cultural trauma and loss…

(5) DOES ANYONE READ THIS STUFF? Ersatz Culture has produced an ambitious set of “Charts showing SF&F award finalists and their rating counts on Goodreads”:

First off, I want to make it absolutely clear that there’s no agenda here about how awards should reflect popularity, or that awards that don’t meet someone’s personal perception of what is “popular” are bad/fixed/etc, or any similar nonsense. (Although I am more than happy to point out cases where claims of representing popular opinion aren’t backed up by the statistics.)

Award pages

(6) CLARKE AWARD. On Five Books, Cal Flyn interviews Arthur C. Clarke Award director Tom Hunter, who explains why the six Clarke nominees are worth reading.

Categorisation was something I wanted to touch on. Looking at the list of your previous finalists, I was interested to see books that I wouldn’t initially have considered to be sci fi. For example: Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, which won in 2017. So I wonder if you might say a bit more about the definition of ‘science fiction’ and what you consider it to encompass.

Yes. Going right back to the beginning, to the award’s creation: one of Arthur’s stipulations was that it wasn’t to be an award for the best book-that-was-a-bit-like-an-Arthur-C-Clarke-book. He wanted it to be very broad in its definition. And science fiction is a phenomenally hard thing to define anyway. It’s one of those things, like: I know it when I see it. And it changes – going back to my previous point about how publishing’s view has changed.

(7) CLOSURE FOR D&D TV SERIES. Fans of the ‘80s Dungeons & Dragons TV series know that the series never truly ended. Well, Renault Brasil has decided to wrap things up in their new and rather impressive commercial for the KWID Outsider. Series creator Mark Evanier has given his blessing.

…Someone also usually writes to ask if there was ever a “last” episode where the kids escaped the D&D world and got back to their own…and occasionally, someone writes to swear they saw such an episode on CBS. No, no such episode was ever produced. One of the writers on the series later wrote a script for such an episode but it was not produced until years later as a fan-funded venture. I do not endorse it and I wish they hadn’t done that…but if you like it, fine.

The show is still fondly remembered and is rerun a lot in some countries. It’s popular enough in Brazil that the folks who sell Renault automobiles down there spent a lot of money to make this commercial with actors (and CGI) bringing the animated characters to life.

(8) WOULD HAVE BEEN 85. Adam Dodd of the Cleveland News-Herald is “Remembering Harlan Ellison: local writer and professional troublemaker”.

“I see myself as a combination of Zorro and Jiminy Cricket,” wrote Ellison, describing himself while writing the introduction to Stephen King’s ‘Danse Macabre.’ “My stories go out from here and raise hell. From time to time some denigrater or critic with umbrage will say of my work, ‘He only wrote that to shock.’ I smile and nod. Precisely.”

Ellison’s prickly attitude was typified by the manner in which he left Ohio State University in 1953 after only attending for 18 months. After a writing professor questioned his ability to craft a compelling story Ellison physically attacked him and was subsequently expelled.

(9) THORNE OBIT. Doctor Who News reports the death of Stephen Thorne (1935-2019) at the age of 84.

In the 1970s Stephen Thorne created three of the greatest adversaries of the Doctor, characters whose influence endures in the programme today.

His towering presence and deep melodious voice were first witnessed in the 1971 story The Dæmons, where he portrayed Azal, the last living Dæmon on Earth, in a story often cited as one of the most appreciated of the third Doctor’s era and story emblematic of the close-knit UNIT team of the time.

He returned to the series in 1972 playing Omega, the renegade Time Lord fighting The Three Doctors, a character that would return to confront the Doctor in later years. In 1976 he opposed the Fourth Doctor playing the male form of Eldred, last of the Kastrians in the story The Hand of Fear.


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 27, 1894 Dashiell Hammett. No, the author of The Maltese Falcon did not write anything of a genre nature but he did edit early on Creeps by Night: Chills and Thrills. I note there are stories by H. P. Lovecraft and Frank Belknap Long among a lot of writers of writers less well known as genre writers. (Died 1961.)
  • Born May 27, 1911 Vincent Price. OK, what’s popping into my head is him on The Muppets in the House of Horrors sketch they did. If I had to single out his best work, it’d be in such films as House on Haunted HillHouse of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum. Yes, I know the latter two are Roger Corman productions.  He also did a lot of series work including being Egghead on Batman, appearing in the Fifties Science Fiction Theater, a recurring role as Jason Winters on the Time Expressand so forth. (Died 1993.)
  • Born May 27, 1922 Christopher Lee. He first became famous for his role as Count Dracula in a series of Hammer Horror films.  His other film roles include The Creature in The Curse of Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, Kharis the Mummy in The Mummy, Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun,  Lord Summerisle In The Wicker Man, Saruman in The Lord of the Rings films and The Hobbit film trilogy, and Count Dooku in the second and third films of the Star Wars prequel trilogy. (Died 2015.)
  • Born May 27, 1935 Lee Meriwether, 84. Catwoman on Batman. (And if you have to ask which Batman, you’re in the wrong conversation.) Also, she had a turn as a rather sexy Lily Munster on The Munsters Today. And of course she had a co-starring role as Dr. Ann MacGregor on The Time Tunnel as well. And yes, I know I’m not touching upon her many other genre roles including her Trek appearance as I know you will.
  • Born May 27, 1934 Harlan Ellison. Setting aside the “The City on the Edge of Forever” episode”, I think I best remember him for the Dangerous Vision anthologies which were amazing reading. (Died 2018.)
  • Born May 27, 1958 Linnea Quigley, 61. Best know as a B-actress due to her frequent appearances in low-budget horror films during the 1980s and 1990s. Most of them no one remembers but she did play a punk named Trash in The Return of the Living Dead which is decidedly several steps up from  Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama. She’s currently Joanie in the 86 Zombies series which streams pretty much everywhere.
  • Born May 27, 1966 Nina Allan, 53. Author of two novels to date, both in the last five years, The Race and The Rift which won a BSFA Award. She has done a lot of short stories hence these collections to date, A Thread of TruthThe Silver Wind: Four Stories of Time DisruptedMicrocosmosStardust: The Ruby Castle Stories and Spin which has also won a BSFA Award. Partner of Christopher Priest.
  • Born May 27, 1967 Eddie McClintock, 52. Best known no doubt as Secret Service agent Pete Lattimer on Warehouse 13, a series I love even when it wasn’t terribly well-written. He’s also in Warehouse 13: Of Monsters and Men which is listed separately and has the plot of ‘the Warehouse 13 operatives uncover a mysterious comic book artifact and must work together to free themselves from its power.’ He’s had one-off appearances in Witches of East EndAgents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Supergirl, but no other major genre roles to date.  

(11) HOME ON THE PULP RANGE. At Galactic Journey, Gideon Marcus tells why some big names are returning to genre (in 1964): [May 26, 1964] Stag Party (Silverberg’s Regan’s Planet and Time of the Great Freeze).

…A lot of authors left the genre to try their luck in the mainstream world.  That’s why we lost Bob Sheckley, Ted Sturgeon, and Philip K. Dick for a while.  But times are tough in the real world, too.  Plus, of late, sff seems to be picking up again: IF is going monthly, we’ve got a couple of new mags in Worlds of Tomorrow and Gamma, books are coming out at an increasing rate.  And so Dick is back in force, and others who have left the field are nosing their way back in….

Robert Silverberg is another one of the authors who wrote sff like the dickens back in the ’50s and then disappeared.  He’s still writing and writing and writing, but most of his stuff doesn’t end up on our favorite shelves or in our favorite magazines.

But sometimes…

(12) THINK WESTEROSILY, ACT LOCALLY. In “Name of Thrones:  Why Baltimore-Area Parents Are Naming Their Kids After Characters From the HBO Series”, the Baltimore Sun’s John-John Williams IV reports that a lot of babies in the Baltimore area have become named Arya, Emilia, Khaleesi, Maisie, Meera, and Daenerys because their parents love Game of Thrones.

…Kucharski said she wanted to name her daughter after another strong female. (Arya’s twin is named after Maya Angelou.) The character Arya Stark stood out to Kucharski because of the heroine’s strong-willed nature and the fact that she doesn’t take no for an answer.

“She was able to carve her own way,” Kucharski said…

(13) A STORY OF OUR TIMES. No idea if this is true. Have a tissue ready: “Valar Morghulis”.

Footnote – translation of “Valar Morghulis”.

(14) WHAT IS LIFE FOR. Joseph Hurtgen reviews “Holy Fire – Bruce Sterling” at Rapid Tramsmissions.

…By the way, Sterling is a master of juxtaposing the brightness of futurity with dark pessimism. And for presenting the wonder of the future and then darkening and wrecking that vision, Holy Fire might be Sterling’s apotheosis. Sterling’s analysis of the future in this novel is ahead of the curve in the spheres of tech, psychology, human culture, and art. The novel takes place in 2090, a hundred years from when he wrote it, and going on 25 years later, it still reads as if it occurs in a future several decades out. But the real beauty of the work is the pessimism about what some of the early attempts at radical life extension could look like–namely, lost souls, people shadows of their former selves living a second youth, this time more reckless because they’ve already lived a century of making good decisions, so why not?

(15) SPACE OPERA COMPANY. Paul Weimer weighs in about “Microreview [book]: The Undefeated, by Una McCormack” at Nerds of a Feather.

There are many ways to tell a Space Opera story. Big space battles with fleets of ships using their silicon ray weapons to destroy the enemy. Or perhaps a story of diplomatic intrigue, where the main character journeys to the heart of an Empire , using words as a weapon to direct, and divert the fate of worlds. Or even have an Opera company tour a bunch of worlds in a spacecraft of their own.

Una McCormack’s The Undefeated goes for a subtler, more oblique approach, by using the life story of a famous, award winning journalist, Monica Greatorex,, whose journey back to her home planet braids with not only the story of her planet’s annexation into the Commonwealth, but of the enemy who seeks in turn to overthrow that Commonwealth.

(16) BREW REVIVAL. The brew that made Macchu Picchu famous: “Beer Archaeologists Are Reviving Ancient Ales — With Some Strange Results”.

The closest that Travis Rupp came to getting fired from Avery Brewing Co. in Boulder, Colo., he says, was the time he tried to make chicha. The recipe for the Peruvian corn-based beer, cobbled together from bits of pre-Incan archaeological evidence, called for chewed corn partially fermented in spit. So, Rupp’s first task had been to persuade his colleagues to gather round a bucket and offer up their chompers for the cause.

Once he got to brewing, the corn-quinoa-spit mixture gelatinized in a stainless steel tank, creating a dense blob equivalent in volume and texture to about seven bathtubs of polenta. Oops.

In another go, Rupp managed to avoid the brew’s gelatinous fate, but encountered a new problem when it came time to drain the tank. “It literally turned into cement in the pipes because the corn was so finely ground,” says Rupp. “People were a little cranky.”

These are the kinds of sticky situations that come with trying to bring ancient flavors into modern times.

A self-proclaimed beer archaeologist, Rupp has traveled the world in search of clues as to how ancient civilizations made and consumed beer. With Avery Brewing Co., he has concocted eight of them in a series called “Ales of Antiquity.” The brews are served in Avery’s restaurant and tasting room.

(17) TALL TERROR. BBC profiles “Javier Botet: Meet the actor behind Hollywood’s monsters”.

On first glance, you probably wouldn’t recognise Javier Botet.

Though not a household name, the Spaniard has a portfolio that many in the movie business would kill for.

Over the last few years, the 6ft 6in actor has starred in some of Hollywood’s biggest horror and fantasy productions.

From It to Mama to Slender Man – with a Game of Thrones cameo along the way – Javier has forged a reputation as one of the best creature actors in the industry.

…At one point, he went along to a special effects workshop. Both he and the tutor suggested his frame would be perfect to try out monster make-up on.

“I didn’t realise but I was born to perform,” Javier says.

(18) HOW’S THAT BEARD COMING ALONG? Norse Tradesman would be delighted to sell you the Viking Rune Beard Bead Set (24) – Norse Rings for Hair, Dreads & Beards.

(19) IT’S NOT THE REASON YOU THINK. Advice some of you globetrotters may be able to use: “Why You Should Fly With Toilet Paper, According to the World’s Most Traveled Man”.

And when I speak to people, I always put a roll of toilet paper on the podium and let them wonder about it till the end of my lecture. I’m given maybe five to 10 bottles of wine when I travel, so how do you pack wine so it doesn’t break? You put a toilet roll around the neck, because that’s where the bottle is going to break. I’ve never had one break.

(20) SINGULARITY SENSATION. Certifiably Ingame is here to help Trek fans with the question “Fluidic Space: What is it?”

Everything you need to know (but mostly stuff you didn’t) about about the home of Species 8472, the realm of Fluidic Space. This video is mostly theory-crafting about what exactly Fluidic space is as shown in Star Trek as there are no defined answers, but like most Science Fiction, it has may have a basis in reality. Or realities in this case. The laws of physics seem the same, as seen by crossing over, but the USS Voyager also get there by flying into a singularity made by gravitons because its Star Trek.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, Rob Thornton, Mike Kennedy Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Bonnie McDaniel, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

61 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 5/27/19 You Have The Right To A Dragon. If You Do Not Have A Dragon, Or Cannot Afford One, One Will Be Provided To You Free of Charge.

  1. Unfrozen Dragon Lawyer?
    (also: First)

    15) Hey, thanks to the link for my review!

    7) I remember reading that script…it went places I did not expect.

  2. 1) Memorial Day is when we remember those who died in the service of the nation.

    Armed Forces Day is when we salute those currently serving.

    Veterans Day (which is Armistice Day to the rest of the English-speaking world) is when we thank those who served.

    It annoys me when people get Memorial Day wrong. I drank a toast to a couple of friends who died while serving last night. But for dumb luck, I’d be in a numbered grave in Golden Gate National Cemetary.

    To absent comrades!

    Douglas E. Berry
    Corporal (retired), United States Army

  3. For folks familiar with Caillou: I apologize for the earworm:

    “I’m just a kid who’s Vor
    I’d like to grow some more
    I’m the Vorkosigan Miles
    That’s me!”

  4. (10) “Lee Meriwether, 84. Catwoman on Batman“: ‘Course, she appeared as Catwoman only in the Batman movie (which followed the first half-season of the twice-weekly TV series); Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt played her in the series itself. I was in the audience, age 9, and still have an “autographed” still of Adam West and Burt Ward that was given out.

  5. ) That’s nice and all, but I read an enormous amount of SF, including the award winners, and I’ve never looked at or had the slightest thing to do with Goodreads. Although god knows they won’t leave me alone.

    For that matter, no one I know uses Goodreads. I know a lot of people DO, but assuming it’s the sum total of the reading public is silly.

  6. I actually hadn’t seen that clip of Vincent Price from the Muppets, and I thought it was pretty funny.

  7. rochrist. Goodreads is obviously not the sum total of the reading public, but it is a large sample. The question is, is it a representative sample or is it biased in some way, eg does it underweight older readers? I don’t know the answer to that and would love to know if anyone had made an attempt to see if there is a gap between goodread users and the general public.

  8. Vincent Price and his wife Mary wrote a cook book which is still available, and reported to be very good.

  9. Kip Williams says Hammett’s novel The Dain Curse offers supernatural-flavored chills. I won’t say more than that.

    And I’ll stand by my note that he didn’t write any genre fiction. The Dain Curse is a wonderful read but what happens there isn’t within the realm of genre fiction as the Continental Op doesn’t operate within that field.

  10. @bookwarm If I were to guess, I’d expect it’s biased towards Amazon indie Kindle titles.

  11. 9) Vincent Price’s cook book is wonderful. Both for its recipes. Here is a picture of a kitten studiously ignoring it. It is also a fun read for understanding what food was exotic then. The recipee for guacamole is nice.

    My favourite Vincent Price scene is the vine tasting scene from The Black Cat. Price and Peter Lorre’s fantastic acting and comedic tining places this on my top ten list of movie scenes ever. The first expressions of Price are absolutely priceless (if you pardon my pun).

    My second favourite clip with Vincent Price is his part during the roas of Bette Davis. His wit and elegance is enormously sharp, but the fondness and heart behind it makes the clip a wonderful experience. However, upon re-watching it now, I found that the suck fairy had highlighted the sexism for me, so my memory of it has been slightly marred.

    16) My father some 50 years ago got a beer recipe from an Irish friend, a recipe that was said to have been passed down for generations. So he and his friends tried to recreate it. The result was clearly disappointing for them, but if they had understood correctly, the beer was supposed to mature in bottles for some time, so they carried all the crates to his store room at the top of his apartment house and forgot about them.

    Half a year later, someone had broken into the store room. They had taken one bottle from a crate. Taken one sip. And out the bottle back. “Harsh critics”, my father thought and threw the rest away. My brother had about the same kind of failure when trying out an old recipe for mead. It tasted like stale bathwater.

    Myself I have preferred to go with beer kits and have mostly good memories of homemade stouts apart from some hilarious failures when trying to hurry up the process ahead of parties.

  12. Series creator Mark Evanier has given his blessing.

    Since Mark isn’t here to do it himself, let me point out that Mark didn’t create the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS TV show. He wrote the pilot, and named one of the characters (who had been created and designed by someone else), but his credit on the show is “Developed for Television by.”

    Dennis Marks created the show.

    But that’s a fun commercial nonetheless.

  13. 5) I’m the person that produced these charts – or more accurately, I’m the person that wrote the code that produced them.

    @rochrist, bookworm1398: I had intended to write more accompanying blurb on the “About” page with respect to the meaningfulness (or not) of the figures/charts, but quite frankly, after spending a large chunk of the bank holiday weekend working on this, I was sick of the sight of it, and put it out in its current state to see if anyone was actually interested, or whether I’d wasted my time.

    It’s of course the case that Goodreads is only a (probably tiny) proportion of the reading public, and that proportion will likely vary depending on factors like nationality, age and reading preferences – for instance, my retired dad gets through a quantity of Tom Clancy/Robert Ludlum/Lee Child type thrillers that must get well into 3 figures every year, but there’s no way he’d ever be interested in setting up a GR account and posting ratings or reviews.

    There has been some very informal and low scale research published on how GR rating counts might translate to number sales – I’m reluctant to link to it in case this comment drops into moderation jail (I can’t recall what the rules are here) but if you Google for “mark lawrence goodreads sales”, it should be the top result. That research only relates to recently published fantasy novels, so it’s debatable how applicable it might be to any of my charts.


    > If I were to guess, I’d expect it’s biased towards Amazon indie Kindle titles.

    I don’t believe the data supports that thesis, at least with regard to the tiny fraction of books that get nominated for SF&F awards. Take a look at some of the posts here on File 770 from a couple of years ago about the Dragon Award finalists, which did similar analysis of their GR (and LibraryThing) figures – I’ve linked to them on the about page of my site, as they were one of the inspirations/prior art for doing these charts.

  14. Hi, John! I always enjoy some good number-crunching and graphical representations, and I really appreciate all the work you’ve put in on this and the other analyses you’ve posted on Twitter. 😀

    I do have a question: You say “Although I am more than happy to point out cases where claims of representing popular opinion aren’t backed up by the statistics.” and link to the Hugo Awards page.

    But neither anyone involved in the Hugo Awards, nor the vast majority of Worldcon members, claims that the Hugo Awards represent “popular opinion”, so I’m trying to figure out what point you’re trying to make. Worldcon members openly acknowledge that the Hugo Awards represent the tastes of Worldcon members — which is exactly what they’re supposed to do. The Hugo Awards frequently tend to recognize works which do something new or different, which doesn’t necessarily equate with “popular” — nor does it need to.

    People who care about “popular opinion” are better off referring to the GoodReads Awards — and I think that most Worldcon members recognize this, and it doesn’t bother them in the slightest.

  15. rochrist on May 27, 2019 at 8:03 pm said:

    ) That’s nice and all, but I read an enormous amount of SF, including the award winners, and I’ve never looked at or had the slightest thing to do with Goodreads. Although god knows they won’t leave me alone.

    For that matter, no one I know uses Goodreads. I know a lot of people DO, but assuming it’s the sum total of the reading public is silly.

    I don’t think that’s the assumption, it is more a case of any data source in a storm: there’s no really good source of data on what is being read that is readily available. Bestseller lists are gamed and rely to much on physical book stores, Amazon is opaque about its methods and publishers are secretive. Goodreads has issues (of which said Amazon is one) but it is dominated by people who read lots of books.

  16. @JJ:

    > But neither anyone involved in the Hugo Awards, nor the vast majority of Worldcon members, claims that the Hugo Awards represent “popular opinion”, so I’m trying to figure out what point you’re trying to make.

    This is a case where my text/link isn’t quite as clear as it might ideally be, possibly exacerbated by the columnated format of my commentary on the charts. (I did cringe a bit when I saw Mike had included that bit in the extract, as it’s certainly prone to a different interpretation to the one I intended, out of context to the linked text.)

    For clarity, it was intended as a reference to this bullet point in my commentary on the Hugo Best Novel chart:

    > If you’re going rail against the ‘niche’ works nominated by ‘the voting body of “fandom”‘, then perhaps it might be a good idea not to have the least read Hugo finalist of the decade on your slate?

    I’ll leave the guilty parties unnamed here, but there are links on the page if anyone doesn’t know to whom/what I was referring to.

    I’ll see if I can tweak the layout/wording to be clearer about my intended meanings.

  17. Ah, thanks! That makes a lot more sense.

    If you’re interested for curiosity’s sake, there have been a couple of other such analyses done here:

    The first GR/LT/Amazon analysis I did, in a comment referring to the Puppies’ claim that the 1st-year Dragon Award Finalists represented “popular opinion”.

    A micro-analysis I did, after John Ringo dismissed ConCarolinas Guest of Honor Seanan McGuire as not ‘a big name’ and said that he believed that one of his books had sold more than all of her books combined.

  18. Harlan Ellison was a bit more of Gemini Cricket.

    One old ad I saw with Vincent Price was his pitch for making authentic looking shrunken heads using dried apples.

    I am particularly fond of his obscure film, CHAMPAGNE FOR CEASER., in which he plays a soap salesman. It involves a parrot, a game show and a man who has never had a job. With Ronald Coleman.

  19. Goodreads may under-represent older readers, but what may be more significant is a tendency not to include older reading. I.e., when I first got on Goodreads, I imported some of my previous reviews, but not all of them–and I didn’t even attempt to add in the books I read prior to when I first started posting reviews online.

  20. @2: Bitter, but largely plausible. Unfortunately, a key sentence is tossed off and not developed: They believe that ability will lead to success because they assume that their own success was a result of their ability.

    @3: I hope their attempt to get attention paid is successful; that much lost cutlery may not be a large fraction of the local economy (population ~170,000, says Wikipedia), but it’s not nothing.

    @10: Lee also voiced King Haggard in The Last Unicorn — an interesting role for him as for once he wasn’t the tallest person in the picture. I’d say that should be the next animated to be converted to live-action, but Disney would probably ruin a pretty good movie.

    @13: a hell of a story; kudos to the teacher if it’s true.

    @19: Be prepared? (I’ve often come back with wine without damage — but never so many bottles; I can see where extra protection would be useful, but I wonder about getting the suitcase onto an airplane given weight limits.)

    @Hampus Eckerman: when I was homebrewing (25+ years ago), beer “kits” came with sugar, which is a cheap and bad-tasting way to pump up the alcohol; all-malt recipes (e.g., out of Papazian) were better. I wonder whether the old recipe was what some people were used to, or an issue with yeast. (Other ingredients don’t necessarily match precisely, but yeast is the one that can vary wildly.)

    @Robert Whitaker Sirignano: Harlan Ellison was a bit more of Gemini Cricket. Please no. One Harlan was effective even with his flaws; two would be explosive.

    @JJ: followed your link to your analysis of the first Dragon awards, and am missing one fact: how do those ratings compare with other genre works? AFAICT the numbers are rankings in all books, not just SF — and I’m reminded every time I go to the library how small a part of new fiction SF still is.

  21. @bookworm1398 —

    I don’t know the answer to that and would love to know if anyone had made an attempt to see if there is a gap between goodread users and the general public.

    The only such info I’ve personally seen is a claim that Goodreads users skew heavily female. Dunno if that’s true or not, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is.

    In re false claims about the popularity of puppy-type works and Dragon winners in relation to Hugo/Nebula winners, I’ve done a relatively large amount of tracking based on Amazon Kindle sales rankings. The Hugo/Nebula winners are consistently higher in sales rankings overall than either the Dragons or the puppies. Regardless of objective facts, though, I still to this day (most recently just a couple of days ago) frequently come across puppy claims that the Hugo/Nebula winners and nominees are somehow “obscure” and unpopular.

    The puppy types are simply not well acquainted with the concept of reality.

  22. Kat said:

    YES!!!! I’m here for my free dragon! Please and thank you!

    FWIW, Mike didn’t include the third sentence from my email:
    However, You Are Responsible For Feeding And Cleaning Up After It.
    I don’t know if this changes you mind, freebie-wise.

    The NYTimes article struck me as yet another mainstream/mundane review, i.e., by someone unfamiliar with the corpus of SF. Offhand I can’t think of another dystopia or other downer SF with phonetically-mangled/misunderstood English, but casting a topically wider net, what comes instantly to mind includes John Crowley’s ENGINE SUMMER (including the title, but also many things in the text). (I had another but failed to scribble it down and now don’t remember.) It feels like Heinlein and Kornbluth, among others did this, I’m sure Filers can generate a list.

  23. @Camestros: thanks for that comment, which reflects my opinions, just put more clearly than I would have been able to write 🙂 Goodreads is definitely an imperfect data source, but none of the potential alternatives seem any better.

    As an aside, in the process of writing this code, I’ve certainly come across a few things in Goodreads that raise an eyebrow – for instance, anyone care to guess why The Wandering Earth collection had a massive spike of ratings on the 10th and 11th of February?


    (That’s a few days after the theatrical release of the film in China, but I can’t see why Chinese film viewers – or a government internet propaganda team if you want to get into conspiracy theories – would care about ratings on an US/Western-centric book social media site?)

    @Lis Carey: yes, absolutely – I for one have never bothered to add in all the books I read back in the 80s and 90s. Perhaps a less ambiguous metric might be the average activity over the past 6 (or whatever) months, as can – sort of – be seen on the aforelinked stats page. Whilst that would further disadvantage older books, at least it would mean everything is being compared on the same criteria, namely current level of interest. Unfortunately, I don’t think that stat is available via the Goodreads API (at least, not with the particular API call I’m using) and scraping that data from their webpages is a bit antisocial, and probably against their T&Cs.

  24. @Daniel Dern — It’s not precisely dystopian, but Iain M. Banks’ Feersum Endjinn has some impressively-mangled English …

  25. 5. this exercise puzzles me for a number of different reasons –

    comparing “ratings/reviews” to award nominees/winners is an apples and oranges comparison on just about every level – different audiences, different purposes, one is cumulative over years, the other is an annual snapshot, one draws from a restricted audience, the other from an unrestricted one.

    It’s like comparing the vehicles that pass an exit on the hiway to those a dealership has on its lot.

    Further, I think such comparisons, even if valid, continue to blur the lines between a measure of “popularity” and “quality”, merely by attempting to compare the two. Somaliers do not make their menu selections from supermarket aisles and would be appropriately offended if a customer asked why “merlot in a box” was not on the menu.


    Interesting that Jo Walton’s Among Others really stands out as the winning Hugo finalist with the least relative sales. Believable though, as that book feels tailor-made to appeal to Hugo voters and I can see it not having mainstream appeal (as much as I personally enjoyed it).

  27. 16) BREW REVIVAL

    Chicha is of course still made and drunk by the locals in the Andean mountains. When we did the Inca Trail a few years ago, the porters were drinking it out of (presumably non-traditional) plastic bags to keep themselves refreshed.

    We also had a terrifying journey in a minibus along the brink of the Colca Canyon with our fellow passengers swigging quantities of the stuff and stinking out the bus. Based on that smell, I had no desire to try it.

  28. Chip Hitchcock: followed your link to your analysis of the first Dragon awards, and am missing one fact: how do those ratings compare with other genre works? AFAICT the numbers are rankings in all books, not just SF

    Those aren’t rankings. Amazon rankings change on an hourly basis and are meaningless, and as far as I’m aware, neither LibraryThing nor GoodReads have rankings for books.

    LT: number of people who’ve marked that they’ve read the book
    GR: number of people who’ve given the book a star rating
    Amazon: number of reviews posted for the book

  29. (5) While data analyses are very imperfect by nature, this is certainly very cool 🙂

    One obvious issue with interpeting the results is figuring out whether popular readership drives Hugos, or whether Hugos drive Goodreads reviews and ratings. Probably both! And the interaction is probably very different for older Hugo-winning classics , vs present-day books that get popular on Goodreads before they get their Hugo noms….

    Anyway, very neat 🙂

  30. One of the things I’ve noticed re: Goodreads is that participation across different genres/reading communities is not uniform, and that different reading communities use their Goodreads interactions in different ways. There are some corners of the bookverse where readers are passionate taggers and reviewers of books on Goodreads in disproportion to the books’ sales, while there are other corners where books with significant sales get very few GR tags/reviews. There are some GR subcultures where reviewers are very critical (in the neutral sense of the word) and others where GR reviews appear to be largely promo by the author’s “launch team”. I suspect that within a particular reading community, the GR stats offer a useful comparison. Most of the time. But comparing across reading communities won’t necessarily produce useful results.

    One of the interesting GR stats I’ve done some poking at is how behavior changes across a series. My (quite non-exhaustive and decidedly anecdotal) analysis is that later series books are less likely to get tagged, but just as likely to get reviewed in GR (relative to overall sales numbers), which is interesting.

  31. John S: anyone care to guess why The Wandering Earth collection had a massive spike of ratings on the 10th and 11th of February? That’s a few days after the theatrical release of the film in China, but I can’t see why Chinese film viewers – or a government internet propaganda team if you want to get into conspiracy theories – would care about ratings on an US/Western-centric book social media site?

    I have a bookmark for a particular Twitter search string, which I peruse frequently. It looks for the occurrence of one or more of a list of words or phrases. Two of those phrases are “Hugo Award” and “Hugo Awards”.

    I noticed, way back when Three Body Problem first got its Hugo nomination, absolute floods of tweets promoting it — “people” saying they’d reviewed the “Hugo Award nominated” and “Hugo Award winning” book and given it 5 stars, bot accounts with “book” and “kindle” as part of the username promoting it as a 5-star read (again with the Hugo Award keyword) with links to the book on Amazon, and accounts which, from their usernames, appear to be Chinese news services touting the amazing Chinese writer and their Hugo Award winning book.

    And all of these tweets were in English.

    This continued with the release of the two sequels, with the collection of short stories, with the film, with the follow-up novel by Bao Shu, and with Hao Jingfang and the Hugo-winning “Folding Beijing”. It’s so pervasive that I probably have at least three hundred of these accounts blocked (which is, of course, why they have bots keep generating new accounts all of the time, because Twitter users recognize them as spam and block or mute them).

    My best guess is that it’s part of a Chinese government propaganda campaign to demonstrate to its citizens and to the world that China is just as good at science fiction (or better) than any other country — as well as boosting sales to reinforce that perception — and that these tweets had corresponding duplicates in Chinese characters, which of course my search would not pick up. It’s probably intended to bolster national morale and pride, not just at home, but with Chinese nationals who are attending university or working in other countries.

    Those ratings you noticed are all bot-generated. And the film was released not just in China, but in Western countries, and from what I’ve heard about the film (its appallingly-bad “science” aside), it’s one big rah-rah video for Yay Awesome China And Chinese People.

  32. @JJ —

    Amazon rankings change on an hourly basis and are meaningless

    This is not true (the part about them being meaningless). They are a measure of relative sales rates, taken as hour-by-hour snapshots.

    Taking one snapshot can be misleading — sometimes there is a sale boosting one book over another, sometimes one book is on KU and another isn’t, sometimes a book or a book’s sequel has just been released, and so on — but taking multiple snapshots over a reasonable amount of time provides good information about relative sales rates and trends.

    The most important thing is to measure all the books across the SAME category — in my case, I always record the category “paid in Kindle books”. Sometimes the puppy types try to compare books in different, tiny categories — for instance, JDA claims a #1 bestseller status because he records sales rankings in tiny categories like “Gaslamp Fantasy” and “Teen & Young Adult Steampunk eBooks” — but that’s like comparing fleas to elephants.

  33. rob_matic: Interesting that Jo Walton’s Among Others really stands out as the winning Hugo finalist with the least relative sales. Believable though, as that book feels tailor-made to appeal to Hugo voters and I can see it not having mainstream appeal (as much as I personally enjoyed it).

    Like everyone else, I absolutely adored the fan service in that book, but I found the ending a real disappointment. I am convinced that it won a Hugo for its exemplary fan service, rather than because it was the best novel of the year.

  34. Over on Twiitter where I sometimes read but never post Paul Weimer asks
    “LRT: Fellow readers, can you think of a fantasy novel where the inability to read an otherwise ordinary map in universe is a plot point? Not magical maps or runes or the like but just not knowing what to DO with a map?”

    If I recall correctly, a medieval character in the Incomplete Enchanter series just does not get the idea of a map, in spite of Harold Shea’s best efforts to explain.

  35. @Andrew —

    ““LRT: Fellow readers, can you think of a fantasy novel where the inability to read an otherwise ordinary map in universe is a plot point? ”

    Oh dang, I remember that in a book……. ummmm…. something about a race that didn’t understand graphical representations…… ummmmmm…..

    I’ll try to think of it!

  36. @John S
    You could also look at the various Hugo Awards lists such as this one to see if the smaller subset of readers who vote on these lists are more representative of the nominees and winners.

  37. @Andrew
    That reminds me of the time, back in the late 80s, when a major L.A. freeway was closed temporarily because of a fire, and one of my co-workers couldn’t figure out how to get home (they lived west of downtown, and our workplace was in El Monte). The irony was, our jobs involved reading maps, and this person couldn’t, beyond the absolute minimum needed for work (which would have meant mostly matching the names and numbers on the paperwork up to the names and numbers on the map).
    So yes, there are people who really don’t get maps.

  38. @rob_matic: I’d noticed Among Others also, but I thought it might be a bit rude to point it out on the commentary, especially as I link to Jo Walton’s Revisiting the Hugos throughout. One other datapoint that surprised me was Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Telling being the (apparent) least read Locus SF winner – although it feels like it has a lot lower profile than the other Hainish books, even the three early ones; I must confess I’d forgotten it existed until I saw it pop up in these charts.

    @Heather Rose Jones – doing some analysis on series is on my TODO list; I’ve already got some rough-and-ready code that extracts the raw data, but need to spend some time to turn it into a visually interesting and comprehensible form.

    @JJ – interesting, that seems like good fodder for an article in a venue like io9 or Wired.

    @Red Panda Fraction: I’d already looked at that list in a slightly different context; there’s a timeline chart for the frontrunners here: https://twitter.com/ErsatzCulture/status/1106931677161500675 That chart was assembled in a much more manual labour-intensive way though, and I don’t think there’s a way to get the data for lists via the Goodreads API, so I’m probably not going to do any more with it/them.

  39. @Daniel Dern: “The NYTimes article [by Rowan Williams] struck me as yet another mainstream/mundane review, i.e., by someone unfamiliar with the corpus of SF.”

    I think Williams is not as widely read in the field as most here, and therefore might have better avoided making such sweeping statements, but it’s not completely foreign to him. He’s an eclectic character who dives deeply into whatever happens to intersect with his other interests, so for instance he’s written on Philip Pullman from a theological perspective, and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen him show up and now and then in a similar way for other genre works. His afterword to the Folio Society edition of Riddley Walker is pretty insightful, and expresses an idea that might have been what he was aiming for here: that is, that the use of language in RW may not be unique in terms of being the only dystopian SF novel that’s written in a dialect, but is unusually central to the book’s themes and (as a key discovery hinges on puns and mistakes) even to the plot.

    Tangentially, I once found myself in the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral with a group of Hoban fans, during Williams’s tenure as Archbishop. We didn’t see him, but we did meet the vicar(?), who very kindly allowed us to perform an impromptu reading of a little of the book (including part of it that takes place at that location). I thereby had the unusual (to me) experience of speaking the phrase “cock and balls” in an ancient echoey room in front of a vicar(?). He clearly had no idea what the hell we were doing, but smiled afterward and said it was “very interesting”.

  40. 9) I am truly surprised that Doctor Who News misspelled ‘Eldrad’.

    You do not have to file anything, but it may harm your defence if you fail to scroll when questioned some pixel which you later rely on in the con suite.

  41. @Contrarius and @JJ
    I’ve been tracking the Amazon Sales Ranks for a dozen SF/F magazines for about a year now. I use the Paid-In-Kindle-Store numbers, and I measure them every morning at about 6:30 AM Pacific Time. I normalize them using the reported electronic subscription numbers from Locus and using the fact that they follow a power law distribution, but even without doing that, the numbers are extremely stable from day to day. There are occasional glitches, but they’re very rare (per magazine, figure about one per thousand days).

    Obviously magazine subscription numbers should be very stable, since the monthly auto-renewal numbers should dominate the monthly sales, but that makes them a great measure of how volatile the measure is by itself. From that, it’s quite clear that nearly all the volatility in sales ranks is caused by sales of the book under study–not the volatility of the measure.

    By comparison, I tried the same experiment a couple of years ago, and the numbers were far, far noisier. Back then, I struggled to get r^2 values of 0.9 but now I routinely get 0.998 or better. Something major seems to have changed in Amazon’s sales rank algorithm around late 2017 or early 2018.

    I suspect the people who reported that Amazon’s page rank wasn’t useful did their studies prior to that.

  42. in the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral with a group of Hoban fans, during Williams’s tenure as Archbishop. We didn’t see him

    Since retiring as Archbishop he has been Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge and is to be spotted now and again walking along Bridge Street/Sidney Street.

  43. Meredith Moment:

    The Other Wind by Ursula K. LeGuin is on sale on Amazon US for $2.99.

    I have a GR account but seldom use it.

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