Pixel Scroll 5/11/17 I Got Two Pixels When I Scrolled The Bones

(1) THE ROARING 20. James Davis Nicoll continues his series of “core” lists with “Twenty Core Trader Speculative Fiction Works Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”.

(2) PRIME TIME LE GUIN. Rare video of Ursula K. LeGuin’s Guest of Honor Speech at Aussiecon (1975) has been uploaded to YouTube by Fanac.org.

AussieCon, the 33rd Worldcon, was held in Melbourne, Australia in 1975. Guest of Honor Ursula K. Le Guin gave an insightful and entertaining speech about the state of science fiction, and her part in it. There’s a real sense of community evident here, as well as a delightful sense of humor (look for the propeller beanie). Le Guin’s comments on the place of women in the field are particularly interesting. The bearded gentleman who introduces her is Robin Johnson, chairman of Aussiecon. Thanks to S.C.I.F.I. for digitizing, and to Elayne Pelz for providing us the footage.


(3) I FOUGHT THE LAW. Litigation begins: “Bookseller Suing California Over ‘Autograph Law'”. {Publishers Weekly has the story.

Last year, the California legislature broadened a set of civil code regulations focused on autographed collectibles to include “all autographed items” with a value over $5. Assembly Bill 1570 requires anyone selling autographed books to provide an extremely detailed “certificate of authenticity” with each book, describing the book, identifying the signer, noting witnesses of the book signing, insurance information, and other details. Per the new law, booksellers must keep the certificates for seven years or risk substantial damages, court fees, and a civil penalty if the autographed book gets questioned in court.

These new regulations took effect in January, prompting protests from around the state—including a Change.org petition with over 1,700 signatures urging the state legislature to repeal the bill. Petrocelli’s suit marks the first time a California bookseller has challenged the law in court.

The Pacific Legal Foundation, a non-profit law firm defending “private property rights, individual liberty, free enterprise, [and] limited government,” mounted Petrocelli’s lawsuit free of charge, as it does for all its clients. “We spoke to booksellers up and down the coast,” said Anastasia Boden, one of the PLF attorneys representing Book Passage in the suit. “But Bill was the only one so far brave enough to join a constitutional lawsuit and act as a civil rights plaintiff.”

The lawsuit argues that common bookstore practices like guest author lectures and book signings “are fundamental to First Amendment freedoms.” By that argument, the regulations Assembly Bil 1570 places on booksellers violates a basic freedom accorded to all Americans by the Constitution.

According to the lawsuit, the new paperwork and penalties “significantly burdened and seriously threatened” Petrocelli’s efforts to sell books autographed by their authors. Book Passage hosts around 700 author events every year, as well as a “Signed First Editions Club” for dedicated members. These programs, under the new law, would generate thousands of pages of paperwork, as well as the potential for massive liabilities.

(4) POPCORN V. PROTEIN BARS. Yahoo! Beauty finds “Wonder Woman Fans Angry Over ‘ThinkThin’ Movie Promotion Deal”.

Wonder Woman is viewed as a strong and fearless female character in popular culture — and one would think that the production company about to debut a major feature film based on the character would align its marketing tools with the same profile.

Instead, Warner Bros. has partnered with the protein-focused nutrition company ThinkThin to promote the upcoming flick, and it’s causing quite a stir, as many users believe it sends the wrong message.

“We wanted to celebrate a hero film featuring a woman in the leading role,” Michele Kessler, the president of ThinkThin, said in a press release on the partnership. “We love that Wonder Woman has super strength, and we’re proud to offer delicious products that give women the everyday strength they need to power through their day.”

But despite ThinkThin’s belief that its variety of protein smoothie mixes and bars are fit for powerful women — the primary target the upcoming film is celebrating — fans still have a lot to say about the partnership. Many believe teaming up with the company sends the wrong message from the film.

There have proven to be two sides to the controversy — as this pair of tweets shows:


(5) OPEN DOORS. Bryan Thao Worra, President of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, told Specpo readers — “’Science Fiction is for Everyone’ Panel at LA Harbor College a success”.

On April 25th, the Cultural Equity Workgroup invited five science fiction authors and fans to LA Harbor College to discuss the subject “Science Fiction Is For Everyone,” for a room that was at times standing room only.

Held in Tech 110, I was presenting with Stephanie Brown, Michael Paul Gonzalez, Jaymee Goh, Gregg Castro and Steven Barnes. It was a great line-up with some touching comments that drew on diverse fields of knowledge and experience, from the work and influence of Nnedi Okorafor and Octavia Butler, to the way readers and writers have been brought into the world of science fiction not only in the US but around the world. There was a strong highlight on the appeal of steampunk and afrofuturism.

During my portion of the panel, I focused on a discussion of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association, and had the honor of previous SFPA president Deborah Kolodji in attendance as well as fellow SFPA member and community builder Denise Dumars facilitating the conversation. Overall, our audience was very engaged with our varied approaches to the speculative arts. I demonstrated that speculative poetry draws on a very extensive tradition back to the very roots of poetry itself. The work of Edgar Allan Poe was cited as one of the key efforts to develop a distinctive American voice in poetry that was distinct from what was found in Europe at the time.

(6) PROMETHEUS ONLINE. The Libertarian Futurist Society has launched a new blog devoted to science fiction, Prometheus Blog which replaces the society newsletter.

The new blog complements our main mission of awarding annual literary awards, the Prometheus Award and the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award, along with periodic special awards and Hall of Fame awards for notable authors.

..We will be offering news about our organization’s awards and actions, and we’ll be publishing reviews of science fiction books and other artistic works of genre interest, and essays on science fiction.

The blog’s introductory post is “Freedom in the Future Tense: A Political History of SF” by Eric S. Raymond, author of The Cathedral and the Bazaar and a longtime SF fan.

One: people whose basic political philosophy is flatly incompatible with libertarianism will continue to find the SF mainstream an uncomfortable place to be. Therefore, sporadic ideological revolts against the Campbellian model of SF will continue, probably about the established rate of one per decade. The Futurians, the New Wave, the cyberpunks, and “Radical Hard SF” were not the end of that story, because the larger political questions that motivated those insurrections are not yet resolved.

Two: all these revolts will fail in pretty much the same way. The genre will absorb or routinize their literary features and discard their political agendas. And SF will continue to puzzle observers who mistake its anti-political DNA for conservatism while missing its underlying radicalism.

And the blog’s coming attractions:

In the next few weeks, we will publish book reviews of all of the current nominees for the 2017 Prometheus Award. A survey of the works of Jack Vance will soon by published. Many other articles are in the pipeline.

(9) STATION INFESTATION. Here’s a rare opportunity to watch a monster movie within a stone’s throw of the locale they terrorized — “Off-Ramp Recommendation: Scientists needed! Giant ants invade Union Station Friday night!”

Let’s face it. Ants are nobody’s favorite. They ruin summer picnics, sneak under the door to steal your crumbs, and are… HUGE?! In 1954 sci-fi film “Them!” ants are gigantic, radioactive, flesh-eating, and coming directly for you!

Friday night, as part of the Metro Art series, Union Station is screening the second film in its “Sci-Fi at Union Station” series. It’s the 1954 sci-fi classic “Them!” LA Times entertainment reporter and classic Hollywood expert Susan King will provide a background on the film and its historical significance to both the sci-fi genre and LA.

Director Gordon Douglas helped created the nuclear monster genre with “Them!” and due to its campy horror, the movie has become a cult-classic. “Them!” follows the creation and subsequent terror of carnivorous insects and their pursuit of film stars James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, and Joan Weldon. The film culminates in a battle scene set in our very own city, featuring shots of beautiful Union Station, LA’s neighborhoods, and storm drains.

And if that’s not enough – young Leonard Nimoy appears in the film (in a very minor role)!

(10) MORE FROM WJW. Flyover Fandom has Part 2 of its interview with Walter Jon Williams.

DAF: The Praxis is a very stratified society. What did you look at for inspiration, because at times you will have Peers engaged in almost comedy of manners escapades. At other times they engage in white collar crime. What did you pull from?

WJW: There are almost too many to mention. But certainly the books reflect class and class resentment in the 19th century British empire. Which became more class-based as the century went on, but in addition to the diehard imperialists out to conquer the world, they also produced Bertie Wooster and Oscar Wilde.

The social setting is based on Republican Rome, as that experience came down through Spain and the colonial experience in New Mexico where I live. There are certain practices common in Rome that are still common in New Mexico, such as the patron-client relationship exercised by the leading Spanish families and their descendants.

The underground movements of World War II are another great inspiration. At one point Sula is leading the an underground movement against an occupying army, and I gave her an alias taken from a real-life French resistance heroine, Lucie Aubrac.


Twilight Zone Day

The Twilight Zone was created by acclaimed television producer Rod Serling in 1959, with the first episode premiering on October 2nd. At the time of its release, it was vastly different from anything else on TV, and it struggled a bit to carve out a niche for itself at the very beginning. In fact, Serling himself, though respected and adored by many, was famous for being one of Hollywood’s most controversial characters and was often call the “angry young man” of Hollywood for his numerous clashes with television executives and sponsors over issues such as censorship, racism, and war. However, his show soon gained a large, devoted audience. Terry Turner of the Chicago Daily News gave it a rave review, saying, “Twilight Zone is about the only show on the air that I actually look forward to seeing. It’s the one series that I will let interfere with other plans.” The Twilight Zone ran for five seasons on CBS from 1959 to 1964.

(12) EXOPLANET STUDY. James Davis Nicoll calls this “more evidence we live in a Hal Clement universe” — “Primitive atmosphere discovered around ‘Warm Neptune'”.

A pioneering new study uncovering the ‘primitive atmosphere’ surrounding a distant world could provide a pivotal breakthrough in the search to how planets form and develop in far-flung galaxies.

A team of international researchers, co-lead by Hannah Wakeford from NASA and Professor David Sing from the University of Exeter, has carried out one of the most detailed studies to date of a ‘Warm Neptune’ – a planet that is similar in size to our own Neptune, but which orbits its sun more closely.

The study revealed that the exoplanet – found around 430 light years from Earth – has an atmosphere that composed almost entirely of hydrogen and helium, with a relatively cloudless sky.

This primitive atmosphere suggests the planet most likely formed closer to its host star or later in its solar system development, or both, compared to the Ice Giants Neptune or Uranus.

Crucially, the discovery could also have wide implications for how scientists think about the birth and development of planetary systems in distant galaxies.

(13) CRY ME A RIVER. Break out your tissues – ScreenRant is ready to show you “Doctor Who: 15 Most Heartbreaking Moments”. (Boo Who!)

  1. River is saved in The Library

Entire books could be written on The Doctor and River Song and how their relationship is a mess of mixed up timelines. The Doctor’s first moment with her is River’s last with him and wrapping your head around that is a sadder thing than most. As the audience, our relationship with their story begins from The Doctor’s perspective and it’s not until later seasons do we realize just how lovely it really is.

River’s first appearance coincides with her death and it’s tough for us to watch, let alone for The Doctor to experience. She knows his true name, has his screwdriver, and is aware of every moment of their future together but–for the sake of spoilers–knows she can’t divulge too much.

In her dying moments, she talks about her last night with him and how beautiful it was before saying goodbye to the man she’s loved for years, knowing that he’s only just met her.

In a final and also first act of love–The Doctor realizes his future self had a plan and is able to restore River’s mind (saved in the sonic screwdriver) to a computer where she can, in a way, live on for eternity.

(14) MY VOTE. Is it too late to pick Hayley Atwell as the next Doctor Who? ScreenRant sells the idea.

If the series does decide to go for a female Doctor in season eleven, we’re looking pointedly in the direction of Marvel star Hayley Atwell. The British actress shot to fame as Peggy Carter in Captain America: The First Avenger, a role that eventually led to her own spin-off series, Marvel’s Agent Carter. Agent Carter was cancelled after two seasons, to the disappointment of its huge fan base, and Atwell went on to work on Conviction, which was cancelled after only a single season. Although we would have loved to see Atwell find success with the show, this leaves her in need of a new project – and what better than Doctor Who?

Atwell has everything that we are looking for in a new Doctor. She’s British, which is something of a requirement (it’s easier to envision a female Doctor than an American one, for most fans!), and she’s very used to dealing with a major role in a huge franchise, thanks to Marvel. Her role as Agent Carter also proved her ability to work with a sci-fi/fantasy role, and to get physical with a part. Peggy Carter is not afraid to do things her own way, or to get her hands dirty; and while the doctor isn’t as violent as Peggy has been, he certainly does his fair share of physical adventuring. She’s got a genius for comedy, which is a vital part of the show, and she’s mature enough and experienced enough to handle a character as complicated as the Doctor. She’s also much younger than Capaldi – and we’ve seen from past Doctors that the current fandom seems to connect more with younger regenerations. Although longtime fans loved Capaldi’s take on the character, there is no denying that some viewers did find him less appealing than the more boyishly charming Smith and David Tennant.

In addition to all of this, Atwell herself has said that she would like to take on the role. In a Twitter Q&A, the actress said “I’d like to BE Doctor Who”, setting the fandom alight when it happened in 2015. At the time, she was busy with Agent Carter, but now that she’s looking for a new project, we would be surprised if she doesn’t throw her hat in the ring with the BBC. Having a longtime fan join the franchise is always a good thing, as it means that the new star is approaching the role with an in-depth understanding of who, exactly, the Doctor really is.

(15) SCI-FI ORIGINS. This is as exciting as paleontologists finding a record-setting homonid fossil. Yesterday in comments, Bill pointed to a 2014 post by Fred Shapiro claiming an earlier origin for the term “sci-fi” than previously known:

There has been a fair amount of attention given to the question of what is the earliest use of the term “sci-fi.”  The OED’s first use is dated 1955.  The OED web site of science fiction citations has a December 1954 usage by Forrest J. Ackerman, who is often said to be the coiner.  A supposed usage by Robert A. Heinlein in 1949 has been shown to be erroneous.  The term looks very much like a Varietyism, and in fact I have now found an earlier occurrence in Variety:

1954 _Variety_ 17 Feb. 38 (ProQuest)  New Telepix Shows … The commercial possibilities are there as well since “Junior Science,” aside from its positive qualities, is a rewarding change of pace from the more thunderous sci-fi and spaceship packages.

(16) GRAPHIC STORY. Deadline: Hollywood displays the new SyFy logo.

For the first time since the NBCUniversal cable network changed its name from Sci Fi to Syfy in 2009, it is changing its logo, introducing a new identity brand refresh ahead of the channel’s 25th anniversary in September.

(17) SYFY REBOOT. io9 says the logo is a minor change in comparison to what will be happening to Syfy programming: “Syfy’s Plan to Save Itself: Harry Potter, Comic Books, and George R.R. Martin”.

Of course, all of that is window dressing compared what Syfy will actually put up on screens. McCumber said the goal was to go back to high-end, scripted television, with four focuses: space and scifi, fantasy, paranormal and supernatural, and superheroes and comics.

The Expanse and The Magicians are clearly the network’s flagship returning shows, mentioned many times and with pictures all over the presentations. For new projects, it was announced Tuesday night that Happy!, the adaptation of a Grant Morrison comic starring Christopher Meloni that was announced last year, will get a full season. Similarly, the Superman prequel Krypton has a full series order.

The only new project announced was the development of George R.R. Martin’s Nightflyers, a scifi-horror novella he wrote in 1980, which was actually adapted into a movie in 1987.

(18) NEW GRRM TV PROJECT. The Hollywood Reporter says “George R.R. Martin Novella ‘Nightflyers’ Headed for TV on Syfy”.

The ‘Game of Thrones’ creator is teaming with writer Jeff Buhler to develop the drama for the small screen.

Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin is expanding his TV footprint.

The author and exec producer of HBO’s fantasy drama is teaming with Syfy to adapt his 1980 novella Nightflyers for the small screen, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Set in the future on the eve of Earth’s destruction, a crew of explorers journey on the most advanced ship in the galaxy, The Nightflyer, to intercept a mysterious alien spacecraft that might hold the key to their survival. As the crew nears their destination, they discover that the ship’s artificial intelligence and never-seen captain may be steering them into deadly and unspeakable horrors deep in the dark reaches of space.

(19) DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT THIS. The editor of Rabid Puppy Hugo nominee Cirsova apparently is getting it from both sides.

Here’s an example from “his side.”


And I guess this is what provoked Cirsova’s comment. (Waves hello!)


(20) NODDING OFF. Did any SF writers think getting a good night’s sleep in space would be this difficult? “The quest to help astronauts sleep better”.

But getting a good night’s sleep in space is not easy. There are no beds or pillows – astronauts sleep strapped to the wall in sleeping bags. And that’s not all. “There’re probably several reasons they don’t sleep properly,” says Elmenhorst. “Isolation, a sunrise every 90 minutes and [with the ventilation system] it’s quite noisy in the ISS.” Often, astronauts have to work shifts to monitor experiments or capture visiting supply ships.

To investigate how this lack of sleep affects astronauts’ performance, Elmenhorst’s team has been subjecting groups of paid volunteers to sleep deprivation experiments. “We want to show how sleep loss affects cognitive function,” she says, “and how some people cope better than others.”

(21) SEE-THRU. “Scientists 3D-print transparent glass” – a video report. Chip Hitchcock sent the link with a comment, “It will be interesting to see whether they ever make their goal of printing photographic lenses, which would require very fine control.”

(22) BUDDHISM AND SCIENCE. How did the religion gain its reputation for being less incompatible with science than many others? At NPR: “Buddhism, Science And The Western World”.

Of course, by its very nature religion, all religions, are changed by their encounters with new cultures. This is particularly true of Buddhism and its steady march eastward from its birth in India 2,500 years ago. Religions always have a way of outgrowing their own scriptural and ritual basis, while simultaneously holding on to them. As author Karen Armstrong has shown, practitioners in any age are always selecting out those parts of their religions that are meaningful to them while ignoring the parts that seem dated. She called the process “creative misreading.”

[Robert] Sharf has no problem with the creative misreading that allows Buddhist Modernism to share space with scientific worldviews. “My concern,” he told Tricycle, “is not with the selectivity of those who read Buddhism as a rationalist and scientific religion — it is perfectly understandable given the world in which we live. It is really not a question of misreading. It is a question of what gets lost in the process.”

(23) SITH REALITY. Cédric Delsaux has put an interesting spin on Star Wars by incorporating its imagery into real photos.

“Over the years, many artists have interpreted Star Wars in ways that extend well beyond anything we saw in the films. One of the most unique and intriguing interpretations that I have seen is in the work of Cedric Delsaux, who has cleverly integrated Star Wars characters and vehicles into stark urban, industrial – but unmistakably earthbound – environments. As novel and disruptive as his images are, they are also completely plausible.”

George Lucas

(24) WRITE A BIG CHECK. An early visualization of the idea for Disneyland will be auctioned soon, and it won’t go cheap — “Original Disneyland concept art shows park origins, growth”.

Tomorrowland was originally going to be called World of Tomorrow. Frontierland was Frontier Country. Lilliputian Land never became a reality at Disneyland. And no one could have foreseen a “Star Wars” land opening in 2019.

Walt Disney spent a marathon weekend in 1953 brainstorming ideas for the new family amusement park he envisioned called Disneyland. There would be a train station and an old-fashioned Main Street square. The park would have a princess castle and a pirate ship, maybe even a rocket. Disney wanted to get investors on board, so he described the various elements he imagined to artist Herb Ryman, who translated them into a hand-drawn map — Disneyland’s first.

That original concept art could fetch as much as $1 million when it goes up for auction next month, auctioneer Mike Van Eaton said.

(25) ANIMATION ROUNDUP. Financial Times writer James Mottram, in “Are animation movies growing up?”, gives an overview of current arthouse animation projects, including Tehran Taboo, Your Name, and the Oscar-nominated film which is My Life As A Zucchini in the US and My Life As A Courgette in the Uk.  He includes an interview with Michael Dudok de Wit, director of the Oscar-nomnated, Studio Ghibli-backedThe Red Turtle. (The link is to the Google cache file, which worked for me – I hope it will work for you!)

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, James Davis Nicoll, rcade, Eli, Bill, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Robert Whitaker Sirignano.]

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238 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 5/11/17 I Got Two Pixels When I Scrolled The Bones

  1. @Dann

    I was a little surprised that you’d be leaning on a Marxist interpretation, that’s all.

    Anyway, the point that essay is making is that Tolkein’s representations of the Shire are unrealistic for the real world because it has not met the real-life pressures that caused the real world to change from low-end undemocratic government to more involved democracies. (This is the Marxist bit btw, analyzing societal changes caused by economic changes).

    Democracy – rule by the people – only becomes necessary when the lives of the people are being changed and disrupted. If you can live much as you please, within the framework of a fixed and acceptable way of life, does it matter if you do not actually chose the person who governs you? In actual European history, demands for modern democratic government only began when industrialisation and free trade began to disrupt relatively settle ways of life. In Tolkien’s Middle Earth, no such process is supposed to have occurred. So the Middle-Earth mix of local self-government and hereditary rulers would have been accepted and popular.

    So essentially, the essay accepts that the governments portrayed are superior to the iron fist of Sauron (damning with faint praise there!) but says that Tolkien doesn’t assist you in any analysis of the modern world.

    On a different point, it seems to me that when analysing the limited info that Tolkien gives about the Shire it’s rather missed that he is – in part – gently satirising Middle England via Middle Earth. The ceremonial mayor is a fairly obvious poke at the traditional English town mayor, for example.

  2. @Robin

    Thanks for the info!

    I also googled and found very little. While I wouldn’t like to claim that a lack of attention means there’s definitely no merit to the idea that Tolkien presented libertarian ideas, given how much of his work has been picked over ad infinitum I think the lack of coverage is telling.

  3. I thought his object was to write a really good tale, not to make political points regarding governments.

    I thought it was to make up a language.

    Which for him required making up cultures. And history and legends.

    And then he wrote them down.

  4. @Dann: From your GMW quotes – “The ease with which the excessively rich Lotho Sackville-Baggins was able to take over suggests that Hobbits were used to their upper class being reasonable and moderate and not trying to upset other people’s way of life.”

    I find it difficult to reconcile “the excessively rich Lotho Sackville-Baggins” with your earlier characterization of the clan as poor:

    The Shire does feature some form of private property rights as even the lowly Sackville-Baggins have the ability to purchase/own a home.

    Have I overlooked something, perhaps?

  5. I find it difficult to reconcile “the excessively rich Lotho Sackville-Baggins” with your earlier characterization of the clan as poor

    The main problem with Dann’s characterization is that the Sackville-Bagginses were not poor. The “Sackville” part of the name comes from a marriage that was pretty clearly intended to access the wealth of the Sackville family. The only thing that the Sackville-Bagginses didn’t have was Bag End, which they coveted. They were supposed to be a caricature of the greedy aristocracy.

    The only hobbits of note in the book who could credibly be described as “poor” are Sam and his father. Every other hobbit who shows up in the book is a member of the wealthy upper class of the Shire. That’s one of the elements that Dann seems to miss in all of his lengthy explanations – to the extent that Tolkien gives us a view into the societies of his fictional world, that view is from the perspective of the ruling class. Most of the named characters are rulers, members of a ruling family, or fairly powerful nobility. There are only a handful who are not, and of those, most of them have privileged positions – such as Beregond, who was a member of the elite Guard of the Citadel in Minas Tirith.

    One might note that there are only two explicitly commercially oriented characters in either The Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit. They are Barliman Butterbur and the Master of Lake Town. One is buffoonish, the other is a villain who dies alone in the wilderness after embezzling the wealth of Lake Town. That’s not a very good portrayal of the virtues of trade.

  6. It’s been a number of decades since I’ve read LOTR, but aren’t the Sackvilles (and not just the Sackville-Baggins) related to the Baggins? The name “Baggins” is derived from Bag-End (referring to the fact that the estate is where the street ends in a circle), and “Sackville” is a fancier way of referring to the same concept (“cul de sac”) making the Sackville-Baggins pompous for hyphenating their name and ridiculous for fancifying the first part of their name, right? It’s rather like Hyacinth Bucket (prounounced “Bouquet”).

  7. It’s been a number of decades since I’ve read LOTR, but aren’t the Sackvilles (and not just the Sackville-Baggins) related to the Baggins?

    Yes. The name comes from when Longo Baggins married Camellia Sackville. Their son Otho used the combined name. Otho was Lobelia’s husband, and together they were Lotho’s parents. Otho Sackville-Baggins was Bilbo’s first cousin because Longo Baggins was Bilbo’s father Bungo Baggins’ younger brother.

    And yes, I had to look that up to get all the names right. Tolkien didn’t spend a whole lot of time on describing how governments in Middle-Earth worked, but he was very zealous at coming up with fictional genealogies for his characters.

  8. @Andrew

    I love “Keeping Up Appearances”!

    @Rev. Bob

    That’s kind of 50/50, IMO. IIRC, the Sackville-Baggins were considered to be a lesser family than the Baggins, Tooks, Brandybucks, etc. Again, IIRC, they were not the wealthiest of groups, but I could be wrong on that. Maybe GWC is right about them being wealthy. But being considered a lesser group, would they have been permitted to buy a prestigious property such as Bag End if the nobility were of a more intrusive/insular sort?


    The idea of oppression causing people to overthrow oppressive governments and adopt a more representative form of government was around long before Marx and Engels had their half-baked theories.

    I will agree that a bit of satirization may have been intended. At least it seems plausible even if it isn’t proven.


    The point about the Sackville-Baggins being assholes supports the essays contention that hobbits were largely governed by capable and largely non-intrusive people. They had come to expect moderation from the ruling class. That is why they were surprised when the SBs came into power. They were used to moderation in other Baggins branch administrators.


  9. Re: Sackville-Baggins and Bilbo Baggins: Lotho Baggins was Bilbo’s heir until he adopted Frodo (will with seven witnesses? red ink? spacing out on details). The S-Bs thought they would inherit when Bilbo disappeared for so long, and his return disappointed them greatly.

    And they were quite gleeful when Frodo sold his lovely hobbit-hole to them as part of his cover for leaving the Shire. . .

  10. @Dann: “Maybe GWC is right about them being wealthy. But being considered a lesser group, would they have been permitted to buy a prestigious property such as Bag End if the nobility were of a more intrusive/insular sort?”

    First, there is no necessary correlation between prestige and wealth. (Are you familiar with the concept of “nouveau riche”?) Second, if the elites exercise that level of control over the market, it damn sure ain’t “free” – and there goes your libertarian utopia. Third, who says Bag End was a prestigious property? Please, show me a citation.

    Oh, and from your reply to Hampus:

    The point about the Sackville-Baggins being assholes supports the essays contention that hobbits were largely governed by capable and largely non-intrusive people.

    Since when is being an asshole tied at all to incompetence? I’ve known some tremendously competent jerks – who were able to be jerks precisely because they were so good at their jobs. Also, your argument for non-intrusive governance directly contradicts your theory about a highly-restricted market.

    Your desperate attempts to not concede any ground on any particular are absolutely demolishing your thesis.

  11. The Sackville-Bagginses weren’t a “lesser group”. They were Bilbo’s cousins who were greedy and whom Bilbo disliked. Literally every “Sackville-Baggins” is mentioned in the book – Otho, Lotho, and Lobelia are all of the Sackville-Bagginses. There are no others.

    Bungo Baggins was Longo Baggins’ older brother. As such, Bungo inherited Bag End, which he then passed on to his only son Bilbo. Longo Baggins married Camellia Sackville because she was the heiress to the Sackville fortune, which meant that they passed on their fortune to their child Otho, who later married Lobelia, who took her husband’s name (she was originally a Bracegirdle).

    There is credible evidence that Otho’s use of “Sackville-Baggins” was Tolkien satirizing the pomposity of some English country folk who used similarly hyphenated names to show-off their familial connections. Calling themselves the “Sackville-Bagginses” represents Otho adding the Sackville part because he believed it enhanced his prestige, not because they were a lesser branch of the family.

    Any essay that uses the “lesser” stature of the Sackville-Bagginses as a critical part of its argument is an essay that simply misses the point of the Sackville-Bagginses and how they are positioned in the society of the Shire.

  12. Dann:

    “The point about the Sackville-Baggins being assholes supports the essays contention that hobbits were largely governed by capable and largely non-intrusive people. They had come to expect moderation from the ruling class.”

    It also supports the contention that the Sackville-Baggins were seen as typical for the ruling class.

    We do not know because Tolkien didn’t write it down. Because he wasn’t interested. Because it wasn’t part of the story.

    This is ridiculous.You are projecting your own fantasies on a part of community that was only created to be a starting point for adventures and function as a contrast to the strange world around.

    It says somethin about the desperation of libertarians when they try to co-opt anything for their cause.

  13. @Dann
    The essay – which you apparently think supports your position – happens to be a Marxist interpretation, written by a Marxist*. He says nothing about “oppression causing people to overthrow oppressive governments and adopt a more representative form of government”, he looks at economics causing societal change which cause governmental change.
    I can’t help but notice that you don’t address this in your reply – is it because you don’t understand the essay, or are trying to silently backpedal?
    To be clear, I’m not attempting to support the essay (or Marxism) here, I just think it’s hilarious that you were in such a rush to support your flimsy argument that entangled yourself with it.
    *Broadly speaking – there being so many flavours of Marxists that it’s dangerous to categorise

  14. @Rev. Bob

    Second, if the elites exercise that level of control over the market, it damn sure ain’t “free” – and there goes your libertarian utopia.

    That’s kind of my point. The elites don’t exercise a high level of control over the market. I am suggesting that absent positive evidence to the contrary, the economics of the Shire were largely unmolested by government influence. (allowance for normal taxes, laws enabling private property, modest trade regulation aside)

    My impression from the book is that Bag End was a desirable property.

    IME, the probability for abuse of authority increases by a non-trivial value when the person in authority is an asshole.


    I didn’t know GWC was a Marxist. IMO, economics causing a social change which then causes a change in government does not lead uniquely/predictably towards Marxism. I wouldn’t discount that essay out of hand just knowing that it is written by a Marxist.

    IME, Marxists can be, and generally are, decent people. We have a good time disagreeing, but they tend to be nice enough. And they can have decent ideas just like anyone else.

    OTOH, Marxism is a raging dumpster fire.

    The difference is that the former are people that should always be treated cordially (presuming they are being cordial in return) while the latter is an ideology/philosophy that can be criticized, impugned, and otherwise abused* with great verve.

    *that’s a little overly melodramatic, let’s not let it run anyone off a cliff with it, eh?


    On my way out of this conversation, the question was asked why libertarians support LotR. I tried to provide that perspective.

    The feudal/noble system in the book is run by people that seem to exercise restraint in their use of power. The Shire includes some representative government features. In both cases, there is little evidence that the government is overly intrusive in regulation or taxation.

    Suggestions that those governments are highly intrusive lack any support from the text of the book. A feudal system, just like most other forms of government, can be heavy-handed or it can be restrained.

    Couple with that element the morality question associated with the return of the One Ring to the Sammath Naur. Along the way, Frodo offers that ultimate power to people that he deems morally suited to have the ring. Every one of them refuses him insisting that to have such power would overwhelm them and change them into something evil.

    And finally, add to that the obvious references to “sharing”/socialism in the Scouring of the Shire.

    Those three plot elements tend to coincide with general libertarian ideas on the proper size and scope of government along with the adage regarding absolute power corrupting absolutely.

    See y’all in the next thread…or the one after.


  15. Dann:

    “The feudal/noble system in the book is run by people that seem to exercise restraint in their use of power. The Shire includes some representative government features. In both cases, there is little evidence that the government is overly intrusive in regulation or taxation.”

    It might also be that the hobbits are very fond of high taxes to pay for infrastructure and common property and do not complain about them. There is little evidence for them not loving taxes.

    “And finally, add to that the obvious references to “sharing”/socialism in the Scouring of the Shire.”

    Obvious in what way?

  16. Dann, you’re placing an awful lot of weight on the absence of evidence plus the unexamined assumption that the hobbits of the Shire would view as “intrusive” or “oppressive” the same things you would view in that light, despite virtually everything about your life experiences and theirs being very, very different.

    It’s something I’ve seen too much of over the years, and, to be clear, not by any means only from libertarians: the unshakable belief that everyone thinks like “I” do, and if they say they don’t the only possible reasons are ignorance, malice, or they’re Being Oppressed and are scared to say what the really think. For instance, evangelicals convinced early Christians believe things thought up in early 20th century US, or atheists who believe most mediaeval Europeans didn’t really believe God, either as taught by the Church or any other, and just went along with it because the priests were so powerful. After all, isn’t their own nonbelief evidence that reasonable and intelligent people never believe that nonsense? IMPORTANT NOTE:I’m taking about real conversations I’ve had with real people, repeatedly over the years. In the “atheist/nonbeliever” version it has typically taken place at sf conventions, though not always. It’s not evidence that all atheists/nonbelievers think like that. In fact, my point is precisely that people don’t all think alike.

    The idea that other people might really think, feel, and believe differently seems to be tough for many people to get their minds around.

  17. Hampus Eckerman:

    “The propertyless minority could come and go as they pleased, work for whom they pleased.”

    I can’t find any of that in the book.

    and that sounds like a pretty bleak and precarious existence, except through the thickest of rose-tinted glasses.

    doubly so when you consider quite how oppressive those sorts of societies can be if you don’t precisely fit into your little pre-ordained social box.

  18. Just another input. US and Sweden have two extremely different tax levels. I would say that Sweden has around 60% higher tax in total. Still, Americans complain a lot more about their taxes than Swedes and surveys say that most Swedes are willing to pay even more taxes if that gets them the healthcare and schools that they expect. Not until the main right wing party stopped talking so much about lowering taxes did they get elected.

    That no one complains about taxation in a fairy tale says nothing about the level of taxes or the system of government in it.

  19. @Hampus

    A quick check of Nation Master suggests a total tax rate for Sweden of 48% of GDP. However, the same chart shows that the total tax rate for the US is 18% and that is waaaayyy off.

    The US total tax rate runs in the 35-40% of GDP range if you include state, county, city, local taxes. That 18% number is reasonably accurate for a total US federal tax rate against our GDP.

    I have no idea if that 48% value is accurate for all taxes, or if it excludes state/province/locality level taxes.


    The idea that other people might really think, feel, and believe differently seems to be tough for many people to get their minds around.

    I’m curious as to why this thought should be aimed at me. I have acknowledged agreement with a many of the criticisms that have been offered. I have even acknowledged that my perspective infers things that are not strictly in the text.

    What I have yet to see is any acknowledgment from others that their perspective is inferring things that are not strictly in the text as well.

    I agree with your message. I think the aim is a bit off.

    (OK…now I’m really, really out of this thread. Double pinky swear.)


  20. Dann:

    “What I have yet to see is any acknowledgment from others that their perspective is inferring things that are not strictly in the text as well.”

    You will not from me, because I see LOTR as a saga where politics and tax levels never was much part of the worldbuilding and it would be wrong to try to draw conclusions about what is not there.

  21. @Hampus: We do not know because Tolkien didn’t write it down. Because he wasn’t interested. Because it wasn’t part of the story.

    This is ridiculous.You are projecting your own fantasies on a part of community that was only created to be a starting point for adventures and function as a contrast to the strange world around.

    It says something about the desperation of libertarians when they try to co-opt anything for their cause.

    While I agree with you about the projection that Dann (and perhaps other libertarians) are trying to do, I also think it is a type of reading strategy (which in fandom is called “Watsonian”) that is widespread. The name was coined in the original Sherlock Holmes fandom (though I gather they liked to think of themselves more as scholars than fans) to describe reading a text as if the world was real (as if Watson actually existed and wrote the stories down) and writing up analyses of that reality as studies. The opposite approach is Doylesian, i.e. reading the text as a fictional construct by an author. I have to use the fan terms because I’m not sure there are equivalent academic literary terms that aren’t insults.

    What Dann’s doing (from what I’ve seen when I skim it on my phone and the quotes in other people’s posts) is pure Watsonian thinking in action.

    I’ve seen similar fan articles in the early Tolkien fanzines–couched in analytical language, but grounded in the assumption there is a “reality” that can be speculated up on with inferences made from the clues in the text as opposed to “we only have what is written” assumption (though to be fair in Tolkien studies, new stuff keeps coming out, and we KNOW there are boxes of papers that are still unread/analyzed/unreleased).

    It’s a fun fan reading conceit, I guess, though it’s not my thing, and very much a part of fandom.

    I also recognize it from having to quash my students whose impulses run that way in assignments in my classes. I was teaching Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird in my critical theory course last spring. A number of students became very focused on trying to “diagnose” Boo Radley’s condition (autism? Downs’ Syndrome? parental abuse?) Then there were the students who wanted to write papers about what happened to Scout after the novel ended (which would be a great creative/transformative work of fanfiction, but not an analytical essay, SOB).

    And I have to explain that while I understand that these ideas show their interest in/immersion in the story, that there is no way that an academic analysis using any of the critical theories could present a diagnosis of a fictional character or a credible argument of what happened *after* the novel ends.

    I think the impulse to respond to the fictional world/characters of works we love is a testament to the works’ verisimilitude. But I admit it can also drive me to teeth gnashing as I write for the nteenth time: “there is nothing in the text that supports saying X which is is also not how analytical questions are framed in literary studies.”

  22. @robinaread:I think I have heard the terms “tolkienism” and “middle-earthology”, for the same distinction. In defense of “middle-earthology”, one could point to how Tolkien himself treated his world. While there is nothing about taxes, as far as I know, a lot of the texts published by Christopher Tolkien after JRRs death treat Arda as a real world.

  23. lurkertype on May 15, 2017 at 2:32 pm said:

    And no insult to the Professor, but a proper British literature would be written in something like Welsh.

    Tolkien was not trying to write British fantasy, there is plenty of Celtic folklore already. He was specifically trying to write English myths.

    And this sheds light on the libertarian vs. feudal vs. Marxist debate – we can simply assume that in Middle Earth, English = good, foreign = bad, except where foreign is the kind appreciated by the upper class English before the Great War.

    The Shire can be assumed to be governed like a perfect England, so it is classist with an aristocracy and monarchy, but they are all good chaps (if not too bright), and lower classes who are jolly and decent and suitably respectful of their betters.

    Gondor is good in a Grand Tour of Europe Florentine or Venetian sort of way, while Saruman and Sauron are both bad in that they are self-appointed rulers, not the hereditary rulers appointed by God, and are far more clever than is altogether healthy. Probably don’t even like cricket.

  24. Dann:

    What I have yet to see is any acknowledgment from others that their perspective is inferring things that are not strictly in the text as well.

    I for one am happy to acknowledge that I’m inferring things not strictly in the text, and I’ve seen others acknowledge it previously – for example when Aaron said “I’m using textual material to figure out an outline of the whole from the parts Tolkien gave us.” (on the previous page of comments.) What people have criticised you for is not that you infer things that “are not strictly in the text”, it’s that you attempt to infer things with no basis in the text.

    Inferring that when Tolkien uses terminology like king, lord, knight, allegiance, etc, he’s talking about something fairly close to a feudal society, is vastly different than saying that since Tolkien never wrote anything about how lower class hobbits lived, lower class hobbits must have been happy and never complained.

    That said, I tend to agree with your reading of The Shire as a “minimum state”-type society. However, I am rather baffled at how you apparently think this makes for a good pro-Libertarian message. Because while The Shire seems like a nice place to live, it’s hardly a model for real world society. The Shire is after all a fairy tale location – the “minimum state” you infer from the text is basically possible because there’s magic. In the real world, evil can’t be defeated by throwing a ring in a volcano. Diseases can’t be cured with magic, pollution can’t be cleaned with magic soil from Galadriel’s garden, we have hunger that can’t be cured with Lembas. A real world society, away from the fairy tales, needs better solutions than magic. If The Shire is the best Libertarianism have to offer, Libertarianism have to my mind admitted defeat.

  25. @Lis Carey
    For instance, evangelicals convinced early Christians believe things thought up in early 20th century US,

    Just curious to what you are referring here (and I’m not trying to challenge it).

  26. @Bill @ Lis’ comments: I’d be interested in the examples that Lis has in mind too, but my own thought when reading the comment was about what a medieval historian friend of mine told me once (she’s an historian of religion): some of her students believe that the Baptist Church preceded the Catholic Church (because John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Christ). She has other stories of what college students from rural Texas believe about the early Christians (that are very presentist!), many of which are equally as mind-blowing.

  27. Keeping in mind that it’s been some time since I actively studied religion, one example that springs to mind is Biblical literalism – the idea that every word in the Bible is a literal fact. As I recall, that’s a relatively recent invention, and was not something that the early Church believed… but that’s not at all how the idea is presented now.

  28. @Lis Carey
    For instance, evangelicals convinced early Christians believe things thought up in early 20th century US,

    Just curious to what you are referring here (and I’m not trying to challenge it).

    I was at a minimum being sloppy here.

    Rev. Bob points out, rather more accurately, that Biblical literalism is very recent–the late 19th and 20th centuries, I find when I actually take the time to do minimal source checking, not only the 20th, and not early Christianity predating the rise of Rome as the center for western Christianity, as the fundamentalists (which I also should have said instead of the broader “evangelicals”) would have it.

    Also, What Robin Said. 🙂

  29. Admit it – y’all thought my title was just an affectation, didn’t ya? 😀

    (It’s only mostly one.)

  30. @robin: Tell the kids who want to write what happened to Scout after that they’ve been beaten to it by the release of the sequel or whatever it is. 😉 And your SO and pals sound like neato people.

    I sez, if it’s predicated on Divine Right of Kings, it ain’t libertarian. mic drop

  31. @Lurkertype: *heh* I now plan to buy Go Set a Watchman and read it. I didn’t tell them too much about the publication (although I gather it was the first manuscript she wrote, which was rejected, and the editor suggested some changes that led to the first published one-and I’m not sure can be seen as a sequel). But yes, it’s apparently set at a later date (and presents a very different view of Atticus). Have you read it?

    @Micael Gustavson: :I think I have heard the terms “tolkienism” and “middle-earthology”, for the same distinction. In defense of “middle-earthology”, one could point to how Tolkien himself treated his world. While there is nothing about taxes, as far as I know, a lot of the texts published by Christopher Tolkien after JRRs death treat Arda as a real world.

    The phrasing does get to the exact same distinction between approaches.

    On the one hand, I see no need to “defend” the Watsonian/Middle-earthology approach as a way to read (or to attach it either)–especially outside my literature classes which means most of the world (probably not most other college literature classes, I’d guess)! But if I did the author’s beliefs/intentions wouldn’t ever come into it (see: authorial intent fallacy–in literary studies, since New Criticism started back in the early part of the 20th century, taking the author’s ‘word’ or intent as proof of meaning of a text is an error of sorts). And “this is what the author meant to say” is a major pet peeve of mine (in my classes, I hasten to repeat), right up there with some of the other things students say along that vein (like: “if Hamlet had killed his uncle, the play would have been shorter”)

    And yes, Tolkien talked about experiencing his process of writing as one of discovery [quite a few writers have the same perception: I’ve experienced it myself, walking into the world and reporting what the characters say, etc]. If you add in his Atlantean dream (the wave covering the city which he gave to Faramir in the story and which one of his sons also reported having) and his interest if not (heretical!) belief in a form of reincarnation, etc., then yes, it’s possible to say that Tolkien may have believed in the “reality” of Arda (perhaps as a vision of pre-historical Earth), although his letters (and the letters are only a selected group) over five or six centuries contain many contradictions. The conflicts that perception/belief might have created with his religious beliefs is something that’s been explored in some recent scholarship (one brilliant essay by Verlyn Flieger leaps to mind).

    I’ve read the multiple volumes of the History of Middle-earth that Christopher has published, and I would not say that they treat Arda as a real world: they are absolutely mind-blowingly amazing as a manuscript history with multiple versions of parts of Tolkien’s Legendarium interspersed with Tolkien’s own commentary and Christopher’s as well (he was typing his father’s manuscripts from an early age, and did the same sort of academic specialization and work, so he is a specialist in the languages and literature his father was, and is probably the world expert in the published and unpublished body of work Tolkien created).

    The meta-commentary on the variants, the attempts to “date” which version came first or later on (not helped by Tolkien’s own somewhat apparently erratic system of filing which seems to be of the geological sort and the lack of dates on versions and his method of revision which involved writing in pencil and writing over in ink at times), all foregrounds textual analysis for me, not “this world is real.” (And nothing about taxes sticks in my mind either–I will go along with those above who have said that the works are not particularly interested in taxes, economics, or, well, the material world for the most part.

    Now, it’s a huge complicated mass of material, and there may be experts or parts that pick up that theme of the world–and new stuff is still coming out: Beren and Luthien is due out next month I think–but the recent collections are, I gather, more Christopher’s editing of the manuscripts into more novel-like forms. (Since some of Tolkien’s early drafts were lays and poems rather than narratives, and then in later life, he shifted to writing philosophical debates, the changes and variants are fascinating to compared.)

    I have a paper that I have to polish up and send out that analyzes the world/land in Tolkien’s incomplete Arthur poem, comparing the description of the natural world to the descriptions in LOTR, in which I more or less argue that the world in the poem IS Middle-earth (insofar as the narrator is describing it in the same way, and is in fact reflecting the modern conventions of describing the physical world in ways that the Anglo Saxon works (including the Anglo Saxon Arthur) did not (I do some comparison). So I’m all about the wonders of experiencing a fictional world (I’d go live with Tom Bombadil myself, if I could choose any of the places in Middle-earth……though the Grey Havens would be a close second since I love the ocean.).

    And heck, I write Tolkien fanfiction and “feel” that I am able to tiptoe a little bit into Tolkien’s world at times–and that’s great. But I publish that online under my fan pseud: I don’t send it to academic journals.

    And writing academic papers on Tolkien’s work (or any novel or poem) is a different genre with different discursive conventions. What I try to get my students to understand (and it’s darned difficult) is that there are different conventions/rules for writing in different genres and for audiences, and they need to learn them (the “rules” in my technical writing course are very different from the creative writing courses I teach, are very different from the literature courses I teach).

  32. @robinareid: your detailed discussion of the history of Tolkien’s development of Middle Earth (in contrast to the internal history of ME) reminds me of this article http://www.elvish.org/articles/EASIS.pdf “Elvish as She is Spoke” about the problems of using the small amount of Elvish (actually, of the several varieties of Elvish spoken in the Three Ages) to create a full language that people can learn.

  33. @robinareid: thanks for a very interesting reply. Just a note; I did not mean that Christopher Tolkien Middle Earth as real, but that JRR did in many of the texts Christopher edite.

  34. Pingback: Top 10 Posts for May 2017 | File 770

  35. @robin: I haven’t read GSAW, but understand it’s nowhere near as good as TKAM. Still, it’s what leaped to mind when I thought of “what did Scout grow up to do?” It’s already been written, kids.

    The dichotomy between Tolkien’s religion and what he believed sounds interesting; maybe I’ll try to find the Flieger paper or at least a summary. I was a chem major and as long as we were literate, that’s all we had to be; all the Humanities got to be one department in half of one building.

    @Niall: the person I was replying to said Tolkien was writing a “British” mythology. You are correct in that it was “English”. It’s a common mistake, but I suspect someone who spells his name the way you do doesn’t make it.

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