Pixel Scroll 5/19/16 I Am Not In The Scroll Of Common Men

(1) DATA AND YAR AT TANAGRA. Seattle’s EMP Museum is opening Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds to the public on May 21. Tickets required.

Plus, be among the first to visit Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds and get an up-close look at more than 100 artifacts and props from the five Star Trek television series, spin-offs, and films, including set pieces from the original series like Captain Kirk’s command chair and the navigation console (on display for the first time to the public); Kirk, Spock, Uhura, and McCoy original series costumes; and the 6-foot U.S.S. Enterprise filming model from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Opening day is also when Denise Crosby (Tasha Yar) and Brent Spiner (Data) will appear – additional charge for photos and autographs, naturally.

(2) OMAZE WINNER. SFWA’s Director of Operations Kate Baker learned during the Nebula conference that she was the Omaze winner, and will join Chris Pratt on the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 set.

Tired and sweaty after hours of work, I sat down to check my phone as we planned to grab something to eat. There in my Twitter feed was a message from a new follower; Omaze. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the company, they partner with a celebrity and charity, design a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a random donor, (and here is the most important part) — raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for deserving charities around the world….

I quickly followed them back and responded. That’s when I found out that I was a finalist for the grand prize and to satisfy their partners and sponsors, they wanted to do a short Skype interview that evening.

Unable to contain my excitement, I rushed around my room, curling my hair, refreshing make-up, doing cartwheels, moving furniture, opening blinds, you know — normal things.

As 6:00 CST hit, I took a deep breath and answered the call….. That’s when they sprung the surprise.


(3) CLARKE AHEAD. Award Director Tom Hunter has posted at Medium “14 ways I’m thinking about the future of the Arthur C. Clarke Award”.

8. Governance & succession planning

As mentioned in my section on charitable status, the Clarke Award is currently administered by just 3 volunteers. Could we do more if we had more people involved?

A fair few people have promoted themselves to me as viable candidates over the years, but while many have been keen to have a say in the running of the award (or just like telling me they could do a better job with it) right now one of the reasons the award has weathered its troubles so well has been because of our ability to move faster on key decisions than a continual vote by committee model would likely have allowed us.

Still, as I look to the future again, there are many potential advantages to be gained from our increasing our board membership, not least the fact that when I first took this role a decade ago I only planned to stay for 5 years.

I changed my mind back then because of the need to build a new financial resilience into the award to keep it going, but one day sooner or later I intend to step down after I’ve recruited my replacement.

Padawans wanted. Apply here.

(4) ANTIQUE ZINE. This APA-L cover by Bea Barrio glowed in the dark when it was originally made – in the 1970s. Wonder if it still does?


(5) MASKED MEN. Comic Book Resources boosts the signal: “Dynamite Announces ‘The Lone Ranger Meets the Green Hornet: Champions of Justice”.

What is the connection between the Lone Ranger and the Green Hornet? Dynamite Entertainment’s new “The Lone Ranger Meets the Green Hornet: Champions of Justice” series has the answer. CBR can exclusively reveal that writer Michael Uslan and artist Giovanni Timpano are reuniting for the new series, a crossover 80 years in the making.

According to an official series description,

The first chapter, entitled “Return With Us Now,” creates a world of carefully researched alternative history in 1936. Readers will learn whatever happened to The Lone Ranger and discover his familial link to the emergence of a man who is a modern day urban version of The Lone Ranger himself. What is the blood connection of The Green Hornet to The Lone Ranger? What is the link of Olympic runner Jesse Owens to The Green Hornet? What role does Bat Masterson play in The Lone Ranger’s New York adventure? What intense rift tears a family apart just when America desperately needs a great champion of justice? The shocking answers lie in the landmark new series ‘The Lone Ranger Meets the Green Hornet: Champions of Justice!’

(6) DEARLY BELOVED. Lit Brick has done a comic about “If you were a dinosaur, my love”.


  • Born May 19, 1944 — Before Peter Mayhew was Chewy he was Minaton in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, his first role.

Peter Mayhew in character

(8) FLORSCHUTZ OUT. Max Florschutz explains why he pulled his book from a contest: Unusual Events Has Been Removed From SPFBO 2016”.

All right, guys, it’s official. I just heard back from Mark Lawrence, the head of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, and now that the competition has begun, my book could not be moved to another reviewer, so instead, I’ve elected to withdraw my entry from the competition (for the reasons for doing so, see this post here). It’s sad that it had to be done, but I feel my reasons were sound.

Florschutz outlined reasons for asking for his book to be reassigned in a previous post, “When Did Ethnicity and Sex Become the Most Important Thing?”

Bear with me for a moment, and take a look at these few excerpts from a book review I read this morning, posted on a fantasy review blog (which you can find here, though I’m loathe to give them a link after perusing the site since it’s a little messed up). I’d been poking around the place since they are a participating member of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, a contest between 300 different self-published fantasy books, and Unusual Events is one of those titles. This site is the one that will be handling Unusual Events review.

I’m not sure how I feel about that now. In fact, I may request to have it passed to another site, since I’m pretty sure I can already see how its going to go. Because I’ve been reading their other reviews, and I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. Let’s look at some quotes:

Otherbound is that last sort of book.

I’m fairly certain I discovered it on Tumblr, recommended by one of those blogs which include lists of books that are commendable for their diversity.

Okay, that’s … interesting. A little background on the title. I guess that’s important? Let’s see what happens if we go further.

… fantasy novels are written by and about (and quite possibly for) white men who like running around with swords saving the world.

Uh-oh. Okay. Sensing a theme here, but—

As I said, it’s an incredible story, and honestly, I’d probably have loved the book even if both of the leads were white and straight.

Wait, what?

So they’re saying that it’s also likely that they wouldn’t have liked the book had the main characters been, to use their own words “white and straight”? The book would be inferior simply because of the color of the main character’s skin or their sexual orientation?

….Now, to get back to something I said earlier, I’m considering contacting the SPFBO 2016 ringleaders and asking to have my book moved to another reviewer. And no, it’s not because my book is “… written by and about (and quite possibly for) white men who like running around with swords saving the world.” because it isn’t. But more because now I know that there’s a very high chance that that fact is what the reviewer is going to fixate on regardless. My sex, and my ethnic heritage, as well as that of the characters I wrote, is going to matter to her more than the rest of what’s inside the book’s pages. More than the stories those characters experience, the trials that they undergo.

(9) TEACHING WRITING. “’Between Utter Chaos and Total Brilliance.’ Daniel José Older Talks About Teaching Writing in the Prison System” – a set of Older’s tweets curated by Leah Schnelbach at Tor.com.

(10) PURSUED. David M. Perry profiles Older at Pacific Standard “Daniel José Older and Progressive Science Fiction After Gamergate”.

The Internet trolls picked a bad week to call Daniel José Older “irrelevant.” As we meet in the opulent lobby of the Palmer House Hotel in downtown Chicago, his young-adult book Shadowshaper is sitting on a New York Times bestseller list. He’s in town because the book was been nominated for the Andre Norton Award by the Science Fiction Writers of America, which is holding its annual Nebula conference in Chicago. Best of all, he’s just signed a contract for two sequels. There’s also his well-reviewed adult fiction, the “Bone Street Rumba” series. By no standard of publishing is this person irrelevant.

So why the trolls? They’re coming after Older for the same reason that he’s succeeding as a writer?—?his urban fantasy novels actually look like urban America (including the ghosts) and he’s got no patience for the bros who want to keep their fantasy worlds white.

(11) DAMN BREAK. Kameron Hurley charts the history of hydraulic pressure in sf: “The Establishment Has Always Hated The New Kids”.

…Though there has been momentum building for some time, a backlash against the backlash, I’d say it wasn’t until about 2013 when publishing started to catch up. Ann Leckie wrote a space opera (a woman wrote a space opera! With women in it! AND PEOPLE BOUGHT IT SHOCKING I KNOW AS IF NO ONE HAD BOUGHT LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS OR ANYTHING BY CJ CHERRYH OR OCTAVIA BUTLER), and it swept the awards. We Need Diverse Books was able to organize the conversation about the overwhelming whiteness of publishing, bringing together disparate voices into one voice crying out for change in who writes, edits, and publishes books, while the first Muslim Ms. Marvel comic book (written by a Muslim, even!) broke sales records.

The water has been building up behind the damn for a long time, and it’s finally burst.

Watching the pushback to this new wave of writers finally breaking out from the margins to the mainstream has been especially amusing for me, as I spent my early 20’s doing a lot of old-school SF reading, including reading SFF history (I will always think of Justine Larbalestier as the author of The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction). I was, of course, especially interested in the history of feminist science fiction. Women have always written SFF, of course, but the New Wave of the 60’s and 70’s brought with it an influx of women writers of all races and men of color that was unprecedented in the field (if still small compared to the overall general population of said writers in America). This was the age of Joanna Russ, Octavia Butler, Sam Delany, and nutty young upstarts like Harlan Ellison. These writers brought a much needed and refreshing new perspective into the field. They raised the bar for what science fiction was. And so the writing got better. The politics and social mores being dissected got more interesting and varied, as one would expect when you introduce a great wave of writers into a field that was happy to award the same handful of folks year after year. They shook up the field. They changed science fiction forever. The established pros had to write their hearts out to catch up….

(12) KEN LIU’S OPINION OF HOGWARTS. Rachel Swirsky did a “Silly Interview with Ken Liu who HAS THE SCHEMATICS for a Time Turner!”

RS: Speaking of Harry Potter, if you could send your kids to Hogwarts, would you?

KL: I’d have to ask my kids. Personally, I’m not a big fan of sending them away to boarding school because I want to spend more time with them. Parents get so little time with their children as is… But if they really want to go and learn magic, I’ll support them. And I hope they work hard to challenge the rather authoritarian system at Hogwarts and engage in campus activism.

(13) THERE WILL BE WALRUS. Steve Davidson did a silly interview of his own — with Timothy the Talking Cat, at Amazing Stories.

ASM: What kind of cat are you (alley, purebred,,,?), or is that kind of inquiry offensive?  Do cats themselves make such distinctions?

TTTC: I’m glad you asked. Some people have claimed that I am a British Shorthair cat. However, my cousin had a DNA test and apparently my family are actually the rare French Chartreux breed. This is an important distinction and finally shows what liars those people are who have accused me of being a Francophobe, ‘anti-French’ and/or in some way prejudiced against France, the French and anything remotely Gallic. People need to understand that when I point out that France is a looming danger to all right thinking people in America and other countries as well, like maybe Scotland or Japan. I really can’t stress this enough – the French-Squirrel axis is real and it is plotting against us all. This why Britain needs to leave the European Union right now. I have zero tolerance for those who say we should wait for the referendum – that is just playing into their hands. But understand I am not anti-French as my DNA proves. Squirrels like to say ‘Timothy you are such a Francophobe’ as if that was a dialectical argument against my well thought out positions. They have no answer when I point out that I am MORE French than Charles DeGaulle. Squirrels just can’t think straight about these things. Notice that if you even try and type ‘Francophobe’ your computer will try to turn it into ‘Francophone’ – that is how deep the Franco-Squirrel conspiracy goes. Squirrel convergence happens at high levels in IT companies these days – that is how I lost my verification tick on Twitter.

I don’t talk to other cats these days. Frankly many of them are idiots….

(14) HENRY AND ERROL. The editors of Galactic Journey and File 770. Two handsome dudes – but ornery.

(15) CRITERIA. Dann collects his thoughts about “That Good Story” at Liberty At All Costs.

In a conversation I am having at File 770, I was asked to define what makes a science fiction/fantasy book “great” for me.  Rather than losing these radiant pearls of wisdom to the effluence of teh intertoobery, I thought I would cement them here in my personal record….

Stay Away From Check Boxes Whoo boy.  I can smell trouble burning at the other end of the wire already.

“Check box” fiction really undermines the quality of my reading experience.  What is “check box” fiction?  It is a story that includes elements indicating diversity in the cast of characters that has zero impact on the the story.

In a reverse of the above, I’d like to suggest N.K. Jemisin’s “The Fifth Season” as a good example of not doing “check box” fiction.  One cluster of protagonists included a character that is straight, one that is seemingly bi-sexual, and one that is decidedly homosexual.  They have a three-way.

And while the more patently descriptive passages of those events didn’t do much for me, the fact that their respective sexuality helped inform their motivations and moved the story forward made the effort in describing their sexuality worthwhile reading.  She also did a reasonable job at expressing how physical appearances differed based on regionalism.  [There were one or two other moments that could be considered “check box(es)”, but for the most part it wasn’t a factor in this book.]

IMHO, including a character that is “different” without having that difference impact the story is at the very least a waste of time that detracts from the story and at the very worst insultingly dismissive of the people that possess the same characters.

(16) IT AIN’T ME BABE. The Guardian got some clickbait from speculating about the identity of Chuck Tingle. Vox Day denies it’s him. Zoë Quinn doesn’t know who it is. The reporter, despite taking 2,000 words of interview notes, also is none the wiser.

Theories abound online: is Tingle Lemony Snicket? The South Park boys? Some sort of performance artist – perhaps the “Banksy of self-published dinosaur erotica” as someone once called him on Twitter? Last year, Jon Tingle – apparently the son of Chuck – appeared on a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) thread to share unsettling insights into his father: “Yes, my father is very real. He is an autistic savant, but also suffers from schizophrenia. To make it very clear, my father is one of the gentlest, sweetest people you could ever meet and is not at all dangerous, although he does have a history of SELF harm … I would not let him be the butt of some worldwide joke if I didn’t have faith that he was in on it in some way. Regardless, writing and self-publishing brings him a lot of joy.” If this is all a joke, it’s hard to know where it starts or where to laugh….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Will R., JJ, and Tom Hunter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

328 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 5/19/16 I Am Not In The Scroll Of Common Men

  1. @Cat

    but the whole ancillary thing–one mind in many bodies, especially bodies that are taken by force and have their own pasts, doesn’t seem derivative to me.

    Don’t necessarily want to invoke derivative as that has some negative connotations but they struck me as a bit of Banks Minds Avatars meet the Borg. Neal Asher adds some real body horror to the idea with Prador Thrall technology.

  2. James Davis Nicoll on May 20, 2016 at 5:13 pm said:

    Is that the Cyndi Lauper episode? I have always assumed she was involved in the murder somehow, and the psychic crap was how she avoided self-incrimination.

    Both Cyndi Lauper episodes. And I desperately wanted to make the same assumption, but the episodes really didn’t offer anything at all to support it. Plus, there were two of them. (Not counting her guest appearance in the wedding episode where she merely sang.)

    Rail on May 21, 2016 at 12:00 pm said:

    things that make me think Butcher didn’t do his research before diving into MilSF.

    This is not a criticism of your comment, but it’s worth noting that while “didn’t do the research” seems like it should be a reasonably objective assessment, in practice, it seems to be an extremely subjective one. Knowing too much about a particular field can doom your ability to enjoy all sorts of much-loved works. See, for example, Neil deGrasse Tyson’s complaints about the stars in Titanic. 🙂

    Neuromancer was an excellent book overall, but the computer stuff in there definitely made me wince more than once. Which, considering it was supposed to be the exemplar for cyberpunk, I found a bit annoying. I still find it hard to resist the urge to tell people they should go read Vinge’s slightly earlier story, “True Names” instead, which is pretty punk, and a lot more plausible cyber!

    As far as Butcher goes in general, I find him a fairly competent author, but not one who makes me want to go read everything he’s written. I love the Dresden files because I’m a huge fantasy noir fan, but so far I haven’t wanted to read anything else of his. My interest in both high fantasy and steampunk is pretty low.

  3. @Xtifr:

    This is not a criticism of your comment, but it’s worth noting that while “didn’t do the research” seems like it should be a reasonably objective assessment, in practice, it seems to be an extremely subjective one. Knowing too much about a particular field can doom your ability to enjoy all sorts of much-loved works.

    Don’t I know it. I have a friend who has been in forensics for years, first laboratory and then computer, who cannot watch most police procedurals. She survived Castle with some muttering only because of the eye candy. *cough*Nathan Fillion*cough*

    I’m not looking for Patrick O’Brian or Georgette Heyer levels of research, just an indication of some general reading in the subject. The simplest explanation for the first bounce is Doylist: Butcher just doesn’t know jung na KB’f wbo ernyyl ragnvyf. The simplest Watsonian explanation is that the ship’s captain qryvorengryl jvguuryq pevgvpny vasbezngvba nobhg gur fuvc sebz gur KB. That’s believable, but you’re not going to sell me on him being a great captain. The second? Ernyvmvat gung gur zbfg pevgvpny znahsnpghevat fvgr va gurve pvgl vf gur yvxryl gnetrg bs na batbvat fhecevfr nggnpx does not qualify as sufficient practical tactical brilliance to warrant comparing someone to a legendary historical admiral.

  4. I humbly submit that high-fantasy steampunk is WAY more common in written fiction than the ancillary concept (And the Borg had one Queen in one body, unlike Emperor Mianaai). There’s no end to the high-fantasy steampunk that goes on and on into so many subgenres. Therefore, under dann’s Rule 4A, the “Ancillary” series is better and more what he likes than the Butcher work. Also rule 6: the military routine is much more true to life.

    Since the Hugos are supposed to be a distillation of what hundreds or thousands of individuals like, Rule 1 isn’t ever going to happen. Even un-slated, this year’s Hugos wouldn’t have had “Bryony and Roses” and “Radiance” on them, which I LOVED. I wouldn’t mind if there was more respect for books with romance in. But you don’t see me writing an entire essay about how The Hugos Are WRONG because of it, and insisting that they conform to my taste at all times.

    Re: Castle, I completely agree with Rev. Bob. It was the emergency ending, but they cared enough to shoot it just in case. It may be rushed closure, but it’s closure that fits in with things already established. I’m okay with it. (And also, pna lbh VZNTVAR ubj ornhgvshy naq fzneg Pnfgyr naq Orpxrgg’f xvqf jbhyq or jvgu gung pbzovangvba bs trarf? Jurj.)

    Re: Bones, we gave up maybe a year and a half ago. It just got too stupid. I hear tell next year is the last, so I’ll probably watch the finale.

    I’m gonna go put “Chekhov’s Lesbian” into UD, giving both Darren and Mike credit and “as seen on File 770”.

  5. @lurkertype

    Steampunk may be more common but I’ve not read any. I’ve only read Justice so far too so I admit I’m basing my remarks solely on that. The Borg Queen was a retcon if anything and really didn’t make much sense based on the original concept. The Collective started as one mind one Borg and is listed beside the Ancillary books under Hive Mind on TV Tropes.

    Don’t get me wrong, I thought it was an interesting take on the concept but more because of the use of Corpse Soldiers as a terror tactic.

  6. Ah, well if you spend too much time on TV Tropes, it becomes hard to see much of anything as truly original. You see something that makes you say, “they couldn’t have even thought of this till the 21st century!” and then you go to TV Tropes and discover its just a variation on an idea that dates back to 7th century China, and is found in 37 different Japanese comic books. 🙂

  7. @Xtifr

    All too true. I also spend far too much time playing Spot the Trope when watching things these days too. When someone brought up Bones magic forensic databases earlier my first thought was, there must be a trope for that.

  8. Knowing too much about a particular field can doom your ability to enjoy all sorts of much-loved works. See, for example, Neil deGrasse Tyson’s complaints about the stars in Titanic.

    The stars? Titanic isn’t even accurate about how ships were designed and built during that era. My Dad and I can nitpick the hell out of that movie. I’m also the person who will mutter during the Iron Man 3 finale (and unlike Titanic, I actually like Iron Man 3), “Cranes don’t really work that way.” and “What precisely did Iron Man just blow up, since there’s nothing there that could explode?” and “Why are they moving a whole lot of empty containers anyway?”

    In short, few people can enjoy movies/films/novels about subjects they know too much about, though the subjects themselves vary. My things are: anything involving teachers/schools (though Zenna Henderson got it), anything involving interpreters and translators and scenes involving ships, cranes and trucks.

    Coincidentally, it’s a rare pleasure if someone gets it right, particularly if it’s in a place where you wouldn’t expect it. E.g. I once came across a Mills & Boon romance of all things, which was surprisingly accurate about how containers and container vessels work.

  9. One of my favorite “they got it right” moments is from the otherwise forgettable movie “It’s My Turn”. Jill Clayburgh plays a math professor at, I believe, the University of Chicago (my alma mater). There is a theorem known as the Snake Lemma (which really deserves Theorem status, but that’s the name). In its proof, there is one step where an attentive and quick student will sit up and say, “Wait. You can’t do that.” The prover, who probably was that student in years past, has to show why, in this particular instance, you *can* do that. Anyway: Clayburgh presents the proof; she gets to the tricky bit; one of the students makes the right complaint; and Clayburgh makes the right answer. Letter perfect.

    The rest of the movie didn’t hold my attention, and I turned it off soon after, but I treasure that bit.

  10. @Dann there certainly are subgenres that are routinely ignored by the Hugo nominators, though “Books that push Dann’s reading buttons” are no more an underserved subgenre than “Books that push Cora’s reading buttons”.

    That said, the most glaring omission at the Hugos is the whole urban fantasy/paranormal romance subgenre, which was hugely popular a few years ago and spawned many excellent books and yet was almost entirely ignored by the Hugos. The only urban fantasy authors to make it onto the Hugo ballot in recent years were Neil Gaiman as well as Larry Correia and Jim Butcher and the latter two slated their way there. It’s also telling that all three are male, even though urban fantasy is largely female dominated. But even though Paticia Briggs, Ilona Andrews, Lilith Saintcrow, Rachel Caine, Caitlin Kitteredge, Devon Monk, Rob Thurman, etc… write excellent urban fantasy, they never show up anywhere near the Hugo ballot. Not even Seanan McGuire can get nominated for her urban fantasy, only for her zombie stuff.

    Epic fantasy, particularly of the grimdark variety, also rarely finds its way onto the Hugo ballot, unless written by George R.R. Martin. And it’s telling that Martin has never won for any of the Song of Ice and Fire books. The recent nominations for Uprooted and The Goblin Emperor seem to buck the trend a little, though both are about as far from grimdark as it is possible to get.

    Steampunk – and that’s one point I grant Dann – also doesn’t do overly well at the Hugos. There was Boneshaker a few years ago and there’s The Aeronaut’s Windlass and that’s more or less it. But excellent Steampunk works like Karen Memory (may have been a victim of the slates) or Meljean Brook’s Iron Seas series are ignored.

    We also see very little YA on the Hugo ballot, unless written by J.K. Rowling or Neil Gaiman.

    So while there certainly are subgenres that are largely ignored by Hugo voters, I don’t think there is any conspiracy at work, just the fact that Hugo nominators don’t particularly care for the subgenres in question.

  11. Titanic isn’t even accurate about how ships were designed and built during that era.

    Two words.

    Pearl Harbor.

    Never mind the things that most people would never notice, like the events of the attack being out of order. The shots of the Oklahoma capsizing are ludicrous, as any kid who has played with toy boats in the bathtub should be able to tell you.

  12. Cora’s right, Urban Fantasy is a HUGE genre, largely written by women, and it rarely makes any award ballots. Only when written by popular dude Gaiman, who could probably get his grocery shopping on the longlist at this point. You’d think Seanan could have in that year she had All The Things nominated, but nope.

    UF has plenty of epic, sweeping good vs. evil, lots of hand to hand or magical combat involving weapons, Scooby gangs, enemies, frenemies, turncoats, organizations, lone wolves and oodles of fantastical magical creatures. And that’s just in Seanan’s Toby Daye series! Other books do too.

    So why doesn’t it get any respect, and high fantasy that has all those things* gets the buzz? The terrible cover art that Jim Hines so wonderfully parodied? Romantic relationships written from the woman’s POV? A preponderance of heroines? Not enough zombies?*

    Certainly sales don’t measure into it, or a LOT of UF would be longlisted — as would J.D. Robb’s near-future police procedurals.

    *For what are the chaps in the Fellowship of the Rings but a Scooby gang, with combat, magic weapons, frenemy Gollum, scary orcs and helpful wizards?

    **We’ve had too many zombies. ENOUGH with the zombies and walkers and whatever you call ’em. Stahp. Talk about overdone, they make steampunk look like a tiny niche. We could also probably do with fewer space marines/troopers/navies.

  13. @Rail: To be fair, “Pearl Harbor” isn’t realistic on anything, from ship-sinking physics to the speech and behavior of human beings. 🙂

    And in “Titanic”, we all know how the Mythbusters proved that if she’d just scooted over, the guy wouldn’t have frozen and drowned.

  14. I must register a small protest. There is no such thing as “not enough zimbies.” One zombiennial is too many!*

    *At least in any fiction I’m going to read. YMMV.

  15. The Aeronaut’s Windlass would probably have met the wall had it not been an ebook. And I’m a huge Butcher fan. I do not get the love for it, but Tastes Differ.

    Another book that prompted the same impulse was The Traitor Baru Cormorant, partly because the confidently expounded upon economic underpinnings were incorrect and it made my head hurt as a result. I’m much better at suspension of disbelief when I know FA about something.

    I love urban fantasy as a subgenre and it generally gets ignored by awards. I really do think it’s partially due to the nature of the series works that are a staple of UF, but it’s also pretty clear that it doesn’t resonate as award worthy with fandom as a whole. Since I can’t pick one UF book and say, yeah, this one really deserved an award, even though I’ve found so many that I love, I guess I can’t really argue that point very convincingly.

  16. Cora Buhlert said:

    Steampunk – and that’s one point I grant Dann – also doesn’t do overly well at the Hugos. There was Boneshaker a few years ago and there’s The Aeronaut’s Windlass and that’s more or less it.

    …except of course for the impressive record of Girl Genius.

  17. @Cheryl S
    You’re probably right that UF suffers from the fact that much of it is in long series, but being part of a series doesn’t stop e.g. Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan novels from getting nominated, nor should it.

    As for UF novels that were Hugo worthy, the first one that always comes to mind is Nightlife by Rob Thurman, because of the brilliant way it plays with POV. It’s first person and switches the narrator literally in the middle of a sentence (gur aneengbe/CBI punenpgre trgf cbffrffrq ol n qrzba naq jr fcrag ebhtuyl 100 cntrf fghpx jvgu gur qrzba orsber vg fjvgpurf frrzyrffyl onpx). Plus great characterisation and a wonderful sibling relationship. Definitely Hugo worthy and IMO better than any of the actual 2007 Hugo nominees.

    J.D. Robb a.k.a. Nora Roberts is another author perennially overlooked by the Hugos, though I’m sure she’s crying all the way to the bank. And yes, there were books in the In Death series which IMO were Hugo worthy.

    Ditto for Diana Gabaldon, who invented the entire time travel romance subgenre singlehandedly (with a bit of help from Jude Devereaux).

  18. …except of course for the impressive record of Girl Genius.

    My bad, I’ve forgotten all about Girl Genius, though it was nominated in the graphic story rather than novel category.

    Martin Scorsese’s Hugo in the dramatic presentation long form category would also fall under Steampunk. But then Steampunk is very visual, which is probably why it does better in visual categories.

  19. @Rail

    Two words.

    Pearl Harbor.

    Never mind the things that most people would never notice, like the events of the attack being out of order. The shots of the Oklahoma capsizing are ludicrous, as any kid who has played with toy boats in the bathtub should be able to tell you.

    Yes, Pearl Harbor was godawful in the accuracy department as well. My Dad and I snarked through that one as much as through Titanic.

  20. @Cora Buhlert

    Much like Gaiman, Bujold could probably get @lurkertype’s grocery list a nomination at this point. If they ever cowrite a Dr Who script everyone else should just concede.

  21. I was talking to someone last night and mentioned the problem with the XO in Aeronaut’s Windlass, and she said “Dude, even I know that!”

    When I bounce off something like that, I don’t just snark about it. I consider how reasonable I’m being to expect someone to know it with a moderate amount of research. (In this case, a familiarity with either historical memoirs — think Stephen Ambrose’s veteran interviews — or MilSF or military thrillers would be sufficient. I may have first learned it from Star Trek, for Ghu’s sake.) If the book is otherwise competent, or the author has earned my trust with previous books, I reread sections looking for anything I might have missed that would make it a deliberate choice rather than a mistake. At this point, the author has engaged my workshop brain instead of my reading brain, and that doesn’t bode well for the book.

    There are several ways Butcher could have made both segments work for me. This is the sort of thing that makes me wonder about the editor as well.

  22. Apologies for the delay. Here are the easy ones.

    @ Rev Bob

    I like that sort of thing. Letting readers form a mental image based on their assumptions and a few subtle clues, and later adding a few concrete bits that might conflict with – what’s the right term, “default defaults”? – is fun and can wake people up to their unconscious assumptions.

    Indeed. Heinlein did something similar (slyly working in non-white characters) in Starship Troopers and in I Will Fear No Evil. I enjoyed those as well.

    @ Lela E. Buis

    Afterthoughts that shout “I’m adding a [insert minority] character here!” are a clear form of activism and can lead to eye-rolling on the part of the reader, if not snapping the book shut.

    Also indeed. Illustrates my point quite well.


    I have read some David Drake. Mostly Hammer’s Slammers related books. I enjoyed them immensely. In fact I picked up another one from the used book store a couple weeks ago.

    Re: Aeronaut’s Windlass….well as they say, different strokes. I hope something else on the short list will light your fire in the way that Windlass did for me.


  23. Just winding up my end of things. My CDO acting up, if you will…..

    I have supplied the qualities that I find attractive in SFF. I have supplied book titles that I think should have been “in the mix”. I have also supplied specific nominees that, IMHO, weren’t really top shelf stuff.

    As others have said…and I have said….YMMV.

    What I have not done is say “this piece” isn’t good without having something else from the same year that I would recommend as being top of the genre. As an example, Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game” didn’t really light my fire. But I haven’t gone through my list of books from 1986 to find something that I thought was better. So I haven’t added “Ender’s Game” to my list of things where “I have read something better”.TM

    Soooo….instead of playing 21 questions, how about reciprocating a bit. If you think every nominee from the last 40 years was perfect*, then how about reading some of the works that I found to be better and then offering your comparitive opinion.

    And for those with focus on the check-box thing, I want to point out that I have offered many examples of well crafted diversity in characterization. The “gay=icky” thing is the next tree over.

    “Check-box” writing is typically the last impression that I get from a book. When the world building isn’t great, when the characters seem cardboard-y, when the plot seems forced, it frequently appears to me that these issues coincide with “check-box” writing. It is is a perception that occurs to me after the work has been read; not before.

    For a current example, would Ancillary Mercy still be as well received if not for the almost exclusive use of female pronouns/references? I’ve been gender flipping it in my head and that starts to show how middle of the road AM is for me; not bad, but certainly not great. I have more significant criticisms that are gender neutral, but that one is on the list.


    *I expect most folks will not think that every nominee from the last 40 years was perfect and can live with YMMV.

  24. Dann, For a current example, would Ancillary Mercy still be as well received if not for the almost exclusive use of female pronouns/references?

    For me, it would have been. I loved it for the worldbuilding and the not-quite-human point of view. But, honestly, it’s hard to separate out, because the pronouns were part of that worldbuilding and not-quite-human point of view.

    (“Would you love “A Fall of Moondust” if it wasn’t set on the Moon?”)

  25. @Dann, For a current example, would Ancillary Mercy still be as well received if not for the almost exclusive use of female pronouns/references?

    The pronoun bit in the Ancillary series is such a small part of it to me. Most of the early reviews don’t talk about it – the word-of-mouth that got the hype started didn’t mention or it was a small side comment. The AI with multiple bodies learning to be singular in a morally ambiguous world with lots of action in space well written did it for me.

  26. @Dann.
    In addition to what Tasha said, I’d also add the very well-done questions raised about colonialism and integration. There are many reviews that stated that the 2nd book (Sword) dragged but I thought it was excellent because it focused so much on colonialism and Breq’s view on it. Breq is the ultimate outsider and yet someone who was intimately part of the Radachaai society. I didn’t even notice the gender pronouns in the 2nd and 3rd book. In the first book, it made me thing about my own gender assumptions and I agree that it was just a small part of the story. The entire trilogy is one of the few series that I finished and then couldn’t read anything else for a bit because everything else just paled in comparison.

    Focusing on the gender flipping reads, to me, as an attempt to minimize someone else’s taste. There are many, many books that don’t do it for me but I can read the reviews from other folks to think that they genuinely believe those books are good. I loved the Ancillary series and think it deserves all the awards. I also love the City series by Robert Jackson Bennett which has also been well received but not nearly as well as the Ancillary series. I absolutely think they deserve to be on the Hugo lists and come 1st or 2nd. Many, many people disagree with me on this and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. No need to argue that their tastes run to middle of the road or ordinary works.

  27. @Mallory above —

    I want Mallory to recommend some more books to me. 🙂 I came back to reading SF in early 2015 after several decades away, and I agree with the idea, that the ANCILLARY series and the DIVINE CITIES series are the best of what I have read in the last 17 months.

    Things I keep rereading the ANCILLARY series for — I may actually have to take the books off my tablet and iPhone just so I force myself to spend less time re-reading them: Breq’s character development at becoming a singular human with one perishable lifetime, instead of being immortal. Breq’s attempt to recapture some of what she had with the new ship Mercy of Kalr. Seivarden’s journey — one of my problems with the book is the sheer coincidence of Breq stumbling across Seivarden outside the tavern in the snow in the opening. Tisarwat — I can’t write about Tisarwat without rot13, because it’s spoiler spoiler spoiler, but what a wonderful mixed-up character. The comic relief of Kalr Five.

    Divine Cities: again, it’s the characters. (( running out of time here, have to be sixty miles away in 90 minutes…))

    Characters and clean, elegant prose. I think those are what attract me to books, and I don’t think I’ve seen discussions of those on MGC or its blog-friends. (I could always have missed them.)

    Maybe it’s significant that both ANCILLARY JUSTICE and CITY OF STAIRS run somewhat as mysteries — I think it was the IO9 reviewer who pointed out to me that the Breq voice is essentially a hard-boiled detective narrator.

  28. @Cassy B

    Fair enough. I’m glad it worked well for you. I thought elements of the world building were really very good as well. Some of the not-quite-human stuff was also quite interesting.


    I agree that the pronoun stuff is a low tier aspect. Although I found the action lacking. Lots of tea….but not much action by comparison.


    Many, many people disagree with me on this and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. No need to argue that their tastes run to middle of the road or ordinary works.

    I agree. I don’t think I’ve said at any point that someone should feel bad about liking the Ancillary series. I enjoyed it quite a bit and intend to give it 4 stars on Goodreads when I get around to catching up over there. I have said that there are other works that I have found more satisfying/enjoyable and feel that they better represent the best of the field.


    If it weren’t for the dripping condesension and some of the insupportable presumptions, that piece might be worthwhile.


  29. For a current example, would Ancillary Mercy still be as well received if not for the almost exclusive use of female pronouns/references?

    I don’t recall too many reviews focusing on the pronouns. As a reader, I thought that Ancillary Justice was the best SF book I’d read in years. It pressed all of my space opera buttons, and yes I thought that the pronoun thing was a neat trick but it was a minor part of the attraction.

    I’ve recently been rereading Ancillary Justice in Turkish, a language which doesn’t have gendered pronouns, and I still find it to be a smart, accomplished and exciting novel.

  30. @Dann: Failing to rise above condescension when it’s merited is one of my besetting vices, alas. One solution would be for people not to be such stupid dicks. But it’s probably more practical to work on myself.

  31. Anybody who can come away from any of the Ancillary books thinking, ‘the only reason those SJWs like this crap is cuzza the pronoun thing’ deserves all the condescension Henley can sprinkle over them.

  32. woot! unmorphing complete! …..I think


    I agree. Which is why that isn’t what I said. Not even close.

  33. My main problem with the Ancillary books was not the pronouns, it is that I’m usually not that fond of books with the lone person looking for revenge. Also not that big a fan of space operas. So it took me awhile to warm up to it.

    I thought of the gender thing as a gimmick in the beginning, but towards the end of the first book where the Radachaai were described in all their variations, all the pieces fell into place and I thought it was great. I give it a four of five myself. But wouldn’t have read the other parts if not for the Hugos.

  34. dann665: would Ancillary Mercy still be as well received if not for the almost exclusive use of female pronouns/references?

    I’m really amused by all the angst from people claiming that is the only thing about the Radch series that makes it exceptional. I seriously believe that the people who claim that are simply repeating what they’ve been told by someone else, or who read 10 pages and quit.

    It took me about 10 pages to adjust to the fact that everyone was referred to as a “she”, and then my perspective normalized, and I just got into the book.

    If the book had referred to everyone as a “he”, none of the people making those claims would have thought twice about it.

    The series is exceptional for many other reasons. If it didn’t float your boat, fine — but please stop claiming that the gender pronoun thing is the only reason people find the series exceptional, because seriously: making that claim really makes you look like an idiot who is simply parroting what others have claimed, rather than an intelligent adult who has actually read the book.

    Cassy B: Would you love “A Fall of Moondust” if it wasn’t set on the Moon?

    Gah. I read that story last year. It was The Poseidon Adventure set on the moon. I can see why it was considered revolutionary when it was published, but it has aged very, very badly. It’s an utterly predictable plotline, with a side helping of rampant sexism to boot.

    If it had been something written recently, I would have stopped reading it very early on; I persisted, simply because the book was a Hugo nominee, and because if I’m going to be negative about a book with that stature, I prefer to be able to opine knowledgeably about it — unlike all the people who keep banging on about the Ancillary books, who clearly haven’t read more than a few pages (if any at all).

  35. I would love for Gaiman or Bujold to do something with my grocery list, and would provide it to either or both of them post-haste should they ever care. However, I would prefer @IanP’s idea of them teaming up to write a Dr. Who episode (in which my grocery list could cameo as a piece of useless flotsam to be thrown aside by the Doctor).

    By the time I read “A Fall of Moondust”, we already knew there weren’t oceans of dust that swallow you up. Between the glaring scientific error, the predictability, and the heaps of sexism, I was all “Some old guy who likes machines wrote this, huh?” Unlike the first Hugo winner it is a book that didn’t outlast its time — despite the tech being less out of date than “The Demolished Man”s tech.

    Considering people love “Ancillary” even in languages that don’t do gendered pronouns, it’s quite obvious to anyone who’s not a right-winger or an idiot that those really don’t have anything to do with the success of the books. And they deserve any criticism they get for repeating that canard.

    It’s a space opera, with AIs, starships, and a vast expanding empire with a big military. Planets! Civil wars! Clones! Shoot-em-ups! Mysteries of the past! Occasional funny stuff! Fancy weapons! Oppressed people rising up for freedom! Completely Nutty Nuggets material, even to the cover art.

    But Puppies gotta get butt-hurt about how they heard from someone who heard from a blog post that it’s all about the pronouns. Even though the gender of Breq and Seivarden is made clear in the first chapter. Oh, well, if they don’t WANT to read swashbuckling space adventures because they’re too lazy to pay attention, or too lazy to deal with a few pages of world-building, then they’re the poorer for it.

    I think I must reread, I zipped through them so quickly to find out “What happens NEXT?!” Real page-turners.


    The society doesn’t have gendered pronouns because they don’t have the concept of gender and gender roles the way we do. This is the interesting part of the society; Leckie couldn’t call everyone ‘he’ and ‘she’ or it wouldn’t have made any sense. (I’m talking about the English language version, of course.)

    So, is the real question, “If she’d used male pronouns [implied: as god intended!], would it have been as popular”? No clue, but I’m confident I would’ve liked it as much. But I liked how she mixed it up and poked people’s assumptions by using a female default instead of a male default. Shoot, even mainstream RPG books sometimes use female pronouns in bits like: “If the player does X, she may then do Y.” So, male default – not quite as monolithic now anyway.

    I wonder, no matter which pronoun she used for the Radch, when I’d’ve clued into it. I’m a bit dense.* Occasionally we know too much going into a book; I wouldn’t call this a spoiler, but I’d like to have read it without knowing about the gender or pronoun stuff. But I’d’ve liked it as much (many reasons already stated).

    Or is the question: What if her world building had a more boring society with traditional “Western” or U.S. gender roles, i.e., without the basically genderless society? I believe I’d’ve loved it as much, since that was hardly a focal point.

    But at some point, the calculus of “remove X – would the book still have been as popular?” gets boring and unknowable. How many elements of Star Wars do I have to subtract (lightsabers? Jedi? Force? droids? blasters? Imperial Senate?) before it’s no longer a hit movie? Again, Leckie couldn’t have portrayed an essentially genderless society** with everyone going around as he and she. But this genderless stuff wasn’t even in the top 5 reasons I loved the books. But was it interesting? Of course. Did it make me think a bit more? Sure; the best books do, IMHO.

    It’s like icing on an amazing cake. It makes it tastier – not tasty. I.e., it isn’t what makes the cake taste amazing; it just made a great cake a little more flavorful. (Mmmm, cake.)

    I can’t wait for heads to explode over Kameron Hurley’s new book; if I understand right, it’s not a one-sex or one-gender universe – just no male characters portrayed or referred to, right? Heh. And yet, somehow I doubt that’ll be what I love most about the book, if I love the book. BTW, I don’t consider myself a big Space Opera or MilSF person, but I’m interested in the plot and concepts of Hurley’s book. I don’t care that she decided not to write any male characters, or whatever.

    * I didn’t realize Steve Berman qvqa’g anzr gur cebgntbavfg in Vintage until I happened upon a review that mentioned it, just before I reread it via audiobook. I’m slow, but also, it was organic, natural. I never thought, “Jung jnf gung thl’f anzr?” – why would I? Leckie reveals things organically, IIRC, but it’s tough to be sure, since I knew going in, and of course, I know now.

    ** Hey, did @Iphinome (sp?) like the “Ancillary” books?

    OMG sorry for the wall of rambling text. Eek. Posting anyway.

  37. lurkertype: I think I must reread, I zipped through them so quickly to find out “What happens NEXT?!” Real page-turners.

    I know, I’m saving the 3-book Ancillary re-read for much later, when I’ve been away from it for a while and can read it slowly enough to really savor all the special elements you mentioned. I ripped through them all the first two times because they’re such great, intelligent action-adventure (and the sly, wicked humor is a huge bonus).

  38. I have to admit that I sympathize a bit with Dann’s position on the Ancillary series. I liked it, but didn’t love it. I’d be torn between four and five stars (out of five) myself. While I do like space opera in general, military space opera is probably my least favorite variety, and Ancillary is at least bordering on that.

    Of course, that makes the puppy hatred for the Ancillary books particularly ironic, since so many of them keep complaining about how there’s no awards for MilSF or Space Opera, and Ancillary is solidly in that spectrum.

    I suspect that what the puppies really want is books about tough macho guys using BFGs for killin’ alien gooks as fast as possible. Which definitely does not describe the Ancillary books. Or Star Trek, another militaryish space opera, for that matter. 😉

    (I have long thought that a serious disconnect between the Sad Puppies (specifically) and the rest of fandom is their admiration for the tough macho guy stereotype, which a whole lot of fandom is likely to associate with wedgies and swirlies, rather than anything positive. But that’s a whole separate discussion.)

  39. Kendall gets at some stuff I was thinking about bringing up, damn him. 🙂

    There’s a sense in which engaging the “but is it only for the gender stuff?”…stuff is a trap. Talk up the book’s other qualities and then comes the rejoinder, “Well then the pronoun ‘trick’ is gratuitous.” Ergo, SJW box-checking. Plus, we risk doing a disservice to Leckie. Because the pronoun usage and gender obfuscation is interesting. Examination of all aspects of gender and sexuality has been part of SF for a very long time. To the extent SF has ever claimed to be visionary about the future – hint: it has often claimed this – speculation about gender and sexuality is practically obligatory. If you wrote an SF story 50 years ago that had lunar colonies and no gay marriage, congratulations: you got it wrong twice!

    Leckie’s portayal of gender roles needs no defense. It is praiseworthy. It makes her, world, her story and her metafiction all better than they would be if she’d left it out.

    Here as usual Heinlein is ahead of the folks whiting his sepulcher. His 1966 novel with lunar colonies did wonder if marriage would look the same in the future, and decided, no, probably not.

  40. @Tasha: Thank you. You are very kind. To clarify, I think all good books have many good qualities and the Ancillary trilogy is no exception. One of those qualities, but by no means the only one, is the pronoun usage.

  41. If you wrote an SF story 50 years ago that had lunar colonies and no gay marriage, congratulations: you got it wrong twice!

    Heh, that reminds me that there was much drama on the young internet when a Babylon 5 episode indicated that there was gay marriage in their future because two male characters pose as a newlywed couple as a method of getting into an interdicted colony.

    I shamefully thought at the time “That’d never happen!”. Younger me, foolish as he was, did think that the space future was more likely than that social change in that future.

  42. sez dann: “I agree. Which is why that isn’t what I said. Not even close.”
    And a hunkin’ helping of that’s not what I said right back at you, dann. If the shoe fits, wear it—but if the shoe doesn’t fit, what kind of nimrod would go out of their way to force their suffering foot into it just so they can kvetch about how that shoe doesn’t fit them?

  43. Paul Weimer: Younger me, foolish as he was, did think that the space future was more likely than that social change in that future.

    I don’t think you were foolish. I think you were being realistic. Humans are very slow to change socially and psychologically. Look at how many decades (almost two centuries) it took for women and people of color to even be legally considered as having the same rights as white men.

    I was blown away when Obama got elected in 2008. Right up until it happened, I could not believe that a person of color would be elected to the highest office of the land during my lifetime — there are still way too many people in the U.S. who are extremely racist (as evidenced by the subsequent racist mocking, the birthers, the government shutdowns, etc). I was very glad to be proven wrong.

    I’m still waiting (and hoping) to be proven wrong about a female president being elected in my lifetime.

  44. Paul Weimer (@princejvstin) on June 3, 2016 at 8:38 pm said:

    Heh, that reminds me that there was much drama on the young internet when a Babylon 5 episode indicated that there was gay marriage in their future because two male characters pose as a newlywed couple as a method of getting into an interdicted colony.

    I was dipping in and out of online B5 fandom at the time so I missed any uproar over that bit (I was too busy laughing at Marcus making fun of Stephen at the time), but I wonder did anyone lose it over the other throwaway line that year, when Garibaldi got angry at an alien who was fawning over Sheridan, saying “He’s not the pope, he doesn’t look anything like her!”

  45. JJ, re: A Fall of Moondust, oh, dear. Has the Suck Fairy been at it? I read it when I was ten or twelve and I loved it for the competence-porn (although I didn’t, obviously, know that term at the time). But I’ve never revisited it since….

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