Pixel Scroll 5/2/16 Ancillary Mary Sue

(1) COSTUMES ON TRIAL. The Hollywood Reporter says “Supreme Court to Hear Fight Over Cheerleader Uniforms”, an issue that some argue can affect fans doing cosplay.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that is nominally about cheerleader uniforms, but could have some impact on Hollywood merchandising as well.

The eight black-robed justices will be reviewing an opinion handed down last August from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed Varsity Brand to pursue copyright claims over similar cheerleader uniforms made by Star Athletica. The ruling held that the stripes, chevrons and color blocks incorporated into these uniforms were purely aesthetic.

…An amicus brief from Public Knowledge in this cheerleader costume case also spoke of the many people who cosplay at comic conventions.

“The multitude of contradictory separability tests that currently stand means that a costume replica may be non-infringing at a San Diego convention but infringing in New York,” stated that brief. “The situation is absurd, abstruse, and – owing to the historical lack of copyright protection for any article of clothing – functionally obfuscated from the people whom it stands to impact most.”


  • MAY 2 — ANNIVERSARY OF THE BATTLE OF HOGWARTS. With the help of the Harry Potter Wikia we salute the Unidentified fallen fifty:

They moved Voldemort’s body and laid it in a chamber off the Hall, away from the bodies of Fred, Tonks, Lupin, Colin Creevey, and fifty others who died fighting him.

—Description of the post-Battle

The unidentified fallen fifty of the Battle of Hogwarts (d. 2 May, 1998) were the unknown people who were killed fighting Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters in the final conflict of the Second Wizarding War. They did not die in vain as their cause had been won after their deaths. At the end of the battle, all of the bodies were placed together in the Great Hall.

(3) FROM PKD TO PHD. Be the Professor of Future Crimes! University College of London is hiring. I am not making this up.

The nature of the crime and security problems we face has transformed in recent years and continues to change rapidly. Most obviously, the digital revolution has created new challenges in the form of cybercrime and other cybersecurity threats, while developments such as the Dark Web and the Internet of Things are exposing new problems. But the issue is wider than digital technologies: developments, for example, in nanotechnology, robotics and cybernetics are creating new opportunities that can be exploited for criminal and terrorist purposes. And nor do the new threats solely involve technological developments: social changes associated with population growth, changing migration patterns, and climate change all have the potential to drive crime and insecurity in as yet largely unforeseen ways.

(4) AWESOME. Jim C. Hines launches a new series of posts with SF/F Being Awesome: Books for Kids.

For close to 20 years, Balticon and the Baltimore Science Fiction Society have been raising money to provide books to kids — particularly kids who might not otherwise be able to afford them — and to school libraries as well.

I spoke with Kelly Pierce, who’s been coordinating the Bobby Gear Memorial Charity Auction at Balticon since about 2002. The auction raises the bulk of the money for Books for Kids each year….

Since it all began, Balticon and BSFS has probably raised around $50,000 to provide books to libraries and kids in need, with the bulk of that money comes from the annual auction….

For more information:

(5) DROPPING THE PILOT. io9’s new editor Rob Bricken previews the future in “io9’s Mission Isn’t Over”.

Hello, I’m Rob Bricken. Some of you may know me as the guy who writes the FAQs, or the guy who hates everything, or a deluded SJW, or perhaps the person who will shortly be turning io9 into a garbage fire. I would like to present myself as something else—the new editor of io9.

Yes, I have been given the monumental, terrifying task of taking over here, a job that I can promise you I did not have designs on. Like all of you, I would have been content with Charlie Jane Anders running io9 until the heat death of the universe. As I told her as she said goodbye, she is io9. Always was. Always will be.

But as Charlie Jane herself wrote, io9 has a mission

(6) FLASH FICTION. Cat Rambo answers the question “Why Write Flash Fiction?” on Medium. She defines flash fiction, then gives writers reasons to try it.

At any rate, writing flash fiction is both a useful and productive exercise for writers. Anything that makes us practice writing is surely a good thing, and sitting down to write a flash piece fulfills that. Beyond that, it’s very satisfying to rise from the desk knowing you’ve written something in its entirety, as opposed to the tiresome nature of a novel, which swallows hours and hours of writing while swelling as slowly as ice accreting on a glacier.

You can use flash to try out new techniques. One of the exercises I often use in class draws on a piece I heard Gra Linnaea read at World Fantasy Con, written all in future tense, which I read to the class before challenging them to write their own pieces in future tense. Another draws on Randy Henderson’s most excellent THE MOST EPICLY AWESOMEST STORY! EVER!!, which I use to challenge the class to think about bad writing vs. good.

Many new writers are hungry for publications, and writing flash is a good strategy for garnering some. Flash markets, by their nature, consume a lot of pieces, and where a market that publishes one story each month is buying only that one story, a flash market is buying a much larger number. One of my favorites is Daily Science Fiction, which mails me a story every weekday. Every Day Fiction, as another example, runs a flash piece each day. The shorter a piece is, the easier it is on an editor’s budget.

(Cat Rambo’s full-length short story “Left Behind” was published in the May issue of Clarkesworld, which you can read online, or you hear read to you by Kate Baker.)

(7) RHINO RUNNER. Jim Mowatt has written about his transcendent experience running the London Marathon run for Save The Rhino.

“That last mile is absolutely amazing” she said, “and when you turn to go down the Mall it’s the most incredible experience that you could imagine.” I did try to imagine it and reckoned it would be akin to some of the feelings that I have previously experienced when I have finished a particularly gruelling run. The actuality was was nothing like that. It was a massive emotional assault on a astounding scale.

I shuffled along the Embankment in a world of pain and then turned right at the Palace of Westminster. Then I ran along Birdcage Walk curving around toward the Mall and Buckingham Palace. All the while the noise grew louder and louder until it became completely unbearable. There was a kind of mass hysteria going on all around me. I’d got a shop to print Jim on the Save The Rhino tee shirt so people could shout out my name and, in a way, join in with my run. What felt like thousands of people were shouting my name. Faces were looming out of the crowd telling me that I was awesome or amazing or incredible. It was absolutely terrifying but quite exciting too. My mind couldn’t cope with this assault and tried to shut down to get me through. I went with it for a while but realised that this was a very special moment and I had to savour it. I forced myself to engage again. I could hear everyone shouting and screaming, all caught up in this amazing event. I zoned in and out as we progressed further down the Mall trying not to break down and cry with the massive waves of emotion rolling over and around me. At the final turn I saw the finish line and focussed in on that, lurching forward until I crossed the mat with arms held aloft….

(8) IT’S ALWAYS NEWS TO SOMEONE. I have not previously reported the announcement made last November by BSFS and WSFA that the 2018 World Fantasy  Convention will be held in Baltimore. Nor does Google show that it has been picked up anywhere else. Let this be a placeholder ‘til more information comes out.

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society (bsfs.org) and Washington Science Fiction Association (wsfa.org) shall be hosting the 2018 World Fantasy Convention on November 1 – 4, 2018 at the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel (the location for next year’s 50th anniversary Balticon (balticon.org)). Many of us who were involved with the management of WFC 2014 are working on this exciting new project.

(9) AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A CAT. Ursula K. Le Guin serves as amanuensis for “My Life So Far, by Pard” at Book View Café.

In the first place there were Mother and Sister and me with a mother and an aunty human who had a lot of kittens. Some tom humans came around now and then and either paid no attention to anybody but the queens, or were dangerous to kittens, pretty much like real toms. Mother and Sister and I kept out of their way and had no worries except sometimes the younger kitten humans, who will pull your tail as soon as their eyes are open. And some of the bigger ones played too rough, or tried to hug. Hugging, even when well meant, is horrible.

Life was often quite exciting in the first place, and we were happy together. I am hardly ever sad, but sometimes when I am going to sleep I hear purring around me that is not mine, and it seems that Mother and Sister and I are all curled up like one warm cat. And then I am happier than usual.

The kibbles there were all of one species, but there were plenty of them, except when there weren’t any of them. When the bowl had been empty for a while and then the kibbles were turned loose in it, Sister and I did a lot of growling and shoving to see who could get more first, but it wasn’t serious, it just made hunting and killing the kibbles more exciting….

(10) GRRM’S ANSWER. George R.R. Martin cleans off some of the mud that’s been hurled his way in “A Response To John C. Wright”.

…All that being said, I do not know why Wright seems to believe that by purchasing and publishing one of his stories seven years ago, I am therefore somehow required to like everything that he writes subsequently, to the extent that I would feel it Hugo worthy.

It should be pointed out that “Guyal the Curator” was not itself nominated for a Hugo (there being no Puppies around in 2009 to push it). None of the stories from SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH were Hugo finalists, truth be told. Do I think some were worthy of that honor? Sure I do. I cannot pretend to be objective, I’m proud of the anthologies I edit and the stories I publish. Do I think that all the stories in SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH (or ROGUES, or OLD MARS, or OLD VENUS, or LOWBALL, or any of my anthologies) are Hugo-worthy? Of course not. In a normal year, the Hugo finalists are supposed to represent the five best stories of the year in that word length. Was “Guyal the Curator” one of the five best short stories (actually, it might have been a novelette, after so long I do not recall the word length) of 2009? No. It was a good story, not a great story. The Hugo Awards demand greatness. It was an entertaining Vance tribute, but it was not a patch on real Vance, on “The Last Castle” or “The Dragon Masters” or “Guyal of Sfere.” And truth be told, it was not even one of the five best stories in SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH. A good story, yes, I’ll say that again. But there were better in the book. (And how not? We had an amazing lineup of contributors).

Which brings us back to Puppygate, and last year’s Hugo ballot.

I read every word in every story in the anthologies I edit, as I’ve said. I did not read every word in every story on last year’s Hugo ballot, no (or on any Hugo ballot, for that matter). I start every story and give them a few pages. If they grab me, I keep reading. If they bore me or offend me, or fail to interest me for whatever reason, I put them aside. Mr. Wright seems convinced that I did not read his stories on last year’s ballot. He’s half-right: I did not read all of them. But I started all of them (there were five), finished some, set others aside. The same as I do with any story I read; no special treatment.

I did not find any of them Hugo-worthy. Not one of them was as good as “Guyal the Curator,” in my opinion. No doubt others liked them better.

(11) THE POWER OF FIVE. Does the title of John Scalzi’s post show that he’s tuned to our wavelength? That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it — “Two New Books in 2016 That Have Me In Them. Well, Three. Actually, Five”.

So, to recap:

  • The Books That Changed My Life — already out.
  • Mash Up — out June 7.
  • Black Tide Rising — also out June 7.
  • The Dispatcher — scheduled for this year in audio.
  • Secret SubPress Project — also scheduled for this year (I think!).

And the mass market paperback of The End of All Things, out May 31st.

(12) MORE THOUGHTS. Mark Ciocco at Kaedrin comments: “The 2016 Hugo Awards: Initial Thoughts”.

Fortunately, at least part of the Puppy success this year was driven by the inclusion of works from mainstream authors on the lists. The Rabids had folks like Neal Stephenson , Neil Gaiman, Alastair Reynolds , and Lois McMaster Bujold on their slate, which, well, these are all people who don’t need any help getting nominated. In addition to those names, the Sads even included the likes of Ann Leckie, John Scalzi, Nnedi Okorafor, Naomi Novik, and Cat Valente, most of whom don’t seem to exactly fit the puppy mold if they aren’t actively hostile towards each other. I am, of course, not the first to mention this, but it does seem to have the effect of softening the impact such that the scortched-earth No Award response feels less likely this year. There are some who are calling these mainstream choices “shields” and coming up with elaborate conspiracy theories about their inclusion, but who knows? I mean, yeah, I could dig through the muck and try to figure out what the Rabid intentions really are, but jeeze, who wants to get into their head? I like a lot of these authors and hell, I even nominated some of them (completely independent of recommendation lists or slates, imagine that!). Of course, this has been my approach all along, but others, even strident opposition, seem to be getting on board that train.

(13) FLASH ROMANCE. The BBC reports there has been a preemptive protest about casting the movie version of The Flash — “Superhero fans rally to keep The Flash’s love interest black”.

The announcement that DC Comics and Warner Bros are to put comic book character The Flash on the big screen in two forthcoming movies was good news for many. There is already a successful TV series based on the character, and fans were expecting more of the same.

But some were alarmed by the suggestion that one of the supporting characters might undergo a transformation for the cinema version. Although full details of the film’s cast are yet to be announced, one blog reported “industry rumours” that the race of one of the characters may be changed.

The report suggests that a white actress, Imogen Poots, could be cast as Iris West Allen – a part played in the successful TV version by black actress Candice Patton.

Although the rumour remains unconfirmed, some fans began accusing Warner Bros of “whitewashing”, using the hashtag “Keep Iris Black”. The phrase has now appeared more than 7,000 times.

(14) HALLOWEEN AUCTION. Mark V. Ledenbach’s auction of vintage Halloween stuff runs through May 8. He is also blogging about some of the items, such as a tin noisemaker that went for $117.

This tin litho noisemaker, made by an unknown manufacturer during the 1930s, is very cleverly designed. I have my suspicions that it was made by Bugle Toy of Providence, Rhode Island, but they were disciplined about marking their tin litho items and this tin item has no mark. It has their characteristic clever design. Take a close look at it to see the almost Art Deco integration of four orange cat faces bordered by two bats and two owls.

Tin as a genre has been ice cold for years now. This was an aggressive ending price. Does this presage an upward movement for tin litho items?

(15) IN THEIR OWN WORDS. From the May issue of Smithsonian magazine, “An Oral History of ‘Star Trek’”.

The trail-blazing sci-fi series debuted 50 years ago and has taken countless fans where none had gone before…

In the teleplay for the first pilot, “The Cage,” starring Jeffrey Hunter as Capt. Christopher Pike, Roddenberry described the establishing shot in detail: “Obviously not a primitive ‘rocket ship’ but rather a true space vessel, suggesting unique arrangements and exciting capabilities. As CAMERA ZOOMS IN we first see tiny lettering ‘NCC 1701- U.S.S. ENTERPRISE.’”

Walter M. “Matt” Jefferies (production designer, “Star Trek”) I had collected a huge amount of design material from NASA and the defense industry which was used as an example of designs to avoid. We pinned all that material up on the wall and said, “That we will not do.” And also everything we could find on “Buck Rogers” and “Flash Gordon” and said, “That we will not do.” Through a process of elimination, we came to the final design of the Enterprise.

Gene Roddenberry I’d been an Army bomber pilot and fascinated by the Navy and particularly the story of the Enterprise, which at Midway really turned the tide in the whole war in our favor. I’d always been proud of that ship and wanted to use the name.

Roddenberry’s attention to detail even extended to the ship’s computer at a time when computers were punch card–operated behemoths that filled entire rooms. In a memo on July 24, 1964, to production designer Pato Guzman, Roddenberry suggested, “More and more I see the need for some sort of interesting electronic computing machine designed into the USS Enterprise, perhaps on the bridge itself. It will be an information device out of which the crew can quickly extract information on the registry of other space vessels, spaceflight plans for other ships, information on individuals and planets and civilizations.”

Gene Roddenberry The ship’s transporters—which let the crew “beam” from place to place—really came out of a production need. I realized with this huge spaceship, I would blow the whole budget of the show just in landing the thing on a planet. And secondly, it would take a long time to get into our stories, so the transporter idea was conceived so we could get our people down to the planet fast and easy, and get our story going by Page 2.

Howard A. Anderson (visual effects artist, “Star Trek”) For the transporter effect, we added another element: a glitter effect in the dematerialization and rematerialization. We used aluminum dust falling through a beam of high-intensity light.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Will R., and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

215 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 5/2/16 Ancillary Mary Sue

  1. lurkertype on May 3, 2016 at 6:14 pm said:
    My goodness, UKL’s cat is a handsome one. So perfectly symmetrical, such a snappy tuxedo. I lurve him.

    I had a cat like that. I loved him dearly. Also “I lay in my bed in fear of the midnight mouse” is a thing of utter beauty. And I know the feeling, although in my case they were lizards.

  2. @JBWeld:

    I recently read Patricia McKillip’s new book, Kingfisher. I thought it was remarkable.

    Seems like an ethically dubious book. Like, would it be okay for T. Kingfisher to write a book called McKillip? And if not, why not?

  3. @Jim Henley Seems like an ethically dubious book. Like, would it be okay for T. Kingfisher to write a book called McKillip? And if not, why not?

    ROTBL* Too funny. It could be dueling authors. 😉

    *Rolling on the bed laughing

  4. Duelling banjos, pfah. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard duelling pipe organs. (It’s happened here in Toronto occasionally; two cathedrals across the street from each other and two rather bored organists practicing.)

  5. @Eric Franklin: “I just wonder how long before we get a non-Barry Allen version of the character on TV.”

    Did you see this week’s episode? I’m guessing next season. (They’ve already introduced Wally West and Jesse Quick.)

  6. @Daniel Dern: I love the Pixel Scroll title!

    @snowcrash: Thanks (?!) for the Mark Reads embed for the Tingle story. 😉 I listened and LOL’d, but more due to Mark than in appreciation of the story’s humor value (sorry, Chuck Tingle!).

    Still, I was amused, and below No Award but on the ballot may be where this falls for me (though usually I’m an “off the ballot” kinda voter, if I deploy No Award).

    /Tingle-stalk 😉

  7. @BG:

    Yeah, but that’s older news. This episode’s twist on that was neat, though.

  8. (Yes, I’m running pretty far behind…)

    @Cmm: “But in more recent years [“cuck”] has also come to denote a sexual fetish […] It mixes with some pretty queasy racial stuff too.”

    There are definitely some uncomfortably race-based aspects to certain fetishes. Uncomfortable for me as an outsider, that is. The insiders seem to be okay with those aspects, and I’m reluctant to judge them for at least some of that. Fetishes can be interesting ways to explore several forms of human complexity, and any sort of exploration risks running into troublesome territory. That’s exactly why they’re so attractive, even valuable.

    For instance, I’ve seen several examples where the racial aspect is black superiority and/or white inferiority – which is at least a change from the White Power crap that still infests Real Life. Maybe reversing the power dynamic in the bedroom can help break down traditionally racist thought patterns; I’m all for that. At the same time, though, I’ve seen “fetish fan art” that hearkens back to the old caricatures of black men as apelike, which is just not cool at all. So there are facets and complexities.

    As you noted, the cuckold fetish is a prime example of… well, all of that. The “wife is unsatisfied with her white husband and beds a well-endowed black man” is a common form, but I can’t see where it’s anti-black. Looks to me (as a white dude) like it’s just relying on the “black guys are bigger” stereotype. It’d be different if the situation was portrayed as humiliating for the husband because the substitute is black instead of because he’s better-equipped – but that doesn’t seem to be the general case. Even then, I could see “because he’s black” working if the husband was racist and the wife deliberately picked a black partner to signify her displeasure with her husband’s narrow views. Like I said, complexities…

    Basically, as long as it’s play and not The Real World, I figure that consensual activities that happen in other people’s bedrooms are none of my business. Who am I to dictate that being more attracted to people with a certain skin color or ethnic background is “worse” than preferring big boobs, red hair, lots of muscles, or any other superficial physical characteristic?

  9. Rev. Bob, I hope I’m going to express myself properly, and not come off being offensive. I’m on my phone at the moment and can’t really quote, which makes it harder.

    “Wife is unsatisfied by white husband so beds well-endowed black man” is a key feature of the stereotype of black people as more “animalistic” than white people. I.e., the thing that makes the black supposedly a superior bedmate is not a product superiority, but a mark of being lower on the evolutionary ladder. 🙁

    It plausibly looks like ascribing some superiority to the black man who becomes the wife’s lover, at first glance, but it rests on a really unfortunate racial stereotype. I’m sorry. 🙁

  10. @Lis: “It plausibly looks like ascribing some superiority to the black man who becomes the wife’s lover, at first glance, but it rests on a really unfortunate racial stereotype.”

    First – no offense taken or perceived on my part. I will say that “black guys have bigger penises because black people are less evolved than white people” is something I haven’t heard before, though. I wouldn’t mind seeing some kind of source for that; I find the origin and development of stereotypes fascinating. (To be clear, I’m NOT saying you made it up. I’m just interested in doing some follow-up research.)

    I think I’ve come to the conclusion that in any depiction of a sexual relationship which involves both a power-play dynamic (e.g. D/s, cuckolding) and multiple races among the partners, there is always some way to read the depiction as reinforcing a racist stereotype. I could even go further and say that heterosexual D/s is doomed to be read as sexist, for similar reasons.

    For example, you’ve just demonstrated how the “white couple with black third” cuckold scenario can be read that way. But what happens when you change the roles? Is it possible to construct a mix that can’t be seen as racist?

    – Black couple with white third: A black woman has to turn to the superior white race for satisfaction? Not a better alternative.
    – Black men, white woman: Stinks of “jungle fever” or “black men are out to take white women” depictions. So that’s out.
    – White men, black woman: Looks like that’s still open to both the “lower on the evolutionary ladder” reading you mentioned and the “superior whites” interpretations, no? The only twist is that now it’s the black woman, with the apparent implication that if this is a regular practice, she’s searching in vain for something she’ll never find because… ugh.

    The same thing applies with D/s. Make a black character the top, and it looks like a slave uprising. Make them submissive, and it looks like literal slavery. Plus, make a woman the top and she’s a “rabid feminist” MRA nightmare, but show her as the sub and it’s a sexist rape fantasy. Either way, you lose.

    I think the only way out of this trap – at least in a literary sense – is to write decent characters, with enough depth that the readers can tell the author is thinking of them as characters and not as differently-colored puppets. Let the complexities emerge, so you can see William and Jane instead of Black Man and White Woman.

    tl;dr – Descriptions of fetishes tend to be surface-level. Talking about people based on their surface attributes can be problematic. It is wise to tread carefully and realize that sometimes, people just want to get kinky with each other.

  11. “There are definitely some uncomfortably race-based aspects to certain fetishes. Uncomfortable for me as an outsider, that is. The insiders seem to be okay with those aspects, and I’m reluctant to judge them for at least some of that. “

    I think we have to be aware of these kinks being taboo-play. You play around with something that is not socially acceptable and it therefore gives an extra edge. Things like raceplay, rapeplay, sissyfication, humiliation and more. And yes, people are okey with that as long as everyone involved are doing this in a consensual way and are aware of that this is something that is not accepted by society as a whole and that there usually are very good reasons for that.

    I myself know a black woman whose kink it is to be treated as a slave, including all racist epithets. And there are large amount of thinking and talking that needs to be done for this to work.

    That kinky people are ok with taboo play does not mean that they don’t think there are problems with it. Usually you don’t see it in open parties, because some people will react badly. Involved are aware that this is not something that should be pushed into the faces of others and texts and pictures usually have disclaimers with them.

    But this is in the community. The community is very aware that a lot of people have a hard time differing between fantasies and reality. And want to project their fetishes on others in a non-consensual way. And that is never acceptable.

  12. @Rev. Bob — I’m not going to give this the thorough answer it deserves because I am finishing up my first week of my new (temp, alas) job and I need to get ready to go, not let myself get drawn in to an absorbing discussion. So, my quick response…

    The stereotype isn’t so much about bigger penises as about, um, “animal magnetism.” About being more sexual. 🙁

    But yes, absolutely, the way out is to write decent characters so that it’s about the individuals involved, not about their racial and/or sexual identities.

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