Pixel Scroll 6/20/23 We Don’t Need No Pixelation, We Just Want Some Scroll Control

(1) SETI CONNECTION TO MISSING SUBMERSIBLE. An international effort has been launched to find a submersible with five people on board that went missing Sunday on a trip to view the wreckage of the Titanic. According to CNN, a prominent Pakistani father and son are on board the missing sub, which turns out to be of genre interest.

…While the names of those on board have not been released by the authorities, British businessman Hamish Harding, Pakistani billionaire Shahzada Dawood and his son Sulaiman Dawood, and French diver Paul-Henri Nargeolet have been confirmed to be on board the craft.

The fifth person on board is Stockton Rush, the CEO and founder of the company leading the voyage, Ocean Gate, according to a source with knowledge of the mission plan. Ocean Gate did not respond to CNN’s request for comment…

Shahzada Dawood is on the Board of Trustees of the SETI Institute, an organization whose scientists “are looking for proof – not merely of life elsewhere – but of intelligent beings in other star systems.”

(2) SFWA SILENT AUCTION INCLUDES JAMES E. GUNN COLLECTION. SFWA’s 3rd Silent Auction, which opened yesterday, includes an “Exclusive James E. Gunn collection”.

July 12, 2023, marks the start of James E. Gunn’s centenary. He died December 23, 2020 – one week after finishing his final story, which sold his final day.

Jim was a Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master, SF Hall of Fame inductee, first (with Jack Williamson) to offer SF courses in academia, former President of SFWA and SFRA, and “Science Fiction’s Dad” to the generations of authors, editors, and educators he mentored. Jim’s devotion to “Saving the world through science fiction” inspired us to reach higher, grow deeper, and become ever-more humane. His tireless dedication to what SF does was the essence of his magic, and why so many called him Dad. Our world is richer because of him.

For auction is a collection of Jim’s works, unread NOS.

Hardcovers of Transcendental, Transformation, and Transgalactic – his only trilogy, and his final books; two Easton Press leather editions: Gift from the Stars (signed first edition), and Kampus; his Hugo-winning illustrated SF history, Alternate Worlds (new, updated edition); volumes 1-4 of his essential anthologies-as-history, The Road to Science Fiction, with teaching guide; hardcovers collections Human Voices and Some Dreams Are Nightmares; new trade paper and early paperback of Jim’s classic collab with Jack Williamson, Star Bridge; hardcover and early paperback of The Dreamers; new trade paper of his best-selling The Listeners, which inspired Carl Sagan to write Contact and others to form SETI; plus a 1983 business card for his (first of its kind) Center for the Study of SF, SFWA Grand Masters trading card, and Transcendental bookmark.

Donated by the Ad Astra Institute for Science Fiction and the Speculative Imagination, spiritual successor of Jim’s original Center, run by his protégés Chris McKitterick and Kij Johnson.

(3) TRIVIA CONNECTIONS. [Item by Nickpheas.] Given the regular notes of Jeopardy! questions, here’s one from the long running BBC radio 4 show Round Britain Quiz.

Q8 (from Nigel Choyce)  Which of these is the leader and how many are missing: A cosmetic company that might come calling; a Victorian actress who travelled in the Tardis; a school of Buddhism emphasising the value of meditation; the Baker Street detective aided by a Tinker?

The question can be heard at about 22.30 through the episode.

(4) READ BAEN MEMORIAL AWARD STORY. Brad Zeiger’s 2023 Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Award winning story “The Insomniac” is now available as a free read on the Baen Books website.

(5) “I KNOW.” NO, YOU DON’T. Phil Nichols and Colin Kuskie devote episode 30 of the Science Fiction 101 podcast to “The Secrets George Lucas Kept From Leigh Brackett”.

Phil and Colin dig into “Star Wars Sequel”, the unfilmed 1978 script by science fiction legend Leigh Brackett which became Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. We look at what made it into the finished film and what got junked, and consider whether Star Wars creator George Lucas was keeping his screenwriter in the dark!

If you’ve never read Brackett’s script, you can find two versions of it online. There’s a PDF scan of the original typescript, which shows all of her hand-corrections and notes – fascinating for its details, if you can make them out. Or there’s this transcript, which is a lot easier to read but loses some of the fun.

For a fascinating, in-depth discussion of how “Star Wars Sequel” developed into The Empire Strikes Back, sit back and watch this interview with screenwriter Larry Kasdan, who wrote the final draft of the film’s script.

(6) FATHOMING COPYRIGHT WHERE AI IS INVOLVED. Michael Capobianco has a post about “Copyright, Contracts, and AI-Generated Material” at Writer Beware.

On March 16, 2023, the United States Copyright Office issued a publication: Copyright Registration Guidance: Works Containing Material Generated by Artificial Intelligence. The full text can be found here.

The Copyright Office’s Guidance does not have the force of law and will change as the situation evolves, especially as legal precedents are created under US law, but, as of the time of this post, it is effectively the policy in force in the United States.

The main takeaway from the Guidance can be summarized thus: the only parts of a work that are copyrightable are the human-contributed ones, and the work is not copyrightable if an AI technology determines the expressive elements of the work and the creativity is not the product of human authorship. In cases where there are both AI-generated and human-authored elements, copyright will only protect the human-authored aspects of the work, which are “independent of ” and do “not affect” the copyright status of the AI-generated material…..

(7) U.F.O.S SOUND LIKE A N.I.C.E. IDEA. Ross Douthat tells New York Times readers that “This C.S. Lewis Novel Helps Explain the Weirdness of 2023”.

Recently I reread C.S. Lewis’s 1945 novel, “That Hideous Strength,” the last book in his Space Trilogy, and since I wrote about aliens last weekend it seems like a good week to talk a little bit about the novel’s contemporary relevance….

…The story introduces a near-future Britain falling under the sway of a scientistic technocracy, the National Institute of Coordinated Experiments (N.I.C.E.), which looks like the World State from Huxley’s “Brave New World” in embryo. But as one of the characters is drawn closer to N.I.C.E.’s inner ring, he discovers that the most powerful technocrats are supernaturalists, endeavoring to raise the dead, to contact dark supernatural entities and even to revive a slumbering Merlin to aid them in their plans.

I’ll say no more about the plot mechanics except to observe that they boldly operate in the risky zone between the sublime and the ridiculous. But just from that sketch I’ll draw out a couple of points about the book’s interest for our own times.

First, the idea that technological ambition and occult magic can have a closer-than-expected relationship feels quite relevant to the strange era we’ve entered recently — where Silicon Valley rationalists are turning “postrationalist,” where hallucinogen-mediated spiritual experiences are being touted as self-care for the cognoscenti, where U.F.O. sightings and alien encounters are back on the cultural menu, where people talk about innovations in A.I. the way they might talk about a golem or a djinn.

The idea that deep in the core of, say, some important digital-age enterprise there might be a group of people trying to commune with the spirit world doesn’t seem particularly fanciful at this point. (For a small example of what I mean, just read this 2021 account of life inside one of the stranger tech-associated research institutes.) Although like some of the characters in “That Hideous Strength,” these spiritualists would probably be telling themselves that they’re just doing high-level science, maybe puncturing an alternate dimension or unlocking the hidden potential of the human mind.

Then, too, the book’s totalitarian dystopia is interesting for being incomplete, contested and plagued by inner rivalries and contradictions. Unlike in “Brave New World” and “1984,” we don’t see a one-party regime holding absolute sway; in Lewis’s story, we see a still-disguised tyranny taking shape but still falling prey to various all-too-human problems, blunders and failures that contrast with the smooth dominance of Orwell’s O’Brien or Huxley’s Mustapha Mond….

The novel’s emphasis on the limitations of any attempted secret government, finally, connects specifically to our peculiar U.F.O. discourse, where we suddenly have a government whistle-blower claiming knowledge of a 90-year conspiracy and, apparently, a chorus of anonymous sources encouraging belief.

I wrote a Twitter thread after my column, explaining why even independent of the likelihood of alien visitors or interdimensional encounters, I find it hard to imagine the kind of long conspiracy depicted by the whistle-blower: The secrets involved would be too big not to tempt would-be heroes of disclosure, the breadth of infrastructure would be too hard to hide, the political complexity and turmoil of the world would create too many opportunities for revelations (because you would need China, Russia and other powers to be in on it as well) and so on.

If there were an alien cover-up, though, I would imagine it would look more like the secrets held by N.I.C.E. in “That Hideous Strength.” …

(8) TAX-EXEMPT AT LAST. The Science Fiction Poetry Association informed members today that they have received the official confirmation from the IRS of SFPA’s 501(c)(3) status, which secures the organization’s federal tax exempt standing.

(9) RUSHDIE’S LATEST HONOR. Winner of “The 2023 German Book Trade’s Peace Prize: Salman Rushdie” reports Publishing Perspectives.

The board of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade has announced today (June 19) that Salman Rushdie is the winner of this year’s honor, “for his indomitable spirit, for his affirmation of life, and for enriching our world with his love of storytelling.”

…As is this award’s tradition, the honor will be conferred in a ceremony on the closing day of Frankfurter Buchmesse (October 18 to 22), at the Paulskirche, a program to be broadcast live on German public television (SDF) at 11 a.m. The award carries a purse of €25,000 (US$27,302).

(10) MICHAEL A. BANKS (1951-2023). Writer and editor Michael A. Banks (Alan Gould), a longtime member of the Cincinnati Fantasy Group, died June 19 of cancer. He was 72.

In the SF field, he is perhaps best known for nonfiction works about the genre (including Understanding Science Fiction, 1980) and his collaborations with Mack Reynolds. His first published story was “Lost and Found” (1978) with George Wagner. Banks wrote several novels to his credit, including The Odysseus Solution, with Dean R. Lambe. He also worked as an acquisitions editor for publishers, including Baen Books and Harlequin. He wrote dozens of nonfiction books.


2016 [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

So the Beginning this Scroll is from Claudia Casper’s The Mercy Journals

She’s a Canadian writer who’s  best known for The Reconstruction, about a woman who constructs a life-sized model of the hominid Lucy for a museum. 

And now for our Beginning…

On October 15, 2072, two Moleskine journals were found wrapped in shredded plastic inside a yellow dry box in a clearing on the east coast of Vancouver Island near Desolation Sound. They were watermarked, mildewed, and ragged but legible, though the script was wildly erratic. Human remains of an adult male were unearthed nearby along with a shovel and a 9mm pistol. Also found with the human remains were those of a cougar. The journals are reproduced in their entirety here, with only minor copy-editing changes for ease of reading.

March 9, 2047 | My name is Allen Levy Quincy. Age 58. Born May 6, 1989. Resident of Canton Number 3, formerly Seattle, Administrative Department of Cascadia. This document, which may replace any will and testament I have made in the past, is the only intentional act of memory I have committed since the year 2029. I do not write because I am ill or because I leave much behind. I own a hot plate, three goldfish, my mobile, my Callebaut light, my Beretta M9, the furniture in this apartment, and a small library of eleven books.

March 10 | I sit at my kitchenette island in this quasi-medieval, wired-by-ration, post nation-state world, my Beretta on my left, bottle of R & R whiskey on my right, speaking to the transcription program on my mobile. 

I was sober for so long. Eighteen years. I was sober through what seems to have been the worst of the die-off. Three and a half to four billion people, dead of starvation, thirst, illness, and war, all because of a change in the weather. The military called it a “threat multiplier.

You break it, you own it—the old shopkeeper’s rule. We broke our planet, so now we owned it, but the manual was only half written and way too complicated for anyone to understand. The winds, the floods, the droughts, the fires, the rising oceans, food shortages, new viruses, tanking economies, shrinking resources, wars, genocide—each problem spawned a hundred new ones. We finally managed to get an international agreement with stringent carbon emissions rules and a coordinated plan to implement carbon capture technologies, but right from the beginning the technologies either weren’t effective enough or caused new problems, each of which led to a network of others. Within a year, the signatories to the agreement, already under intense economic and political pressure, were disputing who was following the rules, who wasn’t, and who had the ultimate authority to determine non-compliance and enforcement.

Despite disagreements, the international body made headway controlling the big things—coal generators, fossil fuel extraction, airplane emissions, reforestation, ocean acidification—but the small things got away from them—plankton, bacteria, viruses, soil nutrients, minute bio-chemical processes in the food chain. Banks and insurance companies failed almost daily, countries went bankrupt, treaties and trade agreements broke down, refugees flooded borders, war and genocide increased. Violent conflict broke out inside borders, yet most military forces refused to kill civilians. Nation-states collapsed almost as fast as species became extinct. Eventually the international agreement on climate change collapsed completely, and the superpowers retreated behind their borders and bunkered down. The situation was way past ten fingers, eleven holes; it was the chaos that ensues after people miss three meals and realize there’s no promise of a meal in the future.


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 20, 1947 Candy Clark, 76. Mary Lou in The Man Who Fell to Earth which of course featured Bowie. She also was in Amityville 3-DStephen King’s Cat’s Eye and The Blob in the role of Francine Hewitt. That’s the remake obviously, not the original. Oh, and she’s Buffy’s mom in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Wiki being Wiki lists that as non-canon which makes absolutely no sense, does it? 
  • Born June 20, 1951 Tress MacNeille, 72. Voice artist extraordinaire. Favorite roles? Dot Warner on The Animaniacs, herself as the angry anchorwoman in Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, Babs Bunny on Tiny Toons and Hello Nurse on Pinky and The Brain
  • Born June 20, 1952 John Goodman, 71. Some may know him as the TV husband of a certain obnoxious comedienne but I’ve never watched that show. So I picture him as Fred Flintstone in The Flintstones, a role perfect for him. Mind you he’s had a lot of genre roles: voicing James P. “Sulley” Sullivan in the Monsters franchise, a cop in the diner in C.H.U.D., and he’ll even be the voice of Spike in the Tom and Jerry due out two years hence. And he’s in Argo, which is a thriller, but one in which the development of a fake sf movie is crucial.
  • Born June 20, 1956 Ed Lynskey, 67. Mainly a mystery writer with five series comprising forty novels underway but he has written one genre novel, The Quetzal Motel, a handful of genre short fiction (uncollected) that appeared in Full Unit Hookup, Aoife’s KissMaelstrom, and Three-Lobed Burning Eyed (fascinating titles, eh?) and somewhat more genre poetry.
  • Born June 20, 1967 Nicole Kidman, 56. Batman Forever was her first foray into the genre but she has done a number of genre films down the years: Practical MagicThe Stepford WivesBewitched (I liked it), The Invasion (never heard of it), The Golden Compass (not nearly as good as the novel was), Paddington, and as Queen Atlanna in the rather good Aquaman
  • Born June 20, 1968 Robert Rodriguez, 55. I’ll single out the vastly different Sin City and Spy Kids franchises as his best work, though the From Dusk till Dawn has considerable charms as well. ISFDB notes that he’s written two novels with Chris Roberson riffing off his The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D film, The Day Dreamer and Return to Planet Droll


  • Bizarro has a (bizarre, of course) police lineup.

(14) STAN LEE WILL RING THE BELL. An animated Stan Lee will ring the opening bell of the NYSE on June 26. The event will stream live on Kartoon Channel. “Genius Brands Moves to NYSE, Renames as Kartoon Studios” at Animation World Network.

Genius Brands International, Inc. announced a name change to Kartoon Studios and plans to transfer its listing from the Nasdaq Capital Market (Nasdaq) to the NYSE American exchange (NYSE American). Under its new name, the company expects to start trading on the NYSE American exchange when markets open on Monday, June 26, 2023. That day the company’s common stock will begin trading under a new trading symbol, “TOON,” and a new CUSIP number, 37229T 509. It will continue to trade on Nasdaq under its current trading symbol, “GNUS” until the close of market on Friday, June 23, 2023.

An animated Stan Lee will ring the opening bell of the NYSE on June 26, an indication of the company’s plans to expand on its Stan Lee IP under its new moniker. The event will stream live on Kartoon Channel!

The company controls the post-Marvel IP of Stan Lee, which was initially brought to market with a 20-year license to Marvel and the Walt Disney Company, and brand initiative commemorating Stan’s 100th anniversary at San Diego Comic-Con in July 2023….

(15) THE PICTURES MOVE, THE CAR DOESN’T. Smithsonian Magazine brings us “The History of the Drive-In Movie Theater”.

On June 6, 2008 the flag flying over the U.S. Capitol commemorated the 75th birthday of a distinctive slice of Americana: the drive-in movie theater.

It was on that day in 1933 that Richard Hollingshead opened the first theater for the auto-bound in Camden, N.J. People paid 25 cents per car as well as per person to see the British comedy Wives Beware under the stars.

…He first conceived the drive-in as the answer to a problem. “His mother was—how shall I say it?—rather large for indoor theater seats,” said Jim Kopp of the United Drive-in Theatre Owners Association. “So he stuck her in a car and put a 1928 projector on the hood of the car, and tied two sheets to trees in his yard.”…

(16) UKRAINE/STAR WARS AGAIN. [Item by Susan de Guardiola.] Continuing the Star Wars spotting in the war: check out the chest patch General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief, is sporting here:

Tolkien and Star Wars, over and over in this war.

(17) NO AIR THERE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] It may be that the red dwarf star has blown away the closely orbiting planet’s atmosphere. See open access pre-print Zieba, S. et al (2023)  “No thick carbon dioxide atmosphere on the rocky exoplanet TRAPPIST-1 c”, Nature.

Observations from the James Webb Space Telescope suggest that a second world in a seven-planet system lacks an atmosphere.

For the second time, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has looked for and failed to find a thick atmosphere on an exoplanet in on one of the most exciting planetary systems known. Astronomers report1 today that there is probably no tantalising atmosphere on the planet TRAPPIST-1 c, just as they reported months ago for its neighbour TRAPPIST-1 b.

SF2 Concatenation previously reported on the innermost planet not having an atmosphere.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Not strictly TV as it was never broadcast but here’s Jon Pertwee as Doctor Who in a corporate film circa 1981. There’s a surprising … err … twist at the end.”

[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Jason Sanford, Nickpheas, Susan de Guardiola, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ken Richards.]

59 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 6/20/23 We Don’t Need No Pixelation, We Just Want Some Scroll Control

  1. 12) Candy Clark played the nameless character “Buffy’s Mom” in the 1992 film Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which is not canon in the fictional universe of the Joss Whedon TV series, comic books, etc., wherein Buffy’s mom, named Joyce Summers, was played by Kristine Sutherland.

  2. 12) Nicole Kidman: Invasion was the second, and least remembered, remake of. Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It also starred Daniel Craig.

  3. (7) We’ve had a thread on the WSFA and BSFS lists about his post. Ted White and I agree that That Hideous Strength was not a good – I say very mucn not well-written – book. If you’re out of high school, and not a fundamentalist self-proclaimed Christian, it’s dreadful. Calling it sf, when [SPOILER] everyone one involved in futuristic tech are direct, knowing agents of Satan, and he pulls the animals out of the city zoo to kill them all (for real)?
    (16) Sorry, but not new. By mid-way through the Vietnam War, Tolkien had been translated into dozens of languages, including Vietnamese. If you want to know who the good guys were in that war… a major unit of the South Vietnamese Army chose, as its insignia, the Lidless Eye of Sauron. For real.
    (17) whew So, not Trappisit-e….. (an upcoming novel of mine lands there for a while).

  4. mark: It’s hard to believe I dared to put a topic on the table about a book you AND Ted White had already condemned. Unless we ask ourselves how many books published over 75 years ago are still being discussed by anyone or get you this wound up?

  5. Okay, no, I’m not making a substantive comment on anything in this scroll right now.

    Especially when someone is being dogmatic about That Hideous Strength, which I do not love, but, please.

  6. Oh mark, I read That Hideous Strength way back in University as a part of a literature course along with The Screwtape Letters.

    (Never asked that professor why he picked those books.).

    You may think that it was dreadful, but the entire class found it to very interesting and the conversation about That Hideous Strength was quite lively.

    So your opinion on this book isn’t universally shared after all. I’ve found long, long ago that assuming my opinion is shared by everyone is always a bad thing to assume. That’s something you should learn.

  7. So, am I being told that I cannot offer a negative opinion about any book, ever?

    I also ask why I should find that interesting a book should I be of any religion other than Christian, or non-religious?

  8. P J Evans: Since I’m not a believer that UFOs represent visits by alien intelligence I suppose that’s why I found my imagination animated by Douthat’s efforts to use Lewis’ book as a way to interrogate whatever the willingness to believe in them represents.

  9. @mark–

    So, am I being told that I cannot offer a negative opinion about any book, ever?

    You absolutely can! You just can’t assume that your negative opinion will be universally shared, or that no one will express disagreement with your opinion.

    My own feelings about That Hideous Strength are–complicated.

    I also ask why I should find that interesting a book should I be of any religion other than Christian, or non-religious?

    That’s a perfectly valid reason for not liking, enjoying, or thinking well of it. For not finding it interesting. But then, there are also people who are not Christian, or not religious at all, who do find it interesting.

    Both responses to it are perfectly valid, and disagreement is not personal attack.

    As I said, my feelings about this book are complicated, and I’m just not going to get involved in a substantive discussion where one side is represented by Ross Douthat, and the other side is someone who thinks only uneducated, extremist, Christian fundamentalists could find any value in it.

    Note that in saying that, I’m not saying that you have to find any value in it. Just–not assume that your very negative opinion is going to be wholly shared by any and every educated person with a working brain.

  10. mark: Your comment is still there, isn’t it? Let me check…. Yes, it’s still there. Don’t be childish.

    And if you’re going to insult my intelligence (“if you’re out of high school”) for offering this book for discussion, you can’t come back and cloak that in a claim that you’re exercising religious freedom.

  11. Digging himself in so deep that he’ll never see the light again, mark says: So, am I being told that I cannot offer a negative opinion about any book, ever?

    Speaking for myself and myself alone, I did not say that. What I said is do not ever assume that your opinion is held by others. A measure of true maturity is realising that.

  12. Let me note that I did not offer this book for discussion, rather that I was commenting on the story, and why I found it not merely an odd choice, but one that suggested to me that his hypothesis was questionable, to say the least.

    sigh I remember the Days of Yore, when a Famous Author would be hanging out in the con suite (remember that?), and this 18 yr old would walk up to him, and tell him his last book sucked… and, because this was fandom, tell him why… and within ten minutes there’d be a circle of people, including kid and author, arguing/defending/etc the book.

    And no one told the kid he was being rude….

  13. Oh, a blast from the past. I vaguely recall suggesting that scroll title. Thanks Mike for remembering.

    I note that I ‘still’ have copies of Lewis’ ‘SF’ trilogy in my to be read someday pile (just not so high on the list). I am more looking forward to ‘Children of Memory’ which the postie delivered on Monday.

    Enjoyed Claire G Coleman’s ‘Enclave’, in which she inverts Rand’s ‘Anthem’ and gives an exuberent shout-out to a vibrant post climate-change version of my hometown Melbourne. Her writing is flawed but fun.

    A little groggy this morning after staying up late to watch Test Cricket on TV.

  14. @mark–

    Let me note that I did not offer this book for discussion, rather that I was commenting on the story, and why I found it not merely an odd choice, but one that suggested to me that his hypothesis was questionable, to say the least.

    But you didn’t stop there. You went on to express a really insulting opinion of anyone who didn’t share your opinion. That’s what got you the negative reaction.

  15. mark: No, that’s not what you did. And this just happened less than 90 minutes ago. Look up the word gaslighting. Then stop doing it.

  16. Those were different times, mark, as least one of those Famous Authors engaged in sexual harassment of women at Cons that would get him permanently, in my opinion, banned from those Cons.

    And unlike today where female writers are common along with LQBTQ+ and all sorts of multicultural writers that one could possibly want to celebrate, those days were largely one of white males. I like our now a lot better than what I’ve read about those days.

  17. I was thinking that spotting the SETI connection to this current news story would be good for a comment. Memo to self: Check what you were smoking.

  18. Mike Glyer says I was thinking that spotting the SETI connection to this current news story would be good for a comment. Memo to self: Check what you were smoking.

    I was going to comment on that story but I couldn’t figure why NASA was interested in submersibles. Are they planning for a deep dive into the atmosphere of Jupiter generations from now? Or does NASA have a secret underwater program?

    That submersible had ninety five hours of oxygen starting on Sunday when they dived. That four days ends sometime today or tomorrow at the latest.

  19. (11) Casper’s The Mercy Journals, which won the Philip K. Dick Award in 2016, is a terrific novel, with a conflict between two brothers that borders on the biblical.

  20. (8) Little do the fools at the IRS realize that running a poetry association is the next best thing to printing money. Or maybe the next to next best thing, or the next to next to next… er, maybe I need to think about this some more.

    (12) John Goodman memorably steps on a spider in Arachnophobia, which I think of as genre although maybe it isn’t.

    (15) and Joe Bob Briggs assures us that the drive-in will never die.

  21. (12) In addition to the roles you mentioned, I’m also a fan of Tress MacNeille’s voice work on Futurama, playing many secondary and tertiary female characters as well as several notable recurring roles, including the villainous tycoon Mom and the invariably (and sometimes disturbingly) cheerful TV news anchor Linda.

  22. @Cat Eldridge–

    I was going to comment on that story but I couldn’t figure why NASA was interested in submersibles. Are they planning for a deep dive into the atmosphere of Jupiter generations from now?

    Yes, they’re interested in the potential for submersibles to explore, maybe the gas giants but more likely Titan, Enceladus, and other bodies with oceans. I think they’re hoping to make that robot generations, though, rather than human generations.

    Or does NASA have a secret underwater program?

    Secret operations, I obviously don’t know about. Wouldn’t be shocked, though. However, they have done underwater operations as part of training astronauts and testing equipment (not just the very big pool).

    Who knows? Maybe they’re working on trying to communicate with octopuses and giant squid. Practice for communicating with true aliens.

  23. 3: The fourth question is the leader, at least initially, and as there are four questions there are three missing…

  24. 6) interesting in that it references non-human based creativity. Hasn’t most everyone been saying that AIs “don’t create”, they merely string patterns together?

  25. 1) Asimov wrote a story about the connections between space travel and underwater exploration (“Waterclap”)

    7) I read “That Hideous Strength” in 1977 or so, so I don’t remember very much of it, but a few years ago, I started to wonder if Lewis had read Lovecraft.

  26. @Andrew

    I doubt Lewis would have read Lovecraft – American pulp, ugh! – but I’d be surprised if he hadn’t read some of Lovecraft’s influences. And of course he shared Lovecraft’s horror of modernity and its consequences.

  27. @Sophie: That common horror at modernity is probably the connection I’m seeing.

  28. Genre-adjacent, John Goodman played the horror movie executive in Matinee.

  29. I read Hideous Strength. A rather turgid novel as I recall (I read it many years ago in high school). I enjoyed the storyline of Merlin returning, but he wasn’t a very likeable character. There’s a nod to Tolkien in it, with talk of “Numinor” and the “True West.” However Tolkien hated it, and said it reeked of Charles Williams, of whom he was no fan. Hideous is probably the worst of the SF trilogy, but then, I never cared for any of them much. Screwtape Letters, dedicated to Tolkien, is easily his best book.

  30. I’m a bit handicapped in discussion of That Hideous Strength because I’ve only read the paperback edition, which was savagely edited for length and comes across as bitty and inconsistent because of it.

    I have mixed feelings about C.S. Lewis in general, partly because there seem to be two speeds to his apologetics. Sometimes, he is describing the agonizingly complicated process of reconciling his religious thought with his intellectual and emotional life; sometimes, though, he shifts down a gear into his over-simplified “Christianity for Dummies” mode, which informs the Narnia books, and, sadly, Mere Christianity, a book which a lot of people take seriously. David Langford, I recall, used the term “plausible wheedling” to describe this sort of stuff, and I can’t find it in my heart to disagree.

    As to the Cosmic Trilogy: Perelandra we can leave to one side, since it’s mainly a theological thought experiment, a sort of “what if Adam and Eve had left the apple tree alone?” deal. The first book, Out of the Silent Planet, is pretty explicitly a cautionary satire on the Mankind-Conquers-The-Stars school of pulp SF. That Hideous Strength, then, you can see as a similar satire aimed at another branch of SF – the progressive utopianism espoused by the likes of H.G. Wells. (Wells himself, of course, is quite savagely parodied in the book as the self-important Mr. Jules.)

    Now, I like Wells, and agree with many of his ideas, but I don’t believe for one moment that he’s above criticism or parody. There is room, I guess, to debate how well Lewis has done that,.. but that’s the thing: there is room for debate The idea of “unbridled scientific progress is a bad thing” is hardly unique to Christian viewpoints – it’s the basis of half the B-movies of the Fifties and Sixties, just for a start.

    Incidentally, Fundamentalists would probably hate That Hideous Strength because of its occult and pagan influences. Fundamentalists don’t like Lewis in general – I’ve seen him called a Satanist on more than one occasion – partly because he began as a pagan, but mostly because he analyzes faith and scripture in a way that’s simply not allowed in their theology. The first and most important of the five fundamentals is the inerrancy of Scripture – everything in the Bible is correct and literally true, (Never mind that the Bible contains enough internal errors and inconsistencies to prove that this can’t be true…. ) For a Fundamentalist, the only acceptable faith is an unexamined faith. Whatever you might think of Lewis, you certainly can’t claim his faith was unexamined.

    There’s more I can say, about how faith and reason can and should happily coexist, how science and religion essentially began as the same thing, and should be partners rather than rivals… but this post is probably too long and boring already, so I’ll stop now.

  31. @Sophie Jane

    Lewis was certainly opposed to postmodernism. To the extent that “modernity” includes postmodernism, I think you have a point. I don’t think he was coming at it from the perspective as Lovecraft.


    (16) Sorry, but not new. By mid-way through the Vietnam War, Tolkien had been translated into dozens of languages, including Vietnamese. If you want to know who the good guys were in that war… a major unit of the South Vietnamese Army chose, as its insignia, the Lidless Eye of Sauron. For real.

    Interesting. So I took a look. The suggestion appears to originate from a story in The Sunday Times. The Sunday Times’ archive appears to be behind a paywall. I didn’t find any external copies or photos.

    One Redditor took a better look. They suggest that this may have been a western journalist seeing something in Asian iconography that was not inspired by the LotR and (potentially) it was just one tribesman’s custom painted shield.

    In any case, given the mass murder (600k-800k), starvation, concentration camps, and other acts of oppression committed after the fall of Saigon, it’s quite clear that the bad guys were clearly the communists.

    It is difficult to unpack an idea in a room full of people with luggage of their own. – Dann

  32. @Steve Wright–Yes, those saying that Lewis in any way appeals to Fundamentalists reveal that they know nothing of substance about either Lewis or Christian Fundamentalism.

  33. Let me go two ways here: if someone here was insulted by my criticism of Lewis’s book, I apologize.

    Now the other way.

    An author wants to have the reader have a strong reaction to their writing. Preferably not mine. I see people questioning why I have such a strong reaction after all these years.

    I’m not sure how I wasn’t clear, but what came through to me in that Hideous Strength was that not some, but all new – which meant science and technology, as well as the improvement of the lives of the 90% – was run by knowing evil. He didn’t simply paint with a broad brush, he used “bucket fill”, with no exceptions.

    Given when I read it, and I’m a child of the people of the Great Depression, it came across as a direct, personal attack on me, and everything that I believed in, and the future we saw back then.

    There is no way I can possibly not see the current attacks, right now, on science and education by the extreme right as the same as Lewis’.

  34. (7) I’m glad I stuck to the Chronicles of Narnia so I can sit this discussion out. 🙂

    (12a) John Goodman was great in “10 Cloverfield Lane”!

    (12b) “Hellooooo, Nurse!”

  35. @Dann665: “it was just one tribesman’s custom painted shield.”
    I take serious exception to that, which suggests I should take exception to the unnamed redditor. This reads as though they are speaking of some “primitive tribe” in Africa, or some such, and is insulting for a culture significantly older than the US’.

    I have also never seen the figures you’re claiming, nor have I seen outright assertions of ethnic cleansing. What I do see is, of course, what the US might have done after the US Civil War.

    And, of course, it utterly ignores the massive death – somewhere between 700k and 1.4M killed by the US war. And the destruction of Vietnam, where the US dropped more bombs than in WWII.

  36. @Dann665 “In any case,”

    We’ve got ourselves a real Sergey Lukyanenko here.

  37. @Sophie Jane: I don’t think there’s any documentation of Lewis having read HPL or saying anything about him, but Lewis did talk about having read and enjoyed a lot of SF and, given the history of the genre in the early/mid-20th century I’d have to imagine a fair amount of it had to qualify as “American pulp.”

    About That Hideous Strength in general, I have mixed feelings as I think a lot of people do. I like the overall SF/horror vibe of it quite a bit and I suspect (on no evidence other than style and chronology) that it was a not-insignificant influence on the modern idea of what that type of thriller is– if you made some updates and removed all the philosophical content it almost could’ve been published in the ’80s, which may not be a compliment as literature but does make it more satisfying for me. I’m also a Charles Williams fan and I think the common description of THS as a failed Williams pastiche is an exaggeration, but there’s certainly obvious influence and seeing Lewis’s interpretation of that very idiosyncratic style is interesting to me. Also, I really love this version of Merlin and I think the fact that he’s fairly unpleasant and dangerous, while still being on our side, is one of Lewis’s better ideas– the explicit point isn’t that it’s fine to be a jerk if you’re on our side, but that “I was a good Christian man by the standards of my era” is not enough, regardless of the era.

    The other side of the mixed feelings is that of course it’s got a heavy dose of Lewis’s sexism, and it’s very unevenly written, and Ransom in his ascended state is pretty boring. One criticism I don’t really agree with is that it’s anti-science in general; Lewis through his Ransom mouthpiece does assert that the forces of evil would naturally use science as a tool of control in the modern era, but that’s a natural thing for forces of evil to do on a practical level, since it does provide power for good or ill. What makes someone like Frost or Filostrato so horrible isn’t that they like artificial things, but that they actively hate life; they’re not interested in knowledge or logic except as means to an end. There’s a very sympathetic character who’s an atheist academic who has a reasonable desire to see N.I.C.E. as a legit research project, and turns against it when he finds out it isn’t.

    Also, Ross Douthat is an idiot and I don’t really care what he has to say about this or anything else.

  38. Btw, for any comics readers who are interested in Grant Morrison, I think there are pretty clear signs that Morrison, despite being anti-Christian, is or was into That Hideous Strength; there are a lot of aspects of style and content, especially when GM is in a horror mode or writing a nihilistic mystical science viIlain, that are very similar which of course could be coincidences or secondhand influences, but there are also some direct references (the one that immediately comes to mind is a character in Sebastian O who’s an obvious riff on Filostrato).

  39. @Eli: The only one of Williams’ novels that I’ve read is The Greater Trumps, which I quite liked. How would you rank his other novels in comparison?

    Also, Ross Douthat is an idiot and I don’t really care what he has to say about this or anything else.
    So. Much. This. As the kids say these days.

  40. @Eli

    There’s a very sympathetic character who’s an atheist academic who has a reasonable desire to see N.I.C.E. as a legit research project, and turns against it when he finds out it isn’t.

    That reminds me of a couple of Poul Anderson novels, in both of which there is a seemingly benign organization that is secretly a front for evil; as I recall Anderson establishes in both cases that there are sincere believers in both organizations, who create genuinely benign organizations from the remnants of the corrupt version once the evil has been overthrown (that doesn’t happen with NICE, of course, but I was reminded of the Andersons anyway).

  41. I haven’t re-read That Hideous Strength since grad school, where it was part of a Mark Hillegas seminar on what he called the “Oxford Christians” (aka the Inklings): Lewis, Tolkien, Williams, and Sayers. My reaction back then (c. 1973, so cut me some slack on specifics) was that Lewis’ Space Trilogy books got progressively unpleasant, and that THS was downright nasty. (The anti-birth-control and sadistic-lesbian bits struck me as particularly toxic.)

    Which bothered me a bit, since I’d enjoyed (if not completely agreed with) The Screwtape Letters in high school, admired his scholarship and commentary on medieval and Renaissance literature as an undergrad, and found “On Stories” (along with Tolkien’s “On Fairy-Stories” in the same volume) to be a a useful defense of a particular kind of reading. (I never did read the Narnia books, which is probably just as well.) But then, by my late twenties I was comprehensively finished with apologetics or evangelizing of any flavor, no matter how elegantly encoded. (Why I’m comfortable with Williams, Tolkien, Sayers, and Dante is probably worth unpacking.)

  42. (6) Saying that the output of an “AI” cannot be copyrighted makes sense. (We can revisit the question if we ever find reason to remove the scare quotes around “AI”.) I think a more interesting question, though, is: who is liable when an “AI” violates copyright?

    Personally, I think that instead of saying “an AI can’t scan copyrighted material”, it makes more sense to say, “you can scan what you want, but if your AI violates someone’s copyright, you’re liable!” That might get the creators to pay a little more attention!

  43. Eli: I didn’t want to derail my own comment last night by complaining about the misuse of Ted White’s name as some kind of appeal to authority, since I get along fine with Ted and there are several things I admire about him, foremost being is that he is willing to look at an idea or argument on its own merits; he feels secure in his own values and concept of reality. In that spirit, if somebody I know (like Andrew Porter) sends me a column by Ross Douthat I’m going to look at it and decide whether I find it contains anything of interest based on my own view of what is interesting, and skip the “Ross Douthat! OMG!!!” part.

  44. Mike: oh, for sure– I didn’t mean that as criticism of you posting the link, and I’m sorry I wasn’t clearer about that. I was only trying to put distance between myself and Douthat, since I had just said various positive things about the book. I am personally annoyed when right-wingers of a fundamentalist Christian persuasion claim Lewis for their side and try to frame his ideas as if he fully agreed with their POV, which happens often (Douthat isn’t being any more innovative in that regard than he ever is); I dislike that not only because I disagree with them in general, but because Lewis was a complicated person who shared some of their beliefs but was strongly opposed to others. So I sometimes find myself bending over backward to say that that’s not where I’m coming from. And I dislike Douthat a lot, so this was also just a random reflexive insult that I could’ve omitted. Anyway, as Douthat does have (sadly) a large audience and it’s rare for anyone to talk about THS, it made sense for you to post the link. I don’t give any weight to his particular opinion of the novel, but as a conversation starter, why not.

  45. @Jake

    We’ve got ourselves a real Sergey Lukyanenko here.

    Unlike Lukyankenko, I’m opposed to murderous and oppressive regimes. This is how every socialist/communist state has turned out, including North Vietnam (and later just Vietnam).


    This reads as though they are speaking of some “primitive tribe” in Africa, or some such, and is insulting for a culture significantly older than the US’.

    Iconography does vary by region. The swastika is viewed as as a good luck symbol in south Asia (India primarily, IIRC). Obviously, westerners view it far differently. (I work to keep swastikas from appearing in my quilts for obvious reasons.)

    The west has the Eye of Providence in our iconography/heraldry. That pre-dates Tolkien by quite a bit. A similar icon occurs in south Asian cultures such as The Divine Eye of Caodaism, and The Third Eye. Ancient Egyptian cultures had various eyes/icons. All of those pre-date Tolkien by a bit as well. It isn’t exactly inconceivable that a non-western culture might have a “radiating eye” icon in their (far greater – as you point out) history that might be more influential in their military unit designations than a book that was barely a decade in print at that point and only in English. The LotR was translated into French and Japanese in 1972 which further undermines the theory that it inspired the patch/icon in question.

    If there was any insulting of a culture, it was by the journalist that jumped to associate that image with LotR and published that assumption in The Sunday Times of London.

    I have also never seen the figures you’re claiming, nor have I seen outright assertions of ethnic cleansing.

    More like ideological cleansing as they were of the same general ethnicity. [I am aware of the various tribes and other minorities in the region, thanks. Ideology (i.e., eliminating anti-communism) was the driving force.]

    Professor RJ Rummel was a professor emeritus of the University of Hawaii. He wrote the book on governments killing civilians in a phenomenon he calls “democide”. Democide is the government killing of innocent civilians and is separate from military deaths. Here is his page on what he called lesser megamurderers. North Vietnam (and later just Vietnam) was far more brutal than South Vietnam by that measure. It ain’t even close. A graphic. His chapter on Vietnam in particular. He does point out/calculate a large number of civilian deaths as the result of US military actions.

    Including North Vietnamese military/paramilitary deaths in any accounting critical of US policy is akin to blaming the US for all of the German and Japanese soldiers killed in WWII. It was a war. Given the murderous actions of the communist states following our exit from the region and the fall of South Vietnam, stopping them from those murderous actions is defensible. YMMV.

    Based on the ever-questionable Wikipedia, your 1.4M number may be referencing casualties rather than deaths. Apples to apples is a better basis for comparison.

    Examining only deaths, North Vietnam (and again, later, just Vietnam) was worse by a non-trivial margin. It ain’t even close.

    [disclaimer – I’m not suggesting that backing South Vietnam was a good choice, nor am I defending the US decision to enter the war. I’m pointing out that the socialist/communist state(s) in the region was/were by far the more murderous of the choices. The only “peace” that peace-loving communist governments support is when their victims are either silent or dead.]


    In that spirit, if somebody I know (like Andrew Porter) sends me a column by Ross Douthat I’m going to look at it and decide whether I find it contains anything of interest based on my own view of what is interesting, and skip the “Ross Douthat! OMG!!!” part.

    An aspect that I have long appreciated. Thanks!


  46. @PhilRM: Williams is such an odd duck and his novels are so diverse in some ways (though they resemble each other more than they resemble anything else) that picking a favorite is hard— it really depends on what you’re looking for.

    I think All Hallows’ Eve is the one that works best as a supernatural thriller with a fair amount of his philosophical and lyrical aspects, and the best-written one all around… with the disclaimer that having the villain be specifically a Jewish sorcerer is not a great look (IMO Williams in general means well with this kind of thing, but he’s the kind of mystically-inclined Christian writer with a POV of “I think the Jews are awesome— especially because of what I think Kabbalah is!”, which can easily lead in facepalm-worthy directions). I like Descent Into Hell a lot too, as an opposite extreme of him writing in such a non-thrillery way that nearly all of the action is interior; it might be the best example of him writing real characters, and of his compassion. I also have a soft spot for his early and (I think) widely disliked novel Shadows of Ecstasy, just because it’s so very odd and has a kind of antagonist I don’t think I’ve ever seen before or since, namely a mystical superman who’s the wisest person ever and got his powers entirely through meditation and completely giving up both sex and food, and is out to destroy Europe for understandable reasons with an army of the victims of colonialism in Africa.

    War in Heaven I think is not very substantial, but fun as an example of a sort of “cozy thriller” where the heroes and the villains might be out to destroy each other but can also enjoy hanging out for a cup of tea. Many Dimensions, I don’t remember a whole lot about except that I thought it was cool.

  47. @Russell Letson: Lewis’ Space Trilogy books got progressively unpleasant, and that THS was downright nasty. (The anti-birth-control and sadistic-lesbian bits struck me as particularly toxic.)

    I agree that “nasty” is a fair description of THS in some ways— it’s definitely Lewis trying hard, often too hard, to leave his comfort zone and not be nice (ha). The result includes some things that I actually enjoy, like the gross-out elements (the Head, and what happens to it)… and the depiction of Hardcastle’s sadism actually works for me in some ways, NOT including the ultra-stereotypical and homophobic idea of having the sadist be a butch lesbian. That part is terrible. The part of the characterization that isn’t terrible is that there are people whose motivation for being in an evil political movement that they don’t otherwise care about is simply that they get off on violence against prisoners, and such movements know how to use such people, and I think that’s a type of nastiness that Lewis wrote effectively—I think he saw it through the lens of his experience of boarding-school abuses, and was also trying to make a point about how real political repression relies on pre-existing availability of unambitious sociopaths (he makes a point of saying that one of the groups Hardcastle had worked for was the Black and Tans). A traditional thriller approach would’ve been to make her like Rugen in The Princess Bride, a grandiose person with all kinds of fancy torture ideas, when in reality what you get is more likely to be a petty grubby person who just does the things domestic abusers and prison bullies do. But the way he frames it pretty much ruins the point for anyone who’s not on board with the homophobia.

    I get why you could lump the anti-contraception remarks in on the “nasty” side, I’m not at all sympathetic to them ideologically, but I think that’s more in the category of Lewis thinking he’s making a non-malicious philosophical point— it’s basically like the standard “what if the baby you aborted would’ve grown up to cure cancer?” shtick. Merlin thinks this is a terrible crime on Jane’s part, but Merlin is an unstable zealot who would happily kill half of the allies. My sense is that Lewis doesn’t blame Jane and doesn’t think she should’ve been required to have children—and, based on his other writings, he didn’t himself believe that contraception is necessarily a bad thing in itself—but it did make him a bit uncomfortable in the sense of being part of modern sexual mores in general, and he wasn’t above using this kind of fictional deck-stacking like “imagine this weird scenario where it turns out it really is a big problem… I’m not saying it is, but what if!” For me that’s more mildly-eye-rolly than squicky. The general sexism in the novel’s ideas about marriage bugs me more than that particular argument, because I think Lewis believes in it more as a message about reality.

  48. @PhilRM: I realize now that I didn’t actually answer your question about how I would compare other Williams novels to The Greater Trumps specifically. I don’t remember that one super well either, but I did like it a lot and I think probably the other best example of his writing in that particular vein is Many Dimensions. I’m not entirely sure what I mean by “that particular vein” except that those two involve a conflict between groups over a mystical artifact that has very weird and vividly described effects and rules, in a way that especially makes Williams’s influence on Tim Powers very clear (I guess War in Heaven is also in that category, and also includes the character of Giles Tumulty, but it’s kind of a lower-key affair all round and reminds me more of something like Blaylock’s All the Bells on Earth). The other novels aren’t quite in that mode so it’s harder for me to compare.

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