Pixel Scroll 6/24/19 The Beast That Shouted “It’s Too Dark In Here To Read!*@%#$” At The Heart (Of Darkness) In The World

(1) TIME FOR A CHAT. Juliette Wade’s new Dive Into Worldbuilding features inventive storyteller Jaymee Goh. Watch and listen on YouTube, or read the synopsis posted on the site. (Or both!)

It was a pleasure to have Jaymee Goh on the show after seeing her at SF in SF last month! If you’d like to learn about SF in SF (Science Fiction in San Francisco), go here. At that event, Jaymee read a horror story called “When the Bough Breaks,” so we started out by talking about that story….

“When the Bough Breaks” is set in Malaysia, and has a condominium building that is similar to the one in the real world collapse. There are many buildings designed with a courtyard in the middle so kids can play. In her story, the courtyard is between the condos and the face of the hill, and it’s called “The Cradle.”

I was really fascinated by the way Jaymee used language in her story. She explained to us that this is exactly how Malaysians talk. She described it as the country having several major languages, and people having a basolect – one main language – to which they would add grammar and vocabulary from others. Maybe the base would be Malay, with Chinese and English added. Maybe if the person was middle class it might be English with Malay and Chinese added. In the story, it’s very clear that this is not an exclusively English-speaking community. When she was hanging with friends there would be various groups with different accents.

I asked Jaymee if she found it at all hard to balance the authenticity of the speech with the need for the audience to understand it. She said it’s not too hard to balance because there’s high compatibility, with a lot of vocabulary and grammar coming from English.

“This is literally how my family talks,” she explains. There are degrees of difference from family to family. She compares her work to the short fiction of Zen Cho, who uses more Hokkien in the text.

(2) STRANGER THINGS FINAL TRAILER. It’s almost time. Stranger Things 3 premieres July 4.

(3) THE FALCON FLIES TONIGHT. SpaceX launches their Falcon Heavy rocket tonight from Cape Canaveral… the first-ever night launch for Falcon Heavy, and carrying a huge complement of various projects. Besides both civilian and military payloads (including the STP-2 mission for the Air Force), two of the projects JPL has been working on for over a decade — the Deep Space Atomic Clock (DSAC) and a US/Taiwan joint weather data satellite called COSMIC-2 — are aboard the rocket. .

Forbes has a pre-launch story: “SpaceX Prepares For Its Most Difficult Launch With First-Ever Falcon Heavy Night Flight”.

A four-hour launch window for the rocket opens tonight, Monday June [24] at 11.30pm Eastern time. The rocket is set to lift off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The launch will be streamed live online, which you can follow here about 20 minutes before liftoff.

SpaceX webcast

Falcon Heavy’s side boosters for the STP-2 mission previously supported the Arabsat-6A mission in April 2019. Following booster separation, Falcon Heavy’s two side boosters will attempt to land at SpaceX’s Landing Zones 1 and 2 (LZ-1 and LZ-2) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Falcon Heavy’s center core will attempt to land on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

(4) TOP CHILDREN’S BOOKS. The Independent’s Philip Womack lists the “30 best children’s books: From Artemis Fowl to Harry Potter”. I’ve read 14 of these.

But there isn’t room in this list for everything. I’m sure that every single reader will gasp at omissions and query the order. There are many personal favourites that I’ve left out, and many more 20th- and 21st-century writers whom I would have liked to include. 

This isn’t intended as a definitive ranking; but as an overview, and a guide. You’ll recognise many; a few perhaps will be not so well known, but deserve more attention. I’ve considered influence as well as originality; but crucially, all of the books here have stood the tests of time, taste and, most importantly, readers. Each one, whenever it was published, can be read and enjoyed by a child today as much as it was by the children of the past.


  • June 24, 1983 Twilight Zone – The Movie premiered theatrically.
  • June 24, 1987 Spaceballs debuted.


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 24, 1842 Ambrose Bierce. The Devil’s Dictionary is certainly worth reading but it’s not genre. For his best genre work, I’d say it’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” which along with his “The Tail of the Sphinx” gives you range of his talents. Both iBooks and Kindle offer up everything (as near as I can tell) he’s written, much of it free. (Died 1914.)
  • Born June 24, 1925 Fred Hoyle. Astronomer of course, but also author of a number of SF works including October the First Is Too Late which I think is among the best genre novels done. I’m also fond of Ossian’s Ride which keep its SF elements hidden until late in the story. 
  • Born June 24, 1937 Charles N. Brown. Founder and editor of Locus. I’m going to stop here and turn this over to those of you who knew him far better than I did as my only connection to him is as a reader of Locus for some decades now. (Died 2009.)
  • Born June 24, 1950 Nancy Allen, 69. Officer Anne Lewis in the Robocop franchise. (I like all three films.) her first genre role was not in Carrie as Chris Hargensen, but in a best forgotten a film year earlier (Forced Entry) as a unnamed hitchhiker. She shows up in fan favorite The Philadelphia Experiment as Allison Hayes and I see her in Poltergeist III as Patricia Wilson-Gardner (seriously — a third film in this franchise?). She’s in the direct to video Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return as Rachel Colby. (Oh that sounds awful.) And she was in an Outer Limits episode, “Valerie 23”, as Rachel Rose. 
  • Born June 24, 1947 Peter Weller, 72. Yes, it’s his Birthday today too. Robocop obviously with my favorite scene being him pulling out and smashing Cain’s brain, but let’s see what else he’s done. Well there’s The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, a film I adore. And then there’s Leviathan which you I’m guessing a lot of you never heard of. Is Naked Lunch genre? Well Screamers based on Philip K. Dick’s short story “Second Variety” certainly is. Even if the reviews sucked.  And Star Trek Into Darkness certainlyqualifies. Hey he showed up in Star Trek: Enterprise
  • Born June 24, 1950 Mercedes Lackey, 69. There’s a line on the Wiki page that says she writes nearly six books a year.  Impressive. She’s certainly got a lot of really good series out there including the vast number that are set in the Valdemar universe. I like her Bedlam’s Bard series better. She wrote the first few in this series with Ellen Gunn and the latter in the series with Rosemary Edgehill. The SERRAted Edge series, Elves with race cars, is kinda fun too. Larry Dixon, her husband, and Mark Shepherd were co-writers of these. 
  • Born June 24, 1982 Lotte Verbeek,37. You most likely know her as Ana Jarvis, the wife of Edwin Jarvis, who befriends Carter on Agent Carter. She got interesting genre history including Geillis Duncan on the Outlander series, Helena in The Last Witch Hunter, Aisha in the dystopian political thriller Division 19 film and a deliberately undefined role in the cross-world Counterpart series. 


  • Grimmy offers a surprising hint about what Batman does in the bat’room.
  • The aliens almost give the traditional greeting to the first human they meet: The Argyle Sweater.

(8) NSFWWW. They made a little mistake: “Samuel L. Jackson is furious over ‘Spider-Man’ poster error”.

Living up to the name of his Marvel character Nick Fury, Samuel L. Jackson unleashed an expletive-laden rant on Instagram about an error in a “Spider-Man: Far From Home” poster.  

(9) TALK TO THE BUG. “Chatty cockroach gets Greeks talking on Athens streets” says the BBC.

“Hello, I live in the sewers of Athens,” says the cockroach. “Yes, me too,” says an Athenian walking past, apparently unfazed by the idea of an insect talking to him from a drain.

Little does he know that, only a few feet away, artists Myrto Sarma and Dimitra Trousa are crouching over a tiny microphone, impersonating the cockroach in a voice they have rehearsed over and over.

The artists are delighted the man is engaging with their insect, explaining how his life has changed over the past decade. He was recently made redundant and has struggled to support himself ever since.

“It’s not nice up here any more,” he complains, speaking into the drain. “I think you’re better off staying down there.”

(10) THE PLAY’S THE THING. BBC reports “Toy Story 4 breaks global box office record for animation”.

Toy Story 4, the long awaited fourth film in the animated franchise, has broken global box office records for an animated movie.

It earned $238m (£187m) since opening worldwide over the weekend, performing particularly well in Latin America and Europe.

The film struggled in China, however, and also failed to meet expectations in the US, where its $118m (£93m) fell short of a predicted $140m (£110m).

(11) OUTSIDE OF AN OCTOPUS. In the Washington Post, Lela Nargi interviews Alon Gorodetsky, lead researcher of a team at the University of California (Irvine) who is looking at the color-changing abilities of octopi (known as biomimicry) to come up with clothes that can make a user warmer or colder depending on what she desires. “How can an octopus help us stay warm?”

…Ever since, Gorodetsky’s lab at the University of California at Irvine (UCI) has been trying to make what he calls “technologically valuable things” based on cephalopods’ camouflaging skills. They’ve finally succeeded in creating a material that will let people, not disguise themselves as rocks and algae, but regulate how warm or cool they feel. The UCI team built this material using biomimicry — watching how a biological organism behaves, then imitating it.

Cephalopods have a layer of skin that’s packed with pigment-containing cells called chromatophores. When you can’t see the cephalopod, it’s expanding and contracting its chromatophores between little upright points and big, flat disks. Think about drawing dots on a piece of plastic wrap, says Gorodetsky, then stretching the plastic so that those dots get much bigger….

(12) THE FUTURE? WE’RE THERE. The New York Times weighs in on a new HBO series scripted by veteran Doctor Who writer Russell T. Davies: “Review: In ‘Years and Years,’ Things Fall Apart, Fast”.

Ever feel like there’s too much happening? That the news is out of control? That there’s barely time to process one outrage before another replaces it, leaving just the faint memory and a little bit of scar tissue from the previous Worst Thing to Ever Happen?

“Years and Years” is not the escape for you.

The HBO limited series, from the British writer Russell T Davies, is about a lot of ideas: runaway technology, European nationalism, the failure of liberal democracy. But its overarching idea, driven home by its pell-mell narrative, is, “Man, there’s a lot of crazy stuff going on these days.”

This six-episode limited series, beginning Monday, is half family drama, half speculative fiction. It starts in the present, with the adult children of the Lyons clan of Manchester welcoming a new baby into the family. Then it tears ahead five years into the future, its foot jammed on the accelerator, and shows us what rough beasts are being born elsewhere.

World governments continue to lurch toward right-wing xenophobia. China builds a military installation on an artificial island. War breaks out in Ukraine. A nutty, populist entrepreneur, Vivienne Rook (Emma Thompson), runs for Parliament. Oh, P.S.: There are no more butterflies!

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

72 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 6/24/19 The Beast That Shouted “It’s Too Dark In Here To Read!*@%#$” At The Heart (Of Darkness) In The World

  1. Oh sure, first you want me to wear the skin of a cephalopod, and next I’ll be expected to join in the chants of “Iao Fhtagn!”

  2. “Our old 20 crown bill used to have Nils on them. That’s wonderful! I wish more countries had such a broad sense of what is important;…”

    Nils Holgersson was replaced by Pippi Longstocking in 2015. I’m kind of happy that we have moved away from all the kings that used to adorn the bills.

  3. Thanks to everyone who offered the titles and descriptions of the Lackey works that they’ve enjoyed. The positive things people have said have not given me any desire to pick up said books, but à chacun son goût; I am sure that no one here is surprised by the fact that I have very particular tastes in SFF.

    I am glad for the insights, and I know more now than I did when I asked, so thank you. 🙂

  4. @Mike Glyer: “Freddy the Pig” looks familiar! Is that the one with a lot of talking animals, and in some books the farmer and his wife could understand them and some not (not very consistent)??? I believe I read some of them as a child! I very vaguely remember them fondly. 🙂

    @Joe H.: “I think one reason the Valdemar books in particular hit such a chord with a lot of people is because at the time (late 80s/early 90s) they were one of the few series, especially YA-friendly series, to incorporate LGBTQ protagonists in a relatively matter-of-fact way.”

    Yes, methinks they were, and I’m sure that contributed. And contributed to my own appreciation of them. I’m pretty sure I was not expecting Vanyel to be gay when I started reading the book, so imagine my surprise, too. 😉

    One of these years, I need to try one of the Mage or Gryphon books to see what her later sub-series were like. I won’t be surprised if they don’t work for me because my reading’s changed over the years.

  5. I could have sworn I commented earlier, but now I can’t find it. Did I manage to put it in somewhere strange?

    The Norton/Lackey collaborations Elvenbane and Elvenblood are two of my favourite comfort reads, although, much to my irritation, Elvenblood has yet to get an ebook release so I haven’t read it in some time.

    I can’t claim to be terribly objective about them, but I like the characters a great deal (one of my blood elves in Warcraft is named after one) even the ones that I didn’t like very much as people (although I didn’t name anyone after any of those), and I feel pretty confident in saying that the world building is genuinely good (if suffering from a bit of 90s itis re: weirdly racially homogenous humans in a semi-post-apocalyptic America).

    I’m also fond of the magic system, particularly the expansion and filling out it got in -blood. And it has good dragons. The plots are perfectly decent, too: although they won’t light your world on fire, they provide a framework for the characters to do their thing and keep everything moving at an acceptable pace.

    I’ve never got my mitts on Elvenborn and I suppose I’ll have to wait for it to get an ebook release, now. Hopefully the unpublished fourth book will eventually get released and prompt ebook editions of -blood and -born along with it.

  6. I’m kind of happy that we have moved away from all the kings that used to adorn the bills.

    Yeah, but a princess of a South Seas island isn’t *that* different….

  7. @Contrarius You may have missed the multiple times I’ve mentioned it, but I’m a girl myself. See where assumptions get you?

    Touché, and I’ll try to be more careful with my assumptions in future – I was letting my irritation override my ability to read carefully.

  8. @Kendall — my recollection is that the animals became understandable by humans somewhere in the middle-single-digits books, and stayed so — but it has been a long time, and I probably didn’t read as many as @OGH.

    @James Moar: actually, I’d say this princess is that different. An observation quoted in Wikipedia:

    When discussing Pippi, Astrid Lindgren explained that “Pippi represents my own childish longing for a person who has power but does not abuse it. And pay attention to the fact that Pippi never does that.”

  9. I loved Freddy the Pig! Those books probably shaped my political ideas as much as any books I read as a child. I really didn’t see why if there could be a First Animals’ Republic there couldn’t be a First Children’s Republic. I didn’t act terribly effectively toward that end, but I would say I made a good effort. It’s been all downhill since that.

  10. @4: wrt one of the items some of us feel is missing: Locus has an approving review of The Phantom Tollbooth audiobook, even if it is missing all the illos (and some puns that depend on written misspellings).

  11. @Sophie —

    Touché, and I’ll try to be more careful with my assumptions in future – I was letting my irritation override my ability to read carefully.

    Well, I shouldn’t have used the word “drivel” in my description, and I withdraw it. That inappropriate word probably egged on your irritation in the first place.

    Here’s the original review of book 1 that I wrote back in 2012:


    I just finished this book, and I gotta say that I can really see a high school girl swooning over it. Soooo much angst, sooooo much melodrama, sooooooo much pretty ponies, soooo much….well, adolescentness. I can see it all the way.

    OTOH, as an adult, I have to do a lot of head shaking. For some of the very same reasons. The main character, Vanyel, is a self-absorbed self-pitying jerk of a teenager for most of the book. Fortunately, he’s SUPPOSED to be a self-absorbed self-pitying jerk of a teenager — and those certainly aren’t unusual traits for a teenager — so it’s less offensive than it could be. And then everyone around him keeps making REALLY STUPID MISTAKES, OVER AND OVER — whether trying to help him, or just to further their own aims — just for the sake of advancing the plot, often acting out of character and usually just making everything much worse. And then there’s this “kitchen sink” approach to the story — need a plot device? throw something in there, who cares if there’s any organic basis for it, just shoe horn it on in there and nobody will notice. Lots of artificiality going on, whether in character development, skill sets, or worldbuilding.

    Nonetheless — despite all my complaints — at times the melodrama can be pretty effective, even for me. Specifically, after everything went to hell (I won’t post spoilers, you’ll know what I mean when you get there), even though I was rolling my eyes a bit at *everything* that was going wrong, I was moved by Vanyel’s suffering. I might even have sniffled a time or two, although I’ll deny that if you tell anyone.

    Overall — if you can temporarily take on the maturity level of a teenage girl, you’ll probably enjoy this book. But if you insist on reading with logic and maturity in your heart like some old fuddy-duddy, then you’ll probably hate it all to hell and gone. You decide.

  12. I hit Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar Books at 13-14, and I can say they were indeed PERFECT for an angsty teenage girl, even one whose fondness for horses was more theoretical than practiced (I had met horses face to face, but never did riding lessons or the like). Soo much melodrama. (She also admitted she invented her world’s Twu Wuv concept for the added dramatic opportunities, which she did emphasize to fans was different from the way real world love works…)

    The Winds trilogy was probably the exemplar of the appeal of the books. Heavy melodrama, deep angst, an LGB presence which was at the time still unusual (and by modern standards is heavy handed, and sometimes borderline insulting). Also her big weakness, which is using rape and sex slavery as sources for more drama, but letting the healing process be all in the background or between chapters, and basically “One month of therapy and you’re cured.” It also had birds of prey who, while like the Companions are actually animal shaped avatars of Higher Powers who don’t behave like their animal cousins, seemed to me to behave CLOSER to raptors than the Companions did to horses (Though the weirdest and grossest of raptor highjinks I’ve heard of somehow get bypassed). I am a sucker for falcons.

    The Gryphon trilogy was mostly nice because it showed she was evolving the world and its assumptions, not leaving her setting locked permanently in quasi-medieval.

    I liked her Elves books and the first two Diana Tregarde books more, and longer (the third Diana Tregarde book is about 25% treatise on writing for her teenage fans). By the time the elemental masters books were coming out, I was also coming off her, but I tried a few. They’re aimed at a slightly more mature reader than the Valdemar books were, though we’re still talking more early college than middle age, and with a romance focus. The Serpent’s Shadow is a bit clumsy in its representation of an Indian woman in Gaslamp Britain but otherwise a good solid read. And Phoenix and Ashes, set just after the Great War, was really good.

    The only two of her books I own anymore are Knight of Ghosts and Shadows (the first Bedlam’s bard book, co-written with Ellen Guon) and Phoenix and Ashes. And I no longer consider myself her fan at all. I might still grab one of her books from the library if I were reading books at anything like my pre-children (And pre-social-media) speed, instead of at a rate of one to two a month, more only if I opt for the novellas.

    (4) if there’s no Diana Wynne Jones, its not a real best of Children’s books list.

    @ CAssy B: From what I have heard, the How to Train your Dragons books take almost nothing but the character names and cod-viking stuff from the books. I love the movies but I trusted the friend who said the books were not nearly as appealing to an adult audience, even though they seem to sell like hotcakes to kids.

  13. Kendall [et al], I believe it was more a matter of the animals choosing not to hide their abilities after a time, and meeting with an accepting reaction instead of pitchforks and torches. After a while, it was common knowledge in their town.

    Among the things that endeared Freddy and Company to me were their enterprises, his poetry, their banter, and the fact that even villains showed some depth. Freddy could lose an argument too, as when he scoffed at the name of some animal henchman (a rat? I disremember) and said it was the silliest name he’d ever heard. “Oh yeah?” replied the creature. “What about Olfred? and Wigsmuth?” “You’re just making those up!” said Freddy. “So what if I am? They’re still names!” Freddy thought about it and conceded the point.

    They qualify as SF, as well as fantasy, having stories about a mechanical boy and a baseball team from Mars. Brooks also had a series of short stories about a horse that talked. His name was Ed.

  14. John Hertz replies by carrier pigeon:

    (6) Birthdays [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
    Fred Hoyle … author of … October the First Is Too Late which I think is among the best genre novels

    Gosh, thanks!

    It’s one of the SF Classics we’ll discuss at Spikecon.

  15. I remember encountering and liking Lackey’s books, starting with the last herald mage, as an 18-19 year old boy. (This may open me up to the accusation of having had the the tastes of a teenage girl, I guess!)
    I think my favourites that don’t require you to commit to reading a trilogy or three are either The Black Gryphon (works fine without reading the sequels) and By The Sword (standalone).

  16. Lenora Rose on June 26, 2019 at 9:19 am said:

    (4) if there’s no Diana Wynne Jones, its not a real best of Children’s books list.

    Amen to that!

  17. (4) I’m always glad to see The Mouse and His Child getting respect. I’m not sure I understand the way that this writer is trying to contrast it to Toy Story, though: I don’t think the difference had to do with whether toys are “complicit in their servitude”, since the toys in Hoban’s book did not escape but were thrown away, toys in the TS movies have plenty of their own goals, and more importantly Hoban’s clockwork mice have an extremely limited ability to do anything. Most of the characters who create the community are animals rather than toys. They’re just two extremely different stories in nearly every way.

  18. @Contrarius: I’m reading “The Girl in the Tower” right now, and I also like the talking horses.

  19. Xtifr: +2 — I’m appalled I didn’t notice it, and more appalled that a Brit reviewer couldn’t find anything to recommend among her widely-varied corpus. Considering that the list includes Potter and Fowl, the lister can’t even claim they were trying for classics.

  20. @Chip Hitchcock & @Kip Williams in re. the animals talking: Ah! That makes more (internal) sense, then.

    The author is the wone who created Mr. Ed?!

    @Contrarius: Thanks for posting your 2012 review. Vanyel improved; well, he was an adult in the next two books, so he’d kinda have to, but yes, he’s supposed to be a jerk (to lessening degrees over time).

  21. @Nina —


    @Kendall —

    @Contrarius: Thanks for posting your 2012 review. Vanyel improved; well, he was an adult in the next two books, so he’d kinda have to, but yes, he’s supposed to be a jerk (to lessening degrees over time).

    Yeah, I read all three books in that trilogy. You can see my review of book 3 here.

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