Pixel Scroll 6/26/23 This Is Not A Scroll Pixel Title

(1) GIVE ME A SIGN! Almost 16,000 people have signed the petition to “Save Star Trek Prodigy!” at Change.org. Here’s the text of the appeal:

Paramount+ have announced the cancellation of Star Trek Prodigy and have stated it will be removed from their streaming platform in the coming days. Their reasoning? It’s a tax write-off. 

In a statement to TrekCore.com, Paramount stated that, “Star Trek: Prodigy will not be returning for the previously announced second season. On behalf of everyone at Paramount+, Nickelodeon and CBS Studios, we want to thank Kevin and Dan Hageman, Ben Hibon, Alex Kurtzman and the Secret Hideout team, along with the fantastic cast and crew for all their hard work and dedication bringing the series to life.”

That’s right. Not only are they not moving forward with the show and removing the first season from their platform, but the second season (due to be completed) will not air unless picked up by another buyer.

Paramount have long mistreated the loyalty and generosity of Trek fans, but this feels like a gut punch; the final nail in the coffin of goodwill. 

Money talks, but so do fans and we can’t let this beautiful show go without a fight!

And CinemaBlend pointed to this tweet: “Star Trek: Prodigy Petition Hits Milestone As Anson Mount Joins Fans In Supporting The Canceled Series”.

(2) A MILESTONE IN HORROR. The New York Times commemorates Shirley Jackson’s story in “75 Years After ‘The Lottery’ Was Published, the Chills Linger”. Stephen King, Carmen Maria Machado, Tananarive Due, Stephen Graham Jones, Paul Tremblay and others tell how this classic first got under their skin.

Paul Tremblay

Author, “The Pallbearers Club”

I’ve reread “The Lottery” many times and remain haunted by the possibilities and ambiguity in the final line uttered by the doomed Mrs. Hutchinson: “It isn’t fair, it isn’t right.” Is she simply the victim of blind chance? Did she believe the lottery was fixed so that her name would come up? Was it supposed to have been fixed for her name not to be chosen? Is she decrying the entire lottery, the social/political system and its ugly inherent injustices? Is it existence itself that is unfair and not right? All great stories wrestle with that last question.

(3) DEATH BY ONE STARS. The New York Times investigates “How Review-Bombing Can Tank a Book Before It’s Published”.

Cecilia Rabess figured her debut novel, “Everything’s Fine,” would spark criticism: The story centers on a young Black woman working at Goldman Sachs who falls in love with a conservative white co-worker with bigoted views.

But she didn’t expect a backlash to strike six months before the book was published.

In January, after a Goodreads user who had received an advanced copy posted a plot summary that went viral on Twitter, the review site was flooded with negative comments and one-star reviews, with many calling the book anti-Black and racist. Some of the comments were left by users who said they had never read the book, but objected to its premise.

“It may look like a bunch of one-star reviews on Goodreads, but these are broader campaigns of harassment,” Rabess said. “People were very keen not just to attack the work, but to attack me as well.”

In an era when reaching readers online has become a near-existential problem for publishers, Goodreads has become an essential avenue for building an audience. As a cross between a social media platform and a review site like Yelp, the site has been a boon for publishers hoping to generate excitement for books.

But the same features that get users talking about books and authors can also backfire. Reviews can be weaponized, in some cases derailing a book’s publication long before its release.

“It can be incredibly hurtful, and it’s frustrating that people are allowed to review books this way if they haven’t read them,” said Roxane Gay, an author and editor who also posts reviews on Goodreads. “Worse, they’re allowed to review books that haven’t even been written. I have books on there being reviewed that I’m not finished with yet.”…

(4) FRAZETTA IS BIG BUSINESS. [Item by Arnie Fenner.] Frazetta’s cover painting for Karl Edward Wagner’s 1976 novel Dark Crusade set a new record, selling for $6m at Heritage. It became better known when Ellie Frazetta licensed it in 1979 to Molly Hatchet to use as the album jacket for Flirtin’ With Disaster.” “Frank Frazetta’s ‘Dark Kingdom’ Sells For $6 Million to Rule the Record Books at Heritage Auctions”.

Also, you’ll find this fun: Frazetta’s daughter Holly and granddaughter Sara under their Frazetta Girls imprint have released a light-up Death Dealer keychain.

(5) FROM A POE FAMILY. Publishers Weekly’s Mark Dawidziak says these are the “10 Essential Edgar Allan Poe Short Stories”. First on the list:

1. “The Tell-Tale Heart”
Is it a crime story? A horror tale? It’s both, of course, and it’s also a chilling masterpiece that finds Poe brilliantly prowling the murky boundary between obsession and madness. As the author’s “dreadfully nervous” narrator tells us how an old man’s filmy “pale blue eye” drives him to murder, Poe gives us a master class in establishing mood, building suspense, and maintaining pace, all while expertly employing wonderfully specific gradations of light and sound. Not just a remarkably constructed model for the short story form, “The Tell-Tale Heart” is a near-perfect monologue, with Poe, the son of actors, displaying his ever-keen sense of the dramatic. He tells us just what we need to know, leaving enough unexplained that we continue to speculate about the characters long after the histrionic “tear up the planks” climax. Small wonder this chilling 1843 tale has remained a classroom favorite and a popular performance piece.

(6) HE’S AN AWFUL ISTANBULLY. Gizmodo is pleased that “1973’s ‘Turkish Spider-Man’ Film Now Has an HD Documentary”.

Film historian Ed Glaser, who previously found the last 35mm print of The Man Who Saves the World (aka, “the Turkish Star Wars”) has released another mini-documentary for his “Deja View” series. This one focuses on the interestingly named 3 Dev Adam—alternatively known as either 3 Giant Men or Captain America & Santo vs. Spider-Man. The big claim to fame for this movie is that it’s “the world’s first comic book crossover film,” well before the MCU or any imitators came onto the scene. Its other big boast is that its version of Spider-Man lives up to everything J. Jonah Jameson’s ever said about him, because he’s a menace and genuine villain who requires two heroes to team up and bring him down….


2014 [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

Eugie Foster had a phenomenal life before it was tragically cut short when she died at Emory University Hospital on September 27, 2014 from  respiratory failure, a complication of treatments for large B-cell lymphoma, with which she was diagnosed on October 15, 2013. So now I’m depressed, and you should be too. 

She was the managing editor for The Fix and Tangent Online, two online short fiction review magazines. She was also a director for Dragon Con and edited the Daily Dragon, their onsite newsletter.

She’s here because of her amazing short stories which were nominated for a lot of Awards including “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast” which nominated for an Hugo at Aussiecon 4. It did win a Nebula and was nominated for a BSFA as well. 

And that brings us to our Beginning take from her short story , “When it Ends, He Catches Her by” which was nominated for a Nebula and a Sturgeon. It was first published in Daily Science Fiction, September 2014.

And now for the Beginning…

The dim shadows were kinder to the theater’s dilapidation. A single candle to aid the dirty sheen of the moon through the rent beams of the ancient roof, easier to overlook the worn and warped floorboards, the tattered curtains, the mildew-ridden walls. Easier as well to overlook the dingy skirt with its hem all ragged, once purest white and fine, and her shoes, almost fallen to pieces, the toes cracked and painstakingly re-wrapped with hoarded strips of linen. Once, not long ago, Aisa wouldn’t have given this place a first glance, would never have deigned to be seen here in this most ruinous of venues. But times changed. Everything changed.

Aisa pirouetted on one long leg, arms circling her body like gently folded wings. Her muscles gathered and uncoiled in a graceful leap, suspending her in the air with limbs outflung, until gravity summoned her back down. The stained, wooden boards creaked beneath her, but she didn’t hear them. She heard only the music in her head, the familiar stanzas from countless rehearsals and performances of Snowbird’s Lament. She could hum the complex orchestral score by rote, just as she knew every step by heart.

Act II, scene III: the finale. It was supposed to be a duet, her as Makira, the warlord’s cursed daughter, and Balege as Ono, her doomed lover, in a frenzied last dance of tragedy undone, hope restored, rebirth. But when the Magistrate had closed down the last theaters, Balege had disappeared in the resultant riots and protests.

So Aisa danced the duet as a solo, the way she’d had to in rehearsal sometimes, marking the steps where Balege should have been. Her muscles burned, her breath coming faster. She loved this feeling, her body perfectly attuned to her desire, the obedient instrument of her will. It was only these moments that she felt properly herself, properly alive. The dreary, horrible daytime with its humiliations and ceaseless hunger became the dream. This dance, here and now, was real. She wished it would never end.


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 26, 1929 Wally Weber, 94.  Cry of the Nameless co-editor when it won Best Fanzine; next year chaired the 19th Worldcon (called “Seacon”, being in Seattle; the 37th was “Seacon ’79” being by the sea; not my fault). In SAPS and the N3F (edited one ish of Tightbeam). TAFF delegate 1963.  W.W.W. collection published by Burnett Toskey 1975 (hello, Orange Mike). Has been seen, or at least photographed, in a propeller beanie. (John Hertz)
  • Born June 26, 1950 Tom DeFalco, 73. Comic book writer and editor, mainly known for his Marvel Comics and in particular for his work with the Spider-Man line. He designed the Spider-Girl character which was his last work at Marvel as he thought he was being typecast as just a Spider-Man line writer. He’s since been working at DC and Archie Comics.
  • Born June 26, 1954 James Van Pelt, 69. Here for the phenomenal number of nominations that he has had though no Awards have accrued. I count 26 nominations so far including a Sturgeon, a Nebula and, perhaps the longest named Award in existence, John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer / Astounding Award for the Best New Science Fiction Writer.  He has but two novels to date, Summer of the Apocalypse and Pandora’s Gun, but a really lot of short fiction, I think over a hundred pieces, and two poems. 
  • Born June 26, 1965 Daryl Gregory, 58. He won a Crawford Award for his Pandemonium novel. And his novella, We Are All Completely Fine, won the World Fantasy Award and a Shirley Jackson Award as well. It was also a finalist for the Sturgeon Award. I’m also fond of his writing on the Planet of The Apes series that IDW published.
  • Born June 26, 1969 — Austin Grossman, 54. Twin brother of Lev. And no, he’s not here just because he’s Lev’s twin brother. He’s the author of Soon I Will Be Invincible which is decidedly SF as well as You: A Novel (also called YOU) which was heavily influenced for better or worse by TRON and Crooked, a novel involving the supernatural and Nixon. He’s also a video games designed, some of which such as Clive Barker’s Undying and Tomb Raider: Legend are definitely genre. 
  • Born June 26, 1969 — Lev Grossman, 54. Most notable as the author of The Magicians Trilogy which is The MagiciansThe Magician King and The Magician’s Land. Perennial bestsellers at the local indie bookshops. Understand it was made into a series which is yet another series that I’ve not seen. Opinions on the latter, y’all? 
  • Born June 26, 1980 Jason Schwartzman, 43. He first shows up in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as Gag Halfrunt,  Zaphod Beeblebrox’s personal brain care specialist. (Uncredited initially.) He  was Ritchie in Bewitched, and voiced Simon Lee in  Scott Pilgrim vs. the Animation. He co-wrote Isle of Dogs alongwith Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, and Kunichi Nomura. I think his best work was voicing Ash Fox in Fantastic Mr. Fox. 
  • Born June 26, 1984 Aubrey Plaza, 39. April Ludgate on Parks and Recreation which at least one Filer has insisted is genre. She voiced Eska in recurring role on The Legend of Korra which is a sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender. She was in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World as Julie Powers, and was Lenny Busker on Legion. 

(9) CREDIT CHECK. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Roy Thomas, Stan Lee’s successor as editor-in-chief at Marvel Comics, has waded into the dustup surrounding the latest Lee documentary. Here he is with an editorial at The Hollywood Reporter. “Roy Thomas, Former Marvel Editor, Addresses Debate Over New Stan Lee Doc (Guest Column)”.

… The real question, I suppose, is whether he deserved his status as the major creator of the so-called Marvel Universe.

Gelb’s documentary wisely lets Stan himself narrate his story from start to finish. Virtually the only voice we hear during its 1½-hour length that speaks more than one or two sentences in a row is Stan’s, in extended sound bites harvested from a host of TV appearances, comics convention Q&A sessions, award ceremonies, previous documentaries, and radio guest shots — enlivened by the occasional deathless line of dialogue from one of his many late-life movie cameos.       

This is a refreshing way to encounter Stan the Man, and Gelb and his producers (which include Marvel Studios) are to be congratulated for letting him tell his own tale his way. By and large, the effort is successful and entertaining … and, so far as I can tell from my long association with him (which includes writing a humongous “career biography” of him for Taschen Books in the 2010s), it presents a reasonably accurate portrait of the man as he saw himself, and as the world came to see him:

As arguably the most important comicbook writer since Jerry Siegel scribed his first “Superman” story back in the 1930s…

As the creator (or at the very least the co-creator) of a host of colorful super-heroes and related comics characters…

…And as the creator (or at least the major overseer and guiding light) of a four-color phenomenon that became known as the Marvel Universe, and which formed the underlying bulwark of the now-even-more-famous Marvel Cinematic Universe, the most successful series of interconnected motion pictures in the history of that medium.

But of course he didn’t do it alone … and that’s where all the mostly ill-considered criticisms of Stan Lee’s life and work begin to kick in.

As recorded in the film, simply because he often (not always, but often) fails to credit the artists he worked with, Stan often seems to be claiming full credit for milestones, be they the powerful Hate Monger yarn in Fantastic Four No. 21 or such concepts as the Hulk and the X-Men. This is partly just a verbal shorthand, yet it is also in accordance with his expressed belief that “the person who has the idea is the creator,” and that the artist he then chooses to illustrate that concept is not. In L.A. in the 1980s (admittedly, at a time when I was not working for him), I argued that very point with him one day over lunch, maintaining that an artist who rendered and inevitably expanded that original idea was definitely a co-creator. I made no headway with my past and future employer. And clearly, when he wrote his celebrated letter, quoted in the doc, that he had “always considered Steve Ditko to be the co-creator of Spider-Man,” he was doing so only to try to mollify Steve and those who might agree with him. Later, he admitted as much….

(10) IT’S A JUNGLE OUT THERE. [Item by Dann.] Kids from a certain era…here I go dating myself again…will recall the jungle gyms that populated American playgrounds and schoolyards. These were fabrications of steel pipes set perpendicularly to create cubes of space for kids to climb and explore. The “jungle gym” was originally patented by Sebastian Hinton.

Sebastian got the idea from his father, Charles Howard Hinton. Charles was a British mathematician. He also was an author of science fiction. His interest was primarily in the so-called fourth dimension.

Charles constructed an early jungle gym out of bamboo for young Sebastian and his friends to use. Charles apparently thought that allowing children to play on three-dimensional equipment might enable them to develop the ability to perceive the fourth dimension. Spoiler – they didn’t.

(11) LAST GASPS. Live Science learned that “Dying stars build humongous ‘cocoons’ that shake the fabric of space-time”.

Since the first direct detection of the space-time ripples known as gravitational waves was announced in 2016, astronomers regularly listen for the ringing of black holes across the universe. Projects like the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (better known as LIGO) have detected almost 100 collisions between black holes (and sometimes neutron stars), which shake up the fabric of the cosmos and send invisible waves rippling through space. 

But new research shows that LIGO might soon hear another kind of shake-up in space: cocoons of roiling gas spewed from dying stars. Researchers at Northwestern University used cutting-edge computer simulations of massive stars to show how these cocoons may produce “impossible to ignore” gravitational waves, according to research presented this week at the 242nd meeting of the American Astronomical Society. Studying these ripples in real life could provide valuable insight into the violent deaths of giant stars…. 

(12) DISCUSSIONS ON FILM MUSIC BY COMPOSERS/ORCHESTRATORS/ AND WRITERS. [Item by Steve Vertlieb.] This remarkable roundtable of composers and orchestrators assembled ten years ago for a sequence in the unfinished feature length motion picture documentary The Man Who “Saved” The Movies.

Pictured from left to right are acclaimed motion picture orchestrator Patrick Russ, Erwin Vertlieb, Emmy winning film and television composer/conductor Lee Holdridge, writer/film score musicologist Steve Vertlieb, and one of the most brilliant composers working in film today, the marvelous Mark McKenzie.

(13) PRESENTING THE BILL. “William Shatner Sings To George Lucas”.

William Shatner opens the 2005 AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to George Lucas with a song performed the way only Shatner can perform it. Complete with backup Stormtrooper dancers and a cameos by Chewbacca!

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Arnie Fenner, Dann, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

41 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 6/26/23 This Is Not A Scroll Pixel Title

  1. (10) My elementary school had jungle gyms. One was a rocket ship pointed roughly at Polaris, with a pole vertically between nose and ground. (The more geometric ones weren’t cubes.)

  2. (3) If it were me, I’d ban anyone who a) said they hadn’t read the book, or b) “reviewed” a book that wasn’t out.
    (6) Nevah hoid from it… but now I want to see it (and the sequel).
    (13) No. No. Why did you have to tell us this. No, I won’t see it, you can’t make me….

  3. And mark If it were me, I’d ban anyone who a) said they hadn’t read the book, or b) “reviewed” a book that wasn’t out.

    Do you even know how the review process works?

    Review copies, mostly digital but still a lot of honest to Fenrir who gnaws on Ygggdrasil paper ARCs, are generally made available at least six months in advance. The reviewers I work with are offered are a multiplicity of novels to review each week. So yes, it is possible to review a book that’s not out.

    Indeed the publishers actually want reviews to be out about ninety days in advance which is when most books are available for advance ordering either as books or audiobooks.

  4. Mark is talking about 1-stsr reviews on Goodreads from trolls, not real reviewers.

  5. (8) Daryl Gregory. For short works, I am very fond of
    1. “The Illustrated Biography of Lord Grimm”, a 2008 novelette, from “Eclipse Two: New Science Fiction and Fantasy”, Jonathan Strahan, Night Shade Books
    2. “Second Person, Present Tense”, a novelette, Asimov’s September 2005,
    3. “Nine Last Days on Planet Earth”, a 2018 novelette, tor.com
    4. “The Album of Dr. Moreau”, a 2021 novella, tor.com
    5. “Once Upon a Future in the West”, a 2022 novelette, from “Tomorrow’s Parties: Life in the Anthropocene”, 2022 Jonathan Strahan, MIT Press.

    At novel length, I’m very partial to
    1. “Spoonbenders”, 2017
    2. “Afterparty”, 2014

  6. Mike Glyer say Mark is talking about 1-stsr reviews on Goodreads from trolls, not real reviewers.

    To say the least, that was not at clear in that comment. So my apologies to him.

    Good Reads isn’t the only place where those one star reviews are a problem. Amazon is plagued with them, and other sites have variations on them as well. All of them need to drop the one stars altogether as they severely distort the ratings.

  7. At least with Amazon, reviews can’t be posted until the book is published. After it’s published, then the one-star ones can pile up.

  8. Jeff Smith says At least with Amazon, reviews can’t be posted until the book is published. After it’s published, then the one-star ones can pile up.

    Quite true.

    Now it’s also true that many of the four stars smell of being manufactured out of whole cloth. I’m read publicity releases that sounded more honest than many of the four star reviews of popular works.

  9. Lou, other sources also show the 1969 birthdate, so the Grossmans (Grossmen? Großmänner?) have just turned 54.

  10. 3) the technique is a regrettable outgrowth of the culture wars that is used omnidirectionally and indiscriminately. I’m not sure how one would filter non-reader reviews out of the pool. “Reviewers” (as opposed to reviewers) will stop announcing that they have not read the book being reviewed if that is the filtering mechanism.

    I still wonder if Blood Heir by Amélie Wen Zhao might have been a better book before it was edited in response to the review bombing it received. One prominent author has suggested that the best course is to ignore review bombers and just publish the best book one can. If only publishers had a spine.

    I had not heard of Cecilia Rabess and checked her site. She is black. And she is being called racist for writing a white racist character. Just amazing and appalling at the same time.

    10) my elementary school had three of the cubic versions of those things. Each was sized/scaled for the different age groups/child sizes in the building. It was a pretty cool 3-dimensional puzzle.

    We’re born with success. It is only others who point out our failures, and what they attribute to us as failure. – Whoopi Goldberg

  11. (1) To me, the whole point of getting Paramount+ is the new (and old) Star Trek shows. So if they suddenly drop one of those shows and stop streaming it, then I’m less inclined to pay the money to subscribe.

    (3) I hate review bombing. If an author has done something bad, you’re supposed to ambush them on social media like everyone else. 😉 (Well ahctually, once a book has been called out by a few prominent voices, then there’s usually no reason to add to the pile-on.)

    Speaking of Twitter (sigh), how many other people got the “We’ve temporarily limited some of your account features” when they logged into Twitter this morning? A number of people have received a message claiming that their accounts appear “to be in violation of Twitter’s spam policies.” They are not, of course — so some think this might be a way to force people to pay for the infamous blue checkmark.

    Yet like so many others, I am still on the eternal waiting list for BlueSky.

    (4) Those Death Dealer keychains are … fascinating. But I would be afraid to use them because of my history of destroying nerdy keychains.

  12. 3) I guess I’m in a minority in not seeing a problem with this. ARCs are sent out to generate publicity for a book before it’s published. There is no guarantee that the publicity generated will be positive. I don’t hear complaints from authors that their fans have given five stars on goodreads to a book that hasn’t even been written yet.

  13. 8) Lev Grossman: The Magicians series was quite good. Not too surprising considering Grossmann was involved in the production. Naturally it diverges from the books, but it manages to incorporate many of the plot elements, some in interesting ways. Likewise the primary characters are not exactly as written, but IMO the differences succeed in making them engaging on screen. One thing I really liked was the use of “finger tutting” to portray the hand gestures used in spell casting.

  14. @Dann omnidirectionally and indiscriminately

    Are you sure about that, Dan? Because it looks to me like it’s overwhelmingly weaponised by people with privilege against marginalised people, as it is everywhere else.

  15. @Dann665–Amazon could allow only verified purchasers to review books. They do already limit the percentage of your reviews that can be for books you’re not a verified purchaser of (meaning, you didn’t buy it from them.)

    Ideally, from the viewpoint of publishers and people legitimately reviewing an ARC, there would be some way to tag an ARC reviewer so that they could post a review, but, before you ask, I’m not sure how that would be done.

    Why there’s an uproar over fake one-star reviews but there isn’t over fake five-star reviews: I’m surprised I have to explain this, but fake one-star reviews hurt sales. Fake five-star reviews don’t hurt sales.

    Also, there has in fact been controversy over fake or suspected fake five-star reviews. The reviewing career of Harriet Klausner prompted some controversy, and also Amazon’s limitations on how many books you can review without being a verified purchaser of them.

    Harriet Klausner, and the opposite, review bombing with one-star reviews, do rather predate, by a fair margin, the organized and semi-organized social media attacks you seem to think it’s an outgrowth of.

    And, as Sophie Jane noted, the targets of those attacks are more often marginalized people who’ve attracted the ire of more privileged people, sometimes by just existing in public.

  16. @Lis Carey/Sophie Jane

    Respectfully, do you think that confirmation bias might be a factor here? Courtesy of OGH, I get exposed to authors from previously underrepresented demographies on a fairly regular basis. At least, I have enough exposure to be unsurprised when I go into SMDH mode.

    I get exposed to the challenges posed to conservative authors (which includes people from those previously underrepresented demographies, natch) courtesy of other media pathways. Do you seek to learn about the challenges they face? Are any conservative genre voices purposefully a part of your media diet? Might it be that your media habits don’t result in exposure to those challenges?

    Does a bear poop in the woods if there isn’t anyone there to see it?

    When you hear of those challenges (i.e., Nick Cole) do you take their observations seriously or do you accept (or worse fabricate) the excuses for their treatment by others?

    The actions against Blood Heir by Ms. Zhao and Everything’s Fine by Ms. Rabess certainly appear to have been based in the intolerant segment of the left.

    Not to feed the thread drift demon too much, but I was coincidentally listening to The Glenn Show podcast at lunch today as John McWhorter was describing how the linguistic academic community has black-holed him (no pun intended) due to his liberal opposition to wokeness/DIE perspectives. Apparently, Steven Pinker, a mentor of John’s, has suffered the same fate.

    When we look at genre authors being subject to review bombing, we are looking at a phenomenon that exists in our much larger culture. And yes, it is omnidirectional.

    Amazon’s limitations on publishing reviews are useful, but they won’t influence places like Goodreads (or heck, Twitter) where a purchase (much less proof of reading) is impossible to prove independently.

    I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer. – Abraham Lincoln

  17. Sophie Jane: I hate to say it, but I’ve seen review bombing from several quarters in books, including bullying in YA circles that ha no specific demographic attached, and review bombs like this one, for books with potentially racist/sexist/transphobic content.

    (Personally, I prefer seeing in depth dissection for these books edging into “is it bigoted?” territory by people who did read it, in favour of review bombs, but I’ve seen both).

    I think among movies it’s still 99% behaviour by the portion of the audience who associate with, or were bitten by, our hydrophobic canid “friends”. But in book circles it seems less of a one-sided action.

    I think reaction to books whose five star rating was artificially inflated by fakes is more personal and less news-worthy; if I see too many cases where I start to think the reviews were bought or unreal, I tend to write off that author myself (unless I have reason to think they weren’t involved), rather than write articles about the phenomenon or report it widely.

  18. There might be a way to close reviews for a book prior to either the official release date OR the publisher saying ARCs are available and inviting reviews.

  19. @bookworm1398
    If they are actually reviewing the book, that’s one thing. And authors who get angry with negative reviews should be lashed with a wet pool noodle.
    But review bombing often consists of one-star reviews that say something like, “I was going to buy this, but the author trashed a reviewer” or “I heard that this author hates [insert name of group]” (or something like that). And if dozens or hundreds of people jump on the bandwagon to post a similar “review” about something like that, then… ick. Once a few people have posted one-star reviews like that, is there really a reason for another 50 or 100 or more?

    @Sophie Jane

    Are you sure about that, Dan? Because it looks to me like it’s overwhelmingly weaponised by people with privilege against marginalised people, as it is everywhere else.

    There’s at least one troll known just for giving one-star ratings to all books with queer content, often before they are published. There are probably similar trolls one-starring anything by BIPOC authors. It should be easy enough for The Company to block those “reviewers.”

  20. (3) I’ve also noticed books on Amazon in which a huge fraction of the readers who posted 1-star reviews did so because of issues with the Kindle formatting of the book.

  21. @PhilRM — That one I’m potentially more forgiving of, because it’s at least relevant to my ability to read the book. Although there’s also Amazon’s unfortunate habit of collapsing reviews for multiple versions of the same work into a single listing, making it hard to be sure if the review is even for the particular item you’re looking at.

  22. @Lis Carey

    “Why there’s an uproar over fake one-star reviews but there isn’t over fake five-star reviews: I’m surprised I have to explain this, but fake one-star reviews hurt sales. Fake five-star reviews don’t hurt sales.”

    Yes that’s why authors don’t mind questionable five star reviews. But that doesn’t mean that I, as a reader, agree with that perspective. And the purpose of reviews is to inform the reader not to boost sales or please the author.

    @ Anne Marble

    “But review bombing often consists of one-star reviews that say something like, “I was going to buy this, but the author trashed a reviewer” or “I heard that this author hates [insert name of group]”

    Yes and these are things I, as a reader, want to know. It might be a reason for me not to buy the book. Or to buy it when I wasn’t going to. If these statements are false as they sometimes are, that’s bad but that’s a different argument. As long as it’s true, this is a valid review. Do hundreds of people need to say the same thing? I don’t know but there isn’t a general expectation that reviews will all be distinct or something

  23. An precocious 5-star “review” is (at best) a statement on the order of “I’ve loved everything by this author and so I expect to love this one too” – not terribly useful, except as an indication that this author probably has some rabid fans.

    A precocious 1-star “review” is (at best) a statement on the order of “I hated one thing by this author in the past, and I can’t imagine he’ll ever do any better” (that one thing might be a behavior or a previous work). Possibly useful information, but less useful (a rabid fan is probably reporting on consistency of quality (at least by that fan’s criteria) – a rabid anti-fan is probably reporting on only one incident (unless they’ve been hate-reading Author X for a while, which is weird). I might read a book with a lot of five-star reviews, just to find out what a lot of people are reading/talking about – and have gained some knowledge even if I hated the book; a one-star review without any details about the book is about as useless as my review of a cricket documentary – I’m not going to watch it, but someone who knows something about cricket (or about crickets) might find it to be awesome

  24. @bookworm1398–

    Yes that’s why authors don’t mind questionable five star reviews. But that doesn’t mean that I, as a reader, agree with that perspective. And the purpose of reviews is to inform the reader not to boost sales or please the author.

    You forgot the publishers. Remember them? The ones who decide they need to either drop or heavily edit a book they were previously happy enough with to be editing?

    One-star reviews are usually malicious nonsense, and not uncommonly contain outright libelous statements about the author personally. And no, the fact that it’s libelous doesn’t mean that the author can afford to sue, or would actually benefit from doing so. Perhaps you’ve heard of the Streisand effect?

    If an author (or actor, or producer, or agent) has done things bad enough to merit destroying their career, there’s generally better venues for pursuing that than one-star “reviews” that only trash the author, not review the book at all.

    During the puppies kerfuffle, I read everything I could that the Puppies got in the ballot. And I reviewed what they wrote,, not their characters.

    Just as an example from another field, I have no trouble saying that Mel Gibson is, or at least was, a fine actor, and that I have no interest in seeing him in anything, ever again. I don’t need to falsely trash his work, to say that I have a low opinion of him as a person.

    I don’t think I gave any of the Puppies a one-star review. I didn’t think the work merited it, though Lord knows most of it was bad. I did give one a two-star reviewed, and was harassed for…weeks?..again, the details aren’t all there right now, but it certainly felt like weeks, by members of the pack trying to coerce me into making it a one-star review, like, they said, I “really wanted to” so they’d have another one-star review to prove how nasty, horrible, and dishonest their Enemies were.

    But, while bad, it didn’t quite sink to that depth, and I was strangely uninterested in letting the Puppies dictate my reviews.

    You’ll remember, of course, that that’s the crew that nominated purpose-written, libelous works of “literature,” and got it on the ballot. Fine folks, obviously.

    Organized review-bombing, I’m fairly sure, never comes from a good place, an no, I’m no interested in pretending that it serves, or is intended to serve, any positive purpose.

  25. Niche news of possible interest to Filers: The SAT college entrance exam is changing its format to be administered on computers instead of pencil-and-paper. The College Board has released several sample tests, and one of the questions in a reading & writing section features a mention of N.K. Jemison. It’s a word-choice question based on a very brief excerpt from a discussion of her relationship to genre.

    The full test may be downlaoded here: https://satsuite.collegeboard.org/media/pdf/sat-practice-test-3-digital.pdf
    I also have a screenshot of the question, in case anyone didn’t care to download the entire test, but I don’t see a way to upload that here.

  26. I’m a tad confused, at least about Amazon reviews. I bought a book elsewhere (I want epub, not Kindle’s crap that I can’t back up)… and Amazon wouldn’t let me review it, saying I was a validated purchaser, and that was in the last year.

    Computerizing the SAT? Only now? (Fact: I was on the team that first computerized the Boards, the three days of tests that med students take, and that was in the mid-eighties.)

  27. @mark–

    I’m a tad confused, at least about Amazon reviews. I bought a book elsewhere (I want epub, not Kindle’s crap that I can’t back up)… and Amazon wouldn’t let me review it, saying I was a validated purchaser, and that was in the last year.

    If you didn’t purchase it on Amazon, you’re not an Amazon verified purchaser. They have no provision for you providing proof of purchase from some other source. No, it’s not one of my favorite things about Amazon, but it should hardly be a surprise.

  28. @LisC – then I’m misreading some of the posts here, because how else can you do a good/bad/bs review on Amazon if you haven’t bought it. I mean, unless they bought it and didn’t read it.

    (Before I had Amazon take the page for my novel down, so that my new publisher will be able to put one up, I had all four and five star reviews… except for one 3 star, and one 2 star that I laughed at.)

  29. @mark–

    @LisC – then I’m misreading some of the posts here, because how else can you do a good/bad/bs review on Amazon if you haven’t bought it. I mean, unless they bought it and didn’t read it.

    You can post a certain number/percentage of reviews without having bought the book from Amazon. Don’t ask me what the numbers are, because it’s one of the many things they keep secret. Exceed that number/percentage, and they won’t let you post a review unless you’re a verified purchaser, until you get your percentage back up.

    This is better than letting anyone and everyone post malicious “reviews,” but it’s far from perfect, and has its own problems. As would a hard rule that you can’t review a book there unless you bought it there.

    But a system that effectively depends on Secret Rules ticks me off, and it’s not preventing review bombing.

    And…it’s just occurred to me that there’s a detail in all this that you might be missing.

    Amazon owns Goodreads, but doesn’t enforce this minimal protection against malicious reviews over there–and Goodreads, especially with the weight of Amazon behind it (which is why Amazon bought it), has a huge impact. We’ve been talking about Amazon, but Goodreads is a big part of the problem.

  30. I’m glad I took the GRE during the time when it was computerized and adaptive – the last few questions I got on the analytic section were stone cold bastards.

    I am exceptionally glad I took it when they weren’t requiring you to copy a paragraph and failing you if you didn’t do it in cursive. Not only can I no longer write cursive (except in Cyrillic), I flat out refuse to read anything in cursive (and have told people so to their faces when they gave me notes written in their days-of-powdered-wigs garbage).

  31. Traditionally, if you took an exam in China you would be rated in part on the quality of your calligraphy. Maybe they don’t do that now, I don’t know.

  32. Jim, are you perhaps thinking of the Imperial Examination (aka keju) which was abolished in 1905?

  33. @Jake: yes, that and possibly earlier — China has a lot of history. But I should not be mistaken for a China scholar. Currently reading Ken Liu’s The Wall of Storms which centers around an imperial exam, so the idea was on my mind.

  34. @Jim Janney

    I asked a friend in China. He said their national tests are called Gaokao and are administered 7-9 June. There are three required subjects; Chinese, Math, and English – although some students may opt for Japanese or Russian. Students must also select 2 or 3 subjects from Physics, Chemistry, Geography, Politics, Biology, and History. There are slight differences between the various provinces, but that is generally how it works.

    Writing/calligraphy are not generally tested for entry into university. He’s never heard of it being a requirement but thinks there might be some odd majors that would require it.

    Make Orwell fiction again.

  35. @ Cat Eldridge: The opening of that story is amazing. It shows that the author truly understood what it is to be a dancer, how it feels.

    By the by, there is a new production of “A Chorus Line,” opening.

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