Pixel Scroll 6/3/23 A File Forever Pixeling Through Strange Scrolls Of Thought, Alone

(1) MARVEL VS DC: CONTEST OF THE CHAMPIONS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] BBC Radio 4 has just broadcast a documentary (just under half-hour) on DC and Marvel Comics. Most of it fans will already know, but there are some things in there folk might not! For example, I never knew that at one time, DC copied Marvel’s grittier art style despite internal management misgivings. You can access it here.

Marvel and DC, the two titans of America superhero comics, have been locked in cosmic battle for over six decades – raging across publishing, radio, TV, movies, gaming and animation.

It’s one of the greatest rivalries in the history of pop culture, ferociously debated by generations of readers, fans and industry creatives alike.

While both companies are now worth billions, this wasn’t always the case.

This feature goes back to their early comic book roots, where DC comics and young upstart Marvel both had offices in 1960s Manhattan – and yet differed widely in their approach to the genre, posing very distinct ideas of what our superheroes should be – and as a result, what it means to be human. Do we want to look up to the skies or do we really want to see a reflection of ourselves? Are our heroes other, outsiders like gods – or are they basically people like us, who gain strange powers but keep their flaws? Readers had a choice.

The creative rivalry between Marvel and DC comics has always been more than a question of sales or market share. It is a fascinating culture clash of ideals, morals and even politics. It has constituted one of the greatest post-war, pop-culture wars of our times.

(2) TAFF EBOOK. Rob Hansen’s British SF Conventions Volume 1: 1937-1951 was released June 1 as a free downloadable ebook on the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund website. If you enjoy it, a donation to TAFF is welcome.

The cover photo from the London Festivention (1951) shows the editors of six of the seven fanzines then being published in the UK. From left to right: Mike Tealby (Wonder), Derek Pickles (Phantasmagoria), Fred Robinson (Straight Up), Walt Willis (Slant), Bob Foster (Sludge), Vince Clarke and Ken Bulmer (Science Fantasy News).

From Rob Hansen’s Foreword

Surprisingly, there were five conventions organized, announced, and held in the UK during World War Two despite travel under wartime conditions being a difficult and sometimes dangerous affair. For example, the train taking Cardiff fan Terry Overton to one of those conventions pulled out of the station during an air raid as bombs rained down on his (and my) home city. The NORCONs were only cons in the most basic of senses but 1944’s Eastercon was the most ambitious convention the UK had ever seen, as you will discover.

Hansen’s already published book 1957: The First UK Worldcon  fits into this sequence as volume 3.

(3) DRIVE-IN TRIVIA. MeTV asks “Can you complete the titles of these vintage ‘monster’ movies?” It wasn’t easy but I managed to miss two of these softballs.

What would the landscape of horror be like without the famous monsters? For decades, audiences have screamed, laughed and even sometimes jeered at the creatures lurching across the screen. Some nightmares are done so well that they haunt you for years. Others look so cheap and tacky that they become famous for how terrible they look.

We’ve collected a dungeon full of classic horror and sci-fi flicks with “monster” in the title. You may recognize some of these movies from Svengoolie! See if you can complete their full, frightful names.

(4) IT MIGHT BE FILK. John Hertz took inspiration from a recent G&S-themed Scroll title (Pixel Scroll 6/1/23 Three Little Muad’Dibs From Sand Are We) to supply the verse:

Three Muad’Dibs who, all unwary,
Come from Atreides’ seminary,
Free from the Wallach IX tutelary,
Three Muad’Dubs from sand.

Everything is a source of fun.
Paul isn’t safe, his solitude’s done,
Dune is a joke that’s just begun.
Three Muad’Dibs from sand.

Three Muad-’Dibs from sand are we,
Pert as a *pop-hop* well can be,
Filled to the brim with melange glee,
Three Muad’Dibs from sand.

(5) CUE THE CHORUS. Meanwhile another poet soon will be represented in space: “Poem bound for Jupiter’s moon Europa ties Earth to the watery world” reports Axios.

U.S. poet laureate Ada Limón on Thursday revealed her poem that will fly to Jupiter’s moon Europa aboard NASA’s Europa Clipper mission.

The big picture: The mission follows in the tradition of others — like NASA’s Voyagers — that have sent pieces of art representing humanity into the cosmos.

What’s happening: The poem uses water as a thread that binds Earth — and all of its humans — to Europa, a moon with an ocean beneath its icy shell.

  • “We are creatures of constant awe, curious at beauty, at leaf and blossom, at grief and pleasure, sun and shadow,” Limón writes. “And it is not darkness that unites us, not the cold distance of space, but the offering of water, each drop of rain.”
  • The poem is going to be engraved in Limón’s handwriting and affixed to the spacecraft, expected to launch in October 2024.


1987[Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

Lawrence Watt-Evans’ “Why I Left Harry’s All-Night Hamburgers” story is where our Beginning comes from this Scroll. Though Mike of course selected it, I too have read it with great delight.

So the story won a Hugo at Nolacon II, and had a Nebula nomination as well.

It was published in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine in their July 1987 issue. 

I’m going to praise him for having up-to-date social media and for dropping out of Twitter. Check out the links to those sites from his ISFDB page 

So here’s the first chapter of that story….

Hamburgers Harry’s was a nice place–probably still is. I haven’t been back lately. It’s a couple of miles off I-79, a few exits north of Charleston, near a place called Sutton. Used to do a pretty fair business until they finished building the Interstate out from Charleston and made it worthwhile for some fast-food joints to move in right next to the cloverleaf; nobody wanted to drive the extra miles to Harry’s after that. Folks used to wonder how old Harry stayed in business, as a matter of fact, but he did all right even without the Interstate trade. I found that out when I worked there. 

Why did I work there, instead of at one of the fast-food joints? Because my folks lived in a little house just around the corner from Harry’s, out in the middle of nowhere – not in Sutton itself, just out there on the road. Wasn’t anything around except our house and Harry’s place. He lived out back of his restaurant. That was about the only thing I could walk to in under an hour, and I didn’t have a car.

This was when I was sixteen. I needed a job, because my dad was out of work again and if I was gonna do anything I needed my own money. Mom didn’t mind my using her car – so long as it came back with a full tank of gas and I didn’t keep it too long. That was the rule. So I needed some work, and Harry’s All-Night Hamburgers was the only thing within walking distance. Harry said he had all the help he needed–two cooks and two people working the counter, besides himself. The others worked days, two to a shift, and Harry did the late night stretch all by himself. I hung out there a little, since I didn’t have anywhere else, and it looked like pretty easy work – there was hardly any business, and those guys mostly sat around telling dirty jokes. So I figured it was perfect. 

Harry, though, said that he didn’t need any help. 

I figured that was probably true, but I wasn’t going to let logic keep me out of driving my mother’s car. I did some serious begging, and after I’d made his life miserable for a week or two Harry said he’d take a chance and give me a shot, working the graveyard shift, midnight to eight A.M., as his counterman, busboy, and janitor all in one.

I talked him down to 7:30, so I could still get to school, and we had us a deal. I didn’t care about school so much myself, but my parents wanted me to go, and it was a good place to see my friends, y’know? Meet girls and so on. 

So I started working at Harry’s, nights. I showed up at midnight the first night, and Harry gave me an apron and a little hat, like something from a diner in an old movie, same as he wore himself. I was supposed to wait tables and clean up, not cook, so I don’t know why he wanted me to wear them, but he gave them to me, and I needed the bucks, so I put them on and pretended I didn’t notice that the apron was all stiff with grease and smelled like something nasty had died on it a few weeks back. And Harry–he’s a funny old guy, always looked fiftyish, as far back as I can remember. Never young, but never getting really old, either, y’know? Some people do that, they just seem to go on forever. Anyway, he showed me where everything was in the kitchen and back room, told me to keep busy cleaning up whatever looked like it wanted cleaning, and told me, over and over again, like he was really worried that I was going to cause trouble, “Don’t bother the customers. Just take their orders, bring them their food, and don’t bother them. You got that?”


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 3, 1901 Maurice Evans. Ahhh the amazing work of make-up. Under the make-up that was Dr. Zaius in Planet of the Apes and Beneath the Planet of the Apes was this actor. Though this was his most well-known genre role, it wasn’t his only ones — he was in a Thirties Scrooge as poor man, on Bewitched as Maurice, Samantha’s father, on Batman as The Puzzler in “The Puzzles are Coming” and “The Duo Is Slumming”, in Rosemary’s Baby as Hutch, and finally in Terror in the Wax Museum as Inspector Daniels. Oh, and he showed up on Columbo as Raymond in “The Forgotten Lady”. No, not genre — but I love that series! (Died 1989.)
  • Born June 3, 1905 Malcolm Reiss. It’s uncertain if he ever published any genre fiction but he’s an important figure in the history of our community as he edited in the Thirties through the Fifties, Jungle StoriesPlanet StoriesTops in Science Fiction and Two Complete Science-Adventure Books. Fletcher Pratt, Ross Rocklynne, Leigh Brackett and Fredric Brown are but a few of the writers published in those magazines. (Died 1975.)
  • Born June 3, 1905 Norman A. Daniels. Writer working initially in pulp magazines, later on radio and television. He created the Black Bat pulp hero and wrote for such series as The AvengersThe Phantom Detective and The Shadow. He has three non-series novels, The Lady Is a WitchSpy Slave and Voodoo Lady. To my surprise, iBooks and Kindle has a Black Bat Omnibus available! In addition, iBooks has the radio show.  (Died 1995.)
  • Born June 3, 1947 John Dykstra, 76. He was one of the founders of Industrial Light & Magic. That means he’s responsible for the original visuals for lightsabers, the space battles between X-wings and TIE fighters, and much of the other Star Wars effects. Can’t list everything he later worked on, so I’ll single out his work on Battlestar Galactica, the sfx for Batman Forever and Batman and Robin, the visual effects on X-Men: First Class, and visual effects supervisor on Doolittle.
  • Born June 3, 1950 Melissa Mathison. Screenwriter who worked with Spielberg on  E.T. the Extra-TerrestrialTwilight Zone: The Movie and the charming BFG, the latter being the last script she did before dying of cancer. She also did absolutely splendid The Indian in the Cupboard which was directed by Frank Oz. (Died 2015.)
  • Born June 3, 1958 Suzie Plakson, 65. She played four characters on the Trek franchise: a Vulcan, Doctor Selar, in “The Schizoid Man”(Next Gen); the half-Klingon/half-human Ambassador K’Ehleyr in “The Emissary” and “Reunion” (Next Gen); the Lady Q in “The Q and the Grey” (Voyager); and an Andorian, Tarah, in “Cease Fire” (Enterprise).  She also voiced Amazonia in the “Amazon Women in the Mood” episode of Futurama. Really. Truly. By the way, her first genre role was in the My Stepmother Is an Alien film as Tenley. She also showed up in the Beauty and the Beast series as Susan in the “In the Forests of the Night” episode.
  • Born June 3, 1949 Michael McQuay. He wrote two novels in Asimov’s Robot City series, Suspicion and Isaac Asimov’s Robot City (with Michael P. Kube-McDowell) and Richter 10 with Arthur C. Clarke. The Mathew Swain sequence neatly blends SF and noir detective tropes – very good popcorn reading. His novelization of Escape from New York is superb. (Died 1995.)
  • Born June 3, 1964 James Purefoy, 59. His most recent genre performance was as Laurens Bancroft in Altered Carbon. His most impressive was as Solomon Kane in the film of that name. He was also in A Knight’s Tale as Edward, the Black Prince of Wales/Sir Thomas Colville. He dropped out of being V in V for Vendetta some six weeks into shooting but some early scenes of the masked V are of him. And let’s not forget that he’s Hap Collins in the Sundance series Hap and Leonard which was steaming on Amazon Prime before the idiots there pulled it. 


  • Macanudo is there when puberty comes to 2001.

(9) JEOPARDY! [Item by David Goldfarb.] Friday’s episode of Jeopardy! had a category in the first round called “Their Middle Initial”, where each clue gave us a person’s given name and surname and asked for…oh, you guessed.

The $1000 level was:

Of sci-fi and fantasy author Ursula Le Guin

One of the contestants did in fact know it.

(10) SPACE CHOW. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Nope, it’s not Rice-A-Roni. But, this San Francisco firm is competing in the Deep Space Food Challenge, sponsored by NASA and the Canadian Space Agency. The goal is to find ways to meet the food needs of astronauts on long-term space missions, such as one to Mars. Making the food interesting (as well as nutritious) is important from a psychological standpoint. “Does this look appetizing? If you go to Mars, it may be your meal” at CNN Business.

As part of a NASA competition called the Deep Space Food Challenge, a San Francisco based design firm shows CNN its ideas for tasty treats astronauts can grow themselves and even grill while on a long flight to Mars.

(11) JUSTWATCH. Here is the sff that JustWatch found people had on their screens in May.

(12) DINO SKINNER ARRESTED. “Vandal Causes $250,000 in Damage to ‘Jurassic Park’ Exhibition, Police Say” – the New York Times has the story.

A newly opened dinosaur exhibition in Atlanta based on the blockbuster series of “Jurassic Park” movies has been temporarily shut down after an intruder broke in and caused $250,000 in damage, the police said. One man is in custody.

On Monday, officers from the Atlanta Police Department responded to a burglary call at Jurassic World: The Exhibition, where a manager said he discovered several exhibits had been damaged, according to a police report.

The exhibition, which has made stops in North America, officially opened Friday at Pullman Yards, a large entertainment venue east of downtown Atlanta. The show promises to immerse audiences in scenes inspired by the films and features life-size dinosaur models.

Officials for the exhibition said security footage showed four suspects before they entered the property on Sunday night. One suspect was later seen “sitting on top of one of the dinosaurs ripping off the skin covering,” the report said….

… Michael Mattox, the executive vice president of Animax Designs, the company in Nashville that constructed the dinosaurs, told Fox5Atlanta last week that it took 18 months to design and build them.

About 140 artists, engineers and other creative people were involved in the production of the dinosaurs, he said.

(13) STEEL MAGNOLIAS.  “Japan will put a wooden satellite into orbit next year” reports TechSpot.

Researchers from Kyoto University in Japan have determined that wood from magnolia trees could be the ideal construction material for a satellite due to launch into space next year.

Test results from a recent experiment aboard the International Space Station among three wood specimens revealed magnolia to be the most versatile. The samples, which were exposed to the harsh conditions of space for 10 months, returned to Earth this past January.

Analysis showed magnolia experienced no decomposition or damage like cracking, peeling, or warping. Furthermore, there was no change in the mass of the wood samples before and after their exposure in space….

(14) STARLINER STANDS DOWN. “Boeing finds two serious problems with Starliner just weeks before launch” reports Ars Technica. People are surprised this kind of problem was discovered so late in the process.  

A Boeing official said Thursday that the company was “standing down” from an attempt to launch the Starliner spacecraft on July 21 to focus on recently discovered issues with the vehicle.

Mark Nappi, vice president and program manager for Starliner, said two spacecraft problems were discovered before Memorial Day weekend and that the company spent the holiday investigating them. After internal discussions that included Boeing chief executive Dave Calhoun, the company decided to delay the test flight that would carry NASA astronauts Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore to the International Space Station.

“Safety is always our top priority, and that drives this decision,” Nappi said during a teleconference with reporters.

Two issues

The issues seem rather serious to have been discovered weeks before Starliner was due to launch on an Atlas V rocket. The first involves “soft links” in the lines that run from Starliner to its parachutes. Boeing discovered that these were not as strong as previously believed.

During a normal flight, these substandard links would not be an issue. But Starliner’s parachute system is designed to land a crew safely in case one of the three parachutes fails. However, due to the lower failure load limit with these soft links, if one parachute fails, it’s possible the lines between the spacecraft and its remaining two parachutes would snap due to the extra strain.

(15) UFO STUDY. The May 31 public meeting by the NASA team tasked with studying UAPs (UFOs) is archived on YouTube. “NASA’s UFO study team holds a public meeting”. Over 3.5 hours of talks, charts, stats, etc. 

Other coverage includes “NASA reveals findings on unidentified objects” at CNN Business and “UFOs: Five revelations from Nasa’s public meeting” at BBC News.

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

46 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 6/3/23 A File Forever Pixeling Through Strange Scrolls Of Thought, Alone

  1. (11) I’m glad to see that. I’ve really been enjoying Silo, although apparently it’s a fairly loose adaptation of the book.

    Also, Apple TV gives you a pretty good value for the price. I just watched the second season of Prehistoric Planet 2 (a David Attenborough-hosted, entirely CGI nature documentary featuring dinosaurs). I wonder, would that qualify as Best Related Work?

  2. 1) There’s a great book, Slugfest by Reed Tucker, about the decades-long competition between DC and Marvel.

  3. (6) And Lawrence (and his wife) are lovely people.
    (10) Food printers. That what I feed everyone in my stories. (You did see the story, months back, that someone in the real world printed a seven layer cheesecake, right?)
    (11) Let’s see, Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t there. Oddly enough, Interstellar, which I say SHOULD have won the Hugo, has remained in the middle of the top 10 list for a year? Two?

  4. (12) Skinning them is completely unacceptable! Now, if they’d snuck in to glue feathers on, I might have had some sympathy, but… 🙂

  5. 13) is there some reason to think these will be better than the current metal craft? Or are they just doing it to annoy all the SF writers who have stated that metal poor worlds can’t achieve space flight?

  6. bookworm1398: Maybe they’ve watched a lot of episodes of Captain Harlock and are working their way up to a ship like his.

  7. (13) Maybe they’re looking for ways to make them less expensive by using renewable resources?

  8. 13) Delving into the article reveals that wood is transparent to EM radiation, and that weight savings can be had with smaller and lighter sensors on the motherboards inside, rather than separate antenna arrays wired and mounted to the outside metal shell.
    Plus, you’re guaranteed a nice wood-smoke aroma on re-entry.

    Mmm, HickoryStalk!

  9. 7) James Purefoy was also Kantos Kan in the Disney John Carter movie. And it’s not actually genre, but he made a fine Mark Antony in HBO’s Rome (which I’m currently rewatching).

  10. (7) I should give a shout out for Mike McQuay’s novel Memories. I think he aspired to greatness with this one, and … it delivers. It is a time travel novel but that doesn’t even begin to describe it. Messy, complicated, intelligent, ironic characters in deeply ironic situations that only a science fiction writer could come up with. It knocked one of my socks far into a dystopian future and the other back into the past, but eventually they found each other.

  11. (6) Harry’s Hamburgers is an all time favorite of mine. There are two sequels, by the way.

  12. 3) Was about to have a perfect score on this, but got tripped up on the final question.

    But, yeah, “softball” is an apt term, especially for those of my generation who’ve not only heard of these movies, but actually watched them (for a few, multiple times) on Saturday mornings when the early morning block of cartoons was followed by a “crappy monster movie of the week” selection.

    Seconding Tom Becker’s recommendation for Mike McQuay’s Memories.

  13. Meredith Moment: Humble Bundle has a package of Mercedes Lackey books.

  14. Fair warning on that Mercedes Lackey Humble Bundle: They’re specifically selling the DRM-equipped Kobo versions of the books from the Kobo store.

    (So if, like me, you purchased them with the intention of loading them onto, and reading them on, your Kindle, it gets … complicated.)

  15. @Joe J
    I run things through Calibre. There’s a plugin for Calibre that fixes it.

  16. @P J Evans–I can’t get the Calibre plug-in to work. I haven’t found anyone accessible to me who can. Mostly, they just don’t use Calibre.

  17. All of the Mercedes Lackey books in the Bundle are on Libgen.is. Pay for the books on the Humble Bundle, download them from Libgen in DRM-free formats.

  18. @bill–How many of the nooks in the bundle have you downloaded from that site? With what results? Do they require evidence you’ve paid Humble Bundle?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

  19. Libgen is what some folks would call a piracy site. People upload books, magazines, articles from technical journals that are otherwise behind massive paywalls (which is how I learned of the site). Other people download them. There’s no checking on whether you’ve paid for them somewhere else. It’s just a massive searchable index of links to online texts.

    I haven’t downloaded any Mercedes Lackey books from the site, but other materials that I have downloaded have been fine. And I’ve used Calibre to convert their formats with no issues.

    My own take on the ethics of using the site in this particular situation is that if you’ve paid for a work anywhere — Amazon, Humble Bundle, hardcopy at a bookstore, etc. — you should be able to have an electronic copy of it as a back up (this is consistent with the Sony Betamax decision as I understand it), to do with as you please for personal use. It would be legal for you to personally scan a hard copy of a Lackey book that you own, and convert it to PDF, epub, mobi, whatever. Downloading it from Libgen has the same end result and is much easier. (And I realize that other people won’t agree with this, and feel like any downloading at all from the site is piracy. YMMV, and you do you. Not trying to change anyone’s mind here, not looking to have mine changed by someone whose take is different, and despite my history on File770, I don’t anticipate that I will get into an extended discussion about it here.)

    Obviously, if you download something from the site that you haven’t paid for a legitimate copy of, then any claim that doing so is ethical becomes a much harder sell.

    (Lis — aren’t you a librarian of some sort? I’m surprised you are not familiar with the site. I’ve known of librarians to give an under-the-table, wink-wink, recommendation of the site to people who are looking for obscure articles from technical journals behind massive paywalls.)

  20. @Lis Carey
    They have instructions for downloading to other devices, when you buy it, as part of the download link.

  21. @Lis
    Adding that you go to the download page, select all the books you’re buying, put in the key they send you, and download. They don’t explain what DRM will do on non-Kobo devices, and they should, but without trying, I don’t know what will happen.

  22. @bill–Yes, I’m a librarian. Not quite sure what you mean by “of some sort,” but I’m a retired research librarian who spent most of my career in scientific research institutions, and in law firms that had intellectual property practices.

    Even when I was doing research for the attorneys in the firm who weren’t engaged in intellectual property practice, or people in the research institutions who weren’t involved in the research, it was still my job to find legal sources for the papers and articles needed, not convenient Russian pirate sites.

  23. @Lis
    The download page took me to a special Kobo “promotional reward” page where the books were listed and you selected them and put in the code.

  24. @Lis Carey
    “Not quite sure what you mean by “of some sort,””
    I meant that I was pretty sure you were a librarian, but I didn’t know what kind – school, public/municipal, university, legal, reference, research, etc.

    “I’m a retired research librarian who spent most of my career in scientific research institutions,” I work at Redstone Arsenal, which hosts the Army’s missile programs and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. We used to have a technical library that was a national asset, but the library got rid of much of its physical collection and replaced it with digital subscriptions, and then dropped them as they continued to increase in price. As digital copies became not only onerously expensive, but a huge time sink to acquire legitimately, sites like libgen became a de facto research library themselves (as I know they have done for many universities as well).

    People want to use legitimate sources of books, journals, etc., but when the cost (in money, time, and effort) of doing so becomes multiples of the cost of downloading them from a “pirate” site, eventually most folks will take advantage of the pirates. I’m glad for you that you always had the means and option of getting documents from a legitimate source.

  25. @bill–

    The federal government has the resources to negotiate decent pricing.

    As do major corporations–on their own, or on government contracts.

    If what you need is individual papers from those resources, you don’t buy the subscription; you buy the individual articles, paying copyright on those.

    If you’re doing it a lot, you can arrange monthly billing.

    Even fairly small law firms can do it, although granted they do bill the client.

  26. Oh bill, the Redstone Arsenal budget is north of fifteen billion dollars a year. And you’re telling me they don’t have enough funding to keep their library full stocked? I think not.

    That by the way diesnt include the ten billion dollars the FBI tosses their way.

  27. @Lis Carey
    “although granted they do bill the client.”
    Yes, when you are spending other people’s money, many things suddenly become affordable.

    @Cat Eldridge
    “And you’re telling me they don’t have enough funding to keep their library full stocked? ”
    Yes, that is exactly what I’m saying.
    “I think not.” Think all you want, You are still wrong.

    “That by the way diesnt include the ten billion dollars the FBI tosses their way.” The FBI is a recent tenant organization on the Arsenal, and most of the decisions that lead to the closure of RSIC predate their recent local growth. They’ve never been a party to the library, and it’s kinda silly to expect that they would have an interest in funding a missile and rocketry collection, any more than, say, NASA would have an interest in funding a fingerprint lab.
    And, BTW, the FBI’s entire 2023 budge is less than $11 billion; they don’t “toss” anything close to $10B to Redstone to occupy space at the Arsenal.

  28. @bill–That linked article doesn’t say what you’re saying.

    It’s not the cost of online subscriptions that’s closing the library. Or even the cost of physical subscriptions.

    It’s the cost of physical space for a collection that’s been growing for nearly 60 years.

    They’ve de ided to go completely virtual, and because they’re no longer going to use all that space for a shared physical library, NASA and the army have decided to end their cooperation on it and each build virtual collections that suit their separate needs better.

    And this a sing as old as–not time, but as old, at least, as enough being online that someone can look at the real estate the library is taking up, and say, “But everything is available online!” That claim is always wrong, but in the specialized contexts of NASA and the Army’s missile research, it’s probably close enough to true.

    It’s really quite odd to cite that closing the shared physical library to create two separate virtual collections as evidence that the cost of virtual subscriptions is rising out of control. No, it’s evidence that both entities see cost savings in dumping all that physical space and material in favor of their own virtual collections.

    And those virtual collections will diverge, as subscribers primarily used by Those Other Guys are deemed not as relevant to one group or the other.

  29. Lis, the virtual databases and periodicals needed by each of the separate units at the Arsenal are most likely available. The last few decades has seen an extraordinary growth in these databases. Paper is fixed, can’t be updated and is, well, bloody expensive. Databases are just as expensive but they get continuously updated.

    (Jenner, my PCP, uses several databases to check possible drugs interactions before changing my meds. Twenty years ago that was done with a very thick volume that was updated once a year. Now that database is constantly updated.)

    And frankly having anything in a paper form makes no sense for a research institution now. Everything should be available to an individual from their computer wherever they are.

  30. @Cat Eldridge–As I said, in the specialized contexts of NASA and army missile research, it’s probably close enough to true as makes no real difference. And it’s not the cost of the online subscriptions that’s closing the physical library; it’s the cost of the physical library–all that space, for the paper, and for the people to be able to use the paper.

    The cancellations that trouble bill are 99,44% certain to be due to subscriptions maintained for both groups as they initially separated, and then each group canceling what they had become certain they didn’t need for their own use. Even if you’re just reducing the number of simultaneous users, that can make a big difference in cost.

    But. Two things.

    One. If you don’t own it in paper, you don’t own it. It can go away forever, not always because beancounters weren’t willing to pay for it. Yes, resources have simply gone away, that companies still wanted to pay for. If you own the print edition, you’ve still got the print edition.

    Two. Have you ever worked with lawyers? Or chemists? Sure, they love the newest, latest, shiniest reference as much as anyone, but if you’ve never worked with them, you have never seen such people for wanting the first, oldest, dustiest reference. The chemists, in particular, were heartbroken when I told them we didn’t have room for all those old volumes in print; past a certain date, we’d have to have them in microfiche.

    Granted, both problems are far less likely to affect NASA or the army missile research team. The resources they use are far to profitable to go away entirely, even if they change ownership, and the online resources really do go back to the start of what they’re doing. There is no “but that paper was published in a book 150 years ago, and we need the physical book.” It mostly really is all online.

    I will not start talking about how the first big database aggregator started with a paper company trying to keep track of its internal resources. I will not. I will not.

    Good. Impulse suppressed. I’m on the Chromebook, and it would be awkward typing all that.

    But, yeah, I think we are agreed that bill does not understand what’s happening with the library at the Arsenal. I’ve worked with people like that, too. I hope they have a very patient librarian who loves teaching.

  31. @Lis Carey — I didn’t link the article to support my comments about rising subscription prices and other statements I made about why RSIC is closing. I linked it to rebut Cat’s question “you’re telling me they don’t have enough funding to keep their library full stocked?”.
    And the article supports the argument that they don’t have enough funding: “the collection had become too big and expensive to maintain. . . .decreased funding and resources have made it untenable to continue managing the library.”

    You’ve summarized the article as saying that the library needs more physical space than is available, which is not untrue as far as it goes, but in this instance, space = $. RSIC is charged $ for the space it uses by the “landlord” agency of Redstone Arsenal, Redstone Garrison.

    But it is the costs of online subscriptions + costs of physical subscriptions + costs of staff + costs of physical space/utilities + costs of new book acquisitions/collection maintenance + costs of photocopiers + etc., etc., compared to what could be done with that money if RSIC didn’t exist, factoring in the perceived-by-management utility of RSIC, that lead to the decision to close it as a physical library and maintain a much more limited virtual capability.

    And before you say “the article doesn’t say that”, I’m telling you things that I’ve learned as a user for 35+ years, plus discussions with library staff and sponsoring organization management, plus internal communications from management to staff about the status of RSIC, etc. My “lived experience”, to use the buzzwords.

    “NASA and the army have decided to end their cooperation on it and each build virtual collections that suit their separate needs better.” No, the Army has decided to spend less money on the library, and spin what is left as sufficient. It in no way suits the Army’s needs better than the physical library did (can’t speak for NASA, but the statements I’ve seen from NASA stakeholders are similar). No one is saying that the virtual library will be better in any way, or even as good.

    The existing virtual library is a piss-poor substitute for the institution that existed. The current package of digital journal subscriptions is much smaller than it was five or ten years ago. Many journals have been stricken from existing journal packages, and we’ve lost other full packages that we used to subscribe to (off the top of my head I see that journal packages from Optica (Optical Society of America), American Physical Society, SPIE, Nature, Association of Computing Machinery, MathSciNet, EBSCO, SAE International, Scitation (AIP), SIAM are all gone, and used to be available). The electronic journals have never included many of the physical journals that once were in the stacks — journals that ended before mass digitization occurred, that were too limited in subscriber base for digitizers to pay to capture them, and foreign journals (we used to have onsite translators fluent in technical Russian, German, and French). We used to have a complete run of Aviation Week & Space Technology — all gone. Tens of thousands of books that used to be on the shelves are gone, and are not available digitally. Same for technical reports, conference proceedings, etc.

    ““But everything is available online!” That claim is always wrong, but in the specialized contexts of NASA and the Army’s missile research, it’s probably close enough to true.” What makes you say that? It’s even less true for a highly specialized technical field than it is for collections that might be used by a more broad-based public library.

  32. Okay, Cat and Lis, I did not see either of your most recent posts before I hit “send” on my most recent post.

    @Cat “The virtual databases and periodicals needed by each of the separate units at the Arsenal are most likely available.”
    This is not a true statement.
    A), there are many documents, journals, and books, relevant to the research and development conducted by the Army and NASA at Redstone, and by their local supporting contractors who also used the library, that are not digitally available. Full stop.
    B) There are many documents etc. that are available digitally, but that the existing funding structure used by RSIC cannot pay for them because they are too expensive. For example, an institutional subscription to Journal of Optical Society of America A (an important optics journal; many missiles have optical seekers), including access to back issues, is $2885 per year. That’s for a single site license; for individuals to have access from their desks, as Cat suggests, probably means a multi-site license which is more expensive. RSIC used to subscribe to well over 100 journals. Or you could buy individual article downloads at $35 each. (as an individual, I could get a personal subscription for $154 [society membership] + $201 [journal add-on] = $355 per year.)

    @Lis “The cancellations that trouble bill are 99,44% certain to be due to subscriptions maintained for both groups as they initially separated, and then each group canceling what they had become certain they didn’t need for their own use.” ??? No, what troubles me is the loss of materials that are simply not available digitally, and never will be; the loss of access to trained subject-matter-expert librarians who knew the collection and how to find specific things; the offloading of finding and purchasing access to articles from librarians who know what they are doing and are good at it, to scientists and engineers like myself who don’t know efficient search strategies across vendors and spend hours finding and buying them, and who aren’t able to leverage volume purchasing because we are buying articles a few at a time, making access to any single article an order of magnitude more expensive; and the ongoing reduction in access to broad-based digital collections that would be core to any technical library because of the high cost of digital subscriptions.
    This is a quote of an email exchange between me and a RSIC librarian from 2021. I was looking for RSIC’s online link to MathSciNet, a database of full-text articles in mathematics and of indices/bibliographies of other math articles.
    ME: Didn’t RSIC use to have a subscription to MathSciNet?
    RSIC LIBRARIAN: We did have a subscription at one time – it was dropped due to high cost.

    “It mostly really is all online.” Holy cow you are wrong. For one thing, much of the missile research at Redstone is classified, and cannot go online. I just looked at my own bibliography of reports that I’ve written over my career. Out of about 40 technical reports, I was able to find one of them online in SPIE’s database. Most of them exist only in hard copies in vaults at Redstone Arsenal or wherever DTIC stores its classified documents. They are indexed in bibliographies, but they are not online. And I am in no way atypical.

    “I think we are agreed that bill does not understand what’s happening with the library at the Arsenal.” You base this assessment on what — one article written at a moment in a multi-year process, that misses much of the big picture (see: Gell-Mann amnesia)? Your assumptions about what drove the disestablishment of RSIC somehow trump my first hand knowledge of the situation? What arrogance, to make such a statement.

  33. @bill: Just today I was looking for an old memo written by a now-deceased colleague in 1989. Fortunately it was created a few months after the transition to word processing and I was able to find it on the network (in an old format). If it had been a few months older, I’d have to hopecthat there was still a paper copy in archives that someone could scan for me.

  34. @bill–

    You’ve summarized the article as saying that the library needs more physical space than is available, which is not untrue as far as it goes, but in this instance, space = $. RSIC is charged $ for the space it uses by the “landlord” agency of Redstone Arsenal, Redstone Garrison.

    No, bill, that’s not what I said. I said:

    It’s not the cost of online subscriptions that’s closing the library. Or even the cost of physical subscriptions.

    It’s the cost of physical space for a collection that’s been growing for nearly 60 years.

    Was that really too hard for you to understand? Did I need to explicitly say “and physical space is expensive”? Did I have to include $$$?

    Or did you just decide to pretend I didn’t say that, because it wasn’t convenient?

    I spent much of my career getting book and journal requests, checking the catalog which was accessible to everyone, and going back to the scientist or lawyer who made the request. I’d tell them we had it, where it was, and ask if we needed a second copy.

    Nearly always the answer would be no. They were perfectly well able to use the library copy, or share with the other scientist or lawyer who had the copy in their office (this is why I actively dealt with accounting, so that no publication purchases were made without my input, and me being able to catalog the publication; I knew where everything was).

    Sometimes, the answer was no, they really needed this in their office or in their lab, and if it wasn’t too expensive, I would purchase it. But, I knew where that copy was, too. People were nearly always able to share within the same lab.

    Sometimes, I’d get a request for something so freaking expensive that my first answer would be “No, we can’t afford that.” Then, sometimes, they would make their pitch for it being really that important, and I’d go to the group leader or department head. “So-and-so says this is essential for their work. Should we buy it?” If the answer from the department head or group leader was yes, we got it, and never mind the cost, because my goal was to make sure money wasn’t wasted, not that it wasn’t spent.

    A couple of times, I left a place for another job, and my position was filled, and a few months later, I heard through the grapevine that the library budget had exploded, and no one could find half the books…

    Lawyers are a bit better than scientists about putting things back where they found them, but with no one keeping track of what’s purchased, the game was lost before it started.

    Scientists are better than lawyers, usually, about learning unfamiliar electronic resources. When I was at a law firm, teaching any attorneys who would sit still long enough how to use them did help. Some.

    There was, though, one, and only one, “I will not learn these tools of the devil” lawyer, and insisted on a full set of the Mass. General Laws for his own use, even though it was readily available on Lexis–or Westlaw, we transitioned from one to the other and I don’t recall which we had when this happened. There was a meeting of the budget committee, and I showed him the bill for his MGLA in print, and the head of the budget committee showed him the budget.

    Let me note here that we were a NH law firm.

    The “I will not use these tools of the devil” attorney had also come prepared with receipts. “This is what I brought in last year by being licensed to practice in Massachusetts. I’m the only attorney with this firm who is licensed in Massachusetts. I’ll stop if I can’t have the MGLA in print.”

    He was also a senior partner (of course; the young lawyers all learned these Tools of the Devil in law school), so that was a mic drop. And I kinda wanted to cheer. He knew what he was worth.

    But this is another reason I’m skeptical of your story. I’ve never dealt with any population of library users that didn’t need coaxing, hand-holding, and outright Word From On High to adopt unfamiliar tools.

    As for why I say NASA and army missile research are groups more likely to find nearly everything online–that’s because those were the first buyers of the services that paper company I mentioned discovered they suddenly had available to sell, along with the paper. Back in the early 60s, when those activities were, compared to chemistry, or mediaeval history, comparatively new. A much higher percentage of everything they’ve ever done is online.

  35. @Lis Carey
    The company I worked for was putting everything online, so we all had access from our workstations. The only paper stuff was the incident/injury-prevention stuff, which was also online – but there were paper copies available throughout the company. The maps were online – they scanned the hardcopies to very fine PDFs – all the drawings were being converted and stuffed in databases, and instead of the old maps, we were moving to GIS so more information would be available. It cost a bunch of money, and took years, but everything went together and if you’re looking at the “maps”, it’s now seamless. (They kept the old designations, I think, just because they can put you in the neighborhood.)

  36. @P J Evans–Yes! I’ve been retired long enough that “everything online” is becoming significantly closer to reality than when I was still working. And for access, it is much easier than trying to keep it all available in print.

    I still say, though, to really own it, or for permanent preservation, you need it in print. Formats and technology change too quickly. Never mind the transition from real floppies to the 3.5in disks we called floppies, to zip drives to thumb drives to…everything else. The first Kindle was released in 2007, and the first Nook in 2009. They’ve been through multiple generations since.

    We have nearly 2,000-year-old codex books.

    There’s access, and there’s preservation. For access, you want online.

  37. @Lis
    Yep. That’s what my mother said about genealogy. TBH, it’s a lot easier when you only have a few hundred people…

    (I’m sure they back up the data, and there are multiple servers. I found one drawing that was fcked up, and they couldn’t find a version that wasn’t. So several years back. They’d have to go out to the field to sort it out.)

  38. All this library talk has me motivated to promote my current read, The Book That Wouldn’t Burn by Mark Lawrence. Imagine a repository that is roughly two miles square. Packed with shelves. Shelves packed with books. In languages known, unknown, forgotten, and never known. Imagine more than one repository. Imagine a library that is a series of those repositories connected in a grid. Imagine a successive line of librarians each with their own codex as a means of controlling the information (and power) of this library.

    Imagine that this is just the setting and the tale is really about how we view one another as friends and/or enemies.

    This is a medium-burn book. There’s action, but there are also sections about language, indices, the construction of books, and other mundane features that should enthrall any serious bibliophile. I’m 82% done with it and think I can see the end. And as a Mark Lawrence fan, I already know that the end I see is not the one he prepared.

    Money is the root of ALL Evil! Send $20 for more info

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.