(1) IT BURNS. At Young People Read Old SFF, curator James Davis Nicoll has them reading Connie Willis’ “Fire Watch”.
As we’ve seen, past popularity means nothing to the young people of today, who insist on judging stories on their merits and not the warm feeling their grandparents may have had reading a now-venerable story. What did the Young People think of this classic story?
Mikayla definitely does not have a warm feeling.
I found the narrator’s reaction to communism ridiculous. As far as I can tell, the narrator is more upset by the idea of communism than by the Nazis actively bombing the city. The idea that someone so removed from these events would have such a personal hatred of communism, despite coming from the far future, makes this story feel very American and very dated.
(2) THE (BRAIN) IMITATION GAME. IEEE Spectrum has a special issue this month on the topic of current attempts to model the human brain: “Special Report: Can We Copy the Brain?” About half the articles are free to nonsubscribers.
Gregory N. Hullender says the key takeaways are:
- Artificial Neural Network software does have useful applications, but it has little in common with real brain tissue.
- Special hardware meant to model the brain has been developed but does not yet have any useful applications.
- Current brain simulations only simulate a fraction of a brain, and they run thousands of times slower than real brains do.
- Modelling 1 mm^3 of a rat’s brain is considered an ambitious undertaking.
- There is considerable debate as to whether we understand how the brain works at all.
I liked this quote from “Neuromorphic Chips Are Destined for Deep Learning — or Obscurity”
“It has often been noted that progress in aviation was made only after inventors stopped trying to copy the flapping wings of birds and instead discovered — and then harnessed — basic forces, such as thrust and lift. The knock against neuromorphic computing is that it’s stuck at the level of mimicking flapping wings, an accusation the neuromorphics side obviously rejects. Depending on who is right, the field will either take flight and soar over the chasm, or drop into obscurity.”
The article “Can We Quantify Machine Consciousness” makes some exciting claims about “Integrated Information Theory” (IIT). It’s less exciting when you realize that the authors are the inventors of the IIT concept and not everyone agrees with them.
(3) THE LONG HAUL. “Bias, She Wrote: The Gender Balance of The New York Times Best Seller list” — a statistical study of women writers based on analysis over time of the prestigious list. (Lots of graphs.)
Almost every category started out as heavily male-dominated, and many have stayed that way. These categories align with stereotypes about male interests: fantasy and science fiction, spy and political fiction, suspense fiction, and adventure fiction, have all been consistently male-dominated since their introduction to the list. A best-selling female fantasy/sci-fi author today is just as rare as a best-selling female literary author in the 1950s.
Then, there are the genres that have flipped. The horror/paranormal genre is now almost at gender parity, owing no small thanks to paranormal romance novels. Mystery is the most balanced genre over time, which shouldn’t be surprising given the genre’s history. The 1920s and 30s are known as the “Golden Age of Detective Fiction,” and were dominated by a quartet of female authors known as the Queens of Crime: Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ngaio Marsh and Margery Allingham.
Best-selling romance novels were mostly written by men in the 1950s, but in the 1960s women took over. By the 1980s, female authors solidly dominated the genre, probably because female writers had a natural advantage writing for mostly female readers about mostly female experiences of love and sex.
(4) SENSELESS DECISION. Io9 says Netflix has whacked fan favorite Sense8:
After a mere two seasons of streaming on Netflix, the Wachowskis’ Sense8 has been cancelled, according to Netflix VP of original content Cindy Holland.
(5) CARRIE FISHER ESTATE. The Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds Personal Property Auction will be held by Profiles in History on September 23. The catalog is not yet available online. Hardcover copies of this celebrity artifact can be pre-ordered.
Highlights from the upcoming auction include:
- Carrie Fisher’s life size “Princess Leia” with blaster statue in a vintage wooden phone booth. This is the figure that was featured by Fisher in her in her HBO special Wishful Drinking and the documentary Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. Pictured left.
- Debbie Reynolds’ screen used “Kathy Seldon” lavender silk chiffon dress from the “You Were Meant For Me” musical sequence in Singin’ in the Rain. Pictured right.
- Carrie Fisher’s on-set chair with personalized chair back that is embroidered “Star Wars: The Saga Continues” used on Return of the Jedi. Pictured at bottom.
- Debbie Reynolds’ screen used “Annie” two piece stage costume from Annie Get Your Gun.
- Carrie Fisher’s life size C-3PO with electronic lighting elements. Pictured below.
- Carrie Fisher’s life sized bronze, limited edition Yoda statue by Lawrence A. Noble.
- Carrie Fisher’s vintage original 1978 Kenner Star Wars Princess Leia action figure, still in it’s original packaging.
- Debbie Reynolds’ personal, rare, vintage original half sheet movie poster for Singin’ in the Rain signed by Debbie and inscribed to her by Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor
(6) IT’S COMPELLING. The seventh issue of Compelling Science Fiction is now live. Editor Joe Stech lists the highlights —
I’m proud to present another five compelling stories by some amazing authors! The issue begins with the lengthily-titled “What’s a Few Years When You Get Money and Friends in High Places?” by R R Angell, a story about a bodybuilder who is offered a large sum of money to swap his body with a wealthy man (via head transplant). I was pleasantly surprised at the positive vibe the story manages to convey despite the trials of the protagonist (8400 words). The second story in our line-up, Michèle Laframboise’s “Thinking Inside the Box,” is an outlandish story about an alien race that requires constant environmental change in order to maintain psychological health (6400 words). Our third story, “Cogito Ergo Sum” by Mike Adamson, focuses on a conversation with an android about what it means to be human. It’s a well-known theme in science fiction, but I thought this story was executed particularly well (6950 words). Next we have “Integration” by John Eckelkamp, a very short story about a nascent AI getting its first taste of elementary school (1800 words). Our final story is an underwater tale, “Fathom the Ocean, Deep and Still” by David Bruns. The story is about a living bio-engineered city (6020 words).
(7) WHAT AN EDITOR DOES. Uncanny Magazine’s Lynne M. Thomas answers Katrina J.E. Milton’s questions in The Midweek:
Milton: Have you always loved science fiction?
Thomas: I’ve always loved to read, but I didn’t grow up reading much science fiction. I read mostly classics and some romance until I branched out more during college. My husband avidly read sci-fi and fantasy for years, though. Now I curate a science fiction and fantasy collection as one of 42 special collections at NIU. I need to know what’s happening in the field, so it’s crucial to know what is getting attention, and when to purchase books and add to the collection. … One of my favorite books has always been “A Wrinkle in Time.” I didn’t really think of it as science fiction at the time, but I re-read the book more or less annually. Meg Murry has always been a character I’ve really connected with. Being intelligent and kind were marked as more important than makeup and being pretty in that book, which was a powerful message to an awkward 11-year-old version of me.
(8) HUGO READING. Peter J. Enyeart has ranked his “2017 Hugo picks: Novellas”. Here’s what he has to say about his two top choices.
2. The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle The story of a young black Lovecraftian con man in 1920s New York. This is actually a retelling of “The Horror at Red Hook” and, in the spirit of “Shoggoths in Bloom,” is kind of a reinterpretation or even reclaiming of Lovecraft for those groups of humans (which seemed to include anyone not a male WASP) that Lovecraft despised. I found it absorbing and fun. It is interesting how many writers just can’t stop themselves from writing Cthulhu Mythos stories, despite the myriad reasons to dislike Lovecraft. (I was obsessed with him in high school, myself.) I suppose it’s because there’s a lot of breadth and depth there, and also the opportunity for a critical dialogue. Writing Lovecraft fan fiction seems respectable, even, and I certainly seem to enjoy reading it. Speaking of which…
1. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson When one of her students leaves with a man from the waking world, a professor in Ulthar sets out after her. Well, this has a lot going for it that immediately makes me favorably inclined: (1) I’ve always adored this corner of the Mythos and thought it criminally underappreciated; (2) I’m a sucker for quest stories involving travel to varied and strange locales; and (3) I adore Kij Johnson. You never know what you’re going to get when you start in to one of her stories, but you do know you’re in sure hands. And this is no exception. If the LaValle piece is a reclamation of the Mythos for non-whites, this reclaims it for women. I enjoyed every word (and it’s littered with so many lovely ones, like gems in a magic cave). It also has a great ending, which is frequently the difference between a good story and a great one. The best of “escapist” literature gives you something to take back with you to the “real” world, a fresh view as if you’re questing through it yourself . This is the best of escapist literature. Give it awards!
(9) TOUTED FOR NEXT YEAR’S HUGOS. The Hugo Award Book Club observes that Gregory Benford has never been shortlisted for the award’s Best Novel category (despite his Timescape having been so well-regarded it won the 1981 Nebula). They think “The Berlin Project (2017) Gregory Benford” might earn him a place on next year’s ballot.
There are reasons to believe his latest novel may be his best shot yet at finally adding that Best Novel Hugo to his list of accolades.
This book is Benford’s first novel as sole author in more than a decade, and it’s a departure for him. But in many ways, the Berlin Project feels like the novel that Benford was born to write.
His knowledge of the people he’s writing about shines through, and they feel like fully rounded human beings, in a way that some of the protagonists in his previous novels have not. These are people that Benford knows, and he writes about them with evident affection. While the science is front and centre (not unusual in a Benford novel), the characters do not take a backseat. The first 350 pages are a taught, meticulously researched alternate history that delves into the nitty-gritty technical details of the race to build an atomic bomb. It’s a believable departure from the real history. One small decision made differently that makes sense, and everything flows from that departure point….
(10) WONDERFEFE. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna interviewed Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins, who talks about sexism in the film industry and how women should make sure their voices are heard: “Wonder Woman has been a warrior, a secretary and a sexpot. What version did the movie use?”
For Jenkins, fortunately, there was no wavering. She was determined to bring to the big screen the fierce-but-compassionate type of Wonder Woman she first saw on the ‘70s small screen.
“All these years, there’s been talk about Wonder Woman, and the thing I was very firm and steadfast about was: I only wanted to be involved in this if I can have a chance to bring back the Wonder Woman that I love,” Jenkins tells The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs. “I’m not interested in an alt-Wonder Woman; I’m not interested a new Wonder Woman. I’m interested in the Wonder Woman that I grew up with.
What Jenkins saw in TV’s bicentennial Wonder Woman was something close to the initial ideal of creator William Moulton Marston.
“It’s been interesting that she was created as such an idealized woman who is incredibly powerful who yet has everything about being a woman at her side,” Jenkins continues. “And it’s been funny: Lynda [Carter] was so that in the ‘70s with her Wonder Woman.”
(11) MORE MENTING, LESS DRINKING. Brenda W. Clough shares brief “SFWA Nebula Conference 2017” report at Book View Cafe.
I signed up to be a mentor, and was assigned not one but two mentees (the evolution of language here is especially notable; not only did I have mentees but we discussed our menting, as in “How did your menting go, did you ever catch up with your mentee?”). I got together with first one and then the other, and essentially tried to cram in tons of professional advice and answer all their questions. I also brought some pussyhats, because Grandmaster Jane Yolen demanded one, and we were photographed, hopefully for Locus.
(12) LOOSED A FATEFUL LIGHTNING. Abigail Nussbaum has eight books to cover in “Recent Reading Roundup 43”, among them a Civil War ghost story and this Hugo nominee —
Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer – It’s interesting that in the space of a single year, Tor published two debut novels about non-dystopian, non-corporatist future societies in which the boundaries of national and ethnic identity have been replaced by global affinity groups, to which people assign themselves according to their interests and philosophy. For all my reservations about its technothriller plot, I have to say that I prefer Malka Older’s Infomocracy to Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning, largely because I find the world in that book more interesting, and more believable as a place where people like me might possibly live.
(13) THE HOUSE GROUSE. It’s bigger than your average bear — “Microsoft founder Paul Allen reveals world’s biggest-ever plane” .
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has shown off the “Stratolaunch”, a colossal aircraft he hopes can soon help to hoist satellites into low earth orbit.
Allen’s company of the same name has been working on the craft since 2011, with the help of Scaled Composites.
The result of their efforts is 238 feet long, 50 feet tall and has a wingspan of 385 feet [Allen likes Imperial measurements — Ed]. The wingspan is the largest ever built, topping even Howard Hughes’ “Spruce Goose” aka the “Hughes H-4 Hercules.”
The Stratolaunch needs that colossal wing, and six engines typically used for the Boeing 747, because Allen wants it to carry up to 550,000 pounds of payload. His plan calls for the plane to “take off from a runway and fly to the approximate cruising altitude of a commercial airliner before releasing a satellite-bearing launch vehicle.”
(14) ADS THAT SUBTRACT. Marketing puts their foot in it: “Chloe Moretz ‘appalled and angry’ over body-shaming Snow White animated film advert”
Chloe Moretz said she hadn’t seen the marketing and has apologised to fans.
Plus-size model Tess Holliday tweeted a photo of the billboard poster and tagged the actress in her post, saying it was basically body-shaming.
How did this get approved by an entire marketing team? Why is it okay to tell young kids being fat = ugly? ??@ChloeGMoretz pic.twitter.com/PVhgwluGTM
— Tess Holliday ? (@Tess_Holliday) May 30, 2017
(15) LASSO THE STARS. BBC gives Wonder Woman 4 stars out of 5.
In Wonder Woman’s reimagining of the princess myth, Diana, Princess of the Amazons, leaps through the air deflecting bullets with her bracelets. She enters a formal reception with a sword tucked into the back of her evening dress. But she differs from conventional princesses and superheroes in an even more pointed way — one that speaks to today’s fraught global politics. While Batman is motivated by vengeance for his parents’deaths and Superman is dedicated to saving those in peril, Wonder Woman wants nothing less than world peace. All this in a crisply executed action movie with an engaging narrative, and, in Diana (Gal Gadot), as swift and strong a heroine as anyone could have wished for.
(16) THE BALLAD OF TOLKIEN. J.R.R. Tolkien’s work, later adapted into a piece of The Silmarillion, now published in its original form: “JRR Tolkien book Beren and Lúthien published after 100 years”
Beren and Lúthien has been described as a “very personal story” that the Oxford professor thought up after returning from the Battle of the Somme.
It was edited by his son Christopher Tolkien and contains versions of a tale that became part of The Silmarillion.
The book features illustrations by Alan Lee, who won an Academy Award for his work on Peter Jackson’s film trilogy.
(17) INSIDE BASEBALL. A post for SciFiNow.UK, “Raven Strategem author Yoon Ha Lee on how his spaceships became bags of holding”, jokes about the reason before revealing a disability has something to do with it.
Bags of Holding…in SPAAACE!
When I first realized I had to deal with starship layouts in the hexarchate, I had two choices. I could either sit down (probably with my long-suffering husband) and make a loving diagram of a ship and its layout, and refer to it assiduously every time I had someone go from point A to point B. Or I could say, “Screw it,” and not deal with the problem.
Dear reader, as you have no doubt figured out already, I went with the second option.
(18) EVEN DEEPER INSIDE BASEBALL. Hmmm…
Sometimes it's a horrible mistake to let ten-year-olds name their own baseball team. Then again, sometimes they crush it. pic.twitter.com/I1jgDqrPfp
— Kevin Guilfoile (@kevinguilfoile) April 10, 2017
(19) THE CURE. Cream by David Firth is a short animated film on YouTube about what happens when a miraculous product that solves all medical problems is introduced and the violent reaction against it.
[Thanks to Stephen Burridge, James Davis Nicoll, Gregory N. Hullender, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Aaron Pound, Dann, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]
The link for (17) doesn’t go to where it’s supposed to, but from the comments I get the gist.
I have … intermediate visualization skills. I don’t visualize stuff when I read. Which is one reason I think I can read so fast. No problem with comprehension, just no pictures. Read LotR a couple hundred times, had no pictures of hobbits or anyone else until the movies came out. So now I can picture the movie characters in the books.
I dream in vivid color and sound, and lucidly — if I wake to go to the potty, I can often pick right up where I left off when I go back to sleep.
Picking up a theme on LotR — the movies differed from the books in many ways, some good some bad. I actually liked the way Jackson handled Faramir. In the books, he was so pure and good he was never tempted by the Ring, even though Gandalf and Galadriel were. In the movie, his temptation is real, and his motivation to give his father something his brother couldn’t is right on point. Overcoming that temptation makes him a more heroic figure, in my mind.
A self-serving Meredith Moment — haven’t had a chance to see if anyone else has mentioned this. Work is crazy-busy today.
My publisher is doing a weekend ebook sale on lesbian historicals at $4.99 a pop and all three Alpennia books are included.
@Heather Rose Jones: Excellent! I’ll get a replacement for my bannanna’d copy of Daughter of Mystery, and get the sequels!
Visualizing things in my head is in the category of things I assumed everyone did, on the theory that I Am Normal, admittedly a deeply suspect concept. I was shocked when I first discovered otherwise–and then I had a blinding revelation.
These are the people say that you can’t think without language, because thought is words. They too think They Are Normal!
Techgrrl1972 on June 2, 2017 at 2:15 pm said:
I put in the link in a comment, near the top of the first page.
Or, you could do what I did: google spaceship and “bags of holding”
Techngrrl1972: Fixed now, I hope — https://www.scifinow.co.uk/interviews/raven-strategem-author-yoon-ha-lee-on-how-his-spaceships-became-bags-of-holding/
wrt visualization: one of the tests administered at Johnson O’Connor is for what they call “structural visualization” (although IME some forms of the test could be called structural analysis); unlike most of the tests (which look at the presence or absence of some aptitude), a low score in this test is read as a high score in “abstract visualization” — which is found in a majority of people tested. It’s arguable whether YHL’s “aphantasia” (or my very high score on the test) is in fact a disability; when I was paying attention to them, J O’C tended to treat this aptitude as either/or, with different work (not better/worse, just different) being a better fit depending on which way one scored. (Note that J O’C finds that most people do well on only a minority of the tests; this would make almost everyone “disabled” by some standard.) Now there are arguments (including in SF: see Brunner’s “See What I Mean!”) that a middle ground exists — and certainly Filers today have described a wider variety of effects than fit on a single axis. For example: I got the hypercube descriptions in “…And He Built A Crooked House” immediately, but don’t tend to make pictures of stories as I read. And I usually have a much better idea of where the car is (from landmarks) than my partner does — but on a recent cruise she invariably turned correctly out of the stairwell to our berth, while I was worse than random.
The whole scifinow.co.uk domain gives me blank pages no matter what I do. Possibly because I have something disabled in my browser or some security switch flipped the “wrong” way.
I know a lot of Filers like dragons, and a lot of Filers like books, so I bring link that should delight all. One of my favorite artists, Charles Urbach, has a glorious dragon-and-book picture available.
I’m fascinated by cognitive stuff like aphantasia. I’m more of a conceptualizer than a visualizer. I rarely dream, except when I have a fever and get wasted on Nyquil (not sure which one unlocks dreaming mode). I once went through a period of ill health where I was spending a lot of time inside talking on forums and I had a dream where I was “talking” in realtime to a squad of my favorite handles, and when I woke up I realized I didn’t even know the gender/race/age/etc of several of these people, yet I had no problem imagining us sitting around having a conversation, and that’s how I figured I was more about the concept sketches than the visual details.
I’m faceblind but I have several audio superpowers, including the ability to remember a melody for decades after hearing it once. However, I tend to ignore lyrics, and there are songs I’ve played (as musician) hundreds of times where I never bothered to learn the words.
As someone with slightly eccentric perception, I tend to get prickly when people start going on about The Correct Way To Perceive Art. You brain your way, I’ll brain my way. I suspect there are a whole lot more slider switches of which we are not presently aware as far as the whole imaginative experience goes.
I have problems visualizing things I read, and rarely get a visual image. I’m not completely face-blind, but I often have difficulty recognizing people out of context, and there are some people, like a lot of the contractors I see at work, that I seem to never remember their name, but they’ll be somewhat familiar looking.
One strange thing for me is that when I read something I know was written by David Dyer-Bennet, I hear him reading it aloud. I can’t think of anyone else for whom this happens to me, somehow his voice must be really distinctive to me.
I’ve always had a very vivid visual imagination. When I read fiction, I get a movie playing in my head. I know what the characters look like, what the setting looks like, etc… This can lead to odd situations, e.g. insisting that a character is black (because that’s what I see), when their race was never specified in the text.
When I’m writing, I also see the scene in my head. I see what the characters look like, what they’re wearing, what the settings looks like, I can hear the dialogue, etc… I usually replay a scene a few times in my head before writing it down. New story ideas also tend to show up in the form of snippets of scenes. If I’m lucky it’s the first scene.
What is more, I’m also heavily music synaesthetic. Regular music synaesthetics see colours, I see full movie scenes. It doesn’t work for every piece of music, there are pieces of music where I don’t see anything at all. This has lead to all sorts of problems, especially before I realised that not everybody experiences music the way I do. For example, my parents mistook my intense concentration when listening to music and also hushing them to be quiet, if there was a song I wanted to hear, for musical talent and signed me up for piano lessons. This was not such a great thing, for while I easily learned notes and was able to play decently, I don’t actually have much in the way of musical talent. What is more, I cannot tolerate music in the background, when I’m trying to concentrate on a task, because there are situations where you don’t want to be distracted by a space battle in your head, triggered by a random song on the radio. Coincidentally, I also didn’t get the point of music videos. The images were all wrong and never as good as the ones in my head anyway, so why did anybody want to watch those?
I’ve only ever met one person who had a similar music synaesthesia to mine. Unfortunately, that person was quite a bit older than me and had grown up in a different country on another continent, so comparing notes on what songs triggered what visuals was difficult, because we neither knew nor reacted to the same songs. We eventually compared notes on Beatles songs which we both knew and which triggered images for both of us. Unsurprisingly, they were different for both of us.
Oddly enough, I’ve never scored all that well on those “rotate an object in your head” tests. With faces, it’s complicated. Actors sometimes look familiar, even if I’ve only seen them in one film I didn’t particularly like a few years ago. On the other hand, if I run into people I vaguely know in a context where I don’t expect them, I can have problems recognising them.
Bruce A: One strange thing for me is that when I read something I know was written by David Dyer-Bennet, I hear him reading it aloud. I’ve never heard DDB read — but I remember reading a Bester piece after hearing him read, and hearing it very clearly in his voice. Very unsettling, as I was trying to calm myself for an audition, and Bester was not a calming reader. I can also hear Harlan’s voice by memory (he read …Langerhans… at Discon 2), but not necessarily when reading his work.
Heh. A quirk of this, reading people talking about visualizing characters…people ask if I’m going to draw my characters, and I have no interest in doing so, because there is no picture in my head trying to get out. Those characters are made of words! What is this picture silliness?
The irony here is that I have done cover work for authors who HAVE a picture in their heads, and it’s often a bloody nightmare because they expect me to be a telepath and pull that picture from their head. As a result, when another illustrator works on my books, I don’t even ask to see the proofs. “Are they good?” “Yes.” “Do you trust them?” “Yes.” “Then approve it.”
I’ve never been disappointed with this–you hired them because you thought they were a good fit, you know what sells books, I don’t WANT to muck about in there generating opinions just to seem involved. Let the artist work. They’re good at what they do, I’m good at what I do, let’s just get out of each other’s way.
Comics, I start with a sketch first, and then there’s a visual. Words, you’re lucky if I know what SPECIES they are.
ETA: Cora, I have the most useless synesthesia in the world–taste makes waveform shapes. There was a whole thing for awhile where some people were convinced that all great artists are synthesthetes and I’m like “OH YEAH? Well, this wine goes up in a swoop and then trails off in a jaggy bit, so HOW does that makes me a better painter?!” Bah, humbug.
I don’t know whether I’ve heard DDB read anything, I think I just found his voice so distinctive that I was reading stuff he wrote after being around him at some cons, I started hearing his voice while I read. I haven’t read anything by DDB recently, so it may no longer be so.
I visualize stuff I read, but because I read very rapidly, my visualizations tend to be rough sketches, with a lot of detail skipped over. (More precisely, the details I notice and visualize are semi-random.) For this reason, I find it very easy to handle adaptations–even when they don’t match the images I’d had in my head.
It’s amazing how differently different people’s minds can work. I bet the same is true for aliens.
Regarding visualizing characters, the odd thing about me is that I don’t have any problems with visual imagination…except when it comes to people/faces. I can visualize every inch of the settings of my stories. I know how the rooms of their houses are laid out. I know what the furniture is. I can see the Rotein River flowing by and know where the bridges are and what the skyline looks like on the other side.
But when I got the editorial comments back on Daughter of Mystery and my editor said, “I have no idea what any of these people look like” I realized that I didn’t either. I just don’t visualize people from the outside–I know them from the inside out. And I don’t doubt that this is connected in some way with my tendency toward face-blindness. (Once I seriously get to know someone as an individual, I can call their face to mind easily. But if I’ve only met someone casually, I won’t recognize them again.)
@ Bruce A: I’ve had several people tell me that I write exactly the way I talk, and that after having met me they then “hear” my voice when they read my posts.
OTOH, a good friend of mine says that he doesn’t “hear” text as speech in his head while reading at all, whereas I definitely do. (We’ve also agreed that this is probably one of the reasons he doesn’t like poetry.) If it’s not someone I know really well, it tends to be “generic male or female narrator”. Before I physically met my partner, I had a well-defined narrator voice for him in my head via our e-mails. Once we’d met, I could never hear that voice again — it had been replaced by his voice, which had a different pitch and a lot of different inflections.
@ Cora: Have you ever heard Mannheim Steamroller’s Earthrise/Return? I’d be very interested in hearing what images you get from it, because I’ve always thought of it as very cinematic in style. Warning — it’s about 9 minutes long.
Mike, thanks for fixing the link for (17) and you should credit lurkertype since they pointed it out in the very first comment.
I think the whole conversation about perceptions has been totally fascinating, and would be very productive for those who design learning experiences since it points out just how DIFFERENT people are inside their heads.
Sometimes I think it’s amazing we can agree on damn near anything when it comes to perceiving. “Whaddaya mean that leaf is ghorm? It’s clearly neener, you goof.”
I’m good with faces, but putting them to names is nigh-unto impossible. IMDB was a wonder to me when it started — I finally could get names for all those “Hey, It’s That Guy!” in movies and TV. And then promptly forget them again.
I’m good at visualizing stuff from books, except fight scenes and pew-pew scenes. Absolutely can’t figure out the details, which doesn’t matter much; I just skip ahead till I find out who won.
Movie/TV versions of characters do overwrite my original pictures from the books, unless they are so very VERY wrong. Like the aforementioned Hugh Berengar (First one was Sean Pertwee).
Lots of people think in pictures, not words. And of course animals do.
(19) Ah, Cream – that’s the Stuff. (A reference I suspect nobody will get.)
My mind seems to have very little middle ground between the categories of “complete stranger,” “familiar face,” and “person I know very well.” Only near the middle case do I remember anything like visual data that a sketch artist might find useful. I’ll recognize my best friend on sight, but if you asked me to describe him, I couldn’t do much better than “white male, dark hair, about my height, somewhat overweight” before resorting to his distinctive fashion habits. It’s as if my brain goes, “okay, now that we know this person, we don’t need to retain conscious information about his appearance.”
When writing, Heather’s experience of “from the inside out” is very familiar. Some key visuals will pop into my head as I’m writing a scene, and I usually figure that they must be important enough to merit a written description, but that’s more the exception than the rule. I have to make notes to remember what I’ve decided for a lot of character descriptions, just so I can be sure not to contradict any incidental details later. (That actually came in handy for plot purposes at one point. I realized that I’d given two characters in the same scene rather similar descriptions, so one of them commented on it. Turned out to reveal something about a third character in a way that advanced a subplot.)
I’m very visual (When people were talking here about visualizing a thing in their head and rotating it, my immediate example was a plastic toy tyrannosaurus rex, really easy to rotate mentally. I blame my elder son…). I find things pretty easily because when I try to visualize them I tend to get a mental picture of the object and its most recent surroundings. I can usually tell that I know a person if I see them, though I may (okay, WILL) struggle to identify the context or name if I see them elsewhere, and they aren’t a close friend.
But I did notice one lack, which I would call immediacy. I first noticed it when looking at ruins: the ruins themselves are so immediate I cannot do the thing that people talk about, of visualising what the building *was*. Then I realised it applied to how I deal with my friends, when they change a part of their appearance. I have friends who redo their hair pretty strongly several times a year, and after the first day or two of shock, I’ve absorbed the change and I would have to think hard to remember the *last* hairstyle, and even then mostly give it in verbal description. Unless visualizing a photograph I’ve seen of them. I’ll get the photo right, because the photo is still immediate. Prior data is often overwritten thus. I’m noticing it more now with two young kids, because the overwriting is more frequent. J.was never six months old; he always looked five, and will until he’s always looked six years old.
@Lenora: “I’m very visual”
Heh. Another reference I don’t expect anyone will get, but just in case…
Back in 1988, the comedian Gallagher did a Leap Year Marathon on one of the premium cable channels. It was a four-hour mostly-clip show (“It isn’t all night, but it’ll feel like it!”), but there were some new bits – including a recurring series of “Cold Realities” that I wish would be collected somewhere, because I’d love to see those again.
Aaaaanyway, one of the montages that still sticks in my mind highlighted his use of props, punctuated by a silly “He’s so visual!” snippet. To this day, whenever I hear/read/think the words “so visual” – well, that’s what I hear in my head.
The inside of my skull is a bizarre place. 🙂
How droll. This series has been the reverse Jeffro.
@tofu – interesting that tofu is a generally bland, not very nutritious food that takes its flavor from what it’s soaked in.
@(dammit, too complicated to look up your comment on my phone) – I agree re Boromir and several SoIaF characters coming off more sympathetic on screen.
I just started Infomocracy. I am finding it much better written than her shorter fiction. Around chapter 3 or 4 it started reminding me of TLtL, which pulled both books up by my estimation.
Before that was the second October Daye, which rests somewhere between “Talented Teenage Author” and “Never Again the Urban Fantasy.”
@ kathodus: This has been said before, but it’s worth saying again. The Toby Daye books don’t really hit their stride until the third book, so if you’re blowing it off based on the first two you’re making a mistake.
Yeah, the third one is where it starts to pay off. It’s way better. And freakin’ scary.
Been reading Campbell submissions. Laurie Penny has some disturbing stuff.
I’ve just finished Toby Daye #3 and yeah, it’s such an enormous step up from #2. I still have issues, particularly with how tolerant Toby is of people giving her the mushroom treatment for plot purposes, and I can see the invisible hand of the author a bit too easily for my liking, but I can now see why people like the series so much. However, I think that it hits too many of the things that I, personally, don’t get on with in modern UF, so it’s going on the “maybe later” pile. I think my next up is Infomocracy, interspersed with some more of the BRW candidates. The idea of comparisons with TLTL are interesting.
By chance I read Infomocracy immediately after Too Like The Lightning last year, so it seemed natural to compare them as I read. I think the effect for me was to enhance my sense of the unique ambition and oddness of TLTL. Infomocracy was interesting and very good, but relatively focused and conventional.
Too busy catching up to do much more than check the box.
I’m not great at visualizing books I read. I always thought that was a weird failing of mine considering I’m an SFF fan. Huh, maybe not so much, or at least not so unusual!