Pixel Scroll 6/26/16 You Oughtta Be In Pixels

(1) A VIKING LOOKS FOR MARTIANS. Joel Achenbach has a piece in the Washington Post about the 40th anniversary of the Mars Viking mission.

They had placed three science experiments on board the Viking 1 lander, each of which would analyze Martian soil for signs of microbes. The lander also featured two cameras, which were life-detection instruments in their own right. A single image might solve the ancient mystery of extraterrestrial life. No one could completely rule out the possibility that a Martian creature might go hopping by.

Sf author Gentry Lee, who said he “spent seven years averaging 60 hours a week on Viking,” is interviewed in depth.  There are also Carl Sagan references; he wanted the Viking landers to have external lights “because Martian creatures might be attracted to it.”

(2) LIMERICK WRITER. On Saturday, Nigel Quinlan was at an event commemorating Irish Gothic and ghost story writer Joseph Sheridan LeFanu’s connection to Co Limerick, where Quinlan grew up. He wrote about it in “Me, Murroe, And LeFanu”.

Quinlan adds, “In the interests of helping pronunciation, the title can be sung to the refrain of ‘Me and you and a dog named Boo.’ There are a lot of images and nostalgia and possibly a mild mid-life crisis.”

From 1856 until his death in 1873 he lived in Merrion Square. I, er, used to eat my lunch in Merrion Square a lot. (I was working In Fred Hanna’s Bookshop on Nassau Street. A brisk hike to get to the Square and back at lunch hour, but worth it.) His reclusive habits and night-owl work hours earned him the nickname ‘The Invisible Prince.’ I don’t think my brisk hiking to the Square and back for my lunch hour earned me a nickname. That I know of….

(3) PROTEST VOTE. So does this imply there will be a Chuxit voting bloc for the Hugos? Well, Chuck can count on J.K. Rowling’s support in any case.


(4) FLIPPER. Jim C. Hines continues to experiment with gender-swapping sf/f clichés in “If We Wrote Men Like We Write Women (Part I)” and “If We Wrote Men Like We Write Women (Part II)”. The posts, says Rose Embolism, “take a look at the gendered, and quite frankly creepy way women are often portrayed in classic SF and Fantasy.”

Along the way, Hines sparked a long and vigorous Metafilter conversation with classic comments like this one from “Eyebrows McGee.”

My life will be complete the day that I read in a high fantasy novel — in place of, “She felt her breasts bouncing underneath her tunic as she hurried across the courtyard” or whatever, where a female character spends the whole walk thinking about her own boobs for no reason — a male character walking across a courtyard thinking to himself, “He felt his testicles jostling in his codpiece as he hurried across the courtyard.”

“It must be cooler weather than I realized,” he thought to himself, “they’re awfully small and high up today …”

(5) WHY INDIE AUTHORS AREN’T GETTING RICH. At Mad Genius Club, Fynbospress curates a fascinating collection of graphs and quotes from Data Guy about the May Author Earnings report.

A breakdown on why there aren’t more indie authors making a living:

Americans spend about $15 billion a year on trade books of all formats. After retailers and publishers take their cut, at most $3 billion actually lands in author pockets. Divided up perfectly evenly, that $3 billion could theoretically support 60,000 authors at the $50,000 level…

But instead, it’s getting divided up among at least 1,000,000 authors, if not more… including the estates and heirs of deceased authors. (I can see at least a million author names in our Amazon ebook data and top-selling Amazon print-book data, and that doesn’t even start to include the 32 million(!) lower-selling print book titles listed on Amazon right now, whose sales are too low to be captured in one of our scrapings.).

But lets imagine that there were only a million authors sharing the $3 billion right now. Which is an average of $3,000 each, if it were evenly distributed — but of course, it isn’t evenly distributed. Not even close.

The numbers are eye-opening, however, Fynbospress warns against drawing certain types of conclusions about them:

The fixed-pie fallacy is a fallacy. There is no fixed amount of wealth in the system. Becoming a bestseller will not force someone else off “The List” and into poverty. Indie publishing has no limit to the number of its publishing slots, and publishing your book will never mean that somebody else “can’t get a publishing slot.” Selling a copy of your book to a reader doesn’t mean that somebody else just lost their turn to sell a book.

(6) FILE SEVENTY-FIVE. Ann Patchett’s choices for “The 75 Best Books of the Past 75 Years” for Parade has more sf/f than you might expect. The choices for the 1950s – Bradbury and Asimov, E.B. White and T.H White. For the 1960s – Vonnegut and Madeleine L’Engle. After that the picks seem surprising or highly idiosyncratic.

(7) GAIMAN INTERVIEW. The LA Times’ Tyler Malone talks with “Neil Gaiman on making art, mistakes and his ‘View from the Cheap Seats’”.

In “Credo,” which opens the first section of the book, you write, “I believe I have the right to think and say the wrong things.” Do you find that in today’s society — especially because of social media and the 24-hour news cycle — that we don’t let people be wrong enough?

What I tend to see happening more and more is people retreating into their own corners. People seem scared to get things wrong or be shouted at so they form villages in which they agree with every other member, and maybe they go out and shout at the people in the next village for fun, but there’s no interchange of ideas going on. I think we have to encourage the idea that you’re allowed to think things. I have thought a great many stupid things over the years, and I can tell you that there’s not one stupid thing that I ever thought where I changed my mind because someone shouted at me or threatened to kill me. On the other hand, having great discussions with good friends, possibly over a drink, has definitely changed my mind and made me try to do better. You’re allowed to do better, but we have to let people do better.

(8) THEY WERE EXPENDABLE. My fashion consultant, Mr. J.K. Tarpinian, says, “This would look good under a sport coat for anybody going to the Hugos.”

Red Shirt ale shirt

Okay, as long as I get a bottle of the stuff, too.


  • June 26, 1904 — Peter Lorre.

Observes John King Tarpinian, “Here is an actor who lives on because of his vocal styling.  How many times in animation is the creepy guys voice an imitation of Lorre? Same goes for a cartoon monster being Karloff.”

(10) POP-UP POTTER. “We MUST GET to this incredible ‘Harry Potter’ pop-up store” declares Yahoo! News.

If you’re a fan of the Harry Potter movies (um, who isn’t?), you’ve probably noticed that the world is wonderfully detailed, right down to every sign, map, newspaper, and storefront. Those intricate elements are the vision of graphic designers, Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima, who met back in 2001 on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. 

They became great friends and collaborators, and we’re proud to announce that these two designers now have their own pop-up shop in London! It’s called House of MinaLima, and it includes exclusive Harry Potter art prints and awesome HP stationery.


(11) STUNT DOUBLE. John King Tarpinian asks, “I wonder if they use this for the Batmobile?” — “This is how car commercials are filmed without the actual car”.

Car commercials do an excellent job of making vehicles look almost too good to be true. As it turns out, they probably are… at least, if the Blackbird is involved.

The Blackbird is a visual effects stand-in for vehicles featured in commercials and movies. As Gizmag notes, its wheelbase, width, suspension travel and even engine response can be dialed in to match nearly any production vehicle while its onboard 360-degree cameras are used to create perfect reflections when the actual car body is overlaid in post-production.

Why go through all that trouble? Why not film the actual car being marketed in the commercial?

Auto commercials are often shot before the vehicle has even been manufactured. As such, some small visual details might not have been decided on yet so with CGI, you can add those in with ease. What’s more, auto makers typically keep the details of their new cars a closely guarded secret. Filming with something like the Blackbird gives the auto paparazzi nothing but a set of wheels to go on.


[Thanks to Rose Embolism, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, and Chip Hitchcock. for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jim Henley.]

64 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 6/26/16 You Oughtta Be In Pixels

  1. > “A double dose of ellipsis, right in front of the internet and everyone.”

    I am shameless.

    > “… if you want a break from Brexit and whatnot, check out this mornings SCOTUS rulings.”

    That is some welcome news!!!

    Anyhow, since I had a lot of time on planes, I have a bunch of minireviews coming up, when I get around to them.

  2. @Microtherion amd @Ita
    I enjoyed “And You Shall Know Her By the Trail of Dead” a whole lot and it currently has the top spot on my novelette ballot (Haven’t yet read Folding Beijing). But then I have never had a problem with swearing and besides, it is appropriate to the character.

    Got some more Hugo reading on the novellas and novelettes done today in the hospital waiting room (no, I’m not ill and neither is anybody from my family – I was there to accompany one of my students, a refugee from Mali), but so far my preliminary rankings haven’t changed.

  3. This is my take: the world is full of people who know things I should but don’t, and many of them are very willing to help out. I can say “Hey, I’m working on a recent-historical zombie story set in the area I grew up. I’ve been reading about gang activity in the first half of the ’80s, and X and Y both seem well-researched and carefully thought, but there are big disagreements about points 1 and 2. Can someone help me sort this out?” and then later “I’ve written a scene-setting chapter, and I know that I screwed up something, just not which bit. If you want to show me which, I’d welcome a courteous beta reading.”, and people will be glad to help. Likewise if I want to write an urban fantasy set in 12th century Byzantium, or the prose equivalent of a wire fu story in that stretch where Rome and China got within a couple hundred miles of each others’ borders, or what have you.

    (Red Wombat just recently gave me a ton of info on West Coast gardening and related matters, which has been great fun to assimilate slowly.)

    It’s very seldom necessary to go risk being offensively stupid to the general public, thanks to this amazing phenomenon. Comedians can test jokes in small venues. Fantasists can check with people who know real-world things the fantasists don’t, at every step from planning and research to final draft.

    Also, as Heather noted, lots of people have never had that freedom to be clueless and oblivious in public. It’s been a literal death sentence far too often, and the source of much major and minor misery short of that. If Gaiman feels kind of inconvenienced, well, welcome to life as it’s always been for most.

  4. Poor me I can’t read Gaiman complaining because I’ve passed my free reading limit at the LA Times this month. Unfortunately this also means I can’t read up on the rally gone badly wrong yesterday either leading to knife stabbing sand other injuries. I’m too cheap to pay for my news.

  5. Tasha Turner: I can’t read Gaiman complaining because I’ve passed my free reading limit at the LA Times this month

    I always run into that problem at some point, too. Makes it hard to choose LA Times stuff for the Scroll if I can’t see it, and makes it somewhat pointless if others can’t see it….

  6. @Mike Glyer
    This is the first time in a while I’ve been cut off. I’m not much of a news reader – it’s too depressing. But so much was happening this month I’ve been keeping up with things for a change.

  7. Tasha Turner on June 27, 2016 at 7:23 pm said:
    I read about the rally at SFGate, which is the Chron’s free site (as opposed to the paid site, where you get the actual newspaper news). SFGate doesn’t cover everything, and sometimes it’s late news, but it doesn’t have that ridiculous five-stories-per-month limit.

  8. Yay Kyra!

    As for the indie books…webcomics went through a miniature version of this years ago, practically note for note. In the end, a few people made a lot of money, a lot of people made a little money, and most people eventually gave up and did something else with their time. The ones who made it branched out, did ten things at once, sold merch, and generally found ways to get their fans to pay them to keep making cool stuff.

    I suspect we’ll see that with indie books (and are already seeing it!) There’s also a new niche being carved out, I think, for the General Creative Maker-of-Cool-Stuff. Which is interesting, but hinges on a relentless productivity that’s not easy to keep up.

  9. @Tasha, @Mike: have you tried switching to an incognito window on Chrome (or equivalent on your preferred browser if that’s not it)? I know that works for some paywall limits but I haven’t tried on the site in question.

  10. Re paywalls. Clearing your browser history will generally remove the tracking cookie sites use to determine how many times you’ve visited a site. I use that trick to read my local newspaper.

  11. Re: paywalls
    Load multiple browsers on your device. I’ve got IE, Chrome and Firefox on my work and home computers. Chrome is my default browser, but the others come in handy when I hit the free story limit.

  12. I’ve been aware there are workarounds to paywalls forever. There are workarounds to everything. Each of us draws our own ethical lines as well as how much effort we will go through instead of paying for a service. Thanks for all the advice.

Comments are closed.