Pixel Scroll 7/9/23 Most Of Us Agree That Everyone Knows That Bacon Holds The Pixels Together

(1) HOW THE BESTSELLER LIST IS WON. Several authors responded to Sarah Pinborough’s question about whether certain kinds of sales affect the UK bestseller lists.

(2) THE FUTURE IS NOW. “’It’s not climate change, it’s everything change’: sci-fi authors take on the global crisis” in the Guardian.

… a new generation of writers now believes it is impossible to write “near future” sci-fi without putting the climate emergency at the forefront of their speculative fiction. For many, this is because they are living through the crisis and can imagine all too easily what may happen if real-life behaviour doesn’t change….

[EJ Swift says] “Climate breakdown is escalating so rapidly that events which 10 years ago might have seemed like the distant future are happening now. Everything is filtered through that lens – even when it’s not the main focus, climate anxiety is there in the periphery.”

Other recent books dealing with the devastation to the climate include Kate Sawyer’s The Stranding, which begins with the striking image of two strangers sheltering in the mouth of a dead, beached whale as a calamitous extinction event hits the world, Susannah Wise’s This Fragile Earth, in which the complete failure of all technology brings into focus our uneasy relationship with nature, and Sarah K Jackson’s Not Alone, about a mother and son surviving in the aftermath of a microplastics storm that has decimated the population.

The science fiction writer Adrian Tchaikovsky, known for his huge, widescreen space opera novels set in distant galaxies, is turning his attention to the climate crisis next year with a horror novella called Saturation Point….

(3) PARSING THE 2023 HUGO BALLOT. John Scalzi shares insights “about why the Hugos are the way they are these days: Why Tor seems to get a lot of nominations, for example, and why diverse groups are represented in the finalist list as they are, and whether the Hugo voters are an insular and monolith bloc” in “Hugo Neepery, Via Reddit” at Whatever.

… If you are wondering how marginalized groups have started to become widely represented in SF/F awards (as they are not just in the Hugos, but also the Nebulas, the Locus and the World Fantasy Awards) there are three factors I want you to consider. The first is the (relative) decline of the “Big Three” short fiction magazines in SF/F (Asimov’s, Analog, F&SF) and the commensurate rise of a series of online short fiction publishing venues like Uncanny, Clarkesworld and Strange Horizons (among others). The Big Three ran on Silent, Boomer and Elder GenX writers, and the market forces for the genre those writers came up in was heavily cis and white and male. The newer venues, by inclination and necessity, cultivated younger generations of writers from more diverse backgrounds. When the Big Three declined and the online magazines rose, their respective stables of authors more or less rose or declined with them, in terms of award consideration.

The second thing to consider is who is buying science fiction and fantasy, both in the magazine and in the publishing houses. Surprise! The editorial stratum of SF/F/H is not the straight, white and (predominately but not exclusively) male enclave it was before; the editorial bench of SF/F/H publishing (and publishing generally) is much more queer and of color than it has been in years past. They are interested in publishing more than just the “usual suspects” in SF/F/H as defined by previous decades and — this is important — the diverse SF/F/H they are acquiring is selling very well. This will naturally have an impact on what is considered at awards time.

The third thing to consider with respect to the Hugos specifically is that close to a decade ago a group of right-wing fans and writers, alarmed by what they saw as left-wing, SJW, politically-correct, etc work creeping into the awards, decided to try to run slates of work to counter that trend. This did not go well, in no small part because their tactics energized a very large group of fandom to counter their actions, including a significant number of more progressive Hugo voters. When the “takeover” of the Hugos failed, most of these right-wing folks flounced from the Hugo voting pool; some of the more progressive voters stayed and continue to vote today. This is reflected in what gets nominated and thus, what eventually becomes a finalist….

(4) CAN YOU BLAME HIS PARENTS? “Calvin and Hobbes’ Creator Already Answered Fans’ Darkest Question” claims MSN.com. The comic’s creator Bill Watterson gave an unexpectedly deep answer to an interviewer.

…WEST: The parents are really an interesting part of the strip. In a way they’re foils, but the thing that interests me is that it’s extremely rare for them to express any love for Calvin. Is that simply because it doesn’t have any comic potential, or is it something inherent in their characters?

WATTERSON: Again, I feel like I’m falling into the trap of psychoanalyzing the characters and I don’t want to say, “Well, this character acts this way,” because that’s confining. I think the way they relate to Calvin is more a reflection of my misanthropic tendencies than any literary concern.

Many strips have, you know, the funny character, the straight man, the foil — those characters are stereotypes and fairly flat. The role of these characters in the strip is entirely defined by their function as a member of a social group or age group, or whatever, and I’m trying to avoid that as much as I possibly can. I try to make each character, even the ones that aren’t that important, a unique personality that, over time, will develop. Some of the minor characters appear less often than Calvin and Hobbes, but, hopefully, over years, each one will become a unique personality that will be every bit as complex and interesting as Calvin and Hobbes.

In other words, I don’t want the parents to simply function as parents. I want them to be unique individuals as well. They are parents, of course, and, as sane people, they have to react to Calvin’s personality. What I try to do in writing any character is to put myself in his position, to the extent that I can, and I know that if I was Calvin’s dad or Calvin’s mom that I would not react to him with the gooey sentimentality that sometimes appears in other strips. Given Calvin’s usual behavior, I think his parents show admirable restraint in theirs….

(5) IT MIGHT HAPPEN. “Neil Gaiman Adapting Samuel R. Delany’s Nova as a Series” reports CBR.com.

…The report comes from a New Yorker profile on the 81-year-old Delany, which mentioned that Gaiman was adapting Nova for a Prime Video series. Gaiman was briefly interviewed for the article, and called Delany a profound influence whose work inspired him to attempt a similar sophisticated tone in his comics such as The Sandman. “I was used to very functional prose,” Gaiman said, calling the author by his nickname Chip. “Chip felt like I’d taken a step into poetry… There was no limit to how good you could be in your chosen area.” Prime Video has not yet confirmed a Nova series at this time….

(6) SUPERMAN. Animation World Network reports “‘My Adventures with Superman’ Episode 1 Now on YouTube”.  

Adult Swim has released the first full episode of My Adventures with Superman on YouTube – or you can watch it below. The series, which features Jack Quaid as Clark Kent, Alice Lee as Lois Lane, and Ishmel Sahid as Jimmy Olsen, is Warner Bros. Animation and DC’s newest animated series. The first two episodes are now streaming on Max. One new episode will debut every Thursday at midnight on Adult Swim and the next day on Max. It is unknown if future episodes will hit YouTube as well.

A serialized coming-of-age story, My Adventures with Superman follows 20-somethings Clark Kent, the bright and driven Lois Lane, and their best friend Jimmy Olsen as they begin to discover who they are and everything they can accomplish together as an investigative reporting team at the Daily Planet….


2010 [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

South Africa is one of those countries just starting to get known for its genre fiction. Though it goes back a century in terms of a history of science fiction being created there, that fiction like the greater culture there has been irretrievably changed by Apartheid and the novel Mike has chosen this time is one of those works. 

Lauren Beukes is our author this time, she’s written six novels including the forthcoming Bridges, some of which are SF, some of which are mysteries. 

Great mysteries too though the cringe factor is really high in them. Blood and gore everywhere. Now the SF she has written is first rate — imaginative storytelling that is noticeably different has it is, well, rooted in South African history and culture. One most of us aren’t familiar with. 

Zoo City was published in trade paper thirteen years ago by Umuzi / Random House Struik. The cover art is by Joey Hi- Fi.  It would win both a Clarke Award and a Kitschie, and be nominated for a BSFA, Otherwise, and a World Fantasy Award.

And now for our Beginning…

In Zoo City, it’s impolite to ask. 

Morning light the sulfur color of the mine dumps seeps across Johannesburg’s skyline and sears through my window. My own personal bat signal. Or a reminder that I really need to get curtains. 

Shielding my eyes—morning has broken and there’s no picking up the pieces—I yank back the sheet and peel out of bed. Benoît doesn’t so much as stir, with only his calloused feet sticking out from under the duvet like knots of driftwood. Feet like that, they tell a story. They say he walked all the way from Kinshasa with his Mongoose strapped to his chest. 

The Mongoose in question is curled up like a furry comma on my laptop, the glow of the LED throbbing under his nose. Like he doesn’t know that my computer is out of bounds. Let’s just say I’m precious about my work. Let’s just say it’s not entirely legal.

I take hold of the laptop on either side and gently tilt it over the edge of my desk. At thirty degrees, the Mongoose starts sliding down the front of the laptop. He wakes with a start, tiki tavi claws scrabbling for purchase. As he starts to fall, he contorts in the air and manages to land feet first. Hunching his stripy shoulders, he hisses at me, teeth bared. I hiss back. The Mongoose realizes he has urgent flea bites to attend to. 

Leaving the Mongoose to scrolf at its flank, I duck under one of the loops of rope hanging from the ceiling, the closest I can get to providing authentic Amazon jungle vines, and pad over the rotten linoleum to the cupboard. Calling it a cupboard is a tad optimistic, like calling this dank room with its precariously canted floor and intermittent plumbing an apartment is optimistic. The cupboard is not much more than an open box with a piece of fabric pinned across it to keep the dust off my clothes—and Sloth, of course. As I pull back the gaudy sunflower print, Sloth blinks up at me sleepily from his roost, like a misshapen fur coat between the wire hangers. He’s not good at mornings.


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 9, 1906 Walter Sande. He’s best remembered for being on Red Planet MarsThe War of the Worlds and Invaders from Mars, but he also showed up playing a heavy in such serials as The Green Hornet Strikes Again! and Sky Raiders, the latter being at least genre adjacent. He’s had a recurring role as Col. Crockett on The Wild Wild West, and one-offs on Voyage to the Bottom of The SeaThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.Lost in Space and Bewitched. (Died 1971.)
  • Born July 9, 1911 Mervyn Peake. Best remembered for the Gormenghast series which is quite delightfully weird. Most fans hold that there are but three novels in the series (Titus GroanGormenghast and Titus Alone) though there’s a novella, “Boy in Darkness”, that is a part of it. Peake planned a fourth book, Titus Awakes, but it was barely begun when he died. Maeve Gilmore, Peake’s widow, wrote the manuscript of a version titled Search Without End which remained unpublished until decades after her death. It incorporates a fragmentary text written by Peake. The Gormenghast series has been adapted for radio three times and television once, and it was announced in 2018 that Gaiman is writing the script for an adaptation. (Died 1968.)
  • Born July 9, 1944 Glen Cook, 79. Yes, I’ve read his entire excellent Black Company series. I’ve also mostly liked his far lighter Garrett P.I. series (though not the last novel for reasons I’ll not discuss here) which it seems unfortunately he’s abandoned. And I really should read the Instrumentalities of the Night as I’ve heard good things about it. I’m really, really surprised not only that he hasn’t won any awards, but how few he’s been nominated for.
  • Born July 9, 1945 Dean Koontz, 78. The genres of of mystery, horror, fantasy and science fiction are all home to him. Author of over a hundred novels, his first novel was SF — it being Star Quest (not in print) published as an Ace Double with Doom of the Green Planet by Emil Petaja. ISFDB claims over half of his output is genre, I’d say that a low estimate. 
  • Born July 9, 1954 Ellen Klages, 69. Her story “Basement Magic” won a Nebula Award for Best Novelette. I strongly recommend Portable Childhoods, a collection of her short fiction, published by Tachyon Publications, my favorite publisher of fantasy. They released another collection from her, Wicked Wonders, which is equally wonderful. Passing Strange, her novel set in 1940s San Francisco, which won a BSFA Award and a World Fantasy Award, is also really great. Ok, I really like her.
  • Born July 9, 1970 Ekaterina Sedia, 53. Her Heart of Iron novel which was nominated for a Sidewise Award for Alternate History is simply awesome. I’d also recommend The Secret History of Moscow and the recent The House of Discarded Dreams as well, the latter is a fantastic audio work which is narrated by Robin Miles. It’s worth noting that the usual suspects list several collections by her, Willful Impropriety: 13 Tales of Society, Scandal, and Romance and Wilfill Impropriety that ISFDB doesn’t list. They’re quite superb it turns out as is Paper Cities: An Anthology of Urban Fantasy for which she won a World Fantasy Award. She had a story out just last year, “Ghost Shop”, in Professor Charlatan Bardot’s Travel Anthology to the Most (Fictional) Haunted Buildings in the Weird, Wild World.  She’s amply stocked at the usual suspects. She’s also very deeply stocked at the audio suspects as well which sort of surprised and delighted me as I’ve added a number of her works to my To Be Listened to list, including The House of Discarded Dreams which sounds really fascinating in the manner of Gaiman’s Sandman.


  • JumpStart involves some surprisingly early memories of Isaac Asimov.
  • Herman shows aliens getting their own first encounter.
  • Six Chix has a cool librarian joke.

(10) BEWARE THE BLINDING LIGHT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] No, not the blinding light of atomic explosions in the Oppenheimer biopic, but the blinding light of full nudity, at least one sex scene, and an on-again-off-again love triangle. All involving Oppenheimer himself. 

One guesses this may be how the flick gained its R rating. Which doesn’t mean those things were inserted just for titillation, apparently they are true to his complicated story. “It Appears The R-Rated ‘Oppenheimer’ Will Be The Sauciest Movie The Decidedly Un-Saucy Christopher Nolan Has Ever Made” at Uproxx.

Christopher Nolan movies do love — sometimes. Memento and Inception feature dead wives who haunt their heroes. There’s a tragic love triangle in The Dark Knight and a tragic love quadrangle in The Prestige. That’s it! What he doesn’t do is sex and/or nudity. Oppenheimer, his forthcoming film about the “father of the atomic bomb,” is going to change that. If you thought the film’s R-rating — Nolan’s first since 2002’s Insomnia — was due to graphic A-bomb carnage…well, you may be right about that. But it’s also because there’s apparently a fair amount of kink….

(11) TAKE A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE. Tour the wild animal bridge inspired by the life of P-22, the fabled mountain lion of Griffith Park. NBC Los Angeles invites you to “Take a free tour of the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing”.

… This celebrated span, in short, will do an immeasurable amount of good for an incredible number of critters that both roam and home in the area.

That important education? It comes courtesy of the National Wildlife Federation’s #SaveLACougers campaign, which is shedding an informative light on the upcoming Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing via several docent-helmed tours at the Agoura Hills site.

The under-construction skyway, or “wildway” if you prefer, will allow animals to move safely above the 101 freeway, significantly (and safely) expanding their frontiers.

And while the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing, which broke ground in the spring of 2022, still has a ways to go before the jubilant ribbon-cutting, supporters of urban wildlife can take a look at the progress now and find out more about the bridge’s development and progress….

(12) SHIFTING GEARS. This is a good time to revisit the question “What Is the Antikythera Mechanism, the World’s First Computer?” Smithsonian Magazine answers it in this 2015 article.

After 2,000 years under the sea, three flat, misshapen pieces of bronze at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens are all shades of green, from emerald to forest. From a distance, they look like rocks with patches of mold. Get closer, though, and the sight is stunning. Crammed inside, obscured by corrosion, are traces of technology that appear utterly modern: gears with neat triangular teeth (just like the inside of a clock) and a ring divided into degrees (like the protractor you used in school). Nothing else like this has ever been discovered from antiquity. Nothing as sophisticated, or even close, appears again for more than a thousand years.

For decades after divers retrieved these scraps from the Antikythera wreck from 1900 to 1901, scholars were unable to make sense of them. X-ray imaging in the 1970s and 1990s revealed that the device must have replicated the motions of the heavens. Holding it in your hands, you could track the paths of the Sun, Moon and planets with impressive accuracy. One investigator dubbed it “an ancient Greek computer.” But the X-ray images were difficult to interpret, so mainstream historians ignored the artifact even as it was championed by fringe writers such as Erich von Däniken, who claimed it came from an alien spaceship. It wasn’t until 2006 that the Antikythera mechanism captured broader attention. That year, Mike Edmunds of Cardiff University in Wales and his team published CT scans of the fragments, revealing more details of the inner workings, as well as hidden inscriptions—and triggering a burst of scholarly research…. 

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Smoking Causes Coughing” is French comedy with 50’s sf flair.

After a devastating battle against a diabolical turtle, a team of five avengers – known as the TOBACCO FORCE – is sent on a mandatory retreat to strengthen their decaying group cohesion. Their break goes wonderfully well until Lézardin, Emperor of Evil, decides to annihilate planet Earth… But will they repair their relationship in time for a final epic battle?

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Ersatz Culture, Daniel Dern, 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 SocialInjusticeWorrier.]

49 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 7/9/23 Most Of Us Agree That Everyone Knows That Bacon Holds The Pixels Together

  1. 8) I regret not retaining an early edition of a Koontz guide to writing pop fic for profit which ISTR included chapters on writing nurse novels, and paperback porn. I understand Koontz has tried to distance himself from the porn chapter in particular, more or less pretending he didn’t used to do that stuff.

  2. Well, I guess if porn is important to you, you’d want him to get credit for it.

  3. (3) Trouble is, on the other hand, that there is some bias. My own annoyance is that P. Djelli Clark didn’t win twice… but – I hate to say this – is the best writing right now only by women? And has anyone actually done a survey of who reads and buys sf?
    Birthdays: Ekaterina Sedia – I agree, The Secret History of Moscow is brilliant.
    (13) Um, er, for some reason, I am suddenly reminded of… I think it was Ultraman. There was this episode, where they first get turned into heroes (“we need gadget watches”, and “Mermaid? what’s the power of a mermaid”), where they need to fight this giant lobster that’s making dreadful singing commercials….

  4. (8) Ellen Klages’ Wakulla Springs (with Andy Duncan) is also very good

  5. Michael, there is no chapter on porn. So stop saying there is.

    I just grabbed a bootleg copy of it and here is the only reference to porn: “ Like many writers, I did some pornography, too, and a variety of other things, none of which required me to commit my heart or my soul to the task.”

  6. And mark asks Trouble is, on the other hand, that there is some bias. My own annoyance is that P. Djelli Clark didn’t win twice… but – I hate to say this – is the best writing right now only by women? And has anyone actually done a survey of who reads and buys sf?

    Is the best writing right now only by women? Of course it is. What a silly question. Why do you ask?

    I’ve seen some academic studies on who purchases and reads genre fiction. I even think that Mike has featured some of them here.

  7. (8) I hope Dean Koontz got to pet lots of dogs on his birthday.

    I checked Koontz’s “Writing Popular Fiction” out of the library a couple of times. It’s dated, but I wish I had my own copy. (I do still have my beaten-up copy of his “How to Write Best-Selling Fiction.”)

  8. (8) I have very fond memories of Koontz’s 70s novel A Werewolf Among Us, which despite its title is SF/mystery, and Watchers from the 80s, which is SF/horror. Read a couple of his other novels which I thought were just okay, wasn’t really inspired to pick up any of his others.

    ETA: the latter has a Very Good Dog.

  9. Borders in its day stocked Koontz really, really deep. Mostly mass market paperbacks, but a smatter of hardcovers as well.

    I knew the book purchaser for them (she how holds the same position at the Books-A-Million that replaced them) and she said that he was very popular among their shoppers who read Stephen King.

  10. @PhilRM–Of course the werewolf book has a Very Good Dog. Koontz would not allow it to be otherwise.


    …but – I hate to say this – is the best writing right now only by women?

    Excuse me while this Boomer woman who started reading sf practically in the cradle explodes in gleeful, malicious laughter. You can cope, mark. I and an awful lot of women and girls did, for a long, long, long time.

    And has anyone actually done a survey of who reads and buys sf?

    Um. You know sf is a big part of popular fiction now, right? And that all the major publishers are really, really interested in knowing who the market is? And that they have budgets for checking out the answer, and any evolving changes to the answer, to that question, right?

    Yes, there have been quite a few surveys on that over the last couple decades.

    (11) This is a wonderful tribute to a great “lesser cat.” (That’s all the cats that purr, rather than roar.0

    (7) The only Lauren Beukes book I’ve read, Broken Monsters, is a mystery, police procedural well mixed with horror, set in Detroit. Very well done, but, horror, so I didn’t see out more.

  11. @Lis: No, it’s Watchers that has the Very Good Dog (really, the Very Very Good Dog). I don’t think there are any dogs in Werewolf – it’s not set on Earth.

  12. @PhilRM–

    @Lis: No, it’s Watchers that has the Very Good Dog (really, the Very Very Good Dog). I don’t think there are any dogs in Werewolf – it’s not set on Earth.

    Ah! Sorry, I misread.

    But of course if there is a dog, it’s a Very Good Dog.

  13. Cat says, “Michael, there is no chapter on porn. So stop saying there is.”
    Well, I did say ISTR for a reason. Thanks for checking, Cat.

  14. “ Excuse me while this Boomer woman who started reading sf practically in the cradle explodes in gleeful, malicious laughter. You can cope, mark. I and an awful lot of women and girls did, for a long, long, long time.”

    I find it ironic (in a good way) that one outcome of the Puppy fiasco has been an increased diversity of creators & their works featuring in the Hugo awards.

    (7) MEMORY LANE.
    I recently finished watching “The Shining Girls” which was adapted from the Lauren Beukes novel. It’s a bit of a slow burner but Elisabeth Moss is superb in it & I really enjoyed the way it was adapted.

    “If you tape Bacon to a Pixel Scroll Does it Always Fall Bacon Side Down?”

  16. RE: Bernard Herrmann, there are so many, and so many varied genres, it’s hard to pick out just a few. Look up his list. It’s worthwhile. The Hitchcock films were nice, but so were the fantasy and science fiction, as well as the other genres.

    Several of my personal favorites are “Day the Earth Stood Still,” “7th Voyage of Sinbad,” “Jason and the Argonauts,” “Journey to the Center of the Earth” among the SF & Fantasy.

    There’s also a biography out on him, titled, “A Heart at Fire’s Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann” by Steven C Smith,
    ISBN ISBN-13 ? : ? 978-0520229396 (Paperback)

  17. SF Encyclopedia on Twitter posted a number of cover pics from Koontz’s earlier SF work. One was the Steele Savage cover for ANTI-MAN, which I read back in my teen years; have to say the novel is a prime example of why Koontz is reluctant to see his early sf reprinted. (It’s…not good.)

    But I have a particular memory associated with that particular cover. It was what was held up by my mother and one of her friends on one of the occasions when they tried to convince me science fiction was worthless trash. I especially recall Mom’s friend pointing to the hand-with-an-eyeball-in-its-palm on the cover, her eyes bulging, her head rocking back and forth, tongue protruding, and saying (as best I can transcribe it) “AAAaaa? Aaa, aaaAAAA! Aaa? Aaaa-AAAaaAA? AAAaa! Aaa, aaAA aaaaAAAA! AAAAaaaa?”

    Oh, yeah, those were the good old days, for sure.

    (Mom eventually got resigned to my preference for worthless trash. I sent her copies of some of my published stories after I began writing and selling them, but I’m fairly sure she never read any of them.)

  18. Why Koontz says he didn’t write porn according to one of the sites who explains it…

    All four books were presented to the publisher as finished manuscripts and Dean fully expected for them to be published in the form submitted to the publisher. Unfortunately, all four books were put into production before Dean learned that the publisher had arranged, without Dean’s knowledge or consent, for them to be so completely rewritten that none of them, as published, bore much resemblance to the original manuscripts as submitted by Dean. Although he wasn’t able to stop publication, he did get the publisher to contractually agree to publish all four books under a pseudonym.

    The publisher further agreed to indemnify Dean against claims arising from the material added by the publisher: “Author and Publisher acknowledge that…the Work will be published with material changes from the original manuscripts of same, that the Publisher assumes all liability for the content of those new chapters and passages.”

    However, only one of the four books was published under a pen name- HUNG was published under the pen name Leonard Chris. THE SICK SOCIETY manuscript was published under the title PIG SOCIETY, the GOING UNDERGROUND manuscript was published under the title THE UNDERGROUND LIFESTYLES HANDBOOK, and the TIGER 650 manuscript was published under the title BOUNCE GIRL- all with Dean and Gerda Koontz as the credited authors, and therefore in breach of Dean’s contract with the publisher.

  19. @Cat
    According to the preview on the Internet Archive (mostly just the TOC), there is a chapter on “erotica.” IIIRC in this chapter, Koontz included mainstream books like the ones written by Harold Robbins and Jacqueline Susann — which we probably would not count as erotica today. (I would call them mainstream, blockbusters, glitz, etc.) He called these “big sexy novels.” He also covered what he called “rough sexy novels” — the sort of paperbacks writers like Lawrence Block and andrew offut used to write under pen names.

    FWIW Koontz did not make the “rough sexy novel” sound like a great field to write in. And in the article linked below, he also said a publisher allowed him to have the “sexy” part of one of his books ghostwritten by another author with more experience in that field.

    There’s more in a review here.

  20. Oh mark. I’m playing the world’s smallest violin for you while laughing bitterly. It’s rather ironic to hear pale-hued men complain about the growing number of women and BIPOC writers when such pale-hued men have dominated the field for so long.

    It’s about freaking time some balance was achieved.

    Re Koontz: his was one of the first writing guides I read, but I can’t remember much about it these days (granted, that reading was many years ago and, uh, I tend to do a lot of reading).

  21. (12) Australian clock maker Clickspring is doing a series of videos in which he attempts to recreate the Antikythera mechanism, often using tools and techniques that would have been available to the ancient Greeks. They are fascinating, and they are found in two different playlists.

  22. “Excuse me while this Boomer woman who started reading sf practically in the cradle explodes in gleeful, malicious laughter. You can cope, mark. I and an awful lot of women and girls did, for a long, long, long time.”

    I think you have to go back to the 1960s to find a time when the level of bias in the Hugos was as bad as it is now, and that’s a long time to carry a grudge. Granted, Best Dramatic Presentation has been mostly a boy’s club, but that says more about Hollywood than SF fandom. But in every decade from the ’70s to the ’00s, women have won 30-50% of the Best Novel Hugos. Since 210, the record for men stands at 15%. It seems like there is an unwritten rule that for a man to win any of the field’s highest awards, he needs to be either nonwhite, or John Scalzi, writing essays about why it’s great that white guys not named John Scalzi are being locked out.

    Yes, we can cope. And we will, one way or another. But you might want to consider how all the younger male fans in their teens and twenties – you do still want new blood for the community, right – will cope when they find that people like them will have to accept mandated loserhood as payback for discrimination that happened before they were born.

  23. @john Schilling
    I am so sorry that the rest of the fans aren’t doing it the way you prefer.

  24. @John Schilling…
    From what I’m seeing, a majority of the younger male fans are right happy and fine with it. They also don’t pack the same attitude as older white male fans.

  25. @John Schilling–

    Yes, we can cope. And we will, one way or another. But you might want to consider how all the younger male fans in their teens and twenties – you do still want new blood for the community, right – will cope when they find that people like them will have to accept mandated loserhood as payback for discrimination that happened before they were born.

    Fortunately, the younger male fans of today don’t seem to have egos nearly as fragile as yours, no more fragile in fact than the egos of female fans in the 50s, 60s, indeed, get real, into the 80s and 90s, when there had been some progress but not enough..

    And, they do seem to be reading, enjoying, and voting for works in the genre for awards that you apparently think that male writers aren’t winning instead only because of “mandated loserhood.” Have you stopped to ask yourself why John Scalzi, for instance, isn’t suffering from that “mandated loserhood”? It’s not because he writes what Jemisin and Okorafor and Leckie write. In fact, he mainly writes the kind of straightforward, transparent prose, just plain fun stories a certain rather loud group of fans in the mid 20-teens said should be winning the awards. And now they’re upset that he’s up for a Dragon Award, too…

    Almost seems like there might be a minority of make fans who are upset about something other than the quality of the work that’s winning.

  26. To put John Schilling’s words into perspective, there were no female authors on the ballot for best novel as recently as 2009. It was the same in 2008 and 2006 and 2003. On that measure the “level of bias” is not as bad as it was in the ‘00s.

    And most of the winners are really good.

  27. When I look at the latest New York Times list of the combined print and ebook fiction bestsellers, there is only one male author in the top 15.

    One of those books is sff — about dragon riders. It’s by a woman.

    For the sake of making an arbitrary comparison, I pulled up the list of NYT Bestsellers for the year 2010. In the course of the year 32 different novels were No. 1 bestsellers, written by 36 authors (due to collaborations). 21 of the authors were men. (Counting James Patterson only once, though he co-authored three different No. 1 books.) (The men included Jim Butcher, Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, by the way.)

    So make of these apples and oranges what you will, but the concentration of women at the top of the Best Novel Hugo list is probably not something happening in isolation from the rest of the literary culture.

  28. Seattle Times reported recently on a survey that two of every three book readers were women. More importantly they read three times the number of books that men read.

    So I’d suggest that the fact the Awards are dominated by women is just part of a shift in the book culture as a whole. A welcome one from my perspective.

  29. So who’s your list of great women writers? My short list is Emma Bull, Ellen Kushner, Ursula K. Le Guin, Arkady Martine, Cat Rambo and Kathryn Rusch. Mind you that’s my reading list, not a complete listing of women writers that I think are great.

  30. For Glen Cook and/or SF fans I strongly recommend The Dragon Never Sleeps. I rarely re-read novels these days but I will get back to this one at some point. I’ll read it more slowly next time though.

  31. Cherryh and Bujold are probably my two favorite SF writers at present. Note the lack of any other qualifications (such as gender) on that phrase! I could add that I think they’re great, but I think the fact that they’ve both been named as Grand Masters speaks to that! 🙂

  32. I adore Connie Willis, who is still writing amazing novels. Her latest, published less than a month ago, is one of my favorites, by anyone! I love the Murderbot series by Martha Wells, everything written by Sarah Pinsker, Neve Maslakovic, Melissa F. Olson, the Booking Agents series by Cherie Priest, a lot of books by Mary Robinette Kowal, Mur Lafferty, Sarah Gailey, Seanan McGuire, Claire North, V.E. Schwab, Jodi Taylor, Heather Webber….

  33. Cat asks: So who’s your list of great women writers? You, Xtifr, and ArbysMom have already mentioned some of them: LeGuin, Bujold, Martha Wells, and Seanan McGuire. I would also add Mary Shelley, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Edith Wharton, Madeline L’Engle, Susanna Clarke, Diane Duane, and S.A. Chakraborty. I like Sujata Massey’s mysteries as well, although those aren’t genre. (Edith Wharton’s most famous work isn’t genre, either, but she also wrote quite a few chilling ghost stories.)

  34. Yes to Martha Wells, I was reading and recommending her books long before Murderbot. Ann Leckie and Silvia Moreno-Garcia are writing at the top of the field.

  35. Hugo winners like Ann Leckie, N. K. Jemisin, Martha Wells, and Arkady Martine won because their novels BLEW THE DOORS OFF THE GENRE.

    The reason I think they wrote the best novels in those years is because they wrote the best novels in those years.

  36. I’m a white dude who’ll be 50 pretty soon and for probably twenty years now most of the authors I’ve read have been women. There hasn’t been any intent behind this, but I’ve lost interest in certain parts of the genre and I think those are ones that have more dude authors.

    I think Cat’s demographics post explains a lot, but here’s another take. If you look back at the hugo shortlist for the last 25-ish years, there’s a few guys that show up over and over, and many of them haven’t had a whole lot published recently. We haven’t seen anything from Mieville or Sawyer or Wilson for a long time, much less Martin, and Lee’s doing middle grade stuff. I’m not proposing some kind of ‘great man’ hypothesis, but I’m also not NOT proposing such.

  37. (6) Jimmy Olsen has been race-switched yet again, I note. The Curse of the DC Redheads…

  38. For reasons unrelated to the quality of books, I had a long break from reading SF, basically missing everything between Neuromancer and Ancillary Justice.

    (I think my brain went off on the nascent Net, and also on music, and fiction just got squeezed out for a few decades. )

    Since coming back with Ann Leckie, it seems like the vast majority of what I have been reading has been smashing. It’s felt like when I was reading the SF classics of the 1950s and 1960s in my high school years (the 1970s). I am a happy, happy reader. Other people have said it: it’s the New Golden Age.

    And except for The Divine Cities trilogy by Robert Jackson Bennett, and Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station, the new books I have loved have all been written by women. I’ve got my radar tuned to look for any book which sounds promising written by men. Just not finding it. Maybe it’ll be Ray Nayler, his book is in Mt. Tsundoku.

  39. Kinda late in this discussion, but my wife and I have been observing what might be called the reading/writing environment for about a half-century, some of that observation via conversations and state-of-the-market panels at science fiction conventions and some via my wife’s close attention to the “literary” marketplace. (These in addition to academic reception studies of canonical literature.) One thing we have heard repeatedly is that the largest audience segment for books is women. And in the SF/F field, we watched women rise in the editorial ranks, starting in the 1970s. Several of our near-contemporaries wound up pretty high in their respective organizations. So the question of who shapes the literary marketplace–who are the gatekeepers and influencers, who reads what, what affects public taste(s)– is not a simple one.

    As for the distribution of awards–they’re chosen by subsegments of the various readerships and not necessarily reflective of “quality” (whatever that means) or even popularity beyond “a bunch of readers participating in this competition liked Book X.” Though getting to readers so they can like Book X involves a lot of what Algis Budgrys would probably call non-literary factors**. (Strange attractors such as fashion and shifts in cultural interests make the whole matter even harder to account for.)

    **FWIW, the other critic who schooled me in the practicalities of literary production and publishing of the SF kind was Judith Merril.

  40. No love for Ursula Vernon/”T. Kingfisher”, aka Oor Wombat? Her books regularly go to the top of my Mt. Tsundoku, which is something a lot of authors can’t say. In terms of repeating names that have already been mentioned, I’ll just say Jemisin, Leckie, Bujold.

    Patricia McKillip and Robin McKinley also come to mind.

  41. Cat Eldridge wrote, “Seattle Times reported recently on a survey that two of every three book readers were women. More importantly they read three times the number of books that men read.”

    I think that back in the day when the proportion of men and women readers were roughly reversed, the rejoinder was “Well, publish more things that women want to read.” And I don’t think that “Women don’t read” was considered an acceptable response.

  42. So, just for my own personal interest, I’ve been keeping track for the past few years of which books I consider the best of the year (bearing in mind, of course, that there are always books I read after the year they’re published, so this is more an end-of-year snapshot than a final decision.) I neither nominate for nor vote in awards, so this is really just a record of my own thoughts in my own head. Some are major award winners, some never got near an award, some I’ll be pleasantly surprised if you’ve heard of them:

    2017 – The Power, by Naomi Alderman
    2018 – The Breath of the Sun, by Isaac Fellman
    2019 – A Memory Called Empire, by Arkady Martine
    2020 – (tie) Network Effect, by Martha Wells, and The Unpoken Name, by A. K. Larkwood
    2121 – Strange Creatures, by Phoebe North
    2022 – (tie) The Golden Enclaves, by Naomi Novik, and Nona the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir

    There’s a definite trend there.

  43. Oh, well, I guess I’ll keep readings stories I like, and nominating them, regardless of if they’re women. Or black male Americans (I know, that’s not diverse), or black male Africans (because that’s not diverse), or gay (male) writers (I know, still not diverse).

    Whatever. I just want good stories, regardless of pronouns, and I’m not going to limit myself.

  44. “Whatever. I just want good stories, regardless of pronouns….”

    My first thought was, Gods, I can’t even with this disingenuous argument again…

    But then I thought, surely someone somewhere has already written the canonical debunking of the Argument From Color- or Gender-blindness? Many someones, in fact?

    Here indeed is one someone, with a public Facebook post linked by a Pixel Scroll

    There are LOTS of anthos with only white men writers filling the ToC, especially in the horror genre. It is irrelevant that they didn’t put out a call for only white men, because the outcome is the same. White men have, as we’ve seen, been the default. This is why claiming “I don’t read black or white writers, I just want good stories” upolds the status quo.

    Chesya Burke, April 4, 2018 (The comments are worthwhile too.)

    If, hypothetically, more male-authored stories were published than female-authored stories, more male authors filled the TOCs of anthologies than female authors, more male-authored stories were reviewed and promoted… then a reader who didn’t do the work of specifically seeking out female-authored stories because “I just want good stories, regardless of pronouns” is probably mostly going to encounter male-authored stories by a wide margin.

    Thank goodness that we have entered a new era in SFFH publishing, where there is more diversity among publishers, editors, and reviewers (and Hugo voters!) than there used to be, so that by their good efforts the stubbornly gender-blind reader will encounter more female-authored (and LGBTQ-authored, and POC-authored, and and and…) works than they might have otherwise.

    The stubbornly gender-blind author will complain about this in a way they never did when they were encountering mostly male authors in the bookstores, reviews, anthologies, and awards, but (IMnsHO) that’s just a sign that publishing is doing something right.

  45. @mark says

    Oh, well, I guess I’ll keep readings stories I like, and nominating them, regardless of if they’re women. Or black male Americans (I know, that’s not diverse), or black male Africans (because that’s not diverse), or gay (male) writers (I know, still not diverse).

    How the F@!K is the promoting of women writers saying that black (from anywhere) or gay isn’t diverse? Every marginalized community needs boosting BECAUSE THEY ARE F@!KING MARGINALIZED!!! When the default in the world is cis white male, ALL OTHERS should be boosted to try to balance it out, in a pursuit for equality. It has always bothered me that people don’t see the true phrase intended with “Black Lives Matter” as Black Lives Matter TOO! As in “just as much as white lives.” So this promotion of women writers should be seen as “Women writers matter too!” as in, just as much as men writers. A reminder that if you’re used to privilege, equality feels like oppression.

  46. I may have gone a bit overboard in the “shouting censored obscenities” area with the previous comment. I’m just so angry. I apologize for how I sounded off, though I stand by what I said. The fact that there are governors of some states willing to mandate by law the unequal treatment of anyone who isn’t cis, straight, white and male is so infuriating. I live in Oregon, thank goodness, but I have relatives in some of those states, who can’t afford to move. So I’m a little on edge about the subject.

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