Pixel Scroll 7/19/17 By The Pixel Of Grayscroll!

(1) WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS. Adam-Troy Castro links to his post “This Community We Love is Infested With Toxic Spoiled Brats” with this comment: “The object of a fandom you don’t care about is not a deadly infection to be wiped out on general principle. Fandoms can cross-pollinate. Interests can cross-pollinate.The things you ‘don’t give a shit about’ are not invaders you need to exterminate. Most to the point, you can get through your day without being a dick.”

Ed Sheeran, who is a fan of Game of Thrones, who got cast because he openly begged the producers to give him a bit part and had a nice little scene written for him, a scene that added texture to the story and even you hated it took up only three minutes of your life, has had to shut down his twitter feed because Game of Thrones fans have invaded in force, showering him with abuse because they are irate that the focus of another fandom has invaded theirs. They accuse him of ruining the show and stress that they don’t give a shit about his music, which sucks anyway.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

This community we love is infested with toxic, spoiled brats.

(2) CLARKE ALLEGATIONS. Jason Sanford and Paul Cornell are among those tweeting a link to Vice’s article “We Asked People What Childhood Moment Shaped Them the Most” which contains a first-hand account of abuse by an unnamed science fiction writer in Sri Lanka who they (logically) identify as Clarke.

The teller of the story, Peter Troyer, today is a performer with Tinder Tales in Toronto. His section of the Vice article begins —

Peter Troyer

I grew up in Sri Lanka. My dad was doing some work for the Canadian government. There were a lot of expat kids in my area and we had free reign of the neighbourhood. Our parents mostly let us do what we wanted, but we were told to stay away—never go near—a large property that bordered my house. When we asked why the reasons were always vague.

There were some rumors that someone very famous or maybe powerful lived there. We all got the sense that he was …a danger in some way. One day I was home sick from school. My grandfather was visiting from Canada and he was assigned to watch me. I remember that I was in pajamas. We were in the backyard and my grandfather was painting peacocks. Out of our hedges this man appeared and approached us. I instantly knew it was the man from the property. …

(3) TWO OR MORE. Andrew Neil Gray and J.S. Herbison include several “dream teams” among the authors of “Five SFF Books Written Collaboratively”, discussed at Tor.com.

The Difference Engine by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson

What happens when two masters of the cyberpunk genre put their heads together? Surprisingly, not more cyberpunk. Instead, what emerged was this unusual novel that posited an alternate version of Victorian England. Here, experiments by Charles Babbage resulted in a successful early mechanical computer and a very different industrial revolution. Starring airships, spies, courtesans and even Ada Lovelace, the dense and complex story revolves around the search for a set of powerful computer punch cards.

Sound familiar? Not surprising: this collaboration helped bring the relatively obscure steampunk genre to wider popular notice and launched a thousand steam-powered airships and clockwork monsters.

(4) WHO KNEW? Apparently “ruining” Doctor Who is actually part of the show’s long and respected tradition. Steve J.  Wright explains in “Writ in Water, not Set in Stone: Doctor Who backstory”.

…Then William Hartnell became too infirm to continue with the series, and the big change happened, at the end of “The Tenth Planet”.  An exhausted First Doctor is found lying on the floor of the TARDIS, and when his companions flip him over onto his back (instead of sensibly leaving him in the recovery position), the TARDIS dematerialization SFX plays, and the Doctor’s face seems to brighten and glow… and the screen whites out, and instead of William Hartnell, there’s Patrick Troughton.

The regeneration is not really explained, at this point.  “It’s part of the TARDIS; without it, I couldn’t go on.”  The first Doctor’s ring with the blue stone no longer fits; is it some sort of prop that the Doctor no longer needs?  The Doctor initially appears confused and disoriented, but when he’s settled down, it’s apparent that this is not just a younger version, this is a whole different personality – more impish, more madcap, but also capable of great passion and commitment; the Second Doctor throws himself into situations with much more zeal and energy than the austere First.

He also becomes more obviously different.…

(5) CENTS AND SENSIBILITY. Don’t tell John C. Wright — “Author Jane Austen featured on new British 10-pound note”.

Two hundred years to the day after Jane Austen died, a new 10-pound note featuring an image of one of England’s most revered authors has been unveiled – right where she was buried.

At the unveiling Tuesday of the new “tenner” at Winchester Cathedral in southern England, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said the new note celebrates the “universal appeal” of Austen’s work.

Austen, whose novels include “Pride and Prejudice,” “Emma” and “Sense and Sensibility,” is considered one of the most perceptive chroniclers of English country life and mores in the Georgian era. Combining wit, romance and social commentary, her books have been adapted countless times for television and film.

The new note, which is due to go into circulation on Sept. 14, is printed on polymer, not paper.

(6) SHADOW CLARKE PROCEEDINGS. Mark-kitteh sent these links with a note, “The essay by Kincaid (the second one) asks some genuinely interesting questions about the purpose of awards and the meaning of ‘best’, although he does feel the need to end it with the now-traditional bashing of Becky Chambers.”

Of all the novels on my personal Shadow Clarke shortlist, Martin MacInnes’s Infinite Ground was the one I anticipated having most difficulty in writing about, partly because of its incredibly complex structure, but mostly because I wasn’t at all sure I actually had a critical language I could bring to bear on it in a way that might make sense to a reader. Back when I was compiling my personal shortlist of Shadow Clarke books, ploughing through the opening sections of each title on the submissions list, of all of the eighty-odd titles this was the one that felt ‘right’ to me. That is, this is the one that immediately held my attention, the one I would have sat down and read cover to cover right there and then if I had not had to send away for a copy.

I have been associated with science fiction awards ever since I was approached to administer the Hugo Awards for the 1987 Worldcon. In the years since then I have won and lost awards, I have administered them, judged them, handed them out, written about them, and even (in the case of the Clarke Award) helped to create them. Now, another first, I have taken part in a shadow jury. And the result of all that: I probably know less now about the purpose and function and value of awards than I ever did.

Well that’s not quite true. There are some awards, like the Tiptree which I helped to judge in 2009, that have a very specific remit: in the case of the Tiptree it is the exploration of issues of gender. I find it instructive that the Tiptree Award often identifies novels and stories that I, personally, consider to be among the best in the year; but choosing the best, as such, is not what the Tiptree Award is about.

For the vast majority of awards, however, that one word, “best”, explains all and explains nothing. “Best” is the prison cell that most awards have entered knowingly and from which they cannot escape.

In terms of a reading experience, the past six months has been unusual, to say the least. Between the publication of the Clarke submissions list in mid February, and the imminent announcement of the winner in late July, I have read and reviewed not only the titles on my personal shortlist and the official Clarke shortlist, but also as many of other Sharkes’ personal choices and interesting outliers as time has allowed. I don’t think I’ve ever consumed so much science fiction in a single stretch – a chastening experience in and of itself – and I have learned plenty along the way, not least how misguided some of my own initial choices turned out to be, how much we all – as readers, writers and critics – tend to fall back on untested assumptions. I have learned more than a little about the difficulties and compromises involved in serving on an award jury, how every argument provides a counter-argument, how every book selected will point to three that are lost, how it is impossible to arrive at a meaningful decision without reading or at least sampling every submission.

Most of all, I have been reminded of how multifarious and diverse is the art of criticism. When it comes to assessing works of literature, there is no universal standard for excellence, no unified ideological approach, no such thing as objectivity. We each come to the process heavily laden with baggage, some of which we cannot set aside because it is enshrined in who we are and where we come from, some of which we cling to out of habit. Part of our job as critics lies not so much in relinquishing our baggage but in acknowledging that it exists.

(7) THE EARLY NERD GETS THE WORM. Wil Wheaton is interviewed by Kevin Smith on a piece in IMDB called “How Wil Wheaton’s Star Trek Fandom Impacted The Next Generation”.  Wheaton, interviewed by Kevin Smith, talks about how he was a Star Trek nerd on the set of TNG and was ready to answer Trek questions on the set if cast members didn’t know what was going on.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Mark-kitteh, Adam-Troy Castro, ULTRAGOTHA, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ingvar.]

137 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 7/19/17 By The Pixel Of Grayscroll!

  1. Clearly I am not a good judge of SF and fantasy because in 6 years of Hugo award voting, well over 50 percent of my top votes did not get the Hugo, and let’s not even talk about my even fewer nominations. ACACO was not my first choice, but I will be far less disappointed if it wins a Hugo than if TLTL wins.

  2. @Iphinome: “You moon people on your birthday?”

    Actually, I traditionally wait a couple of days and hit people up for candy. 😀

  3. @ Hampus (in re Doctor Who on Swedish telly):

    It has, both “actual Doctor Who” and “guest spoof and allusions in other shows”. But it was many MANY moons ago that a few Tom Baker eps were on display. I’m not sure on exact timing, but it would’ve been late 70s or early 80s, I think. That is, if the really really long scarf is distinctive of exactly and only Fourth (I can recall the scarf, I can recall us playing Doctor and companions at “fritids”, this places it somewhere in the 1978-1982 period; it also can’t have been taht much, since I would probably remember it more clearly if it was shown for a longer time).

    The only spoof I clearly recall is the TARDIS appearing in the first episode of Chelmsford 123 and someone (presumably The Doctor) popping outside for some quick relief.

  4. Extremely strange. When I try to find any information on Doctor Who being sent on swedish TV, the only example I can find is from 2007…

  5. @Meredith: re Dickinson being more known than Blyton — Dickinson was 30 years younger; from what I see/read, publishing has been getting gradually less parochial, so he would have had more of a chance of being (a) noticed and (b) not automatically rejected as too foreign. Other possible advantages include doing adult works (so more people would have known his name — I’ve enjoyed at least one of his mysteries) and a better reputation: two Carnegie medals, compared with Blyton’s being on the BBC’s ~blacklist for some decades AND charged with using ghost writers due to humongous output (both per Wikipedia…).

  6. @Rev. Bob: I’m a bad space fan, aren’t I. I know none of the dates.

    @Iphinome: LOL.

  7. @Kendall: “I know none of the dates.”

    But you give a fig, and that’s what matters. 😉

  8. Bruce A on July 21, 2017 at 12:11 am said:

    Clearly I am not a good judge of SF and fantasy because in 6 years of Hugo award voting, well over 50 percent of my top votes did not get the Hugo[.]

    Ditto here, except for me it’s been (sporadically) over multiple decades. 🙂

    Which is what bugs me about people who claim the Hugos have been terrible recently. They’ve always been hit-or-miss for me. I can probably name multiple Hugo-winners I hate from any decade you care to name. But they’re also still better/more reliable than pretty much any other award. IMO.

    The big problem seems to be that all awards (genre or other) seem to use criteria other than “what would Xtifr like better than anything else this year?” I really wish they’d find a way to fix that! 😀

    Re. the Sharkes and their obsession with non-popular works–it is indeed every bit as silly as the reverse idea that the most popular works are the best. (But I will say that if offered a stack of the biggest-selling books of the year, or a stack of what various people have judged to be the very best non-best-selling books of the year, I’d probably go with the latter, just because there was some judgment involved.) 🙂

    Many of the qualities that can make a book popular are also qualities which can make a good book better, while only a few are qualities which can make a bad book worse. (A handful can probably do both.) Overall, though, judging by my own personal list of favorites, I’d say popularity is a non-factor–neither a plus nor a minus.

    (But I do understand why the Sharkes are using the Clarke list–they’re…shadowing the Clarkes! It makes sense to me. If they didn’t do that, they’d be more just a random group of book reviewers.)

  9. JJ on July 19, 2017 at 7:38 pm said:
    Castro’s very strongly opinionated and every once in a while he goes slightly over the top, but in my opinion, he’s almost always right whenever he comments on things.

    Okay, so somehow I managed to confuse Adam Troy-Castro and Jon Del Arroz in my brain, (which is bizarre, but whatever) which is what I was referring to. I still stand by the overall statement about the overreaction.

  10. @IanP and Meredith: I used a 1 pound Bank of Scotland note in England in the 90’s (where it was all pound coins already). Honestly, the look the cashier gave me — I’m surprised she didn’t take the note with latex gloves. I just pretended to be a wide-eyed dumb hick American and smiled brightly while putting on a slight Southern drawl; I could see her cutting off the grumble and potted lecture with an effort. Mind you, the accent wouldn’t have fooled anyone in Dixie, but a Pret shop girl in London fell for it. It WAS legal tender, dammit, and I’d spent 3 weeks in Scotland. Take my money and give me the sammich; I don’t have time to hash over centuries of politics.

    @Anna: My credentials are not well either; one’s got a UTI and is confined to the bedroom so we can monitor his input and output, and right now he’s nauseous from the antibiotics. The other one’s getting a lifetime supply of 2 meds twice a day for her appetite and thyroid; her heart murmur’s also worse.

    Needless to say, we also have spent terrifying amounts of money and I’m getting very little sleep as the one in the bedroom likes to hork pre-dawn and then pounce on me. If I lie down for a nap, more pouncing.

    Ye gads they have pointy teeth and an unwillingness to swallow.

    Contacting via OGH is how various Filers have communicated with me as well. As long as everyone’s not doing it all the time and Mike’s willing, is all good.

    @JJ: How do you get the roll eyes smiley here?


  11. @lurkertype: I’m sorry for your credentials’ health issues! 🙁

    In re. THREAD OR MENACE – I thought we agreed she was both? 😉

  12. lurkertype: How do you get the roll eyes smiley here?


    Also, Becky Chambers’ A Closed and Common Orbit is just feel-goody SF with only a veneer of science fiction and does not do anything new.

  13. Becky Chambers will END science fiction with her moderately cheerful novels, featuring sympathetic characters, set in outer space!

    Oh waily waily!

    No more shall we see geologic apocalypses written from different POV, nor far-future factions wielding math beyond our comprehension, plus the essence of a crazy long-dead general. Nor translated works from other lands, no unreliable narrator talking Voltaire, no SF meets magic and coming of age. No responses to Lovecraft, no fantasies set in the old West (sometimes involving tomatoes, sometimes not), no fairy tale re-tellings. Also swept away will be the masses of milSF with big guns, Manly Men, and series that go on forever. Ditto the umpteen books of Epic Fantasy Quests.

    All these will be lost… like tears in rain… time to die.

    Or, y’know, there might continue to be a wide variety of writing for every taste. If the Hugos survived “They’d Rather Be Right” in infancy, the Hugos and Clarkes will survive a confused AI, a clone, and some aliens. 🙄

  14. @lurkertype

    You forgot to mention that Becky Chambers and A Closed and Common Orbit will be responsible for the death of inventive speculative fiction which explores groundbreaking themes in new and innovative ways.

    (eagerly checks e-mail inbox for invitation to be part of the 2018 Shadow Clarke jury)

  15. Brendan Coffey: Okay, so somehow I managed to confuse Adam Troy-Castro and Jon Del Arroz in my brain, (which is bizarre, but whatever) which is what I was referring to. I still stand by the overall statement about the overreaction.

    Oh, I absolutely agree with you that Castro is right, that the overreaction from GoT fans is ridiculous, and that they are reacting like extremely badly-behaved, spoilt children. Or brainless idiots without a rational thought in their heads. Or both.

  16. There is one thing that I’m not sure I like about Wayfarers world-building. It seems that between prenatal and childhood medicine that genetic disabilities have been largely eradicated. Rira Wraxf jnf bayl yrsg gb or jub ur vf orpnhfr gurer jrera’g nal bgure fvqr-rssrpgf naq uvf zbgure vafvfgrq ur jnf svar nf ur jnf. A bit close to cure-narrative stuff for my comfort. Especially since judging from the Harmagians there’s clearly more than enough tech around to compensate without just wiping us out. YMMV.


    On the English side of the border accepting Scottish notes isn’t directly political – you might get them refused if the person accepting payment isn’t familiar enough with them to know they’re legal tender (or to feel confident in recognising frauds so goes with the over-zealous and unreasonable blanket-refusal), which of course has some political background but the refusal itself isn’t usually, like, intended as a slight on Scotland or anything.

    Except when it is, anyway.

  17. I’ve had Scottish banknotes refused England as well. Ditto for banknotes and coins from the Channel island of Guernsey. It happens.

  18. @Meredith: Are you suggesting that if gene therapy existed and parents could easily afford it, they wouldn’t choose to cure their children’s congenital diseases and birth defects, or that it would be wrong to do so? Nobody I know hopes their children will be born with birth defects, so why would it be a bad thing if children with birth defects could routinely have them fixed with gene therapy and surgery?

    How do you feel about the Vorkosigan universe, where just about everyone on several planets scan blastocytes for genetic abnormalities and only bring to full term (in artificial uteruses) the ones which are lacking known abnormalities?

  19. @Ingvar: It is indeed the case that a very long scarf is diagnostic of the Fourth Doctor and only the Fourth.

  20. I got given a Northan Irish tenner as change during the Edinburgh Festival last year which did cause me to give it and the vendor a look, but then shrugged it off.

    And the note slot on Sainsbury’s self serve till took it happily.

  21. @Bruce A

    I’m suggesting that it is entirely reasonable for parents to want to do so, and it still involves eradicating a population, which is not exactly a wonderful thing even if many people look upon disability as a lesser existence. Autism is genetic, and a lot of autistic people who would object quite strenuously to the idea that they shouldn’t exist as they are. My own genetic abnormality can be a disability – or it can contribute to enormous talent at gymnastics and music. The Deaf community isn’t keen on the idea that they shouldn’t exist, either.

    Since the existence of genetweaking makes it quite clear that all of these things can be fixed later on, why should it be automatically done to someone who can’t consent, as it seems to be in Wayfarers? Shouldn’t the person who has to live with it get to choose, whenever the disability is of a type to enable them to do so? If this is supposed to be a kinder, softer, social-justicey future, why are people with disabilities shut out of the narrative (rira Wraxf vf whfgvsvrq nf orvat “urnygul”)? Why don’t we deserve a place in that future? Why don’t we get to choose what that place is?

    Frankly, I find it a little insulting that Harmagians as a species are moving around in what are essentially electric wheelchairs but humans with disabilities are considered unacceptable.

    I wasn’t any more delighted with it in the Vorkosigan Saga.

  22. To be fair to Wayfarers, there really aren’t many books* that I can point to and say “yes, the treatment of disability was nuanced and interesting” so it isn’t like it fails harder than most of what’s out there.

    *My rec list is currently a list of one. I’m working on it. If I started collecting a list of “we exist! we are allowed to be characters with worth!” that would be a rather longer list, though, which is something, and both of the Wayfarers books would be on it, if with a caveat.

  23. Meredith, while Wayfarers is a relatively softer, gentler, more social-justicey future, it isn’t by any means a perfect embodiment of that. Just for one obvious point, we have two characters whilose very existence is illegal, and who woulkd be summarily executed if caught.

    This is a culture that would just take if for granted that fixing defects was 100% benign. Perhaps there will be examination of that point later on.

  24. @Meredith: I’m fully aware that there are communities of people with genetic defects who are satisfied with their lives and their communities which have developed around their defects (although in the case of the deaf, it’s not necessarily genetic). I suspect that most of these people are high-functioning despite their defects.

    My nephew has some issues that are probably genetic, I certainly don’t wish that he was never born, but I’m pretty sure that if my brother and sister-in-law could have done gene tweaks as child that would given him normal development so they wouldn’t have had do deal with anger issues and having to worry about his future because he’ll probably need to live in a group home for the rest of his life, they would have. And if they could have fixed his issues with gene tweaking, how long should they have waited? Until he was 5? 10? Maybe until he realized he was different and there was a way for him to be more like other kids? Would he resent it if he had to wait until he was 18, and then spend about 5-10 years catching up with all the rest of his age group (if he can) because of the time lost due to his genetic defects that could have been fixed but weren’t? That’s not an option today, so he doesn’t even have to consider it. If it’s trivial to fix faulty genes, I expect that most societies that could fix genetic defects would question the very idea of waiting until adulthood to fix them.

    If someone wants to write about people with handicaps in a world where most of them can be fixed prenatally or at an early age, that’s fine. It could be a great story, maybe even Miles Vorkosigan’s story. But I think it’s wrong to fault a story because the world-building posits a human society which can prevent or fix genetic defects, and most parents do it. It’s probably easier for them and their kids if their kids can be normal, whatever normal means for a society hundreds or thousands of years in the future.

    The Harmagians didn’t have bones, they invented technology so that they could get around efficiently. They started out in boneless bodies where nobody could walk fast, that’s totally different from modifying a few existing gene mutations which cause specific defects, to “normal genes”. Plus, the stories are primarily about humans, and Harmagians are mostly incidental to the story, at least I don’t recall any part of the story with a Harmagian POV. Should we really be upset because the author has humans do simple gene manipulation that we can do today at least in vitro, vs, having an alien species not do major gene manipulation to give themselves bones and muscles that work together? I don’t think so. Should she have invented a different species with a different reason for developing technology because a reader might view this as anti-disability? Should I feel left out if nobody in her universe wears glasses anymore?

    I also realize that genetic defect fixing could be considered a form of eugenics. I don’t want to get into that now because I just realized how late it is, and how late I’m going to be getting back to Diversicon today.

  25. lurkertype/Meredith/Cora: for many years I carried a Maggie (UKP1 coin) that a sharp-eyed newsstand operator in Glasgow recognized as off-island; it was minted for Ascension & St. Helena. Damfino how it got accepted previously (I might have gotten it in change in London a few days before, or it might have made its way north otherhow), but I’m still croggled somebody was able to spot such a difference — coins aren’t big and multicolored like notes.

  26. The narrative is explicit in condemning what will happen/happens to Sidra and Pbeova if/when they are found out. The narrative is not explicit about condemning the elimination of people with genetic disabilities. It never draws a line connecting the people it does condemn (gur crbcyr jub jnagrq gb xvyy Wraxf nf n onol) and those who are routinely erasing disabled people. Therein lies the difference, and since Chambers is typically anvil-clear about such things and the trope is common throughout science fiction, I’m not exactly hopeful that she didn’t mean it that way. She might address it in future, but I would consider that to be a change of opinion rather than a meant-it-that-way-all-along. Change is still good, of course.

    The point of the Harmagians is that the technology to enable disabled people to live full lives clearly exists in-universe, yet eliminating us is considered okay anyway because, apparently, eugenics* is fine so long as you pick the right minority to aim at.

    Yes, I absolutely reserve the right to judge any book which justifies the elimination of a minority.

    And if I spend any more time writing comments wherein I’m forced to defend my right to exist I’m going to start getting rather impolite, so I will leave it there.

    *I was working pretty hard not to use ‘eugenics’ or ‘genocide’ but since someone else used the former…

    @Chip Hitchcock

    I get a fair amount of dodgy coin currency given to me as change in London specifically. I’m not sure why London is more prone to it than elsewhere – sheer number of people? Sheer number of tourists?

  27. @meredith

    Probably sheer number of people, the amount of fake pound coins in circulation was part of the reason for the new replacement to make counterfeiting harder and remove those currently circulating.

    For several years I kept a dodgy pound I’d benn given as change from the Forth bridge tolls as it worked fine for my gym/pool locker. Someone managed to slip my an Australian coin recently too, looks just enough like a 10p to pass, Sainsbury’s till didn’t like it though.

  28. Here in Michigan we often get Canadian coins which are pretty easy to mistake for US.

  29. The only places I’ve encountered that don’t take them are banks and government offices, both, I think, for obvious reasons.

  30. I’ll have to remember to pack my Canadian change next time I visit New England. 😉

  31. I’ve gotten Canadian quarters, and a few other odd foreign coins, either in change or in rolls of quarters from the bank. (I’ve also gotten a couple of slugs in those rolls.)

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