Pixel Scroll 7/21

Lists and definitions highlight the stories in today’s Scroll.

(1) Pat Cadigan on Facebook about winning a Seiun Award:

Anyway, since 1990, when I heard Cristina Macía talk about the challenges of translating work from English, I have tried to be more conscious of my language. I don’t know that it always makes a difference…actually, I don’t know that it ever makes a difference. But I do know that stories change in translation.

The first story I ever had translated was my first sale, “Criers and Killers” (thank you, Marta). I read French well enough that I can check a translation provided I have a French-English dictionary handy. That story is so much better in French. I can’t even tell you how much better it is. I’m sorry I can’t remember the name of the translator. I was less conscientious back then (pre-1990).

And now “Girl-Thing” has won the Seiun for best translated short fiction in Japan. (If you’re tried of hearing about that, I’m sorry. My only advice is, scroll, baby, scroll.) I’m so pleased that it’s my first Seiun and I’m delighted. But I know that my translator, Mr. Yooichi Shimada (yes, it’s Yooichi with two o’s) made me look good in Japanese.

Translators, whether they are translating to English or from English, don’t get half the recognition they deserve. They not only have to know the other language well enough to understand *intended* meaning as well as vocabulary and syntax (synecdoche, anyone? How about sarcasm? Hyperbole?), they have to understand story structure, the characters, the setting *in the cultural context of the writer* and to make all of it meaningful to people of a different culture. Maybe that sounds like something not so hard to you. And it’s not like people in a non-English-speaking country are totally aliens––thanks to global media, we know more about each other than ever before.

But there are certain *ambient* differences that never occur to us, things that are virtually invisible in our lives, the things we do all the time without even thinking about them. Translators have to keep those things in mind, too.

So my humble thanks to Mr. Shimada.

(2) Click to see a photo of Jim C. Hines hugging the restored Galileo shuttle that File 770 has been tracking since it was rescued from storage and auctioned for $70,000 in 2012.



(3) Friends have sent me this link a total of six times! It’s a post on Mental Floss about Harlan Ellison, “The Author Who Wrote In Bookstore Windows”.

He started at 1 p.m., craning the necks of passerby outside the shop. They wondered about the man sitting in the window, hunched over a typewriter. It was like a piece of glass that allowed you to see the gears and pistons of a machine.

When the Dangerous Visions bookstore in Sherman Oaks, Calif., closed that day, Harlan Ellison had completed “Objects of Desire in the Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear,” a short story that, yes, included a pregnant corpse and added three suspects.

Ellison did this a number of times, including in a public area of the 1978 Worldcon where he was a guest of honor.

(4) BBC Culture has issued a new list of “The 100 Greatest American Films”. Here are the ranked sf and fantasy films (“fantasy” in the loose sense of magical and impossible).

Each critic who participated submitted a list of 10 films, with their pick for the greatest film receiving 10 points and their number 10 pick receiving one point. The points were added up to produce the final list. Critics were encouraged to submit lists of the 10 films they feel, on an emotional level, are the greatest in American cinema – not necessarily the most important, just the best. These are the results.

  1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
  1. The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939)
  1. Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977)
  1. Dr Strangelove (Stanley Kubrick, 1964)
  1. It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946)
  1. Back to the Future (Robert Zemeckis, 1985)
  1. The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)
  1. Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis, 1993)
  1. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Steven Spielberg, 1977)
  1. The Empire Strikes Back (Irvin Kershner, 1980)
  1. Raiders of the Lost Ark (Steven Spielberg, 1981)
  1. Night of the Living Dead (George A Romero, 1968)
  1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
  1. ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (Steven Spielberg, 1982)
  1. The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008)

(5) Lawrence Person goes into overwhelming detail about additions to his Zelazny collection in “Library Addition: Another Major Collection of Roger Zelazny Books and Manuscripts”.

(6) John C. Wright’s “Great Books and Genre Books” is generating quite a lot of comment. Its premise, which he develops in detail, is —

As much as it pains me to say it, my reluctant conclusion is that there is no great Science Fiction literature.

Now, before you get out your crying bags, fanboys, keep in mind that the standard for being a Great Book is extremely, absurdly high. It is the best of the best of the best. There is no Western that makes the cut for being a Great Book; no mystery novel; no horror novel (unless we stretch a point to include HAMLET, because it has a ghost scene). One might even argue that no romance novel that makes the cut, not even GONE WITH THE WIND, and that is a damn fine novel. Genre writing does not reach the stratospheric heights of Homer, Virgil, Dante, Shakespeare, and Goethe.

However, the part I like best is Wright’s effort in the comments to combat nihilists who want to define classic sf works out of the genre. (I can’t make the link work, but it’s a comment logged Tuesday, July 21st 2015 at 2:30 am.)

Any definition of science fiction that rejects the core books and stories that are on everyone’s list of the greatest science fiction books and stories of all time is a useless definition.

And, in each case, the argument is the same: anything not Hard SF is not SF at all. Unfortunately, the statement is false. Even at the height of the Golden Age Campbell published and readers read works that do not fit the stricture of Hard SF, including all the books but one listed on the Baen list. That one is 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA.

If the Baen list strikes you as not representative, please feel free to consult Hugo or Nebula award winners, or any serious reader of SF’s top ten essential books of SF. You will find the same result.

The reason why the clerks in bookstores you pretend to despise shelve those books where readers can find them is that this is exactly where readers look to find them when they are looking for what they the readers consider to be science fiction books.

If you wish to say that the consensus science fiction readers over decades and generations have not the authority to define what is science fiction, that would be an argument on which I have nothing further to say.

(7) We here in drought-stricken California are lucky to find living grass in our yards, but after last week’s heavy rain in Ohio John “Noah” Scalzi found a crawdad and a live fish in his lawn.

252 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 7/21

  1. Stevie— Now I see why DH Lawrence’s Sons & Lovers was inflicted on me for my Eng Lit O-Level, causing me to completely blow off that exam. I must go find Leavis’ grave and perform an unspeakable rite on it.

  2. NelC

    A thoroughly sound plan!

    If anything goes wrong I’ll bail you out; inflicting ‘Sons and Lovers’ on our developing minds was undoubtedly prohibited by the Geneva Conventions…

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