Pixel Scroll 7/26/17 Fifth File At Scrollory Towers

(1) CAPTAIN’S LOG. Actor John Barrowman had his appendix out the other day.

(2) MARCH. After a Saturday panel about the March comics, fans followed the history-making co-author in a re-enactment: io9 has the story — “Rep. John Lewis Leads March for Civil Rights Through Comic-Con”.

Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.) was at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday discussing his award-winning graphic novel, March, which resulted in a real march for civil rights awareness.

After Lewis’ panel ended, he led a group of over 1,000 people through the San Diego Convention Center, with some shouting “No justice, no peace” as they marched past cosplayers and attendees. According to the Associated Press, Lewis made sure to stop and shake hands with people who recognized him as he passed.

(3) HELSINKI DINING TIPS. Worldcon 75 has posted its Restaurant Guide [PDF file].

Helsinki is currently undergoing a “fun dining” wave. It seems not a day goes by without a new street food restaurant being opened on one corner or another, from Mexican burrito shops to a boom of high-quality burger joints. At the same time, many Helsinki restaurateurs are opening casual fine dining restaurants, where the food is top-notch but the atmosphere is laid-back. Helsinki also has many restaurants with long histories and traditions…

(4) 2017 NASFiC REPORT. Evelyn Leeper’s NorthAmeriCon ’17 / NASFIC 2017 con report is online at Fanac.org.

This is a convention report for NorthAmeriCon ’17 (NASFIC 2017, and henceforth referred to as just NASFIC), held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, July 6-9, 2017, with a little bit of sightseeing thrown in (because a separate report would not be worthwhile).

It is with some trepidation I start this report. We had never attended a NASFIC before. For a long time we always went to Worldcon, and for the recent years where we skipped the overseas Worldcon, the NASFIC seemed like a misguided attempt to be a substitute. But a NASFIC in Puerto Rico was very appealing for a couple of reasons: I am half Puerto Rican, and we could take a tour of the Arecibo Telescope. And of course, I figured it was a chance to connect with authors and old friends and all that….

(5) THE GOOD, THE WEIRD, AND THE SCROLLY: Over at Featured Futures, Jason comments on the month in webzine fiction with a list of links to remarkable tales — “Summation of Online Fiction: July 2017”.

Aside from a two-part novella from Beneath Ceaseless Skies (which was just a flash away from counting as a novel), July was a relatively light month in the webzine world. The number of noteworthy stories is also light, but Clarkesworld continued its resurgence with a July issue that was probably even better overall than the June (though each had a standout story), Ellen Datlow picked another for Tor.com, and some other zines also contributed particularly good work.

(6) HITTING THE TARGET. Having seen some make the wrong choice, Sarah A. Hoyt advises indie authors to find “The Right Slot” – to be sure they’re marketing their work in its proper genre. In her latest column for Mad Genius Club she takes a cut at defining several genres, beginning with fantasy.

The SUBJECT determines genre.  A non exhaustive list of genres and subgenres and subjects (this is off the top of my head and I’ll miss some.  If you guys want an exhaustive list it will take a long time.)

Fantasy – Anything that is technically impossible in our reality, by our physical rules, including but not limited to supernatural beings, all the creatures of Tolkien, etc.  Often draws on the myths and legends of mankind.

Has subgenres: High Fantasy – Tolkien-like.  Also often known as heroic fantasy.

Alternate history – usually where magic works, but still related to our world.

Urban fantasy, which might of might not be a subgenre of alternate history.  It’s not just “fantasy in a city.”  Although both F. Paul Wilson’s Repairman Jack and Larry Correia’s monster hunters are technically urban fantasy, as is my Shifter series, it would be more honest to call it “contemporary fantasy.”

Urban fantasy has a structure added to the theme and location, and that often involves a young woman with powers, a love interest on the dark side, etc.  Think Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Paranormal Romance – Like Urban Fantasy but way more in the romance and sex side.  In fact, it’s more a subgenre of romance, really.

(7) SF WORTH WAITING FOR. T.W. O’Brien declares “The Future Library Is a Vote of Confidence Humanity Will Make It to 2114” at B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

The work of Scottish artist Katie Paterson is nothing as mundane as oil on canvas or carved marble. Her works includes  Timepieces—nine clocks showing the time on the planets of our solar system, plus the Earth’s moon (Pluto still loses out); Fossil Necklace—170 beads carved from fossils, each representing a major event in the 3 billion year history of life on Earth; and Campo del Cielo, Field of Sky—a 4.5 billion year old meteorite, melted then recast into a replica of its original form, and finally returned to space by the European Space Agency.

In May 2014, Paterson planted 1000 Norwegian spruce trees in a forest north of Oslo, Norway. The plan is to harvest them in 2114 for paper to print a limited edition anthology of books. Each year, starting in 2014, an author was to be invited to write a book for Paterson’s project, Future Library; he or she will have one year to complete the work, which then won’t be read  until well after the turn of the next century. 

The completed manuscripts will be kept in a specially designed room on the fifth floor of the New Deichmanske Library in Oslo. The authors’ names and the book titles will be on display, but the manuscripts themselves will be unread until the anthology is published in 2114.


Key: First row vertical: Hugo Weaving, Lee Pace, Cate Blanchett from The Hobbit as Elrond, Thranduil, and Galadriel. Second row vertical: Marvel: Red Skull (Captain America: The First Avenger), Ronan the Accuser (Guardians of the Galaxy), Hela (Thor: Ragnarok)

(9) JORDIN KARE. Paul Gilster mourns the astrophysicist and filker in two excellent posts at Centauri Dreams, “Remembering Jordin Kare (1956-2017)”, and “SailBeam: A Conversation with Jordin Kare”.

Looking around on the Net for background information about Jordin Kare, who died last week at age 60 (see yesterday’s post), I realized how little is available on his SailBeam concept, described yesterday. SailBeam accelerates myriads of micro-sails and turns them into a plasma when they reach a departing starship, giving it the propulsion to reach one-tenth of lightspeed. Think of it as a cross between the ‘pellet propulsion’ ideas of Cliff Singer and the MagOrion concept explored by Dana Andrews.


  • Born July 26, 1894 – Aldous Huxley
  • Born July 26, 1928 – Stanley Kubrick

(11) A LIST TOP DC MOVIES. Io9 gives you “All 28 DC Animated Original Movies, Ranked”. Why isn’t the new Wonder Woman movie #1? Because, like the title says, this is a list of their animated movies. Cancel the heart attacks…

This list contains the 28 DC Animated Original movies released so far, ranked from worst to best on the quality of their story, characters, and adaptation of the source material….

(12) STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST. Wil Wheaton heartily endorses

Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon, is essential reading for all artists.

It’s a quick read that you can finish in one sitting, but the ideas and advice it contains will stay with you long after you’ve put it down. Some of Austin’s suggestions will validate what you’re already doing, some will challenge you to fundamentally change a creative practice, others will inspire you to grab a notebook and get to work immediately.

Because it’s such a small and accessible book, you’ll want to go back to it from time to time. Just like Stephen King’s On Writing, as you change and grow as an artist, it reveals new ideas and inspirations to you that you may have missed on a previous read.

This is a fantastic addition to your library, and a wonderful gift for any creative person in your life.

(13) WIELD THE POWER. I can’t possibly resist reading an item headlined “Wow, the Iron Throne Makes an Excellent Phone Charger!” – at Tor.com.

YouTube crafters Natural Nerd have a new video up showing viewers how to make their own custom Iron Throne phone charger. It’s marvelously simple, and could make for a good starter project if you’re interested in exploring nerd crafts. Basically, make a throne out of blocks of wood, glue on a ton of cocktail swords, coat in metallic paint, and thread in the charger cord, and you’re there!

(14) SUPERMAN WITH A ‘STACHE. Henry Cavill’s upper lip is a story: “Justice League’s telling reshoots involve Joss Whedon, more banter, absolutely no mustaches”.

Superman can do anything, it seems, but have a mustache. Or to be more accurate, it’s Henry Cavill’s mustache that’s reportedly causing some problems for Warner Bros.’ upcoming Justice League movie, which is due to be released on November 17 but is nonetheless currently undergoing extensive reshoots (which are generally filmed to fix or replace scenes that aren’t working). After initial filming on Justice League was complete, it seems that Cavill reasonably assumed he was done playing the smooth-jawed Man of Steel for a minute and grew out his facial hair for a part in the next Mission: Impossible movie. According to a new Variety report, however, Justice League is being retooled so much — with an assist from The Avengers’ Joss Whedon, no less, now that director Zack Snyder has stepped away from the project to cope with his daughter’s recent death — that Warner Bros. has agreed to just digitally remove Cavill’s mustache from any reshot Justice League scenes rather than lose any more time.

But Jon Bogdanove thinks it would make a great addition.

(15) MARVEL VALUE STAMPS. The publisher is bringing them back:

Who saved them? Who clipped them? Who collected them? This fall, the Marvel Universe returns to an untapped corner of its expansive history for MARVEL LEGACY with the return of the Marvel Value Stamps. Just as Marvel Legacy is bridging the past and the future of Marvel’s iconic universe, this nostalgia-based program is designed to excite new readers. Comic fans may remember these fondly, while new fans and the uninitiated will be able to enjoy them without destroying their prized possessions!

Inspired by the classic 1970’s program where different stamps could be clipped from the letters page of Marvel books, fans will be able to collect stamps featuring all their favorite Marvel characters. These stamps will be on inserts within the regular cover editions for all first issue Marvel Legacy titles, beginning with titles debuting in October. And a proper homage to these collectible stamps wouldn’t be complete without a collectible stamp album – to be revealed!

(16) THE OLDS. At Galactic Journey, Victoria Silverwolf leads into her review of the latest (August 1962) issue of Fantastic with a survey of the news — “[July 26, 1962] The Long and Short of It (August 1962 Fantastic)”.

…AT&T launched Telstar, the first commercial communications satellite (which we’ll be covering in the next article!)

The world of literature suffered a major loss with the death of Nobel Prize winning author William Faulkner.

In Los Angeles, young artist Andy Warhol exhibited a work consisting of thirty-two paintings of cans of Campbell’s Soup….

(17) GAZE INTO THE FUTURE. And don’t forget to sign up for Galactic Journey Tele-Conference #2, happening Saturday, July 29, where they’ll present their predictions for the 1962 Hugo Science Fiction Awards.

(18) THE PLAY’S THE THING. A local community theater in Urbana, IL is staging Jordan Harrison’s 2014 play Marjorie Prime, recently produced as a movie. It runs July 27-August 12. An interview with the director is here. Get tickets here.

Marjorie Prime, written by Jordan Harrison and directed for the Station by Mathew Green, is a near-future play where technology has gone just a little farther than today. In the show, Tess is caring for her elderly mother, and Tess’ husband Jon advocates for the use of an artificial intelligence companion called a “Prime”. Primes are designed to help a particular person, in this case Marjorie, record and retain their memories, often taking the form of someone close to the subject.

(19) LIFE UNPLUGGED. Gareth D. Jones discusses “The Real Town Murders by Adam Roberts (book review)” at SF Crowsnest.

….One of the consequences of Alma’s divorce from the on-line Real Town is that she can no longer check references and definitions and she quickly realises that everyone’s speech is littered with literary and historical references. This makes an interesting game for the reader, too, attempting to parse and divine all of the little jokes and quotes that Adam Roberts has thrown in along the way. To add to the interest, characters who spend much of their time on-line find real-life speech difficult so that several conversations consist of stammering and stuttering and the breaking of words into individual syllables replaced with homophonous single-syllable words. It’s quite fun to follow the convoluted and sometimes rambling speech.

The basic plot of the book follows Alma’s investigations into the miraculously-appearing dead body, with a secondary investigation into a mysteriously skinny man…..

(20) A BOY CALLED PERCY. At Black Gate, Derek Kunsken tells when he learned the true theme of a famous YA series: “Crappy Parents All Around: A Look At Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson Series”

…Eventually, I recommended it to a friend for his kids, who were complaining about their road-tripping. When my friend got back, he thanked me for the rec and said “It’s all about shitty parents.”

For some reason, I hadn’t clued into this as the theme. Perhaps I’d taken it as straight-on adventure. Maybe I hadn’t considered how lucky I am to have the parents and extended family I did. Then it occurred to me what a giant strategic advantage it was to Riordan to have linked crappy parents to the Greek myths.

Percy is of course pretty miffed at times about having Poseidon essentially be a dead-beat dad whom he doesn’t meet until he’s twelve and who really doesn’t meaningfully interact with him even after that. He has a crappy step-dad to boot, but he’s not the only one with parental issues….

(21) IN VINO. Martin Morse Wooster has sent File 770 lots of beer label stories. Now he tries to even the score by reporting that Australian wine lovers can enjoy Some Young Punks‘ vintage “Monsters Monsters Attack!”

A full 750ml of Monster Mayhem bottled up for far too long breaks and takes over the unsuspecting city. Trixie and Tessa’s middle names are danger and adventure but is the maelstrom released by the raging beast too fierce to be calmed by their charms? Will they arrive in time or will a deadly rage be realised.

Variety / Vintage     2015 Clare Valley Riesling

Vineyards     We sourced fruit from two sites in the Clare Valley; Mocundunda and Milburn. All the fruit was whole bunch pressed before fermentation in a mixture of stainless and neutral oak by a mixture of cultured and indigenous yeast. Post ferment the wine is merely stabbed and filtered prior to bottling.

(22) ONCE TOO OFTEN. Adam-Troy Castro files a grievance: “’What if I Told You’ There Was Another Way to Impart Exposition?”

Thing that I am getting awfully sick of, in dramatic presentations of sf/fantasy works.

Honestly, if I ever see this again, it will be too soon.

The exposition-sentence that begins with, “What if I told you–”

Usually followed by something that sounds batshit insane to the person who’s been living a normal life until that moment.

I first became aware of this with Laurence Fishburne in THE MATRIX, but it has become the go-to form, and I just saw it with the trailer for the new TV series, THE INHUMANS. I think but cannot be sure that it was in DOCTOR STRANGE too. But it’s certainly all over the place….

(23) YOU COULD ALWAYS TRY THE AUTOGRAPH LINE. Here are the places George R.R. Martin will not be signing at Worldcon 75:

For those of you who want books signed, please, bring them to one of my two listed autograph sessions. I will NOT be signing before or after panels, at parties, during lunch or breakfast or dinner, at the urinal, in the elevator, on the street, in the hall. ONLY at the autograph table. If the lines are as long as they usually are, I’ll only be signing one book per person.

You can also find his programming schedule at the link.

(24) LAUGH WARS. Martin Morse Wooster says Star Wars Supercuts:  Parodies of The Trench Run is “a really funny four-minute mashup from IMDB of lots of parodies of the Death Star Trench Run. I particularly liked the Family Guy bit where Red Leader is followed by Redd Foxx, Red Buttons, and Big Red chewing gum…”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Jason, Evelyn Leeper, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Jim Meadows, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nigel.]

115 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 7/26/17 Fifth File At Scrollory Towers

  1. @Xtifr

    Pixels of Doom
    Scroll of Amber
    Sign of Ticky
    Fifth of Shadows
    Prince of Filers

  2. @Paul Weimer: Heh, not bad. Though you may just have offended those who deny the very existence of the second series! 🙂

    (I actually like the second series, even though it suffers badly in comparison with the first.)

  3. @Xtifr : Nothing in the second series is up to the bar set in the first series. agreed.

  4. The Scrolls of His File, the Pixels of His Godstalk.

    I keep hoping we’ll finally get an eBook version of The Courts of Chaos. Then if they stop there, I won’t be too put out. Although I also want more of his back catalog — looking at YOU, Lord of Light and Creatures of Light & Darkness.

  5. This made me think of all you lucky ducks going to Finland next month, and the interactions between sportsball and geek culture. Perhaps there will be an opportunity to develop a new Worldcon sport in Helsinki… Book binding races? Shippers’ pentathlon? Competitive sci-fi defining?

  6. Oh, also I realize it’s not all that great, especially for Zelazny, but it drives me nuts that Madwand is available electronically, but not Changeling. (In fact, on Amazon it’s specifically listed as: Madwand: The Sequel to Changeling.)

  7. @Joe H: That is indeed a worthy title. Clearly refers to both F770 traditions and easily recognizable as an SF reference.
    (actually fantasy masquerading as old school SF; Zelazny LAUGHED at your boundaries and check boxes!)

  8. @Steve Wright (and others re @6): ISTM there are some areas more precisely concerned about definitions than others. I have read that romances are sliced very finely (e.g., do they have sex on the first date, the third date, after engagement, after marriage?); a number of SF publishers seem to be more interested in story than in category (but acknowledging this would require Hoyt to admit that Tor is not the personification of Evil). Is being uneasy with not knowing how a story will be slanted a Puppy characteristic?

    @Joe H: the editor of the complete Zelazny shorts (NESFA Press, 6 vols) is one of the group’s chief proponents of ebooks; unfortunately, he has a life, so I don’t know when these will be available in ebook.

    @lurkertype: good point on Zelazny; I can just imagine administrators’ heads exploding at an attempt to file Lord of Light.

  9. @22: I feel an iota of sympathy for film/TV writers, who ISTM are constrained by the market to get to the flashy stuff quickly, requiring such an infodump. (There are subtler media works, but they aren’t big-budget and may not be common.) Book writers can take more time to pile up inexplicable events. OTOH, Castro does provide a vigorous example.

  10. I think people like to make a bigger deal out of the problems with assigning stories to categories then they actually are. For example Lord of Light is SF if you allow the psi grandfathering if not then it is fantasy.

    A lot of the arguments come up only because some people do not seem to like the idea of genres existing at all.

  11. @Chip: yes, that’s very much a Puppy ideology. Remember Brad’s insistence on Nutty Nuggets and that books with spaceships on the cover shouldn’t have women or PoC or romance or whatever he was ranting about? Paulk whining about how SF shouldn’t have taverns and snow, only fantasy? They get uncomfortable if things aren’t in rigid, easily-identifiable categories — be it books or people.

  12. Magewolf: A lot of the arguments come up only because some people do not seem to like the idea of genres existing at all.

    I think a lot of it has to do with the innate human desire to feel some semblance of control, over one’s own life, and over one’s surroundings.

    Being able to slap labels on things is the equivalent of saying, “I know what these things are! I have them neatly categorized, and therefore feel some sense of control over them!”

    I don’t think it’s any surprise that pro-authoritarians like the Puppies are especially vehement about needing to classify things as either science fiction or fantasy, either pulp or SJW fiction, either loved or hated by everyone. Such people need to have clearly-drawn lines in order to feel that things are under control.

    What is surprising is how many non-authoritarians nevertheless also feel the compulsion to nail down in exactly what specific genre each work falls. You would think that lovers of speculative fiction would love the fuzzy boundaries.

    I don’t personally see a point in the insistence on genre classification. I either like something, or I don’t — and I don’t really care what genre someone else claims it is.

  13. Which reminds me: Next time I’m at Uncle Hugo’s (it’s been entirely too long) I should probably pick up whichever Zelazny NESFA volumes they still have on the shelf.

  14. @JJ: “I don’t personally see a point in the insistence on genre classification. I either like something, or I don’t — and I don’t really care what genre someone else claims it is.”

    I care about genre to the extent that it helps me find books I like and decide what to read next. If I’m in the mood for something with spandex and eye beams, High Fantasy is probably not a good place to look. Sure, any category of fiction will have murky borders, but that doesn’t render the concept useless.

  15. Magewolf on July 27, 2017 at 6:51 pm said:

    Lord of Light is SF if you allow the psi grandfathering if not then it is fantasy.

    You need a little more than just psi! You also need to buy into the rather comic-bookish idea that space radiation will somehow give people superpowers (rather than, say, making them sterile and cancer-ridden).

    I mean, I love the book, but even at the time (when we didn’t need to “grandfather” psi because we still thought it was plausible), that bit (an essential plot element) was pretty hard for me and a lot of other people to swallow. (Which was fine with me, because I liked–and still like–genre-bending. And comic books.) 🙂

  16. Rev. Bob: I care about genre to the extent that it helps me find books I like and decide what to read next.

    Well, sure, I use genre classifications as a guideline to narrow the potential selection of books for consideration. But I take such classifications with a huge shaker of salt. Frequently I will find that works classed as science fiction contain very little of what I would consider to be science-fictional content, and are merely fantasy, alternate history, or near future with no significant technological changes (and neither of the last two tend to be very interesting for me, but I have found that I enjoy a considerable amount of fantasy works).

    File 770 has been a great way to ignore classifications, because the works people recommend here are almost always genre works of some kind. So the synopsis and Filers’ descriptions and recommendations (and sometimes the person who’s making them) are my triage tools.

  17. @ lurkertype: The whole “taverns and snow only happen in fantasy” thing just becroggles me. Do people in SF worlds not want places to hang out and drink with their friends? Do all such worlds have complete weather control, such that it never snows at all? Hell, even the Enterprise has Ten-Forward! (Though not snow.)

    My thanks to whoever here brought up Terry Bisson’s Fire on the Mountain a couple of Scrolls back. I’ve just read it from the library, and will definitely be ordering my own copy. For such a short work (only 155 pages, don’t ask me about word-count, but I read the whole thing in about 4 hours) it sure packs in a lot of world-building and characterization, not to mention multiple stories separated by time.

    I would love to see this made into a movie, but I have no idea how it could be transferred to the big screen. So much of it is epistolary, and those sections double as background info-dumps, giving the reader a lot of information about the world Bisson is writing in.

  18. Lurkertype,

    Opened this page this morning but just finding time to read it now. Have finished comments only to 6 AM so someone may have answered your question already. When my roommate’s dad was in the ICU in what turned out to be his final illness last year, the nurse told us that hospitals are always cold because it is inhospitable to the growth of bacteria. ICU and infection control areas are kept even colder.

  19. Just finished Charles Stross’s Empire Games, the first book in a new series set in the same universe multiverse as his Merchant Princes book. And I have to say that I liked it a lot more than the earlier books.

    Part of it is that Charlie continues to mature as a writer. The new protagonist seems like a more interesting, well-developed character to me. Still caught up in events beyond her control, but less of a doormat. And Charlie’s ideas of how our world might have evolved after the very public climactic events of the previous series are really interesting–rather frightening, but at the same time, understandable and nuanced.

    Overall, it was much better than I’d expected. I thought the previous series was decent, but this seems to be a major step up in quality. Definitely recommended.

  20. @Xtifr: Sadly, I didn’t think the world differed enough from ours, considering What Happened There, compared to what’s happened here.

    I think all the characters are much more nuanced, though, which is quite good. And the portions of the multiverse discussed were way more interesting.

    @Lee: Considering taverns and snow happen right here right now, on this very planet, yes! I’d wager there are people with smartphones in taverns in snowy areas served by jet planes and automobiles at this very moment, with a space station circling overhead and a distinct lack of dragons, magic, and all that.

  21. @Joe H: IIRC, at least one of the Zelazny set is in reprinting, so you may want to check back later if Uncle Hugo’s can’t fill your set.

    Generally, I’d distinguish between a tavern (wooden beams, open fire, primitive menu, tankards, and any other cliches you’d care to throw in) and a random bar (modulo the parts of the US (known) and the rest of the world (speculated) where “tavern” now means “random bar”). Bars are certainly stfnal; Haldeman wrote a spaceport bar story (“A !tangled Web”) after a Pournelle telling him that “everybody” had written a spaceport bar story. (Such stories are their own collections of cliches.) But snow-is-not-SF is croggling, especially since a Tor thread has just reminded me of The Left Hand of Darkness. I like to have some feel by some point in the book for what the author thinks is possible — I’m much more irritated by feeling that the author has pulled a solution out of their ass than by their failure to start with someone else’s genre-defining boundaries — but I know I miss cues and sometimes I miss entire cultures. (I’m sure there are some things Hopkinson considers impossible, but I’ve never figured out what.) But ISTM that being certain before opening the book what will and won’t happen spoils the fun. OTOH, there’s been research suggesting a general discomfort with novelty is linked with (severe?) conservatism, suggesting that Puppy categorization (cf @lurkertype et al) is expectable.

  22. @Lee: I guess she distinguished between “Tavern” and “pub” or else the military SF book I read last month (E.R Masons Deep crossing) is Fantasy.

    There will be always grey zones. No use of trying to set definite borders.

  23. Even if you go with a strictly “wooden beams” definition of tavern, such things are likely to be found on new or lost colonies! I’ll bet that Barrayar has more than a few. 🙂

    On the other hand, there is what I might describe as a “feel” to works which makes me tend to broadly classify them as fantastic or sfnal, which is different from the nitty details which might cause me to classify them as fantasy or SF. Spaceships feel sfnal, even if they’re powered by pentagrams and crewed by elves.[1] Making something which feels like fantasy when it’s really SF is harder, because of the aforementioned colonies, but it can be done. Lord of Light was close, as was Poul Anderson’s “The Queen of Air and Darkness”.

    [1] Which, btw, is story I’d love to read–Diane Duane’s Stealing the Elf-King’s Roses was in the right ballpark, but few others have headed that direction.
    @lurkertype: Agreed, Stross’s version of our world seems surprising sane considering. But at the time the book came out, last year, it was still easy to underestimate just how quickly US and UK politics could turn insane. 🙂

  24. Ingvar:

    Sorry to see this so late, but my guess is that I will have my hands full with packing down all my stuff the day before. So see you at one of the meetups (I hope)!

  25. “4) One erratum in the “Forgotten Books” panel description — someone mentioned the Pern books, but it wasn’t me because I don’t think they qualify as “forgotten”. I never did get the chance to bring up my third example, The Princess of Flames by Ru Emerson.”

    Actually, I did report Anne McCaffrey as being mentioned, just not specifically Pern.

  26. To me the generic term is ‘bar’, and the word for the classic English (I mean English) form thereof is ‘pub’: ‘tavern’ definitely means something old-fashioned.

    I’ve heard that in the US ‘tavern’ was deliberately reintroduced at the end of Prohibition, to overcome the damaging associations of ‘saloon’.

  27. @Xtifr: (genre via feel)

    I subscribe to that theory, especially with edge cases and overlaps. For instance, Bram Stoker’s original Dracula is horror, but Fred Saberhagen’s retelling of the story in The Dracula Tape is fantasy – because the first is meant to scare you and the second isn’t. Similarly, the early Pern books feel a lot more like fantasy than they do SF, despite the dragons being the result of genetic tinkering.

  28. Materials classified as either fantasy or SF. A handy list so you can keep your novel from wandering off into the wrong genre.
    wood = fantasy
    metal = both
    metal subtypes:
    iron = fantasy
    wrought iron = steam punk
    steel = both
    sub-sub types
    stainless steel = SF
    damascus steel = historical fantasy
    aluminium = SF
    gold = fantasy
    silver = fantasy
    platinum = cyberpunk
    chrome = cyberpunk
    lead = steam punk
    copper = fantasy and steampunk
    brass = steampunk
    bronze = fantasy
    tin = historical romance set in Cornwall
    adamantium = high fantasy or superhero
    plastic = SF
    glass = both
    any substance with “synth” in its name = SF
    any substance with “elvish” or “dwarvish” in its name = fantasy
    ale (without modifier) = fantasy
    ale (with modifier of alien species) = SF
    beer = both
    wine = fantasy
    vodka (unless overtly in an Eastern European setting) = cyberpunk
    gin = steam punk
    leather = fantasy (but see note for “synth” above)
    fur = fantasy
    gutta-percha = steam punk
    silicon = cyberpunk (unless modified by “based life form” in which case SF)
    sulphur = horror
    phosphorus = both
    carbon = punk (cyber or steam)
    hydrogen (in atmosphere) = SF
    hydrogen (inside a blimp) = steampunk
    helium = see hydrogen
    all other named elements not already mentioned above = SF
    rock = fantasy
    mineral = SF
    lava = fantasy
    magma = SF
    granite = fantasy
    limestone = some sort of historical novel set in England about a misunderstood young person finding their way in the world
    sandstone = steam punk
    coal = why are you even asking? Steam punk obviously.
    shale = none, shale is not allowed in any genre
    slate = fantasy or steam punk
    marble = both
    rubber = steam punk
    latex = cyber punk
    spandex = ironic parodies of superheroes
    wool = fantasy or dystopian YA
    linen = fantasy
    cotton = steam punk
    silk = both and/or silkpunk
    flax = fantasy
    methane (in general) = SF
    marsh gas = fantasy
    natural or manufactured gas = steam punk
    farts = fantasy
    biogas = post-apoclayptic

    This was a good use of my time.

  29. Rev. Bob on July 28, 2017 at 5:49 pm said:


    Any Hugh Howey fan will tell you that Wool is clearly SF.

    I think the novel should have been called “absorbent wipes” to fit the setting

  30. Niven’s “Draco Tavern” stories are completely SF (it’s at an FTL spaceport, with many different aliens), and said tavern is in Siberia, so it’s damn well got snow.

    Cam: Useful for those who get uncomfortable without categories and are a’scared of novelty (which is stupid in SFF, but I digress). But what about oil shale? Ha!

  31. Excellent, Camestros! Truly a worthwhile waste use of your time! I shall print a copy to keep in my reading room at all times! 😀

    I do have one minor quibble, though. For Methane, subcategory Fart, you say Fantasy. I think that only applies to the pre-Scalzi era of SFF. 😉

  32. Xtifr on July 28, 2017 at 7:24 pm said:

    Excellent, Camestros! Truly a worthwhile waste use of your time! I shall print a copy to keep in my reading room at all times! ?

    I do have one minor quibble, though. For Methane, subcategory Fart, you say Fantasy. I think that only applies to the pre-Scalzi era of SFF.

    Well this demonstrates that Scalzi is a bad writer by breaking the cast iron* laws of genre distinctions and having insufficient nuts in his nuggets. 😉

    [cast iron = fantasy]

  33. Camestros Felapton on July 28, 2017 at 9:42 pm said:

    Well this demonstrates that Scalzi is a bad writer by breaking the cast iron* laws of genre distinctions and having insufficient nuts in his nuggets.

    Ah, well that explains why he had to organize all those evil cabals! Ruining science fiction forever is hard to do all by yourself. 😀

  34. Johan P: “I’m sort of torn between “this is cool” and “but e-books! Who will read physical books in the future?

    Well, anybody will be able to read the paper – it’d be more of a pain to adapt the ebook to the quantum crystal frobnosticator people will be using in the future than it would be stick a floppy in folks’ phones now.

    Darren Garrison: “I’m sure that No Science Was Harmed in the Making of This Necklace.

    You’re almost certainly right but I didn’t mean that so much as just “here this thing is that came down the eons just so and I’m gonna mess with it.” I mean, it’s been altered through natural forces during that time and I’m a natural force, so why not? But I’d just hesitate, myself.

    Cat Rambo: ‘Speaking as an author, that sounds….really unappealing. I’d be curious to hear more of the details about that. Is she paying? Does she understand HOW MUCH GODDAMN WORK goes in a book? I cannot imagine spending months on something like that and then saying “okay, let’s seal that puppy away for close to a century.”

    You could look at it the other way – from just a selfish angle, most of today’s authors will be forgotten by then. Few people will read their stuff even now. This is a good way to know that your (generic “your” from here on out, not “you” “your”) work will be read a century from now and your name will be resurrected. It’ll be on the “world news” and may even lead to a resurrection of all your works. And then there’s the whole “message in a temporal bottle” thing of being able to speak to the future and have them hear you say, in addition to whatever your direct theme was, that “I knew you’d make it!”

    (Besides, while “book” is mentioned, it also says the whole is a sort of “anthology” and that “[t]he length of the piece is entirely for the author to decide.” Not that a work of any length isn’t (as the name says) work, but it’s for the ages while not necessarily taking ages.)

  35. I go by tropes. A thriller does not become horror only because it tries to scare people. It takes something more. And a horror book does not become fantasy, just because it focus on other things than scaring people.

    It becomes a horror drama, a vampire comedy, a supernatural love story. But not fantasy.

    But this is only how I categorize stuff in my library.

  36. Well horror,romance,comedy, and such are about what the story is doing while sf, fantasy, and such are about the setting the story happens in.

    But it seems to me that a horror story has to at least be trying to scare or unsettle or it stops being horror.

  37. Classifying by trope leads to madness, since authors love to mix-and-match! For my bookshelves, I long since gave up; I simply have “fiction” and “non-fiction”. As for e-books, I try to add all tags that seem to apply. (Which is often a personal judgment–I can easily imagine some people getting very upset if they discovered how I tag certain works.)

    Is Alien SF or Horror? Should it be on a different shelf from Aliens? What do you do when classifying something as fantasy vs. non- constitutes a spoiler? (See Scooby-Doo.)

    Genres are a mess, and I refuse to take them seriously. They’re primarily a marketing tool. Which is why it’s more important for writers–especially self-pub–to understand them than it is for readers. Readers, in my opinion, need to learn to take them less seriously. But they don’t, which is why it’s important for writers to understand them. 🙂

  38. I have an intricate and arcane system of categorization, particularly for video, that makes sense to me but probably nobody else. It generally defines genre by purpose and/or setting, but I make exceptions and resolve conflicts as needed. For instance, the original Total Recall could’ve gone under Schwarzenegger or general SF, but when the remake came out, I put both under “SF:Dick” along with Minority Report, A Scanner Darkly, and other PKD adaptations. (Now that I think about it, that subcategory might fit better under the “Mindwarp” umbrella that houses things that are designed to mess with your head, like Donnie Darko and Lost.)

    They say you can learn a lot about someone by looking at their bookshelves. I pity the person who tries to analyze me from my DVD and Blu-ray collection! 😀

  39. My books are divided into five main sections. SF, Fantasy, Non-fiction, Reference, and Other. If I have at least three books by an author they are just put in alphabetical order if less then that they go to genre shelves such as space opera or comedy or such.

    And I find genre (SF, Fantasy) and trope (Comedy, Horror) very handy when looking for books. I might just keep an eye out for new releases usually but sometimes I go looking for some space opera or dark fantasy or sword and sorcery and its nice not having to look through every new book to find them.

  40. I can’t even manage “fiction vs non-fiction”. Does the edition of medieval Welsh Arthurian stories go in fiction, or Arthurian literature (yes, I have an entire shelf for that), or in the Welsh language & linguistics bookcase (yes I have an entire case for that)?

  41. I shelve SF and Fantasy together. Other fiction gets shelved together. Non-fiction gets shelved by general category. Inside a group, it’s likely to be by author.

  42. My books are sorted into read and unread.
    Read by subject (boring). Unread by how many more I’ll have to buy if I like this one. Singletons tend to get read sooner.

  43. My books are a mess. Comics (magazine) are roughly sorted into Marvel, DC and everything else, alphabetically within those categories. Comics (book form) are sorted by title, except that I have a couple of separate bookcases for Archives/Masterworks and recently broke out a bookcase for classic comic strip reprints.

    Prose are broken into fiction and non-fiction (loosely — screenplays are in fiction with film-industry books, Stephen King’s ON WRITING is in with the other King stuff, other non-fiction may be with fiction because that’s where I was when I was putting the books away), and there are bookcases that are all mass-market paperbacks (and others close to that size) and bookcases that are are all hardcover and trade paperback. And then some shelves that are coffee-table books.

    And then there are the bookcases full on not-yet read books of all formats (but digital).

    To a great degree, I sort by “Where would I look for that?”

    But since the bookcases haven’t been sorted for years and there are giant piles of books that fill my upstairs office floor, if I want to reread something, much of the time I’ll just buy it digitally. That way I don’t have to look for it.

    Within all that mess, I don’t shelve by genre.

    But someday, I gotta clean out the shelves and donate the print version of most of the books I own digitally to the library. We could use the space.

  44. I had organized, categorized, and alphabetized bookshelves for about 90 seconds in 1996. It was glorious. A few years later, when I moved to a house with a lot of windows and very little space for bookshelves, I gave away several thousand books. I probably have more books now than I did before the giveaway, and a lot of shelves, but they’re only roughly sorted and I can only sometimes find what I’m looking for, which is probably why I have so many previously read books on my e-reader.

  45. Hmm, ok, so I’ll go into more detail on my shelving system.

    Fiction (not classifiable as “literature” by an idiosyncratic rule) is in the guest bedroom (guest bedroom cum fiction library cum historic costume closet, to be precise). The books that were part of my move to Concord half a dozen years ago are all alphabetical in a wall full of IKEA Billy book cases. Books bought since the move are jumbled higglety-pigglety in one case at the end of the row. Very few of the unsorted books have been read because that was about the same time I shifted to reading e-books.

    Non-fiction has three locations. In the dining room, there is a bookcase specifically for cookbooks, including all my historic cook books and books on food and dining history. In the living room, there is a bookcase with a set of glassed-in shelves on top that contains the music books (below) and the smaller musical instruments (above).

    The remaining non-fiction goes in the room that was designed as a third bedroom but which I assigned to be the library. In contains 13 full size Billy bookcases (numbered 1-13) and two half-width Billy cases (labeled A and B). In order to fig in the room, there are two “piers” consisting of 2 pairs of back-to-back cases protruding into the interior of the room. This results in an S shaped access path, with the window at the top of the S and the original bedroom closet at the bottom, next to the door. Starting at the left of the window and continuing leftward until we come around to the right side of the window, they are:

    Case #1: General works on textiles, textile archaeology, specific textile techniques including weaving & looms, embroidery, and non-woven textiles.
    #2: Costume history, organized roughly by geography
    #3: History (primarily European), organized by region & era
    #4: Languages (part 1) including ancient languages, Greek, Latin, Scandinavian, Germanic (including English), misc non-Latin Romance languages, misc other European languages (by geography, not linguistic kinship), languages of science fiction and fantasy (including my own con-langs)
    #5: Languages (part 2) and linguistics: Celtic languages (other than Welsh), linguistic theory and general linguistic reference
    #6: Onomastics (i.e., names) (part 1): Celtic regions, English
    #7: Onomastics (part 2): Scandinavian, French, German, Dutch, Latin & Italian, Greek, and a shelf of assorted “other”
    #A: Misc. – Computer reference, heraldic reference,
    #8: Misc. – Wring reference, natural history, household and gardening
    #9: Welsh language and literature (grammars, dictionaries, linguistics) & history of the non-Welsh Celtic regions
    #10: Welsh history (including editions of non-literary historic texts) and art
    #11: Misc. – religion & philosophy, archaeology (primarily focusing on objects rather than sites), and historic material culture (non-clothing)
    #12: Women & Sexuality – gender history, history of sexuality, women’s biography
    #13: “Literature” – organized generally by topic-cluster or cultural origin, includes both translation and original languages (so, for example, three of the shelves are medieval and modern Welsh literature)
    #B: Art – collections, techniques

    I love books.

  46. My books are sorted by main category and subcategories;

    Other fiction

    Travel books
    Poltical books on countries
    The rest

    And two book cases of random mix.

    My comic books are more messy.

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